March 31, 2005

Yglesias' Iraq Policy Prescriptions: Short-Sighted and Wrong

Time to talk turkey with the estimable Matt Y re: troop levels in Iraq. He writes:

Ah okay. I don't have a really specific view about the appropriate short-term troop level. What I would say is this. It's vital to establish a commitment to long-term withdrawal, which would have the following elements: No permanent bases, a target date for zeroing out the American deployment, and a set of feasible benchmarks for interim withdrawals. This commitment should be combined with a non-trivial short-term withdrawal as a token of good faith and bona fide commitment to the plan.

As I've written to Matt, I think telegraphing an exit date is a terrible idea. It provides succor to insurgents (and neighbors in the region, shall we say, not favorably disposed to our interests) to simply wait us out. As soon as, say, Don Rumsfeld stands up at a podium and says: all American forces will be out of Iraq by year end 2007, for instance, the insurgency will immediately re-calibrate its strategy by going more into hiding, keeping their powder dry, and generally living to fight another day. Syria and Iran too may be tempted, by such a display of Clintonian non-resolve, to reappraise their strategies too. And Jihadists worldwide will spin an announced American exit date as a victory for the insurgency. Indeed, in many quarters, it would prove a propaganda coup for the jihadists and Baathist restorationists.

In an E-mail, Matt wrote back to me:

Well, on the undesirability of telegraphing an exit, I'm inclined to agree. The risk, obviously, is that you signal to the enemy that if he just lays low for X more months to make himself hard to kill, he'll be able to resurface nicely in X+1 months and then you've got all kinds of trouble. It's not a good thing to be doing. But, for the reasons I laid out, I think it's the only way to gain the Sunni participation in the political process that's absolutely vital to getting the Iraqi ship on course. [emphasis added]

Matt displays real short-sightedness here. Has it never occurred to him that today's disgruntled Sunnis, pissed off at the American occupation, might become tomorrow America-aficianados? Once the Shi'a begin to engage in displays of crude majoritarianism, once the Kurds heighten their efforts to carve out a highly autonomous republic and discriminate against Arab Sunnis in their midst (reverse Arabization!)--many Sunnis may very well want American troops to stick around to protect their interests. This doesn't seem to have occurred to Matt; but it's quite possible indeed and not far-fetched fare by any measure. In addition, of course, all the vying ethnic/religious factions need adult supervision right now. The risk of civil war, as some who know much more about foreign policy than Matt or I believe (see Les Gelb, for instance), remains quite a strong risk factor going forward (though overstated in my view, as I've argued contra Matt in the past). This is why, even now during a feverish (if diminishing) counter-insurgency aimed mostly at Sunnis, some Sunnis are saying: 'hey, let the Americans stay in their bases--just get them out of their towns.' Translation: they're not dumb. They realize what havoc and instability could be unleashed if a precipitous American withdrawal were to take place. They realize the specter of Shi'a revanchism could have them grateful indeed to have U.S. G.I.s in their midst. Indeed, and as is clear from the linked New York Times article, there is some rollback in the Sunni "Americans Out!" position of late:

There are indications that Mr. Dari may be softening his line. In February, the Muslim Scholars Association issued a number of conditions that would have to be met before it would endorse the writing of a constitution and the next round of elections, notably the American withdrawal and the release of all detainees from American military prisons.

On Monday, he hinted that he would be content with a timetable for American withdrawal. Some other hard-line Sunni leaders have made similar gestures.

"We do not insist that the Americans withdraw at once, as long as they stay in their bases and cease to marginalize our political life," said Ali al-Mashadani, a cleric at Ibn Taymiyya mosque in Baghdad. Some political leaders even say the Sunnis, after much bickering, are starting to show signs of a common interest.

Look for such trends to gain strength as the insurgency wanes, and Sunnis begin to espy the real threat in their midst (angry as hell Shi'a repressed for hundreds and hundreds of years).

Back to Matt:

Now to be clear, I don't want to see a precipitous, panicky, running away here [ed. note: Surtout pas!]. That means, to me, that you need to go about setting the long-term date the right way. I would suggest something like this. Condoleezza Rice and her staff make a guess about when a zero troop level situation will be viable. Call that Date X. Then add some months onto Date X and call that the Optimistic Target. Then add some more months to the Optimistic Target and call that the Final Target.

Heh. Guess Matt missed the policy-making classes at Dalton and Harvard. After you have committed the blood and treasure of a nation to the tune of 1,500 personnel and hundreds of billions of dollars; you don't just "make a guess" about a troop withdrawal date. That just ain't how the game is played bro. Not. Serious.

Matt:

There are Iraqis who are nervous about our intentions on both sides. Some worry that we'll never leave and Iraq will become some kind of West Bank writ large. Others worry that we'll abandon our Iraqi allies too soon, they'll be overrun, and meet the fate of the South Lebanon Army or some such thing. You need a date designed to alleviate both of those fears. One far enough in the past as to give confidence that it isn't merely an effort to weasel away, but one firm enough as to give confidence that the need to battle the insurgency isn't merely an excuse for indefinite occupation. One can add that even after the Target is reached, the Iraqi government will continue to have (if it wants) serious financial and diplomatic support from the United States as well as support from the U.S. intelligence community and low-footprit assets that can be kept in the air, in the sea, or in outer space and that will give Iraq's security forces a clear qualitative edge over whomever they may be fighting. A short-term withdrawal is important largely for somewhat symbolic purposes -- to make it clear that as Iraqi troops are trained, American troops will be sent home, and that the whole process is on the up-and-up.

"(T)he whole process is on the up-and-up." Like Duncan 'Don't Know A Damn Thing About Lebanon' Black, alas, Matt seems overly hyped that the U.S. intends to keep permanent bases in Mesopotamia. Look, I don't think that's going to happen (I'll address that in a future post), though I do think we will have at least some bases in Iraq for probably up to a decade yet. And I agree that many in Iraq, in a nation given to conspiracy theories, are concerned Americans have neo-imperialistic designs on their nation. But the elections helped assuage much of these concerns. Further, I think it's more important to keep appropriate troop levels in country in the short-term rather than engage in "symbolic" withdrawals simply for dubious P.R. type purposes. The real 'up-and-up', the best message to the Iraqi people over the long-term, is to not do this half-assed. This means ensuring that Iraq remains a unitary, viable polity. This means U.S. forces in theater in sufficient number to help ensure this result until an adequately-sized, trained and equipped Iraqi army has proven willing to stand, fight and die for the New Iraq. This means continuing to prosecute a robust counter-insurgency campaign in the months ahead. Pulling 20,000 troops out now (keeping in mind we already have a planned reduction from 145,500 to 138,000; during the elections we had beefed up to the higher figure by not rotating some units out) is most assuredly not the right way to go at this juncture to achieve said goals. We're simply not there yet. Yes, things in Iraq are improving. A lot, even. But that doesn't automatically translate to conditions allowing for even modest troop withdrawals below the 138,000 pre-elections floor. Indeed, this article points to potential increases in forces at sensitive junctures in coming months:

The assessment of US troops requirements in Iraq must take into account potential surges in violence around key dates in Iraq's political transition over the next year, according to Lt-Gen Smith.

He suggested US forces levels may be temporarily boosted during sensitive election periods.

Under the current timetable, the Iraqi national assembly is to draft a new constitution by August 15 and have a referendum on it by October 15. If the referendum is passed elections for a permanent government would be held in December.

"Once we get through this timeframe and all that stuff, there is an opportunity to ramp down and shape our forces so that we could have a smaller force size this time next year," he said.

Lt-Gen Smith acknowledged that those dates could be delayed if the Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni communities fail to resolve their differences, but he said there will be pressure to stick to the timetable.

The timetable referred to here, of course, is not a troop withdrawal timetable (as Yglesias calls for) but a timetable for sticking to the draft constitution deadline, the referendum on said document, the elections for a permanent government. Each of these events will doubtless be an occasion for insurgent trouble-making roughly on par with their efforts during the January 30th elections. These are critical milestones and we can only assume that the insurgents will try to derail the process at every turn. I ask you, is this the time to scale back to 110,000 troops, say? Of course not. Such re-appraisals, as the Lt. General points out, could only occur around "this time next year"--once we've got a constitution in place and a permanent government elected. Put differently, we have to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqis as they cobble together their political governance structures and constitutional arrangements. This is critical--and we'd be sending the wrong signal to draw-down before these events move successfully ahead. It's the Kerry/Kennedy/Yglesias message, really, that we don't care too much, all told, about whether Iraq is successfully democratized.

Matt:

The problem with the Djerejian/Bush strategy is encompassed by the statement "if conditions allow (ie, Sunni participation in nascent political governance structures moving in right direction; insurgency continuing to weaken) only then would there perhaps be major draw-downs in '06." What's wrong with this? Well, what's wrong with it is that if you make Sunni participation in nascent governance structures (which is necessary for the insurgency to really weaken) a condition for moving toward withdrawal, you're not going to get Sunni participation in nascent governance structures, and therefore you're never going to withdraw. Right now we're trapped in a vicious circle. Sunni participation is a condition for withdrawal, but withdrawal is a condition for Sunni participation. Somebody needs to make the first move here and get us out of the trap. In an interview yesterday with The New York Times, Sheik Harith al-Dari "made clear that he would continue to view the armed resistance as legitimate until the American military offered a clear timetable for its withdrawal - a condition very unlikely to be met." This view is rather typical of moderate Sunni Arab views in Iraq. There are, to be sure, extremists (espcially foreigners) in the country who just want to wage war against Americans and Shiites. And there are also nice cuddly moderates like Pachachi. But the al-Dari types are the key constituency. They will support a battle against an American occupation, but not a battle against a new, independent, Iraqi order. If there the insurgency is to be beaten, we need Sunni participation. If we want Sunni participation, we need al-Dari and his ilk. And if we want them, we need a plan for withdrawal as part of an intercommunal compromise.

As I said, al-Dari and ilk are, almost weekly, weakening their anti-American resolve and pronunciamentos. First, of course, they are increasingly laying down their arms after the twin blows of Fallujah and the elections. Next they clamored for all U.S. troops out. Then many of them wanted just a timetable for U.S. troops to exit. Now they maybe say they want a timetable still, but really are looking for U.S. troops to retrench to their bases (so as to, er, be around the corner in case the Shi'a come calling). Bottom line: Matt overstates the Catch-22 that Shi'a political participation can't occur with U.S. forces there. It can, and will. Not least because more and more Sunni will want the U.S. to stay.

P.S. And what would happen if we made a short-term "symbolic" withdrawal, just to look on the "up-and-up" with Sunnis who don't dig us right now, and a renewed insurgency takes root among Sadr's followers in the slums of Baghdad or Najaf? High and dry, again, a la troop-lite '03 days...and there are other contingencies a plenty too, of course. Flash points like Kirkuk. Turkish adventurism. Syrian obstinacy. Iranian troublemaking. No, this is a long struggle that will likely last through Bush's entire second term if we mean to do it right. That's not to say we won't be able to get down to 100,000 by mid-06 or so. But not for certain. Not telegraphed. And no immediate "symbolic" withdrawal just for kicks so as to risk the constitution drafting, referendum, and permanent government milestones. It's simply not smart policy for all the reasons sketched above.

Posted by Gregory at 02:37 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Political Party Talk

In case you missed...check out these op-eds on the future of America's two major political parties from a couple of our most distinguished former Senators on tap at the NYT today. Bill Bradley, offering advice to the Democrats, explains why "charisma didn't translate into structure." And John Danforth is worried about the ramifications of the Schiavo affair for the Republican party. I think he is guilty of some hyperbole when he writes: "(b)y a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians." But I wholeheartedly agree with him when he writes:

During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

I believe in all these principles. We want government kept small; we want no going forward Warren-style courts; we want strong defense and robust foreign policy (a mix, really, of realpolitik with some moral idealist Reaganite/Bush muscle thrown in); we want protectionism kept to a minimum, we want a strong private sector (albeit one that is soberly regulated). But we, at least Republicans that share B.D.'s worldview, we don't want the Bill Frists and Tom DeLays hijacking the party with sensationalist grandstanding about some supposed "culture of life." Religion is important, to be sure. And moral values matter too. But some of the chest-beating about stem cell research or the Schiavo case is a step too far. Let's keep in mind too, in all of this, that a majority of Americans, repeated polling data shows, would prefer not to be kept alive if they were in a persistent vegetative state. Which Schiavo, it bears repeating yet again, has been in for some 15 years.

This aside, the courts have spoken. Shall we usurp the Constitution, whenever we find the results unappealing? Is this the voice of conservatism? Of course not. It's more Robespierre than Burke. No, it is time to move on from this horrific media circus and for the party to mollify some of its evangelical fervor. I'm no naif, and I well realize that keeping activist Christians supportive of the party is critical. But that doesn't mean we have to turn the keys over to them--that they have carte blanche to hijack the party's agenda. Ultimately, the Republican party must remain a great centrist party grounded in secularism--not one consumed by religiosity. No, I don't think a theocratic Republican party rife with American Ayatollahs is nigh. As I said, I think Danforth is guilty of some hyperbole. But these agenda-ridden Christian conservative media spectacles are becoming more and more frequent, aren't they? And the eager-to-please-blow-dried Santorums and Frists leave me wholly unimpressed. I prefer the Hagels, McCains, Guilianis; and, yes, just maybe, Arnold himself. Those are the kinds of Republicans B.D. is prepared to support going forward. May they prevail! And may a schism be averted through some sanity. Sanity, might I mention, like that Jeb Bush is currently displaying in Florida.

Posted by Gregory at 01:35 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

Kyrgystan's Revolutionary Stirrings Got An Assist

More nefarious American trouble-making:

Shortly before Kyrgyzstan's recent parliamentary elections, an opposition newspaper ran photographs of a palatial home under construction for the country's deeply unpopular president, Askar Akayev, helping set off widespread outrage and a popular revolt in this poor Central Asian country. The newspaper was the recipient of United States government grants and was printed on an American government-financed printing press operated by Freedom House, an American organization that describes itself as "a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world."

In addition to the United States, several European countries - Britain, the Netherlands and Norway among them - have helped underwrite programs to develop democracy and civil society in this country. The effort played a crucial role in preparing the ground for the popular uprising that swept opposition politicians to power...

...After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan quickly became an aid magnet with the highest per-capita foreign assistance level of any Central Asian nation. Among the hundreds of millions of dollars that arrived came a large slice focused on building up civil society and democratic institutions.

Most of that money came from the United States, which maintains the largest bilateral pro-democracy program in Kyrgyzstan because of the Freedom Support Act, passed by Congress in 1992 to help the former Soviet republics in their economic and democratic transitions. The money earmarked for democracy programs in Kyrgyzstan totaled about $12 million last year...

..."It would have been absolutely impossible for this to have happened without that help," said Edil Baisolov, who leads a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, referring to the uprising last week. Mr. Baisolov's organization is financed by the United States government through the National Democratic Institute.

Craig Smith in the NYT.

Sheesh. More jingoistic, neo-imperialistic empire building, doubtless. When will it end?

P.S. The U.S. played, in similar fashion, a hand in the Georgian situation. At least some Lebanese were specifically emboldened by the Iraqi elections. Pressure on Egypt has led to nascent democratization there. Ditto Saudi, if in modest fashion. Positive moves afoot in Palestine. We could go on. Look, I don't know if this maketh some 'fourth wave of democratization' or such; but there's certainly something afoot no? All just fortunate happen-stance for lucky Chimpie? Nothing at all to do with his Administration's policies, right? I report, you decide.

Posted by Gregory at 05:16 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

We ask all wise men in the American nation to advise the administration to leave this country," he said. "It would save much blood and suffering for the Iraqi and American people.

Sheik Harith al-Dari, a prominent Iraqi Sunni, as quoted in the New York Times.

Well, at least one wise man has taken up the call! Matt Yglesias is taking the Sunni pulse and feels a troop draw-down and time table for withdrawal is the only way to go. He's wrong, of course. I'll have the gory details soon (no time tonight).

Posted by Gregory at 04:50 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005

No More Lawyer Jokes!

Sanity from a FSO. Hurrah! (he even manages a good word for us lawyers...).

Posted by Gregory at 05:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Paging A Reality Check

Heh. Has anyone ever linked a weaker, recycled Bob Novak article and, voila, tried to declare game over? Read some of the comments to the linked post too (at the LAT site), keeping in mind we are not even half-way through '05. Translation: Approximately 138,000 troops in theater through the New Year at least looks to be a certitude. Thereafter, and only if conditions allow (ie, Sunni participation in nascent political governance structures moving in right direction; insurgency continuing to weaken) only then would there perhaps be major draw-downs in '06. Compare this to Matt Y and the Prospect-y crowd that advocates drawing down, say, 20,000-40,000 (my best guess of what Matt has in mind; though he doesn't deign to clue us lumpenproleteriat in to the 'right' quantum) of the forces in theater with some immediacy. No, Eric's got this one wrong. Sorry. (Yes, indeed, I'd have to eat a lot of crow if Novak had the story right. But I'm pretty confident on this one. Eric, care to wager something?)

P.S. And Eric never cares to honestly address, full-bore, what I mean by the 'abdication of responsibility laden' Clinton years. I suppose he thought, say, our Bosnia policy was just a smashing success through '92-'95 when a rag-tag bunch of Bosnian Serb genocidaires, backed up by Slobo, made a mockery of the international community's 'will'--whilst myriad human tragedies unfolded daily through the Balkans. In the meantime, POTUS twiddled his thumbs and had deep pow-wows with Dick Morris about the merits of triangulation. What great days those! Bring 'em back soonest! Our risible involvements in Haiti and Somalia were embarrassments too, of course. And yes, al-Qaeda and friends were observing all this abdication as far as the eye could see around the globe. And drawing the obvious conclusions. That America was, in many ways, a paper tiger and that bloodying her nose here and there could be done with near impunity (read: the odd pin-prick cruise missile attack in some deserted hamlet; and only after the lawyers [but is Warren on board?] had given the all clear). Call it the Clinton effect. C'etait pas serieux, as they say. And I'm quite happy indeed that it's over. And so, increasingly, are many Iraqis too likely.

Posted by Gregory at 04:02 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

B.D's Internal Polling

OK, so after a rapid-fire, back of the envelope tally of the first 100 comments to this query (probably just around 3% of average daily unique visits so I'm not sure how representative the sample is) I can report that B.D.'s readership appears to be about 70% pro-Bush, 20-25% quite anti-the-Great-Leader, with a gaggle of unclassifiables thrown in for good measure. Well, that's a pretty good mix, I think? As I've said earlier, the point of this site isn't to throw red meat to an applause-ridden amen choir that's uber-smitten with Georgie. It's to have a debate--both with other blogs and via comments right here in this space. So, all told, I think we've got a pretty good thing going here, and I really appreciate those who took the time to add to the sample size as well as the many expressions of support. For someone in business, who is not an academic or journalist, say, I have more than my share of moments where I pause and ask myself: what am I doing here and what will random acquaintances and colleagues stumbling across this site think? Well, my employer tolerates my rantings and so that goes a long way, I suppose. But still, it's good to get a sanity check and hear support from what is clearly a very intelligent pool of readers. It makes me want to keep it up despite burning the candle at both ends and it not being a particularly orthodox hobby for someone in the corporate sector. That said, please do note that the move back to NYC (about a month or so off) will likely force a pretty significant reduction in blog production rates. But we'll get to that another day. In the meantime, business as usual with blogging typically 9 PM and on weeknights. So keep stopping by. And thanks again for the generous words of support.

Posted by Gregory at 03:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

He Reads; He Blogs

I meant to blog this Dexter Filkins piece but Pej beat me to it.

Posted by Gregory at 03:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

It's Ugly Out There

I've never really watched much television over the past decade plus save the cable news shows. Over the past several years however, at least in the U.S., even the cable news has become barely tolerable. Tonight, back at the hotel I've been living in for several months, I decided to take in CNN's prime time line up from Lou Dobbs through Anderson Cooper through Paula Zahn out of morbid curiosity. Halfway through Paula, I had to change the channel. The saccharine-infused, hyper-mawkish, predictably exploitative fare (the hidden childhood of Terri Schiavo!); the farsical news angles (Michael Schiavo's other woman!); the endless shots of a bikini-clad Terri during better days--it was all so astoundingly bad. Now on Fox, we've got Hannity and Colmes live from Pinellas Park with exhausted looking family members being asked insensitive questions about autopsies and cremation and such (memo to Fox anchors: Terri is still alive guys)--to the sounds of chanting vigil keepers in the background. It's all quite surreal, more so than Jacko's trial even, and I am dumbfounded that this cretinous fare is what boosts the ratings (it does, right?). It's truly lowest common denominator fare--and I guess if it boosts advertising revenues and share prices full speed ahead! Hell, I'd even take the Beeb over this. Needless to say, B.D.'s news consumption going forward (save on overseas trips where CNN International and the like are more tolerable--though they too are in decline) will now come solely from newspapers (NYT, WSJ, FT and WaPo), other Internet new sites and, of course, blogs. Yep, it's ugly out there--and finding refugees and safe harbors is the name of the game.

P.S. I'm not alone! For once I can agree with this blogger!

P.P.S. Yeah, I will be tuning into to Aaron Brown later. Now that's morbid curiosity!

UPDATE: Can I just say that Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, comes off very well in the face of much of the insensitive questioning (yes, Aaron Brown has just asked him about the autopsy thing). He mentions he's dealing in reality, in other words that he knows his sister is likely close to death, but understandably punts on questions like that about autopsies and instead says he is focused on still trying to save his sister's life. An eminently reasonable position under the grim circumstances, of course, and Schindler comes off as smart, frank and genteel. Which is more than can be said for many of the anchors peppering him with aggressive questions.

Posted by Gregory at 02:19 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

FT or Fleet Street?

US intelligence services are drawing up a secret watch-list of 25 countries in which instability might lead to US intervention, according to officials in charge of a new office set up to co-ordinate planning for nation-building and conflict prevention.

The list will be composed and revised every six months by the National Intelligence Council, which collates intelligence for strategic planning, according to Carlos Pascual, head of the newly formed office of reconstruction and stabilisation.

Alas, even the FT and a pro like Guy Dinmore can't escape the sensationalist tendencies of a UK press that often can't seem to shake the Fleet Street M.O. I mean, what spin to portray the (overdue) creation of a State Department nation-building and conflict-prevention office into a misleading lede that makes it sound like intervention in another 25 countries is nigh!?!

P.S. Here's the fine print at the bottom of the piece:

Although Mr Pascual, a former ambassador, will lead the co-ordination between civilian agencies and the Pentagon, officials stressed the new office did not mean the US was bent on nation-building through military action.

Mr Pascual said conflict prevention and postwar reconstruction had become a Ƭmainstream foreign-policy challengeƮ because of the dangers of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Posted by Gregory at 01:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

A Word on the Schiavo Case

I've been accused of being callous with respect to the Schiavo case in some E-mails. Let me be clearer. I can only imagine the pain, confusion and horror that her parents must be going through. I didn't mean to demean the human tragedy that is underway. My quibble is with media and political blowhards who have turned what should be a private matter for this hapless woman and her family, to be resolved in the courts, into a cheap, agenda-ridden mega-circus. And yes, I was also concerned about encroachments of mobocracy with wild talk of Jeb sending in the cavalry to the hospice on some folly-like re-insertion-of-the-feeding-tube-mission. We have legal procedures and processes in this country. There was a complete circuit court trial to determine Schiavo's life-prolongation wishes, and the verdict was upheld at the appellate level. There were also separate opinions pursuant to various motions pursued by Schiavo's parents that mostly focused on whether Schiavo actually was in a persistent vegatative state and whether hope of some new effective treatment existed. It was judged that yes, she was in a persistent vegetative state and that no, going forward treatment could not realistically be expected to improve her condition. The Florida Supreme Court, as well as all relevant federal courts too, have denied review of the lower court proceedings. This makes me more confident that the lower courts acted competently as higher courts did not believe additional review was necessitated or might lead to materially different findings or conclusions. Michael Schiavo's motivations aside (and I've seen nothing to convincingly suggest they were or are untoward), the fact that the phrase 'Florida courts' discomforts some; or the agonizing spectacle of her tortured parents--none of these factors can change the above facts. The courts have legitimately spoken. So we are where we are. It's not pretty, and there's a lot of emotion in the air this Easter season, but if we believe in the rule of law rather than the rule of the mob we find ourselves now contemplating Schiavo's last days. I leave it to others to decide whether turning her into a poster-child for the 'culture of life' as the Bill Frists and the Tom DeLays of the world have done is demeaning to her human dignity--or something that she would have welcomed.

Finally, a quote from the Second District Court of Appeals:

In the final analysis, the difficult question that faced the trial court was whether Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo, not after a few weeks in a coma, but after ten years in a persistent vegetative state that has robbed her of most of her cerebrum and all but the most instinctive of neurological functions, with no hope of a medical cure but with sufficient money and strength of body to live indefinitely, would choose to continue the constant nursing care and the supporting tubes in hopes that a miracle would somehow recreate her missing brain tissue, or whether she would wish to permit a natural death process to take its course and for her family members and loved ones to be free to continue their lives. After due consideration, we conclude that the trial judge had clear and convincing evidence to answer this question as he did.

Again, it's about the legal process. Look, I'm hard-pressed to imagine that any right to die case has ever received the amount of due process and court time as this one has. And, scanning the opinions, I think the courts acted pretty conscientiously and professionally all told. And so, with no courts (whether in Florida or federal ones) willing to review the lower court rulings, this simply must be the end of the story.

Posted by Gregory at 08:24 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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