November 04, 2004

The Mailbag

Lots of mail on the mini-Allawi piece (strict instructions to keep it under 200 words!) in the NYT. First, let me thank the Times for including me in their special on elections and blogs. It was more than gracious--particularly given the amount of sniping at the Times that takes place over here at B.D.

A few things I learned from the Times link. One, Glenn generates a good deal more traffic than the Gray Lady! Two, the hatemail gets nastier when you access this kind of broader audience. And, three, quite a few old friends and acquaintances come out of the woodwork with kudos, random thoughts, or round castigations!

I'll be posting some of the mail shortly but am having problems accessing the Belgravia Dispatch mail at this time. More soon.

UPDATE: THE MAIL (at least a sampling of the, er, relatively polite ones....):

Dear Sir,

I've just read the excerpt from your blog that was printed in the New York
Times, Nov. 2nd edition in which you took exception with Mr. Kerry's
characterization of Mr. Allawi as a "puppet".

Perhaps you are unaware that Mr. Allawi was previously one of Saddam
Hussein's more highly placed henchmen --- known for his particularly vicious
brutality --- who, for reasons which are unclear, was forced to leave Iraq
in a "big hurry." Following Hussein's deposition (and having curried the
favor of Americans in the meantime) Allawi returned to Iraq, well-placed to
be appointed "Interim President."

Perhaps you are not curious, as I am, about this appointment. By what
right, I wonder, does the United States name the chief official of another
country --- interim or otherwise?

Perhaps you are unaware that the "moving" speech you so highly praised was
written by one of President Bush's stable of writers --(reportedly, the
principal author was Karen Hughes, his close confidante).

Considering the foregoing, surely there is no more succinct and accurate
description of Mr. Allawi than "Puppet."
Therefore, it is my hope that you will publicly revise your description of
Mr. Kerry -- a man who correctly stated a straightforward and
incontrovertible fact.

Yours truly,
MK Hawley

Dear Sir,

America and your man, Blair (Bliar?) rushed to war on hyped, cooked, false, falsified intelligence. Allawi is just a front for American interests!

Where's you anger in Bush's, Blair's lies?

Wake up and smell the coffee, or, in London, the tea!

Sincerely,

Gavin Young

ALLAWI--What you seem to miss is that much of America's capital overseas has been burned by our willingness to cynically prop up anti-democratic leaders when it suits our purposes. I give you the Shah of Iran, the House of Saud, the oil grandees of Kuwait. Non worth of the term democracy. And people notice. Now this CIA manifestation Allawi, one tick on the stink-o-meter less repugnant than the fraud Chalabi. This is democracy, placing your intelligence service dupe in charge, thus giving him the inside track on the election? By guiding the result you guarantee cynicism, lack of acceptance of the body politic and continued insurgency. Bottom line: we don't trust democracy because we won't let it happen. We feel we must rig the results. Here we call that Floridca democracy.

Peter Storms

I saw your comment in the NY Times today and have therefore come to the conclusion that you are another of those who operate according to the fantasy of what you would like the world to be to without letting reality get in the way. I believe this characterizes most of Bush supporters: his words (which people like) do not match his actions but, amazingly, you people don't seem to notice. I guess any acknowledgment of this disparity would get in the way of the fantasy. Bush is the most transparent of con men.
It would be nice if Allawi was a strong independent freedom fighter - but he isn't. Many people noticed that Allawi's speech sounded very similar to Bush speeches. Of course, as is their habit, the Bush people at first lied about having any input with Allawi's speech. It soon came out, however, that they had, indeed, largely created it. Mr. Allawi came here and gave the speech that he was told to give. That may be unpleasant but, nevertheless, true. I can't criticize Kerry for being realistic.

Will Shaw

I was going to chat you up about the post of your column in the New York Times. But after visiting your webpage I realized whatever I had to say would probably fall on deaf ears. However you may feel about Kerry denigrating Allawi it really was a case, as was documented, of Allawi delivering Bush/Cheney/Rove talking points since it was the White House that wrote his speech (didn't you see the bump in the back of his suit coat?).

I give him credit for now speaking out for the Iraqi guard's executed alongside the road and putting the brakes on the attack on Fallajuh as the executing (oops, I mean, Executive) branch of his government.
Bush is not the one who is going to need an apologist after today. I believe it would be Prime Minister Blair (remove the mote from your own eye, Belgravia)
mtnmetis
California, USA

Oh, and an old high school acquaintance sends in a long missive from Moscow, contra my post on Tora Bora and Sully's endorsement:

Regarding your assessment of the tactical or strategic value of Tora Bora, what you fail to appreciate is whether or not the Tora Boras of this so-called war are effective in achieving our ultimate goal of victory over terror. This war is not definable by any one persona, someone whose absence from the field of battle a la Hirohito, Hitler, Attila, whoever, will bring about the end of hostilities. Our so-called enemy has no standing armies, no diplomatic apparatus, no borders. Rather, the swamps of poverty, despair and disenfranchisement are the wellsprings of terror’s legions. Military, political and diplomatic campaigns are one in the same in today’s environment. And in this light, Tora Bora can only be viewed as a strategic and tactical failure of the highest magnitude.

If hypothetically we had captured bin Laden in those mountain redoubts, we may have had the chance to make Afghanistan into a model of sorts, a message to the world that we will find and prosecute those who not only advocate and act upon threats against America, but also those who harbor such persons. Leveraging our diplomatic, economic and social strengths, a second phase of the war may have been opened, one in which we provide economic support, diplomatic assistance, a semblance of security for the Karzai-led burgeoning civil society, all the while giving Afghanis alternatives to a world of poppy plants and Kalashnikovs. So women can now vote in Afghanistan (in numbers that seemingly far exceed the actual number of women in Afghanistan if some news streams are to be believed)…well, people also vote in Zimbabwe, formerly in Iraq and China. This doesn’t mean that people are necessarily free…free from poverty, despair, intimidation and disenfranchisement. And the resurgence of the Taliban – no matter how small their numbers – the continuation of the warlord system, and the continuing reliance on opium cultivation…these are examples of the results of our failed mission.

Instead, the Tora Bora failure allowed bin Laden to fester, not so much as a direct threat, but still an inspiration to those without inspiration in the slums of Gaza, the mosques of Iran, the underground of Europe. Worse, we’ve legitimized the plight of such harbingers of hate; a powerful lesson in history is that regimes that use professional or semi-professional soldiers to quell domestic or international unrest only bequeath further destabilization to later generations. The use of force has given undue notoriety and legitimacy to nascent nationalist, religious or social movements. Examples abound of such actions in the history of Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. In Russia, nothing gave more legitimacy to nascent Russian anti-Tsarist activity than the use of Cossacks to quell labor unrest. Napoleon in Spain…Argentina in the early 1980s…even Vietnam under Diem…. Most notably, the Ghandi-led revolutionary campaign in India only gained its widespread legitimacy – at the expense of Anglophile moderates – only after English General Dyer’s professional troops opened fire on thousands of peaceful gatherers in Amritsar in the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Dyer received a bejeweled sword for his actions; England lost an empire. By the use of force, a professional army – and worse, its failure – we have only further alienated those whose minds we seek and marginalized the few moderates in the Middle East who may have been able to temper the passions of the street.

Indeed, this lesson has been ignored in our whack-a-mole dealings with Iraq. Though we may have captured Saddam and the rumors of a Baathist revival may be over- or underblown, our destruction of the country’s infrastructure and indiscriminate killing of its inhabitants by the tens of thousands have only fueled the fires emanating from said swamps. Shortly after 9/11, I happened upon a Tunisian banker in a bar here in Moscow. He told me, “the thing is…America is seen as the greatest killer of Muslims.” “Absurd,” I retorted, “A guy like Saddam butchers his people indiscriminately.” “Yes…but he is seen – no matter how absurdly it seems – as a proxy for America, like Mubarak or the House of Saud. That is the challenge you face.” The scenes of death and carnage may be evidence of battles being won, but we are no closer in winning the war. In fact, I would argue we are further from the goal.

The antidote to all strife – against property, person, by hate or dogma – is economic opportunity. Look no further than the streets of New York to see evidence; was the crime drop in the 1990s due more to Guliani’s extra policemen or the level of economic growth in the city and its boroughs? Statistically, many cases have been made to support the latter, and the endemic poverty in today’s Middle East (versus yesterdays, when lower population numbers, higher petrodollar value in real terms, and infrastructure investment obscured the abysmal amount of intra-regional trade and conspired to keep the radicals at bay) is evidence of this trend. In today’s Iraq, economic hardship has been magnified, as an already strained economy has collapsed through pilfering, street violence and a misguided military adventure. Iraqi’s don’t want to vote necessarily. They want jobs, TVs, clean water, etc.

Additionally, your notion of Kerry being on the wrong side of the Cold War is simply false. Our arms build-up had nothing to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union, a Reagan-era myth that has been given a new life with his recent death. The Soviet Union collapsed – like most geopolitical developments – under the weight of economic necessity; its people were starving for material goods, its harvests poor, its resources stretched by low oil prices and an unwieldy military structure, its strongest proponents (i.e. WWII vets) aged and dying. Star Wars? Simply that…a mythical threat that had far less of an effect on the minds of the Genshtab than the endemic corruption of the Soviet state. Our Cold War victory stems more from the economic might exercised, dating from the Marshall Plan, than any military-related initiative. Did the Ossies flee through Austria to escape Soviet guns? Hardly…Hungarians didn’t back down from Soviet tanks in 1956. Rather, East Germans needed the clothes, food, material goods available the local Sparmarkt.

Debating the success of military campaigns in Afghanistan or Iraq is a moot point, and Afghanistan’s or Iraq’s military ‘successes’ will only benefit later experts at West Point or the Naval War College. After all, General Dyer used force to achieve what he wanted…a dispersal of the crowd. But this success – thousands of dead Indians – ultimately led to British defeat. Similarly, we are losing this so-called war, for it is being fought in the wrong place in the wrong way. As a fraction of the cost – in both men and material – we could have bought Hussein, moved him to exile, and had a much better foundation from which we could have embarked on our nation-building adventure. Instead…we are faced with a situation even worse than Vietnam, a morose from which no candidate will allow us to exit gracefully. The inability of the second phase – American investment – to get off the ground is primarily due to the security situation, and the situation was created by our leadership.

I am new to blogs as a whole, so I haven’t yet digested what you have written in the past, nor do I appreciate the innuendos you make regarding other bloggers. However, though I hardly knew you at all, I recall you being a clear thinker with a unique perspective on things from our days at Andover (I am a class of 1991), so, when I saw your name in today’s Times, I figured I would take a peak (though your comments surprised me…using the term quisling is a bit of a stretch, but you have to admit, that as an ‘installed’ leader, he is a proxy for American interests. What base of support does he have, other than the rifles of American servicemen and largesse of the American taxpayer?). Though we likely view the current world through different prism’s, I appreciate your blend of hysterics and perspective.

J. Tulgan

The mailbag had some E-mails of support too. But I go on enough about my views over here--so I thought I'd air the other side of the fence today.


Posted by Gregory at November 4, 2004 06:58 AM
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