« February 2003 | Main | April 2003 »

March 2003 Archives

March 2, 2003

Someone else notices

Brad Delong has also noticed how George Will has changed his opinions on the Constitution now that the Republicans are in charge.

March 4, 2003


Perhaps the punditocracy in the U.S. is missing the true lesson of Turkey's legislature's recent vote. Maybe the lesson is that Iraq's neighbors aren't as scared of Iraq as we say they are.

Where's William Shawn when you need him, or... More Nit-picking

In the most recent New Yorker, Simon Schama describes Charles Dickens' trip to the United States, writing that "Decades before Joseph Conrad steamed his way upstream into the heart of imperial darkness, Dickens, travelling from Cincinnati downstream to Cairo, Illinois (reversing Mrs. Trollope’s route), experienced the Mississippi as a septic ooze, a turbid soup of animal and vegetable muck."

Of course, Dickens wouldn't have experienced the Mississippi River until after arriving in Cairo. As he was "travelling from Cincinnati downstream to Cario" he would have experienced the Ohio River.

Schama's article is about European attitudes towards the United States. Step one (for both us and them) probably is getting our geography down.

(And, the New Yorker is an American, not a European, publication. Don't know what to say about that.)

March 5, 2003

Vertical and Horizontal

Roger Ebert (he just doesn't do movie reviews) makes a compelling case in support of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' recent decision on the Pledge of Alliegance. In the article, he makes a distinction between what he calls "vertical prayer" and "horizontal prayer."

Read the piece for yourself. And, if Ebert wanted to cite an outside source to buttress his argument, he could have quoted Matthew 6:5-6: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

Thoughts for the day

From the October 11, 2000 Gore-Bush Presidential Debate:

MODERATOR: Should the people of the world look at the United States, Governor, and say, should they fear us, should they welcome our involvement, should they see us as a friend, everybody in the world? How would you project us around the world, as president?

BUSH: Well, I think they ought to look at us as a country that understands freedom where it doesn't matter who you are or how you're raised or where you're from, that you can succeed. I don't think they'll look at us with envy. It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And it's -- our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we have to be humble. And yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom. So I don't think they ought to look at us in any way other than what we are. We're a freedom-loving nation and if we're an arrogant nation they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation they'll respect us.

Later in the same debate:

MODERATOR: Saddam Hussein, you mean, get him out of there?

BUSH: I would like to, of course, and I presume this administration would as well. We don't know -- there are no inspectors now in Iraq, the coalition that was in place isn't as strong as it used to be. He is a danger. We don't want him fishing in troubled waters in the Middle East. And it's going to be hard, it's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him.

"No inspectors now in Iraq"... "it's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him"... hmm...

March 7, 2003

Good news and bad news

Hans Blix is set to give his report to the United Nations today, and of course every media outlet on the planet has already read it. Now, it seems pretty clear that it supports George Bush's position, since it says that Iraq still has many weapons of mass destruction that are completely unaccounted for. There's anthrax and other biological warfare agents:

Blix questioned Iraqi statements that it had stored all bulk biological warfare agents during the 1991 Gulf War at the Al Hakam plant and destroyed those unused after the war.

"There is credible information available to UNMOVIC that indicates that the bulk agent, including anthrax, was in fact deployed during the 1991 Gulf War," the report said. "Thequestion then arises as to what happened to it after the war."

"Based on this information, UNMOVIC estimates that about 5,547 gallons of biological warfare agent was stored in bulk at locations remote from Al Hakam. About half of this, about 2,641 gallons was anthrax," Blix wrote in the report.

"It therefore seems highly probable that the destruction of the bulk agent, including anthrax, stated by Iraq to be at Al Hakam in July-August 1991 did not occur," the report said."

Blix said Iraq needed to provide documentation or other evidence to support its account.

Plus, the Al Samoud missile charade (gasp) may be a big smokescreen:
The new report also said Iraq may be producing more banned missiles in addition to the Al Samoud 2 rockets it is now destroying and had declared last year to inspectors.

"Other missiles systems with ranges in excess of 93 miles may possibly be under development or planned," the report said.

"Indications of this come from solid propellant casting chambers Iraq has acquired, through recent import, indigenous production or from the repair or old chambers," said the report.

Blix had ordered the Al Samouds destroyed.

So that would sound like good news for Bush, and bad news for Chirac/Hussein. But somehow I bet it won't matter. I suspect that there will be some sentence, somewhere in the report, which will suggest that Saddam Hussein deserves more time. And I'll bet that this will be the only sentence the Axis of Weasel focuses on. Which will just serve to show how much of a charade this whole process is.

Best question of the night

The best question asked during last night's news conference was:

"QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

Mr. President, millions of Americans can recall a time when leaders from both parties set this country on a mission of regime change in Vietnam. Fifty-thousand Americans died. The regime is still there in Hanoi and it hasn't harmed or threatened a single American in 30 years since the war ended.

What can you say tonight, sir, to the sons and the daughters of the Americans who served in Vietnam to assure them that you will not lead this country down a similar path in Iraq?"

President Bush did not answer the question (he stayed 'on message'):

"BUSH: It's a great question.

Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.

In order to disarm, it will mean regime change. I'm confident that we'll be able to achieve that objective in a way that minimizes the loss of life.

No doubt there's risks with any military operation. I know that. But it's very clear what we intend to do. And our mission won't change. The mission is precisely what I just stated. We've got a plan that will achieve that mission should we need to send forces in."

What's a good answer to the question? Any takers?

Another must read

Paul Krugman's column today is a must read for those who are for the disarming of Iraq -- even if it means the US going in alone and disarming him -- but believe the cause is currently being mishandled. And, it's a must read for those dubious of this position.

March 9, 2003

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank notes some striking similarities:

The president promised that American troops would not remain in the Middle East "for one day longer than is necessary" and he said the coming war with Iraq provides opportunities "to settle the conflicts that divide the Arabs from Israel."

Sound like President Bush's speech Feb 26 to the American Enterprise Institute? Well, yes. But the quotes are actually from President George H.W. Bush's address to the United Nations on Oct. 1, 1990.

The current president, as he readies the nation for war in Iraq, has been recycling some of the arguments and phrases his father used more than 12 years ago. In particular, the younger Bush's speech Feb. 26 outlining the future of Iraq had striking similarities to the elder Bush's address to the 45th General Assembly of the United Nations.

Back in 1990, the 41st president said: "We seek no advantage for ourselves, nor do we seek to maintain our military forces in Saudi Arabia for one day longer than is necessary." Bush the 43rd said two weeks ago: "We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more."

Plus, they both have a tendency to mangle their words from time to time. But let's just hope that Bush 41's rhetoric is all that's being imitated by Bush 43. So far, so good, certainly, in that regard. In 1990, Margaret Thatcher famously had to warn the elder Bush not to go wobbly; does anybody think that our current president would ever need the same cautionary lecture? George W might make the wrong decisions, but if so, it would be from miscalculation, not a lack of willingness to stand up for his beliefs. One thing our current president doesn't suffer from, unlike his father, is a dearth of "the vision thing." And that will hopefully make all the difference.

March 10, 2003

Looking a gift horse in the mouth?

Given the recent capture of Al Qaeda operational leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and the possible capture of two of Osama Bin Laden's sons, and given the rumors that we're "closing in on" Osama Bin Laden, it raises a question: do we want to capture Osama Bin Laden?

Let me first say that I think it likely he's dead. (If he were alive, I would think he would want to brag about it; what better way to thumb his nose at the United States than to turn up safe and sound? For many years he has sent videotapes to Al Jazeera; all of the sudden, he has stopped? A few tapes have arrived, but they've been only hard-to-authenticate audiotapes -- hardly the same thing.) But assume for the sake of argument that he's alive, and that we capture him. What do we do with him?

  1. We could treat him as a prisoner of war. That is, he gets locked up until hostilities are over, and then he gets released. That's essentially what's happening with the Guantanamo Bay prisoners, though for technical reasons -- primarily that we want to interrogate them -- they're not officially called POWs. That's not going to happen, for obvious reasons. Bush vowed to bring him to justice, and I think all Americans expect that.

  2. We could skip the trial, and go right to the execution. It's no more than he deserves, but I can't see that happening. Osama Bin Laden would be the most notorious prisoner on the planet, perhaps in all of human history. Yes, even more than O.J. Simpson. The whole world will be watching; the U.S. government will want to do everything by the book, so that it looks like justice rather than winner's justice.

  3. He could be tried in a military tribunal. It's not quite as bad as executing him without trial, but it's not a good option, either. There's a perception, probably justified, that military tribunals have standards that are more lax than those of "real" trials. The government would be seen as stacking the deck against Bin Laden from the start, and it wouldn't help our image. Assuming our image is something to worry about, of course.

  4. We could try him in a normal American Article III court. Give him a fair trial and then hang him. Show the whole world that we can even respect the rights of a mass murderer like Bin Laden. There are two problems: (1) even given how little Americans read the newspaper, and even given how short American attention spans are, it might be tough to find a jury who hasn't already prejudged Bin Laden's guilt, and (2) if we try Osama Bin Laden in a standard civilian court, how can we possibly justify trying any lesser terrorist figure in a military tribunal? It would knock the legs out of the whole system set up to handle the terrorist situation.

It seems to me that there's no really good answer here. Having him die while resisting arrest would be far more convenient, but even that has its flaws. Aside from likely turning Bin Laden into a martyr, it would also deprive intelligence agencies of their chance to interrogate him. I've left out trickier possibilities, such as claiming he was killed resisting arrest, and then spiriting him away to a secret CIA base where he will be questioned for the rest of his life. I don't know the right answer; I do predict that whatever course of action is chosen will be criticized by Democrats.

March 11, 2003


From Sunday's wedding announcements in the New York Times:

Krystyna Anna Stachowiak, a former marketing and public relations consultant, and Howell Raines, executive editor of The New York Times, were married yesterday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Mount Pocono, Pa. Canon Virginia Rex Day performed the ceremony.
Do you think Andrew Sullivan was invited?

Go for broke

Interesting comment over at Instapundit. He writes about hearing a story concerning the "lessons learned from the Japanese internments" and that "there's not much reason to contemplate locking up very many Iraqi nationals in America anyway, since they're probably the most pro-war, anti-Saddam segment of the population."

Is he implying that there was reason to contemplate locking up Japanese and Japanese Americans? I don't think so, and, I sure hope not. Considering that the 6,000 Japanese American members of the 442/100 regiment during World War II (remember, the army was segregated back then) earned more than 18,000 individual decorations including 1 Medal of Honor (20 more Medals of Honor were awarded to the 442 in 2000), 53 Distinguished Service Crosses, 588 Silver Stars, 5,200 Bronze Star Medals, 9,486 Purple Hearts, and eight Presidential Unit Citations, making it the most decorated regiment during the war, perhaps Japanese Americans were among the most pro-American, patriotic, anti-Nazi (the 442 was one of the units that liberated Dachau) segments of the population?

You've got to be kidding me

Read this AP story about the investigation into allegations of rampant and criminal mismanagement at the Air Force Academy where dozens of female cadets have claimed to have been raped and the Academy responded with little assistance excepting punishing the women.

In the first sentence we read that TESSA is "the region's main civilian rape crisis center." Later we read that an Air Force team went to Colorado Springs to investigate the situation, spending 10 days on site.

But they did not go to TESSA or contact TESSA (where at least 38 of the female cadets went for assistance) because the investigators "were unaware of the center's existence during their first visit."

You've got to be kidding me. It makes one wonder what this team actually did for those 10 days. Who did they talk to? Did they ask *any* questions? (Like, for instance: "What would be a good place in the area to learn more about what happened?" or "Who in this area would be a good resource on this matter?")

March 12, 2003

How about if we just flip a coin?

The Washington Post details the debate at the UN over what to do next. There are about six different proposed resolutions floating around (not counting the French "We surrender" plan). The problem is, it seems clear that all the non-American proposals are designed primarily to stall. (Well, that's one problem; the other problem is that the French won't accept any proposal at all. They have all but declared themselves to be on Saddam Hussein's side in the war on terror.)

Six months ago, I argued against the idea of working through the UN, getting another resolution, and restarting the inspections process. My argument then was that there was no reason to wait six months to appease the anti-war crowd, because in six months the situation wouldn't be any different, and anti-war people would be no more likely to support the U.S. Not to toot my own horn, but I was obviously right.

And that's the same situation we face now. The U.S. is willing to have another resolution as long as it (a) sets a firm, short-term deadline, (b) lists specific requirements, and (c) authorizes force automatically if the requirements aren't met by the deadline. Canada, which isn't on the Security Council at all, is willing to accept something similar, as long as the deadline is at least a month in the future. The six undecided countries on the Council appear willing to set specific benchmarks, but want a deadline weeks away and don't want an automatic authorization for war. In short, these countries want to stall, exactly as we've been doing for months now. And the French won't even go that far; they won't accept any deadlines at all.

So what's the point? What would be different in a month than now? If people don't think Iraq's failure to live up to its obligations for 12 years justifies a military response, then why would Iraq's failure for 12 years and one month be any different? Of course, it wouldn't, and in a month we'd hear the same excuses over again. Apparently the only thing that might change the minds of the French and/or undecideds is a mushroom cloud appearing over New York -- and maybe not even then. Since that's obviously unacceptable to everyone who isn't French, we might as well stop trying to woo them and go ahead now.

Innumeracy 101, or perhaps just bad writing

Preferences given to legacies are becoming part of the affirmative action debate, but unfortunately, the debate is being distorted by bad reporting:

While minorities are admitted to Georgetown at a higher rate than the total applicant pool -- about 28 percent compared with 21 percent of all applicants -- the proportion of legacy applicants admitted is higher still, at 40 to 42 percent, Deacon said.

The numbers are similar or somewhat higher at many elite schools. Legacy students are about twice as likely to get into the University of Virginia, more than three times as likely to get into Harvard.

The problem is that none of these statistics illustrate what the reporter is using them for: the purported advantage that legacies enjoy.

Even in the absence of preferences, we'd expect to see alumni kids getting admitted at a higher rate than the pool as a whole. Alumni kids are more likely to know what it takes to get into that particular school. They're more likely to have educated parents, which means that they're more likely to have successful parents. And parental educational and financial success is an important predictor of student educational and financial success. It's impossible to separate these other factors from legacy status, given the limited statistics cited in the article.

I'm sure legacies do have an advantage, all else being equal. But if reporters aren't going to provide us with meaningful information about the advantage, then what's the point of writing the story? Of course, it's entirely possible that the reporter doesn't realize that the information provided is inadequate, which would suggest that she should spend more time in math class and less in the admissions office. Either way, it was a pretty useless article.

Sullivan Watch

Andrew Sullivan made some hay in his never-ending campaign against the New York Times (you know, Andrew, we've all been rejected for jobs before; let it go) using the so-called Iraqi "drone."

First he wrote: "Compare the reports in the London Times with the New York Times or the Washington Post (zilch) on the alleged undisclosed drone aircraft buried in the appendix to Hans Blix's report to the U.N. last week. I don't know what to make of it. It seems a big deal to me, although the NYT makes a bigger deal about cluster bombs. I'm not an arms inspector, so I'm not sure why this discrepancy in coverage exists."

Then he wrote: "CNN has it [the "drone"] as its lead headline. Can Howell keep spinning for de Villepin indefinitely?" (Howell is, of course, Howell Raines, the Editor of the New York Times.)

But, it turns out that the drone isn't a big deal. It actually "appears to be made of balsa wood and duct tape, with two small propellors attached to what look like the engines of a weed whacker."

March 13, 2003

Your answer is wrong -- whatever it is

Nobody expects the New York Times to like anything George Bush does. And we've come to expect confused arguments when it comes to Iraq. But what sort of cognitive dissonance does it take for them to argue that unknown statements are wrong?

Mr. Estrada's nomination, which was turned back last week by a Democratic filibuster, has stalled because he refuses to give senators the information they need to evaluate his judicial philosophy. Until he is more forthcoming, the Senate should continue to block his confirmation.

Mr. Estrada has been called the "stealth candidate" because he is said by lawyers who know him to have extremely conservative views, but he has virtually no paper trail. At his confirmation hearing, Mr. Estrada refused to answer senators' legitimate questions about his judicial philosophy. And the White House has rejected senators' requests for memorandums he wrote as a government lawyer that could shed light on his beliefs.

Rather than give senators the information they need, his supporters have repeatedly attempted to change the subject.

So, in other words, the Times is claiming that they don't have enough information to evaluate Miguel Estrada. Fair enough. Somehow, though, they learned within the space of two paragraphs:
Rather than demonizing Democratic senators, the White House should look for common ground. In the case of Mr. Estrada, it should respect the Senate's role in the process by making his full record available. And going forward, it should choose judicial nominees from the ideological mainstream, who do not prompt the sort of bitter partisan divisions that Mr. Estrada has.
In cliche-filled mystery novels, we often are shown a scene in which the killer says, "I didn't shoot him," and the brilliant detective says, "Then how did you know he was shot? I never mentioned that." How exactly does the Times know that Estrada isn't "from the ideological mainstream" if they claim to know nothing about him?

It's not the opposition to Estrada that bothers me, or even the filibuster. It's the dishonesty about the reason for the filibuster. Democrats (and the Times) think Estrada is conservative, and they want Bush to appoint liberal judges. Why can't they just come out and say that, instead of cloaking their opposition in claims that they need more information? Does anybody believe that any "information" provided by the Bush administration would change anybody's mind right now?

Note, by the way, that to the Times, these "bitter partisan divisions" are not the fault of Democrats. Rather, George Bush is to blame. The Times editors never seem to grasp that in a partisan dispute, it's not automatically the fault of the Republicans.

Missing the point

Here's news that will come as a shock to many Amish people: France Opposes New British Proposal on Iraq. This is of course the compromise proposal being pushed by the British, in which Iraq would have to meet certain conditions by a certain deadline. But it's still not good enough for the cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

France said it does not support the idea of an ultimatum. It wants to "set out a framework for inspections with a work program and a precise calendar," de Villepin said.
What the hell are they talking about? They already issued the ultimatum. That's what 1441 was. Why did those bastards vote for the thing, anyway? Was it really just to stall, to give Saddam Hussein more time in power? More time to shred documents showing the French collaboration with the Iraqi government?

Perhaps the problem is that the French believed George H. W. Bush a decade ago when he compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler. ("Hitler? Mon dieu! We must hand over Paris right away!") Or perhaps the problem is that the French, like the New York Times, don't understand the agenda here. The Times calls for another attempt at negotiating a compromise solution, saying:

The ultimate goal should not be a symbolic Security Council majority of nine, but passage of a resolution without a disabling veto. That might still be possible. Washington will find out only if it makes the new British proposal the basis for serious negotiations.
No, you French-wannabes; the ultimate goal is total disarmament (which will almost certainly require regime change) of Iraq. A resolution is just a means to that end. Does the Times really not understand that there's no value to yet another ambiguous Security Council resolution which will just be ignored? Do they not realize that the French will never agree to any resolution that has any teeth in it? Or do they just not care?

Bowling for New York?

Truth be told, I loved Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" (although I didn't much care for the montage sequence that had Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" playing behind it). But, I've gotta recommend this short movie which takes a pro-war stance (more of an anti- the-anti-war protesters stance, actually). It's funny and makes its point very well -- in a Michael Moore sort of way.

The Case for Containment

The arguments against containment are many: (1) "Saddam as a serial aggressor bent on dominating the Persian Gulf;" (2) "Saddam has used WMD against his own people (the Kurds) and against Iran and that therefore he is likely to use them against the United States;" (3) containment "is unlikely to stop Saddam from getting nuclear weapons;" (3a) "Saddam would give nuclear weapons secretly to al Qaeda or some other terrorist group;" (4) a combination of all of these. Since these are true, a war to disarm him is necessary.

A case for containment is made here by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Another must read.

I beg to differ

The problem with the argument that Saddam Hussein can be contained that Partha mentions below is that it depends not only on Hussein being deterrable, but upon him actually being deterred. Mearsheimer and Walt illustrate the point when they write:

But what about Saddam’s failure to leave Kuwait once the United States demanded a return to the status quo ante? Wouldn’t a prudent leader have abandoned Kuwait before getting clobbered? With hindsight, the answer seems obvious, but Saddam had good reasons to believe hanging tough might work. It was not initially apparent that the United States would actually fight, and most Western military experts predicted the Iraqi army would mount a formidable defense. These forecasts seem foolish today, but many people believed them before the war began.
In other words, as they later admit, he "miscalculated." Their argument is that Hussein won't act to harm the United States because he's rational rather than suicidal -- but what good is that, if he miscalculates? And his history suggests that either he's irrational or he miscalculates frequently.

Indeed, let's look at the current situation: if Saddam Hussein so deterrable, then why is he not eagerly cooperating with UNMOVIC? If he's so deterrable, if he's so rational that he wouldn't use WMD, then why not give them up? They're not serving to deter the United States; they're serving to provoke the United States. If he wouldn't use them, what good are they to him? Why not surrender them and all documents, allow Hans Blix to say, "Iraq has fully cooperated and is hiding nothing," and hence preserve his regime? Either he's miscalculating, or being irrational.

A possible answer is that he's retaining these weapons because he thinks that Bush would attack even if he fully renounced them, and so he'd rather keep them to use when the U.S. attacks. But that's not particularly rational; even if he used them in defense, that wouldn't allow him to defeat American forces. So that's not a strong argument for the containable position.

Another flaw in the argument is that it depends on (their version of) history repeating itself. But past performance, as the disclaimer goes, is no guarantee of future performance. They argue that history shows that Saddam Hussein is interested in self-preservation above all else, and so, in their words, "Saddam thus has no incentive to use chemical or nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies—unless his survival is threatened." But he's getting up in years now -- 66 -- and there are persistent if unsubstantiated rumors of health problems like cancer. What if he knows his survival is threatened, not by the United States, but by old age? (Of course, we shouldn't take that argument too far; after all, it could apply to any country. But Saddam Hussein has demonstrated himself to be particularly unconcerned with human life, even by dictatorial standards. The containment argument isn't that Saddam Hussein is decent, but that he's deterrable. When he has nothing to lose, that argument fails.)

There are many practical problems with containment, as well, but for now I just wanted to address the issue of it being effective.

March 14, 2003

The last best hope

Fear not, Saddam. The warmongering United States may be prepared to attack you even in the face of a veto by your staunch French allies in the Security Council, but Robert Fisk has found a way out, a way to preserve your regime in the face of American imperialism. He has discovered a force even more powerful than the United Nations Security Council: the General Assembly.

So here's a little idea that might just make the American administration even angrier and even more aware of its obligations to the rest of the world. It's a forgotten UN General Assembly resolution that could stop an invasion of Iraq, a relic of the Cold War. It was, ironically, pushed through by the US to prevent a Soviet veto at the time of the Korean conflict, and actually used at the time of Suez.


The White House – and readers of The Independent, and perhaps a few UN officials – can look up the 377 resolution on ares377e.pdf. If Mr Bush takes a look, he probably wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry. But today the General Assembly – dead dog as we have all come to regard it – might just be the place for the world to cry: Stop. Enough.

Sorry, I can't post anymore; I'm laughing too hard to type. All I can say is: thank god for Robert Fisk.


Andrew Sullivan recently posed the following quickie: "THE LONELINESS OF ASIAN-AMERICAN MEN: Well, heterosexual Asian-American men, anyway. I blame all those Berkeley white guys."

The link is to a UPI article that summarizes a Census Bureau report that Asian American women marry white men at a much higher rate than Asian American men marry white women.

I don't know if I'd use this variable as a description of loneliness, though, no matter what's supposedly going on at Berkeley.

For what it's worth, Asian American men are much more likely to currently be married than the population as a whole (56.4 percent to 54.2 percent for those over 15).

(And, I don't see what's so wrong with out-of-group marriages. Among other things, it's a traditional sign of assimilation.)

Say wha?

This morning, Glenn Reynolds referred us to this article, in which Le Monde's London correspondent attacks the British for siding with the United States. Glenn noted the tone of the article, in which the reporter wrote as if he were speaking for the French government, but the part which struck me was this:

Let's be clear: Mr Chirac does not endorse Baghdad, and he finds Saddam's regime as despicable as do Bush and Blair. But he fears the American hawks will ignite Muslim fundamentalism worldwide. The fear of domestic conflagration and terrorism are also ever-present: there are 6 million French Muslims to take into account.

Mr Chirac is viscerally opposed to the idea of a clash of civilisations. Bush's core support, on the other hand, comes from evangelical Protestantism, with its two faces of intolerance and lack of cultural understanding.

Is it my imagination, or is the author of this piece suggesting that France can't join in liberating Iraq because Muslim residents of France are disloyal? Because it seems to me that this is either a huge slander against ten percent of the French population, or a major indictment of French immigration policy. It wouldn't be shocking if French Muslims had a different view of Middle East policy than other French citizens -- but the article doesn't make the argument that French Muslims would disagree with French cooperation with the U.S. Rather, the article suggests that they're potential terrorists.

And then he has the nerve to pretend that he disagrees with the idea of a clash of civilizations? He's not disagreeing with it; he's endorsing it -- in extreme, almost racial, form. "Bush's core support" views Middle Eastern culture as a threat, but this reporter (and impliedly Chirac himself) views Muslims qua Muslims as a threat. And that's supposed to demonstrate tolerance and cultural understanding on his part?

Great minds think alike: I note that Eugene Volokh had the same reaction I did.

March 17, 2003

More on containment

It may be moot by the time anybody reads this, but I wanted to follow up on last week's entry where I addressed the question of whether Saddam Hussein is containable. A few additional thoughts:

  1. Effective inspections (assuming such creatures exist) would be a key requirement for containment. But even the virulently anti-war Europeans such as Jacques Chirac concede that inspections are only taking place because of the credible threat of invasion by the United States. How long can the United States keep that threat credible? Hundreds of thousands of troops can't remain in the Gulf forever. For one thing, the United States needs them elsewhere (and many of them are reservists, who can't be kept on active duty indefinitely). For another, their presence is a source of friction between the U.S. and local governments in the region.

  2. What if the inspectors claimed to have finished? What if the inspectors announced that they had found whatever there was to find, and that they had verified that everything had been destroyed? Would they remain active forever in order to maintain the containment approach? Or do inspections end, as it seems likely the "international community" would demand? If so, how does containment work at that point? With no inspections, what's to stop Saddam Hussein from restarting his weapons programs?

  3. What happens to the Kurds of Northern Iraq (or the Shia of Southern Iraq)? Do the United States and the United Kingdom become the permanent air force of these groups? Given Saddam Hussein's behavior towards these groups in the 1980s, again right after the Gulf War, and then at various times in the 1990s, he certainly can't be trusted to leave them alone if they're unprotected. So do proponents of containment suggest we abandon them, or that we continue our current, hybrid approach in which the Iraqi government has only limited sovereignty over large portions of its territory? And if Iraq is given a clean bill of health by inspectors, can we be sure that Iraq's neighbors would continue to allow us to fly missions over Iraq forever?

  4. There are costs to containment -- and I don't just mean the troop commitments and the strained relations with other countries in the region. While the effect of sanctions have almost certainly been greatly exaggerated, they do exist. (Indeed, before Bush pushed for a preventive approach towards Iraq, those currently opposing military force were opposing sanctions.) And in addition to the humanitarian cost, there's the economic cost imposed on neighboring countries which could otherwise trade with Iraq. How long will people tolerate these costs? Indefinitely? Will most countries stop respecting the sanctions after a while? Will humanitarian groups talk about malnourished children, and demand that the sanctions be lifted? At that point, what would containment consist of? Stern looks and firmly-worded UN resolutions?

  5. In the Cold War, "containment" was a long-term state of affairs; we were waiting for an entire system of government to disappear. What's the exit strategy for containing Iraq? Do we wait for Saddam Hussein's death? Is the guy who replaces him -- very possibly one of his sons -- going to be any better, or will he need to be contained also? Do we continue until a democratic regime spontaneously appears in Baghdad?

  6. The "C"-word. Credibility. If the United States backs down at this point, after all of President Bush's rhetoric, how can the United States ever give a credible ultimatum again? What if North Korea acts up, and Bush threatens to bomb them if they don't behave, why would they go along with our wishes? Why wouldn't they assume the United States would wimp out at the last minute just as we did vis-a-vis Iraq? It's a dangerous argument which needs to be used sparingly, because it could be used to justify just about anything the president wants to do. But in this case, we're not talking about the whim of a president; we're discussing a course of action authorized by Congress (and, even if they're trying to pretend now that it never happened, the UN Security Council), so the danger is minimized. And like it or not, it has to be a factor.

  7. Related to the credibility argument, what about the effect on the rest of the region? What are the Kurds to think about how the U.S. feels about their plight, if the U.S. decides that allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power is preferable to removing him? What are Iranian democracy advocates to think, if Bush backtracks? It will be a major morale booster for the Iranian dictatorship, for the Syrian dictator, for the Saudi monarchy, if they see that there's really no commitment in Washington to middle eastern democracy.
None of these items by themselves constitute conclusive proof that containment isn't a viable alternative. But taken as a whole, they make a strong case to that effect. And until I hear satisfactory answers to these issues, I won't be convinced that such answers exist.

Construction equipment 1, homo sapiens 0

It's a tragedy, of course, and yet I can't manage to muster much sympathy for the woman run over by a bulldozer when she lay down in front of it. The bulldozer was there to demolish a building in Gaza; the woman, a representative of the Bored College Students Who Think They're Still In the 1960s movement, was there to stand with Hamas et al. against Israel.

Here's the quote that was puzzling to me:

The Israeli troops "have shot over our heads, and shot near our feet — they have fired tear gas at us," said Michael Shaik, media coordinator for the group. "But we thought we had an understanding. We didn't think they would kill us."
Huh? How confused can these people be? There's suffering all over the world, including in the United States. One would presume that if these people choose to come to Israel, it would be because they think the plight of Palestinians is particularly dire. But if they think so, they must think the Israeli government is exceptionally oppressive and evil. If so, why would they be surprised that the Israeli government was willing to kill them? And on the other hand, if they don't think the Israeli government is evil, then (a) why are they in Israel, instead of somewhere where they might do some good, and (b) why do they doubt the Israeli explanation that this was simply a tragic accident?

Have these people thought it through at all, or are they just being trendy and pretentious by going to Israel to Be Activists, as if this were all some sort of game? Yes, I should be sorry for the woman who died, but (as I've noted before) I really can't feel anything for "human shields" until I hear of ones riding Israeli buses to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian homicide bombings. Of course, they don't do that because they know it would be futile to do so; homicide bombers don't care. And that's the problem, in a nutshell: they protest against Israel because they know Israel isn't evil; they don't protest against Palestinian terrorism because they know it is evil.

Follow the links

One of the big criticisms of Andrew Sullivan's blog is that the articles he links to don't always say what he says they say.

Today is no exception.

Under the heading "WINNING THE ARGUMENT," Sullivan writes: "The latest polling data show something worth remembering as we head into war. USA Today's poll shows the highest levels supporting an invasion of Iraq - 64 percent - since November 2001, a jump of five points from two weeks ago. 57 percent say that the Bush administration has made a convincing argument for intervention."

Following the links on the USA Today page, we find this: "But that support drops off if the U.N. backing being sought by the United States, Britain and Spain Monday is not obtained. If the U.N. Security Council rejects a resolution paving the way for military action, only 54% of Americans favor a U.S. invasion. And if the Bush administration does not seek a final Security Council vote, support for a war drops to 47%."

Since there's going to be no final Security Council vote, I suppose the poll says that support for a war is 47%. 17 points less than 64.

There's going to be a huge spike in support tonight and later this week, to be sure. But, right now, it's less than half.

How much is going to Haliburton?

Joshua Marshall alerts us to this story: "Bush Has Audacious Plan to Rebuild Iraq Within Year"

A more humane war

In a more lighthearted war, David Nieporent defeats me 2360 results to 552 results at Google fight.

(But, in should be noted, that Pennsylvania defeats Princeton 13 300 000 results to 3 310 000 results. Don't think using "Pennsylvania" is fair [it's, among other things, the name of a state, too]? Well, I just gotta say, the results don't lie.).

We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!

Okay, nobody has ever accused George Bush of being a Churchillian orator. Or Clintonian, or Reaganesqe, or Kennedyesqe. Or... well, let's face it: George Bush is not a particularly great speaker. But if we look past the superficialities of his delivery, and focus on the substance, it was a fine speech. Firm, decisive, and comprehensive. He quickly laid out the case for war and the case for acting without the U.N. He warned Iraqi forces not to use WMD, and prepared American citizens in case terrorists attack. And he sent the message that this will be a war of liberation, not conquest. He covered all the bases, and he was steadfast and firm. Exactly what we needed to hear. Two thumbs up.

March 18, 2003

Jokes whose punch lines write themselves

From the Independent:France will be a loser in the second Gulf War. Go ahead, you know you want to say it...

Diplomacy Uber Alles

You have to give the New York Times credit for something. At least they recognize that continued carping about the president's approach will serve no purpose once the war starts. Unfortunately, they also think that pointless (and inane) Monday morning quarterbacking serves a purpose now. Their basic argument is that the entire Iraq war now represents a "diplomatic failure."

Since the Times doesn't exactly seem to dispute that the war may be necessary -- they describe it as "a war for a legitimate international goal against an execrable tyranny" -- they must mean by "failure" the fact that the French aren't willing to back us up. And yet, they present us with no reason to believe that France would have backed us up under any circumstances. (They do, laughably, imply that if only Bush had backed Kyoto, this split with France wouldn't have happened.)

But then, faced with the fact that countries like Britain and Spain do support us, they argue that it doesn't count because the citizens of these countries don't agree. Huh? So now "diplomacy" is defined not by the relationships between countries, but by public opinion polls in foreign countries? If you're going to discuss Bush's diplomatic track record, don't you need to acknowledge that the vast majority of European countries are on our side? What they seem to mean is that Bush's public relations approach to foreign populations isn't satisfactory for the Times' editors. To which I say: so what?

I wouldn't mind these criticisms if the Times demonstrated in any way that they had alternative approaches which would have gotten the results they want. But if the last decade-plus has taught us anything, it's that (a) nothing will induce Saddam Hussein to behave, (b) no amount of talking will convince France to stand against Saddam Hussein, and (c) the Times will never give credit to a conservative for anything. Sure, Bush could have gotten French (and hence UN) support -- to accomplish nothing. France would have gladly backed the U.S. -- in sending nasty emails to the Iraqi dictator. But no "diplomacy" would have accomplished the goal of regime change in Iraq.

Heads up

One of my favorite aspects of bias at the New York Times is that their editors write headlines which support their anti-Bush ideology, regardless of what the articles under the headlines actually say. I don't know whether this is because the editors are deliberately dishonest or just too lazy to read the articles.

Their review of Bush's speech? Headlined: Mixed Reaction to Speech. So what were those "mixed reactions?"

Jim Chamberlain would not call himself gung-ho, exactly, but he is relieved, almost, that the long buildup to war has ended, that the excruciating wait is over, that the diplomats will at long last step aside and allow the nation's military to do what needs to be done.
Keep in mind that this guy isn't actually responding to the speech; he was interviewed Monday afternoon, before the speech. But he supports Bush.
"The sooner we do it, the faster we do it, the better and safer the world will be," said Rodolfo Castillo, 40, a fashion designer, as he watched the president's remarks on a flat-screen television above the black marble bar at Le Méridien hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. "The uncertainty of what is going to happen is the worst part of it."

Undaunted by the prospect of war, Mr. Castillo had been spending the day readying the gown and accessories that will be worn by the singer Anastacia at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night. He had this to say about the president's performance tonight: "He made the case. He was straight to the point. He was coming from a position of power."

He supports Bush, and he gave the speech a positive review.
Standing nearby, David Siguaw, 36, the hotel's director for sales and marketing and the grandson of a war veteran of World War I and II, said, "President Bush pointed out quite clearly that the United Nations did not live up to its responsibilities."

"Finally, we as the American people have direction," Mr. Siguaw said after the speech. "He's announced directly to the American people a timeline of 48 hours."

So does he. 3-0, so far. Not "mixed."
"As far as supporting a war, I do, because I do think Saddam Hussein needs to get out of Iraq," said Alva Starling, 27, who is moving here from Texas and was having lunch with a friend and fellow dentist, Vanessa Dowdy, of Decatur, Ga.
He supports Bush also. And was also interviewed in the afternoon, before the speech.
"Having a daughter volunteer to be in the military and suddenly having her sent somewhere, I had to do a lot of thinking and re-evaluating," Ms. Reeves said. "I think there is a time when we have to say, `If we're not willing to fight for this, then what are we willing to fight for?' "
She isn't responding to the speech either, but she's supporting Bush. 5-0 in favor of Bush.
Ms. Breeden, who said she grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home, was scornful of President Bush's push for war. "I try to imagine him standing face to face with Jesus, with the traditional Jesus that a lot of Christians believe in," she said. "I just can't imagine Jesus saying, `Go for it, George."'
Finally! Someone who opposes Bush. She wasn't reacting to the speech either, of course. But at least we can finally call it "mixed." It's 5-1 in favor of Bush.
In tiny Bloomfield, Ind., however, Red Oliphant, 75, said he spoke for most of his neighbors in saying that he backed the president 100 percent. "I was hoping that Saddam would get the message and go into exile someplace," said Mr. Oliphant, a retired Air Force colonel who said he flew 250 air-to-ground support missions in Vietnam. "He's too obstinate."

Taking a break from cleaning up his lawn on one of the first warm spring days of the year in southern Indiana, Mr. Oliphant said he disagreed with those who said the administration should have done more to gain international support for war. "I think Bush has given them every chance to deal, and they won't deal," he said. "I've got no sympathy for the French or the Germans, either one."

He's not responding to the speech either. Did they just pull these quotes at random off some other newspaper's website? But he supports Bush, too.
In Richmond, Va., William G. Hamby, 54, a media consultant who says he still remembers the terror and anxiety of the Vietnam-era draft, kept clicking between his list of business contacts and a handful of news Web sites today for the latest on Iraq. "In some ways, it's suspenseful," he said.
He wasn't responding to the speech either, and I have no idea what his view actually is on Iraq. Call that one a tie.

So let's sum up: the "mixed reaction to the speech" consisted of two people who saw the speech both giving it high marks, and four of the six people who didn't see the speech giving Bush high marks, with only one person criticizing Bush. So what on earth is the Times talking about?

FOLLOWUP: The Times has changed this headline; it now says: "Wait Over, Americans Voice Relief and Anxiety." I guess that was too much, even for them.

48 hours... and counting

From Bush's speech:

"If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you. As our coalition takes away their power, we will deliver the food and medicine you need. We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free. In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms. The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near."
As I noted earlier, the delivery wasn't anything to write home about. But the language itself was bold, idealistic, and inspiring.

Now, Bush needs to follow through on these words; if he doesn't, I'll join the chorus of voices criticizing him. But if he does, this could be one of the shining moments in American history.

March 19, 2003

Who needs them?

It's true that Germany won't support the U.S. liberation of Iraq. Maybe their diplomatic position, though, has less to do with anti-Americanism and more to do with the fact that their military is in worse shape than Phil Donahue's career. They're filled with crappy old equipment which would have been useful two decades ago if the Soviets had invaded, but which is useless now.

But there are bottlenecks everywhere: a shortage of engineers to inspect helicopters in the field, for example, and of anesthesiologists necessary for field hospitals.

The country has few precision-guided weapons and only outdated battlefield command-and-control ability. It has plenty of soldiers, about 290,000, but 90,000 of those are conscripts who get minimal training. Most of the rest are aging professionals who have never served abroad.

Most important of all, Germany does not yet have a means to transport its troops far beyond its borders. It had to lease Ukrainian aircraft to fly its troops to Afghanistan for peacekeeping. It is developing a military transport plane with several other European nations, but the first of the new aircraft will not be delivered before 2009.

Germany is developing an air-launched cruise missile and has started buying laser-guided bombs. But it has made almost no progress in developing an airborne ground surveillance system to allow it to survey a battlefield or use precision-guided weapons effectively.

Why is the German military in such bad shape? Well, one reason, the well-known one, is that NATO countries have felt free, under the umbrella of American protection, to skimp on military spending. Another reason, though, is the typically European confusion about the role of the government: even the military is a social program:
"We need to spend a minimum of 30 percent on capital investment, otherwise the modernization won't take place at the necessary speed," said Gen. Klaus Naumann, a former chairman of NATO's military committee, complaining in particular that the military is top heavy with civilians.

Mr. Thum and his broken trucks are part of the problem. He is a civilian mechanic inherited from the East German Army when it merged with West Germany's a decade ago. At 55, he works just 220 days a year and cannot easily be fired because under German law, civilians who have worked for the armed forces for 15 years or more are in effect guaranteed lifetime employment.

Keeping Mr. Thum and many of the military's 130,000 other civilian employees busy is one reason the German military spends just $40 million a year on new vehicles but $1 billion on maintaining them. On average, its trucks are 25 years old.

As Mr. Thum says, "Our future is in these old vehicles."

General Naumann said, "If we could free 6 to 8 percent of the defense budget now spent on pay and benefits, we could really begin to modernize the armed forces in a way that would be able to close the capabilities gap between most Europeans and the Americans."

When the last defense minister, Rudolf Scharping, tried to do that a year ago, he met such stiff resistance from workers' unions that he promised that for the next 10 years the military would not lay off any civilians — many of whom, a Defense Ministry spokesman noted, lack the skills to work in the private sector.

Hey: unskilled civilians! Exactly the sort of military asset any country needs by the bucketload. (On the other hand, the bright side for Germany is that France is still ready to surrender to them on a moment's notice.)

I'm sure the gap in capabilities (and commitment) between Germany (et al.) and the U.S. explains a large part of President Bush's disdain for so-called multilateralism. It's bad enough for Old Europe to tell the U.S. that we should wait for their approval before acting -- but since it turns out that there's nothing they could contribute even if they were willing to do so, their demands just seem insulting. What they're saying, essentially, is that the U.S. should wait for them because they bring superior wisdom and moral sense to the table. And George Bush doesn't believe that, and neither should we.

Looking ahead

James Taranto over at OpinionJournal's Best of the Web has a regular feature called "You Don't Say," where he mocks newspaper headlines that state the obvious. So how about Divided Democrats Concerned About 2004. That headline could be re-used just about every two years. (Yes, if you change the date. Stop nitpicking.)

The article points out the splits between those Democrats with national aspirations, who need to worry about public opinion, and those who are content to remain in Congress, like Nancy Pelosi, who only has to appeal to her own constituents. (The one exception: Howard Dean, who for some puzzling reason thinks that the country is ready for a French president.)

But here's a comment that I'll bet someone will be disavowing shortly:

Party officials, recalling that President Bush's father lost re-election after waging a successful and popular war against Iraq in 1991, said they remained hopeful that a second Iraq war would also be eclipsed by worries about the economy, and noted that polls showed unhappiness with Mr. Bush's management of it.
I'm not saying it's untrue; I'm just saying that it's probably not a good idea, even anonymously, for party leaders to be vocally "hopeful" that the economy is in bad shape. 

So if there's any better illustration of why the Democratic Party doesn't control any branches of government, I don't know what it is. On the one hand, they have Nancy Pelosi Pollyannishly pretending that the traditional Democratic weakness on the national security issue doesn't matter:

Ms. Pelosi said she did not believe Mr. Bush could successfully use the issue against her party. "They try to convey that image of the Democrats as weak on defense," she said. "I don't think we should take that. There is no party position on the war, much to the dismay of our grass-roots constituents."
That's at a time when the only successful Democratic presidential candidate in our memory, Bill Clinton, is backing war. And on the other hand, they have people praying that the economy tanks so that Bush will be unpopular. Hardly a winning platform.


I wonder if people might want to consider that George Bush is shrewder than they think he is. Yes, he failed to get France on board for the liberation of Iraq. Big deal. So he's not a magician. But while everyone else is talking about failed middle eastern and world diplomacy, we see:

  • Egypt releasing a democracy advocate after pressure from the U.S. to do so. Not a huge step, but a step nonetheless.
  • The PLO appointing a prime minister and giving him power, despite Yasir Arafat's objections. We'll have to wait and see whether it's genuine, and we'll have to see whether there's any follow through by this prime minister in stopping terrorism, but it does meet the first American demand in order to start the peace process.
  • Turkey considering reversing itself on cooperating with the United States in this conflict.
  • Countries in East Asia quietly cooperating with the United States in containing North Korea.
Perhaps, just maybe, Bush deserves more credit than people are giving him. No, he isn't very "diplomatic," as that word is traditionally used. But, frankly, how often does being "diplomatic" actually accomplish anything? (I don't count "winning the respect of the New York Times' editorial board" as an accomplishment.) Did it accomplish anything with regard to Iraq? Some might argue that it was the first President Bush's diplomatic skills that put together the coalition to defeat Iraq in the first Gulf War. And that may be true -- but on the other hand, it was that coalition that prevented the United States from finishing the first Gulf War, thus leading to this crisis. Some might argue that it was Bill Clinton's diplomatic skills (or, heaven forbid, Jimmy Carter's) that allowed us to reach agreement with North Korea and prevent a war in 1994. Again, that may be true -- but all it did was postpone the crisis and make it worse.

Traditional diplomacy is useful when dealing with countries who share the same interests. When both sides want the same thing, then they can negotiate how to get there. But when the two sides are opposed not just in means, but in ends, then polite talk isn't generally an effective approach. And when one side has everything to lose from making concessions to the other side, then polite talk is never an effective approach. Bush appears to recognize that, but too many people (both in the media and in foreign governments) don't have any other options, so they pretend not to recognize that. And then they criticize Bush for not pretending the same.

Say it isn't so

If you can't trust the mafia, who can you trust? What's this world coming to?

March 20, 2003

On to Pierre

Apparently the anti-war crowd who claim that George Bush won't stop with Iraq were actually right. Hmm. Pierre. Isn't that French?

The leftist case for war

It may seem somewhat pointless to continue to rehash the argument over whether to go to war, but I just read this piece and it was quite good. A leftist challenges other leftists to support the liberation of Iraq.

And yet, I wonder: Is it possible that some of the most vocal and visible elements of the left are vulnerable to a similar charge? Whether George Bush or his father or Al Gore or Bill Clinton is president -- in one basic sense, that is immaterial. Conditions in Iraq are what they are. With war now upon us, the deeper issue is about the relationship of American and European leftists to the people of Iraq, about our obligations to aid them in enormously difficult circumstances, and about the best means for doing so.

In the months leading up to war, the old paradigms of alliance and opposition have shifted strangely, or fallen apart. Though it is rarely visible in news accounts, the left is deeply divided. A huge and outspoken block of antiwar leftists finds itself allied with old soldiers of the Gulf War era, like retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft. Others once identified with the radical left, like the writer Christopher Hitchens, find themselves allied with George W. Bush, one of the most conservative presidents in the post WWII era. But the pro-war leftists, perhaps because they lack the numbers and a dramatic venue, are almost completely overshadowed by the antiwar leftists who can turn out millions for demonstrations around the globe.

In most every argument against the war, whether it is posed between friends over drinks or by the presence of 100,000 people at a wintry demonstration, there comes a crucial moment: "I'm not defending Saddam," the argument goes. "I know Saddam is a ruthless tyrant. I know he has committed terrible human rights abuses. But ..." What follows "but" is often a withering critique of Bush or the United States, Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar, or Silvio Berlusconi. Hidden in this argument is a curious dynamic: The words "ruthless dictator" and "human rights abuses" have been uttered so many times that they are like a dead key on a piano. They have lost their emotion and their power to convey anything close to the reality of ruthless dictatorship and human rights abuses.

One by one, he demolishes each of the leftist arguments against the war:
  1. Conflict can be solved without war.
  2. We can't solve all of the world's problems. The popular variant: Why Iraq? Why now? Why not North Korea?
  3. We have to let the Iraqis solve their own problems.
  4. Invading Iraq will give rise to a new legion of terrorists.
  5. We have to let the U.N. weapons inspectors finish their job.
  6. This is a war for oil. The general variant: Bush does not have the right motive for war.
  7. The U.S. is guilty of gross hypocrisy because it backed Saddam in the war against Iran and helped him rebuild after the Gulf War.
Even though the war has begun, it never hurts to remind ourselves why we're fighting, so go read this. It's a good reminder that people with very different politics -- the writer "consider[s] Bush and his closest advisors dangerous" -- can come to the same conclusion on a given issue.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Q: What happens if you demand something from someone?
A: He may or may not give it to you.

Q: What happens if you demand something from someone, and then promise to punish him if he gives it to you?
A: He certainly won't give it to you.

And so, Robert Musil points out how "international law" deters Saddam Hussein from agreeing to go into exile. Of course, the odds that the Iraqi dictator would have ever gone along with America's demands along those lines were slimmer than slim -- but well-meaning Eurocrat/fools have made it certain that he will not.

March 21, 2003

A thank you note

During the 2000 Presidential campaign, Dick Cheney had a usual stump speech. During the speech, he'd tell the audience that administrations don't build the army themselves... they inherit the military that that their predecessor built. He would continue that, after the first Gulf War (when he was Secretary of Defense), he sat down and wrote President Reagan a thank you letter... thanking him for organizing the great army that did such a great job. And then Cheney would say the big applause line: did anybody think that President Clinton would ever get such a thank you note? The crowds would erupt... and Cheney's job was done... trying to make people believe that President Clinton's policies had drastically weakened America's military strength.

Hopefully, this war will be a quick and successful one. And let's hope that, after it's over, Vice-President Cheney sits down and writes President Clinton a thank you letter for organizing the military that is so able and so prepared, as it's proving in Iraq and Afghanistan. What do you think the odds are?

Me Me Me Me Me

Is there any doubt in anybody's mind that anti-war protesters are just narcissistic children with too much free time on their hands? If there is, perhaps the latest mini-controversy at the University of Maryland will convince people otherwise. An editorial cartoon was published that some people found offensive, so there were protests, which the newspaper rejected:

Dozen of students continued to protest outside The Diamondback's newsroom yesterday, some saying they would continue to protest at the newspaper's office even if no one is there until an apology is made.

"We're getting the message out, even if they're not here - it's symbolic," said Justin Valanzola, a junior special education major. "We're here to do something. We can't be apathetic anymore."

See? It's all about the protesters. They want to feel like they're doing something, regardless of whether they're accomplishing anything.

March 22, 2003

What's on tonight?

I remember when Vietnam was called the first television war. Well, actually, I don't remember it at all; I was crawling around watching Sesame Street at the time. But I remember reading history books that made the claim. And now it seems so silly, doesn't it? Yes, footage of what was happening in Vietnam made it onto the evening news. Several days later. Ha! How... twentieth century. Now I can watch real-time footage. 24-hours a day. I smirk at you puny Vietnam War watchers with your puny evening news coverage.

Hmm. I wonder what the next generation of coverage will be. Interactive viewing? We'll get to pick from which camera angle we want to observe the war? To choose which satellites and radar systems we want our televisions to use to put together composite pictures of troop movements?

I jest, but it seems to me that these advancements -- and make no mistake about their imminent arrival -- are going to significantly alter the course of war. The news media is already pushing the envelope in the area of operational security; I've already seen, several times in the last two days, an "embedded" reporter yelled at, on camera, for giving out too much information -- or in one case, for giving away the unit's position with his camera's light. But since these reporters are embedded, the military does have some control over them, and in addition, the U.S. networks are generally being responsible in their decisions about what information to air.

Soon, though, it will be impossible to control the spread of information at all. Well, at least not without targeting journalists directly -- which might result in bad publicity. (And ultimately, even that won't be sufficient. Surely if the U.S. can build unmanned drones for aerial surveillance, so can large media corporations.) Certainly there are some technical solutions -- communications can be jammed, after all -- but that will merely hinder the media; it won't defeat them. Will it make warfare obsolete? Don't make me laugh. Hasn't every new technology -- steamships, dynamite, nuclear weapons, just to name a few -- been hailed as a means to abolish war? Unless I missed a news bulletin, war continues. But each invention has changed the face of war, and I suspect that it will happen again in ways we can't even begin to foresee. (Not including Tom Clancy, who already wrote this plot.)

March 23, 2003

Take that, Jacques!

I haven't seen this confirmed anywhere, but the Jerusalem Post is reporting the discovery of those WMD that Hans Blix was verifying didn't exist:

About 30 Iraqi troops, including a general, surrendered today to US forces of the 3rd Infantry Division as they overtook huge installation apparently used to produce chemical weapons in An Najaf, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Baghdad.

Asked to confirm 's exclusive coverage of this development, US Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, Deputy Commander of Central Command, told reporters: "I'm not going to confirm that report, but we have one or two generals officers who are providing us with information."

One soldier was lightly wounded when a booby-trapped explosive went off as he was clearing the sheet metal-lined chemical weapons production facility.

The huge 100-acre complex, which is surrounded by a electrical fence, is perhaps the first illegal chemical plant to be uncovered by US troops in their current mission in Iraq. The surrounding barracks resemble an abandoned slum.

It wasn't immediately clear exactly which chemicals were being produced here, but clearly the Iraqis tried to camouflage the facility so it could not be photographed aerially, by swathing it in sand-cast walls to make it look like the surrounding desert.

If this is true, it's a big deal. It won't, of course, change the minds of anybody who is protesting that we should have "let the inspections work," but it will convince the sane world that Bush was right to act when he did.

And the loser is...

First the liberation of Iraq -- and now Hollywood. Will wonders never cease? What's next, Jacques Chirac apologizing to the United States?

(Of course, we shouldn't be too optimistic about regime change in Los Angeles; the fact that Moore was up on stage at all is a disgrace.)

March 24, 2003

Let's remember...

Before Michael Moore heard some boos at last night's Academy Awards, he received a standing ovation when his award was announced. How many standing ovations for award announcements were there last night? I'm asking because I don't know. Was his the only one? It might have been.

In addition to his movie, Moore also wrote the #2 best selling non-fiction book in America, which has been on the best seller list for just about a year.

So, when we read "But the crowd grew more hostile and began to jeer heavily as he continued," we should ask ourselves, was the crowd really hostile, or was it just a few loud people booing? From the crowd shots I saw on television during Moore's short speech, I didn't witness a hostile crowd. But "hostile" is money-making spin for the news media... they get a juicy story when there really might not be one.

If you want to hear Moore's take on the reaction, go here and click under the link for DOCUMENTARY FEATURE.

It's the same war

Remember all the nitwits who claimed that attacking Iraq would be a distraction from the war on terror?

Only his hairdresser knows for sure

So, are they or aren't they? Ten or so missiles have been fired at Kuwait since the Gulf War restarted last week, and people keep debating what kind of missiles they are.

Kuwaiti officials have said some of the missiles were banned Scud missiles. But U.S. and British officials say they did not think the missiles were Scuds.
That's interesting. Why are the US and British downplaying Iraqi actions, while the Kuwaitis are quick to accuse Iraq of violating UN sanctions? I assume the Kuwaitis are eager to justify to their fellow Arab countries that their support for the war is justified. But what's the motivation of the U.S.? Is it just because the US was burned over the Niger-uranium documents? Because the U.S. is suddenly being very circumspect:
GEN. FRANKS: Right. I think the -- I'll do my best. I think that we probably have received, oh, several handfuls of bits of information over the last three or four days about potential WMD locations. Some of them -- some of those locations are in areas where we have control, some we have not yet gone into. I think Secretary Rumsfeld gave the right appreciation yesterday when he said -- you know, we were then four days, we're now five days into this. And we're concerned about taking down this regime and about getting our hands on all these weapons of mass destruction and these technologies. And it's a bit early for us to have an expectation of having found them. And so, this is work we call SSE, sensitive site exploitation. And we will do some sensitive site exploitation as we go along and we'll do other sensitive site exploitation a bit later in the campaign. Best I can do.

Q: May I follow up just on the chemical plant, sir?


Q: Can you confirm that there were no chemicals found at that plant?

GEN. FRANKS: Actually, I can't confirm. I will say that it would -- it would not surprise me if there were chemicals in the plant, and it would not surprise me there weren't. And the reason I say that is because I have access to something that -- of course, that none of you do, and that is all of these bits of information that come in. And more times than not, they'll be based on speculation rather than based on first-hand knowledge. I think it was -- someone mentioned in the past two or three days, when you get very close to WMD is when you're able to discuss with the people who have actually been involved in the WMD program. And so we'll just -- we'll wait for the days head.

So, did this find turn out to be a dud? Or is it such a great discovery that we want to announce it dramatically to the world at just the right moment? Or, alternatively, perhaps it's mixed: maybe there are no substances stored at the site, but there are incriminating documents which need to be carefully studied.

March 25, 2003

How did we get here?

Andrew Sullivan addresses the issue of who's responsible for getting us to this point with regard to Iraq. Although he does pass around some blame, that's not entirely what he's talking about; while blasting the U.N., he praises Tony Blair. But he also notes (in a non-Pat Buchanany way) the influence of the neoconservatives:

When George W. Bush looked around him in the ashes of the World Trade Center for an analysis of what had gone wrong and a comprehensive strategy to put it right, the neoconservatives were the only credible advocates who had an actual plan.


And this humble, instinctually modest president in foreign affairs, demanded a comprehensive strategy to grapple with the gravest attack on American soil in American history. The neocons had such an analysis. Their rivals - the multilateral purists - had nothing but piece-meal initiatives and they also had recent history against them.

Exactly. That's the problem I have with the serious anti-war position (as distinguished from the anti-American Chomsky/Fisk anti-war position). They don't offer alternatives. For those who oppose war altogether, what do they suggest? I don't ask how they propose to handle Iraq; their answer to that is "containment." The question I have is how they propose to handle the Middle East.

It's not as if the U.S. is the only country on the planet. The French, the Germans, the E.U., had an opportunity to address the Middle East. Long before Bush took office. They were either unwilling or unable to solve any problems. Or both. So why should Bush listen to them now? What exactly demonstrates the wisdom of their approach? Indeed, what is their approach? Ignore the Middle East and hope it gets better on its own? Prop up dictatorships that seem more pro-Western than their populaces? Throw some foreign aid their way? We've tried those. Those didn't prevent 9/11. Why would they prevent the next 9/11? The neoconservative idea, the idea that liberating Iraq can lead to democracy, which can, in domino fashion, lead to liberalization throughout the Middle East, may be wrong. But at least it's an idea. It's something for Bush to try. The French, the anti-war people, offer nothing.

Uh oh!

There's some sort of strange dynamic going on in the coverage of this war. The media is manic-depressive, perhaps. Before the war started, they brought up their familiar bogeyman: the quagmire. When the CotW (Coalition of the Willing) quickly and successfully struck into Iraq, the media then acted as if the whole war were going to be a weekend getaway in scenic Asia. Then, when Iraqi forces had the temerity to resist, the media swung back into defeatest mode. Headlines blared horror stories of coalition "setbacks," as if being slowed down by a day were a brilliant counterstroke by the Iraqi military.

Now, with coalition forces just 50 miles from Baghdad, the media is acting as if Saddam Hussein has virtually won the war. And press conferences with U.S. military leaders take on a surrealist tone:

Q: What's going on? How can this be happening?
A: It's a war.

Q: Have we lost already?
A: Yes.

Q: Did you expect Iraqis to shoot back? Have we lost already?
A: Yes, we've lost, and no, this whole shooting thing has caught us by surprise. We didn't even expect them to have ammunition. We figured they'd just fart at us a few times. Boy, were we stupid. They really outmaneuvered us with that one.

Q: What about these Iraqi tactics? Some of them fight, and then run away and hide. Did you ever hear of these tactics? Have we lost already?
A: Yeah, we lost already. It never occurred to us that they might use unconventional tactics. Our military academies only taught us how to move forward and back. All this Iraqi sneaking around from side-to-side has confused us. Thank god the media alerted us to the fact that the Iraqi military might fight dirty. We'd never have thought of that one.

Q: We hear that some Americans were captured. Have we lost the war already?
A: Of course we lost the war. We didn't think a single American soldier would be injured or captured. Now all our plans are out the window! Whatever shall we do?

Q: Didn't you predict that this war would only take a short time? It's been almost a week, and the war isn't over! What's going on? Have we lost already?
A: Yeah. We don't know what we were thinking. We really thought that the boys would be home by Monday. Gosh, we blew it.

Q: Are we going to lose the war?
A: Yes. Look for Iraqi tanks on the banks of the Potomac tomorrow. Thursday at the latest.

I certainly don't mean to make light of the plight of American POWs, and the fallen soldiers are a tragedy. Even one dead is one death too many. But it's a war, and these things happen -- and yet, if you listen to the media, you'd think that a single casualty signals that this is Vietnam, and that the marines might as well pack their bags now and go home. We're just a few days from seizing Baghdad, depending on how stiff Republican Guard resistance is. In less than a week, our troops crossed half a country, brushing aside all resistance. And yet we're already hearing, "I told you so"s from the media. Sheesh. Shouldn't there be a rule that you have to wait at least a week before commenting on a war's success?


Last week, I asked "How much is going to Haliburton?"

It looks like we're begining to get an answer.

March 26, 2003

Careful what you wish for

From the Houston Chronicle, but similar stories can be found all over:

A coalition of black leaders is asking Houstonians to support an upcoming civil rights march on Washington, protesting what they call efforts to roll back affirmative action policies.

The April 1 march hopes to influence the Supreme Court, which is considering a pivotal lawsuit filed against affirmative action admission programs at the University of Michigan.

This raises two questions in my mind.

(1) Do these people really think that this is an effective tactic? For influencing Congress or the president, perhaps, although I suspect that on this issue, minds are already made up. But for influencing the Supreme Court? I'm not naive enough to think that the justices live in ivory towers ("I don't know If the Constitution follows the flag, but the Supreme Court follows the election returns."), but they also don't have to stand for re-election. By design, they're insulated from the political winds.

Moreover, it's not as if the march adds new information into the political debate; this isn't a hot new topic like war in Iraq. They're deciding an old issue, affirmative action, about which the passionate views of each side are well known and firmly established. With regard to Iraq, an observer might react to a march on Washington by saying, "Gosh, I didn't realize so many people felt so strongly about this, and I didn't realize the wide variety of opponents." But in the affirmative action debate, I think everybody is pretty clear on who supports, who opposes, and how deep the feelings are on each side. So how useful is this march really going to be?

(2) Would these marchers want a Supreme Court that made decisions based not on the law, but on public demonstrations? Certainly many decisions involving civil rights, including the crucial Brown vs. Board of Education, would never have been made at the time they were if they were put up to popular vote. Not that Brown is going to be repealed anytime soon, of course, but certainly there are other decisions that minorities care about that are less popular. And so you would think that a political minority would be especially sensitive about sending the message that courts should make decisions based on popularity of the resulting policies.

March 27, 2003

Machiavelli on Exiles

Kos alerts us to this March 16 appearance by Vice-President Cheney on Meet the Press:

VICE PRES. CHENEY: ... Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators....

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I've talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he's written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

The Vice-President isn't the only one... many people have cited the expat Iraqi community for intelligence information. It's important to remember what Machaivelli said about exiles. In short he said: don't form strategies based on what they say.

From Discourses, Book 2, Chapter 31:

"It ought to be considered, therefore, how vain are the faith and promises of those who find themselves deprived of their country. For, as to their faith, it has to be borne in mind that anytime they can return to their country by other means than yours, they will leave you and look to the other, notwithstanding whatever promises they had made you. As to their vain hopes and promises, such is the extreme desire in them to return home, that they naturally believe many things that are false and add many others by art, so that between those they believe and those they say they believe, they fill you with hope, so that relying on them you will incur expenses in vain, or you undertake an enterprise in which you ruin yourself..... A Prince, therefore, ought to go slowly in undertaking an enterprise upon the representations of an exile, for most of the times he will be left either with shame or very grave injury."

Not-so-strange bedfellows

Even though Iraq and Iran are bitter enemies, and even though Iran is officially neutral in this conflict, the Iranian dictatorship is rooting for Saddam Hussein. And the Iranian public is annoyed:

"Some media coverage of the war gives the impression of defending (Iraq's) Ba'ath regime," Rajabali Mazroui, a pro-reform parliamentarian, was quoted as saying in a newspaper. "State media are not safeguarding our national interests."

One analyst who asked not to be named said: "Iranian television has become like Iraqi television. Its reports about the war obviously take the side of the Iraqi regime."

Many viewers are tuning to Western radio and television instead. "Why should I watch Iranian television when it is trying to brainwash me with its one-sided coverage?" said Ali, a 33-year-old engineer.

American leftists may sneer at the neocon Middle East domino theory, but it seems as if the Iranian government may be more savvy in this regard. They know that the liberation of Iraq poses a danger to their own regime.

March 28, 2003

Richard Pearle's Replacement

I have an idea on who should replace Richard Pearle as chair of the Defense Policy Board.

Considering that we've targeted Saddam, the invasion has begun, and Franklin Graham -- son of Billy Graham -- and the Southern Baptist Convention is posed to enter Iraq to minister to the Iraqi's spirtual needs... is their any other person to be considered for the policy board? The answer is obvious. It's Ann Coutler, who, quite famously wrote: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

March 31, 2003

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

In 1991, the first George Bush called Saddam Hussein "another Hitler." I remember the anti-war people sneering at this, just as they have this year whenever analogies are drawn between the failure of the "international community" to stand up to Hitler and their failure to stand up to Hussein. But apparently in addition to being anti-Semitic mustache-wearing fascists who use poison gas, Saddam and Adolf have another thing in common. (via Rachel Lucas.)

Birds of a feather

I was trying to figure out what on earth Peter "Baghdad Rose" Arnett was thinking when he said what he said to Iraqi TV. Now I know. He was angling for employment with the newspaper that employs John Pilger. And he's not the least bit apologetic for what he said.

That overnight my successful NBC reporting career was turned to ashes. And why?

Because I stated the obvious to Iraqi television; that the US war timetable has fallen by the wayside.

I have made those comments to television stations around the world and now I'm making them again in the Daily Mirror.

I'm not angry. I'm not crying. But I'm also awed by this media phenomenon.

The right-wing media and politicians are looking for any opportunity to be critical of the reporters who are here, whatever their nationality. I made the misjudgment which gave them the opportunity to do so.

Yes, Peter. It's the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. It wasn't because you explained to the Iraqi government that all they had to do was cause civilian casualties to get the U.S. to abandon the war.

About March 2003

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in March 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2003 is the previous archive.

April 2003 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.31