July 12, 2005

In Memoriam

Ten years ago, approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces (with the assistance of personnel from Serbia proper). I was living in Zagreb at the time, working with the International Rescue Committee, and remember well watching CNN report the story in my too hot and muggy apartment. I felt helpless, of course, as I saw that Ratko Mladic would have his will and the Dutch peacekeepers would prove, finally, utterly useless. But aside from helplessness, I also felt hugely disgusted and deeply angered by the impotence of the United Nations, and the Member States that made up its Security Council, and the fecklessness of world leaders like Bill Clinton and John Major. After all, they offered nothing, really--at least before the shock of Srebrenica finally shamed them into some action--nothing in the face of the abject horrors that still manifestly stalked the fin de siecle European continent.

Time has done little to reduce my repulsion at the impotence of the international community during this so sad chapter, and certainly before 9/11 came along, it is fair to say Srebrenica played the primary role in shaping my political worldview. It was and is one where, of course, force matters, and where so often international resolutions and proclamations are barely worth the breathless air-time devoted to them, or the reams of paper they consume. What the Bosnians needed, of course, were not empty declarations from Kofi and Akashi and Clinton and Christopher--but a lifting of the arms embargo unjustly placed on them and robust NATO airstrikes to assist them against genocidaire Bosnian Serb gunners and their fellow travelers. Too little, too late, however, ruled the day through the mid-90s. There was much intellectual dishonesty, much amateurism, much lack of character, much avoidance of the deadly serious issues at play. Such abdications of responsibility happened too, of course, in places like Somalia and Rwanda and Haiti. Meanwhile, enemies of ours like Osama bin Laden took note. They saw how the empty American hegemon would turn and run when 18 servicemen were felled in Mogadishu--lest the footage unnerve too many around the television and the dinner tables--so that domestic political agendas might suffer from declining support. Polling drove policy, image too often trumped substance, inattention displaced resoluteness, and moral seriousness was cast aside in favor of empty bromides. Meantime, the happy equity-owning masses were following stocks like hysterical sports games, taking in all the Kramer-esque antics on CNBC, POTUS was busy trying to avoid legal headaches from the wilds of Arkansas, and a dirty decade finally pettered out ingloriously.

9/11, of course, Changed Everything, the thinking goes. But in the lazy disconnection from the continuing carnage in Iraq one espies increasingly daily amidst large swaths of the general public (and our media, ahem, "elites"), in the too breezy nostrums and cheerleading of so many who emptily proclaim victory but for the party-pooping naysayers who dare to ask difficult questions and criticize manifest missteps--one sees that the vanities and provincialism and myopia are still with us, alas, if just in different guises. For instance, and we'll have much more on flypaper soon (an explication of its ultimate bogusness, in the main), why have so few even deigned to ponder this excellent question (click through and read the whole thing)?

But has anyone thought about why we're justified in using another nation as flypaper in the first place, even if it was a viable, effective strategy? What gives us the right to use a sovereign nation as a catch basin for carnage so we can go on blissfully consuming and merrily flipping real estate here? Instead of flypaper, this should be called the "Night of the Living Dead Nation" strategy---using the undead, zombie-like carcass of a failed state for our own benefit. Beyond the sheer selfish immorality of it, has anyone thought about the potential for blowback? How would you feel if we were invaded by the Chinese on a false pretense, and they stated openly that their strategy was to attract and fight the scum of the earth in the streets of New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago so they did not have to fight in Beijing?

This hypothetical formulation leaves aside, of course, that one of the worst murderers of the 20th Century was unseated by the American invasion. This remains a feat of notable proportions. It is a laudable, historic achievement by any standard. But to replace brutish order with rampant anarchy is not fair either. And to say we are in Iraq to fight the bad guys over there, in their backyard and not ours, this cannot be morally serious or a viable long-term strategy. We went in to, ostensibly, rid Saddam of his WMD capability and create a sustainable democracy in Iraq. A 'playground' in which to fight the jihadis, after all, was not one of our early enunciated goals. This was a narrative that came later, one that positively reeked of spin to explain that, oh hell, it's OK that's the going has gotten a bit rougher than the predicted cakewalk and the George Bush statues crowding Baghdad. Flytraps working, see! Save in Madrid, and Bali, and London, and Casablanca, and Tel Aviv and Haifa and Istanbul and Tunisia and doubtless the U.S. again soon. But, as I said, I'll leave flypaper for another day. It merits its own stand-alone post, I'm afraid.

Finally, for tonight, I'd say too that it is a a true shame that mass murdering swine like Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and, yes, Osama bin Laden--that they still walk the planet free. Why haven't we done better? Why has it now been over a full decade and we still have not been able to apprehend a rank coward like Karadzic? Is it because we have been more cowardly even than he? Or are we so inept that we cannot pinpoint the whereabouts of a man whose location must be ascertainable in either of Montenegro, or Srpska Republika, or Serbia proper? Really, why? The time has come. No more excuses. No more B.S. No more empty talk (After all, if you have an "excellent idea" of where Osama is, and while I can see some psy-ops reasons to publically so state, perhaps, you nevertheless reduce your credibility when weeks and months go by and the "excellent idea" seems to bear little to no fruit). As the saying does (and at the risk of sounding a tad flip)--just do it. Put differently, celebrate the victories once they occur, and not before. Look, I believe that Bush has made great strides in tearing apart al-Qaeda's leadership and putting that organization under truly immense pressure. But Osama bin Laden is ultimately responsible for the biggest terrorist outrage in the history of this country. And his continued freedom serves as inspiration to jihadis the world over. Yes, some are worried he would be more powerful and dangerous in martydom than in life. But we must take this risk. Justice demands it. And also we must take the risk of discomforting some in the Pakistani ISI or of making Musharraf's political situation more tenuous for a spell. For the time has come to flush this odious man out from his hiding-hole whatever it takes. Ditto Mladic and Karadzic too--even if it means riots and dislocations in Republika Srpska. Dare I say, faster; please--and not mean Iran?

Posted by Gregory at July 12, 2005 04:41 AM | TrackBack (2)

Interesting post Greg, with some interesting comments. I don't disagree with you about the ineffectualness of the UN, however I am a believer that we need a strong robust and functioning UN, more than ever. One which is not afraid to make hard calls, to be robust and to place more importance on humanitarianism than petty politicking. The question for me remains, given the US's refusal to ratify things such as the ICC and the Kyoto protocol, how can will the UN ever become the body it needs to be.

Until nations such as the US (and she's not alone, but by virtue of her stance on democracy and freedom has the ability to drive change to make the UN much more functional) willingly engage with the UN and are prepared to take a leadership role in making the UN a viable body for international relations, then how will it ever be more than it is? If someone's not prepared to "rally the troops" inside the UN and buy into its basic principles and tenets then all i can see is more and more Bosnia's, Rwanda's, Dafurs and the like....

Posted by: Aran Brown at July 12, 2005 07:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

...and Jacques Poos.

Please, don't ever forget Jacques Poos.

With regards to this:

But to replace brutish order with rampant anarchy is not fair either.

Whoever told you life was fair lied.

Posted by: rosignol at July 12, 2005 10:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ain't I a Nudnik?

Posted by: Al at July 12, 2005 10:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Although people would like to ascribe the UN with some higher moral ground and ability to act in the greater interest of mankind, it was never designed to be such a place. It was born to be powerless, given authority to act only by the consent of the member states.

The UN doesn’t get “to make hard calls”. In fact, the only calls it can make are the petty bureaucratic ones that don’t impact the member states: It can decide the color of the carpet in the UN hallways, but even the flags outside are arranged so as not to offend.

But as Greg points out, even when given authority to act, it is dependent on the member states for the resources and will to carry out the mission. And its actions are tempered further so not to anger some member state and make it harder to get new authority in the future. As such, its track record in Bosnia and Rwanda is abysmal. It is the prototypical 90-pound weakling standing between two opposing fighters; when one of them wants to mix it up, the weakling is quickly pushed to the canvas.

It cannot even control its own people – UNSCAM corruption and peacekeeper behavior toward the local women and girls as examples – needing the local authorities and member states to investigate, prosecute and punish those who violate legal and ethical behavior.

Yes, when given a mission the UN doesn’t simply fail, it consistently fails in spectacular fashion.

But it does not die because people who love the romantic idea of the UN believe that if the US would just go along to get along – signing Kyoto and ratifying the ICC – the logjam of individual state interests would be broken and the UN could really fulfill its higher calling.

The truth is much harsher.

Posted by: kevin at July 12, 2005 01:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What bothers me is the question of whether the United States can actually play a useful role in preventing atrocities.

I certainly understand Greg's anger and despair about what happened in the Balkins. The world looked to America for leadership, and that leadership was lacking at crucial junctures. Greg blames this on Clinton's "fecklessness", but that wasn't the problem.

The question is "why was there a lack of leadership", and the answer is, ultimately "Because America is a democracy." From the moment Clinton was elected, the Republican Party did everything in its power to undermine his authority as Commander-in-Chief. It was the GOP that made "gays in the military" an issue even before Clinton was inaugurated --- although Clinton was generally supportive of the idea, he had not even formulated a policy whereby that could be accomplished. Nevertheless, the GOP engaged in a homophobic smear campaign that was designed to "prove" that Clinton's ideas for the military would be harmful to our military readiness.

Clinton's leadership was further undermined by the Somalia conflict he inherited from Pappy Bush, who in the waning days of his administration decided to commit American troops there. Clinton was left with the responsibility of running a brand-new "war" on an ad hoc basis in which US forces were designated as "peace-keepers" in an active war zone. Not surprisingly, things went wrong there, and Clinton was blamed.

Clinton wound up being ham-strung by the "disloyal opposition" of the Republican Party, that was far more concerned with damaging Clinton than with maintaining our National Security, let alone allow the US to play a leadership role in international intervention to prevent genocide elsewhere in the world. (One need only look at how the GOP reacted to Clinton's eventual involvement of US forces in Kosovo to figure out how Clinton would have been treated if he'd provided the leadership on Bosnia in a timely fashion.)

America can only exercise true international leadership if its political leadership is all on the same page --- and from the very beginning of Clinton's terms in office, the GOP was on the "destroy Clinton at all costs" page.

In the wake of 9-11, Bush was presented with an unprecedented opportunity to make the USA the leader in the fight for human rights in the world. Everyone in the US (and just about the whole world) was "on the same page", and willing to back Bush. The fact that Bush blew the opportunity by invading Iraq instead of maintaining the focus on al Qaeda and terrorism in general, and did so on false pretences, is one of the great tragedies of our time. The fact that, as a result, our military is so tied down in Iraq, and our reputation in the international community is so tarnished that its literally impossible for America to provide international leadership to address situations like what is occurring in the Sudan emphasises the depth of the tragedy.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at July 12, 2005 02:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg waited until the last line of his post to mention the most important aspect of Srebrenica: Republika Srpska.

We have a tendency in this country and perhaps in the West generally to speak of crimes on a massive scale as if they were natural disasters. Tectonic shifts and cyclonic winds aren't responsible for destroying lives and wrecking property; they just are, doing what they do.

Crimes like Srebrenica are different. Crimes cannot happen without criminals. Criminals cannot exist -- let alone walk free for many years after their crimes -- without collaborators and sympathizers. We can't put every criminal, collaborator, and sympathizer in prison. But to understand the crime, to make its repetition less likely and ultimately to make reconciliation and the advance of civilization possible we must be able to recognize who is responsible for what, and to call them by their right names.

I don't disagree with Greg about the fecklessness of Bill Clinton's early policy toward the Balkans, but whatever fault he bears for Srebrenica and related atrocities pales before the fault of the men who pulled the triggers, and the many other people and governments who made excuses for them. Serbia -- its government and people -- has never accepted its responsibility for driving the wave of bloodshed that engulfed Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Russia -- its government and people -- has never accepted responsibility for providing a criminal state the political support it required to commit its crimes over a period of many years. And the West, for the most part, has demanded admission of responsibility from neither party.

It is true that acceptance of responsibility cannot be compelled: the lesson of Versailles. Permitting it to be evaded is a mistake just as bad; it invites crimes as bad or worse to be repeated over and over, as prospective mass murderers figure out that once their political objectives are achieved the world community will not treat them as odious or beyond the pale of civilization but will instead be eager to let bygones be bygones. Robert Mugabe has figured that out for sure. So has the government of Sudan and the Arab states that have stood by it. Their victims are Srebrenica's legacy. How we choose to speak of them will leave a legacy of its own.

Posted by: JEB at July 12, 2005 03:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is kind of off the subject, but really isn't. Here's a really fascinating take on the psychology of Europe, and the 2nd to the last sentence is perfect.


As for the Brits, time will tell whether or not this will be their other finest hour.

Posted by: ps at July 12, 2005 07:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Perhaps the Cunning Realist was reading LAT? From June 29:

In the run up to the war, and since the invasion, many on the Right have prefered to characterize the Left as arrogant, elitist and racist based, partly, on the charge that the Left doesn't think the Iraqis, or Muslims in general for that matter, are capable of handling "democracy" (why else, after all, would anyone on the Left object to this war?). But many of these same voices feel perfectly comfortable with the notion of turning Iraq into one giant battlefield to test our mettle with the foreign fighters - displaying a glib disregard for the tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of Iraqis who will get caught in the cross fire. How's that for arrogant and elitist? Is it within our right as a nation to designate Country X as an acceptable staging ground for such a conflict - regardless of the enormous toll in human lives such a prolonged engagement will take on the indigenous population? Does this willingness somehow display a profound respect for the denizens of Country X?[...]

Bush as quoted by Reuters:

"Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we will fight them there, we will fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won," he said on the anniversary of the formal return of sovereignty to Iraqis.

Understandably, such a cavalier willingness to transform Iraq into a perpetual battlefield with aspiring jihadists did not go over so well with many Iraqis. It becomes easier to understand how even those Iraqis pleased with the overthrow of Saddam could come to resent the presence of American troops.

"Why don't they find another place to fight terrorism?" asked Abdul Ridha al-Hafadhi, 58, head of a humanitarian aid group. "I don't feel comforted by Bush's remarks; there must be a timetable for their departure."


Posted by: Eric Martin at July 12, 2005 07:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One more thought...what about Darfur? Sudan, you know, the ongoing genocide and all. The UN has been helpless to intervene, for sure, but the Bush administration has been, dare I say, feckless? Is that the proper word or is it Rwanda/Bosnia specific? From the Coalition For Darfur site:

As Mark Leon Goldberg of the American Prospect reported back in April, the Bush administration was leaning heavily on congressional leaders and managed to stall, and probably killed, the Darfur Accountability Act.

As Goldberg explained, the bill

"[E]stablishes targeted U.S. sanctions against the Sudanese regime, accelerates assistance to expand the size and mandate of the African Union mission in Darfur, expands the United Nations Mission in Sudan to include the protection of civilians in Darfur, establishes a no-fly zone over Darfur, and calls for a presidential envoy to Sudan."

Because of this pressue, the bill appears to be trapped in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Relations, presumably never to be seen again.

So what is Congress going to do now that sanctions, a no-fly zone and civilian protection are off the table? Apparently it has been reduced to "[encouraging] the people of the United States [to pray] for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan."

That's right, the US Congress has been reduced to calling on the American people to pray that somehow this genocide ends.

On July 1st, the US Senate quietly passed S.RES.186

"A resolution affirming the importance of a national weekend of prayer for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, and expressing the sense of the Senate that July 15 through July 17, 2005, should be designated as a national weekend of prayer and reflection for the people of Darfur. "

The House passed a companion resolution (H.RES.333) just yesterday. [...]

If members of Congress are truly concerned about the deaths of nearly 400,000 Darfuris, or the fates of an estimated 3 million more, they are certainly capable of doing more than quietly declaring a "National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection."


Posted by: Eric Martin at July 12, 2005 08:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


You said: “…to say we are in Iraq to fight the bad guys over there, in their backyard and not ours, this cannot be morally serious or a viable long-term strategy.”

Since we are going to have to fight them somewhere, where exactly do you think it should be?

When none of the alternatives are much good – and yet you *must* choose one – which one do you choose?

Simple criticism of someone else’s choice – with no consideration of his realistically available alternatives – is what we all did in high school.

Show us your perceived set of the realistic alternatives; make your recommendation of one of them; and defend it.

FWIW: I think Wretchard gave the best analysis of “Flypaper” here:

Posted by: Tom Paine at July 12, 2005 09:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


In some respects your right about the internal issue around the UN - in particular the petty politicking which prevents it from taking decisive action. However my desire to see this change is not through any romantic idealism. You see the UN was founded after the second world war for the simple reason that after 6 global conflicts in the past 300 years (an average of one every 50 years) and the advent of nuclear weapons it was pretty obvious to those concerned that something needed to be done to break the pattern of international relations that kept leading the world to war. If we didn't then the next time war on that scale occured, we'd be looking at hundreds of millions dead and large parts of the earth being poisoned.

The issue to is not just the US. The Russians, Chinese and European nations are often guilty of placing petty politicking above humanitarian needs. This needs to stop. However until 1 of those nations steps up to the plate, then nothing will change, and the reason the UN was founded will become ever more important. I don't know the answers on how to fix it, but something does need to be done because, as we've managed to prove over and over again, our species has a notoriously short memory....

Posted by: Aran Brown at July 12, 2005 09:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric, having written about Darfur here and elsewhere I share some of the frustration of human rights groups and others intent on stopping the genocide there. Fairness compels me to point out that while the Bush administration has not followed their preferred course of action it has achieved quite a lot.

The course it has followed has been directed primarily by Dep Secretary of State Zoellick, a man with long experience making the best of a weak hand. With less help from Europe than might be desirable and no help from Sudan's Arab neighbors whatsoever he has gotten the Sudanese government to stand down its air support of the janjaweed militia and cease arming them, and has also been a key figure in arranging the settlement of the north-south civil war that may contribute to halting the violence in Darfur. Aid flows into Darfur -- the great majority of it American -- has also helped reduce mortality from starvation and disease there.

These are fragile achievements. They are not all due to American diplomacy and pressure on Khartoum, and in one crucial respect I could wish America's Darfur policy was considerably less quiet. But the last few months have seen progress for which Zoellick is largely responsible.

Posted by: JEB at July 12, 2005 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dear Mr. Gjerejian:

Thank you for remembering the world's failure at Srebrenica. As you know all so well, the EU and UN managed the early years of the Bosnian relief project; President Clinton was focused entirely on his domestic agenda and, regardless of events in the real world, wanted no foreign policy distractions at that time. But as he learned, even presidents don't control events. As for the Serbian murderers, they knew who they were dealing with when they looked at the men in blue helmets - men that were led by naive adolescents, EU and UN statesmen still seemingly lost in some graduate seminar discussion.

Europe's leaders failed miserably then, but the world, being as it is, always throws up a new disaster, a new opportunity for redemption. Why can't the French and Germans organize a robust relief expedition for Darfur? The Kosovo intervention gives them legal precedence to move over the objections of the Chinese or Russians. Their armed forces are almost completely unengaged. The EU military headquarters and battle staff is in place. Why don't they take up this opportunity to redeem themselves and to show the world the utility and benevolent use of European military power? Can you, or your readers, think of any good reason?

As for Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, we agree that there is no good explanation for their continued freedom. Ahmad Rashid wrote yesterday in the International Herald Tribune that Pakistan fears loosing it diplomatic leverage with the U.S. after bin Laden is caught, thus their tepid effort in finding him. But no such reason possibly exists between Serbia and the U.S.

Finally, we believe that if the U.S. government knew exactly where bin Laden was, even if it was in Pakistan, that President Bush would not hold back from trying to get him, even if it risked Musharraf's hold on power and the stewardship of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. If there were orders to hold back from getting UBL when the U.S. knew where he was, such a scandal would quickly leak, first of all from outraged and betrayed Centcom and SOCOM officers. Mr. Bush's reputation, his entire persona, would be ruined. He understands this and that is why we don't believe it.

Perhaps criminals such as Mladic, Karadzic, and yes, bin Laden are simply best, above all, at hiding.

For more ramblings on national security and diplomacy, we invite you all to visit westhawk.blogspot.com


Posted by: Westhawk at July 13, 2005 12:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

WMDs are irrelevant. If Iraq succeeds as some semblance of a Democracy, the rest of the Mideast will eventually follow suit. Maybe screaming & kicking, but the dominos will fall one-by-one and the Mideast will be drug into the 21st century.

Posted by: Spaceman at July 13, 2005 12:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Republicans commit treason and weaken national defense by outing a dedicated CIA operative (and God only knows how many have - or will - die as a result).......

"Ambassador Joe Wilson, who once dared Saddam to hang him while wearing a rope around his neck while acting ambassador in Baghdad in fall of 1990, was the first to let the American people know that the Bush administration lied about Iraq's alleged attempt to purchase uranium yellowcake from Niger. Wilson went to that country, investigated the structure of the uranium industry (which is mainly in French hands anyway), and concluded it was impossible. Bush and Cheney had believed a set of forged documents manufactured by a former employee of Italian military intelligence. (In the US, the only major public intellectual with close ties to Italian military intelligence is pro-war gadfly Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute)." (Juan Cole)

This man and his wife have more guts than all of your Rockfords and Pogue Mahones and Cheneys and Bushes combined.

The reference, of course, is to the Valerie Plame issue (for your typically intellectually challenged (and cowardly hypocritical) loyal readership.

You don't want to talk about this one, do you? desperate sycophantic delusional that you are.

Nor do you desire to discuss the recent disclosure of agreements between the new Iranian and Iraqi governments; agreements that might demonstrate that Bush has managed to hand Iraq to the Iranians at the expense of US blood and treasure.


Lost in the swirling haze of your Bush worship.

I used to think there was hope for you, Greg, but your reluctance to discuss these topics proves that you lack the moral and ethical compass to find your way to the side of decency and patriotism.

Suck on your tax breaks while you can.

Esh e

Posted by: avedis at July 13, 2005 01:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis -- Nice distraction from the issue at hand (the total failure of the Europeans to respond to genocide on their doorstep, and the failure of the EU/UN/NATO model for stopping genocide or bring to justice Miladec or Bin Laden).

In short, Wilson as detailed a few days ago by the Washington Post (no friend to GWB) flat out lied in his interviews to the press, as shown by his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee:

1. He said it was not his wife who pushed him forward to Niger, which was a flat out lie. Under oath he testified it was his wife who pushed him forward to debunk the Yellowcake issue and no one else in the Administration as he had wrongly stated in press interviews.

2. He said in interviews that his report debunked claims that Saddam tried to buy uranium, yet testified under oath to the Senate that his report had at least partial support for that conclusion.

3. [He failed to disclose he had joined Kerry's Campaign as National Security Advisor when he made his interviews].

4. He admitted under oath to the Senate that he "mis-spoke" about documents being wrong with dates and names wrong, because he admitted under oath he'd never seen them.

5. He admitted under oath that his interviews that said that Bush before his speech had been warned that the info on Saddam's attempts to buy Yellowcake in Niger were bogus never happened. Neither himself in his report or by any other means, nor the CIA, had warned Bush that the info was suspect. Primarily because there was ambigous support for at least some attempts by Saddam to buy uranium from Niger. Of which Wilson conceded, under oath.

" The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong."

"Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have "misspoken" to reporters. The documents -- purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq -- were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger. "


As for Valerie Plame, unfortunately for the tin-hat theorists, Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC admitted, uncomfortably, that it was common knowledge in the Press that Plame was a CIA agent. It is believed that Aldrich Ames outed her to the Russians and she was withdrawn in 1997. Politically, Joe Wilson is part of Bill Clinton's circle, FWIW. It is also likely that Rove did not break the law, in telling Cooper to back off from Wilson, given that neither the DCIA or Cheney approved his trip, but his wife who in Rove's words "works with the Agency on WMD issues" which was her official cover.

Special Prosecutor Fitzpatrick wants Judy Miller's source, not for some fishing expedition but because he convinced a judge it's vital to his investigation. Miller isn't playing Martyr but protecting a serious source who fed her consistently accurate inside info on Admin National Security issues. Smart money says Colin Powell.

All of this points out the biggest reason why no one stopped Srebenica, why no one is stopping Darfur, and why bin Laden, Miladec, Charles Taylor, and other brutal criminals walk around free.

Politics. Joe Wilson found it more advantageous to make a Press attack than work within the Administration to change policy. Doubtless he envisioned himself as a Senior Kerry official. Just as Clinton ruthlessly sacrificed military neccessity to political concerns, brushing aside Pentagon and ground commander requests for armor, air cover, and a carrier group to conduct the anti-Aidid campaign on the cheap with Special Forces.

Clinton's a study in doing things on the cheap, from a no-risk air war in Kosovo to impotent missile strikes against Saddam or bin Laden (Desert Fox in 98-99 and the Embassy bombings "blow up some tents" response). Bush to his discredit seems to be following at least some of that path of least resistance.

There is no political will among Europeans to bring Ratko Miladec to justice. There is no will either among them or the US to bring Charles Taylor (a man who slaughtered just as many in West Africa and continued menace to that region). There is no will to confront bin Laden and get him, because Dems have staked their positions in blind, unreasoning opposition to Bush that requires a global test, permission from France, and blind obiediance to sovereignty.

You can have absolute adherence to "international law" and state sovereignty, or you can stop and get Miladecs, Taylors, and bin Ladens. You can't have both and you have to choose. Folks like Luksiak and avedis (anyone who cites Juan Cole who makes so many factual errors it's ludicrous is incapable of making reasoned arguments) show the inability of the Dem Party to choose, which allows Bush to fall into the path of least resistance and exhibit "war on the cheap" which was disastrous with Clinton.

IF we had moved aggressively in the early 90's, we could have forstalled the killing by massive NATO force. IF we had moved aggressively in the aftermath of Mogadishu we could have forestalled bin Laden by making it achingly clear that the US would not run away from 18 casualties as he boasted. We didn't because Clinton and others were convinced that domestic politics trumped everything else (and yes Republicans are to blame as well for turning that into a partisan mess).

Like it or not, the reality of the situation is that politics and partisan advantage are being destructive. Guys like Taylor or bin Laden don't stay in a nice little box and the third world people they slaughter today can be augmented by the body count in London or New York tomorrow. Dems need to stop playing politics and start holding Bush's feet to the fire with POLICY. Darfur can and should be stopped. Miladec and Taylor brought to justice. And bin Laden pulled out of Pakistan even if it means war.

Pay the money, increase the military, get it done, win. And go home.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at July 13, 2005 04:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As a loyal BD reader/commenter who was deeply involved in Balkans policy from 1993-2000, I was prepared to offer some insights on the Srebrenica massacre and lessons from the Balkans. But once I started reading the post and the comments, the first order of business is to correct some of the biggest misstatements/misunderstandings above and provide a limited defense of the Clinton Administration.

-- From 1993-1995, Clinton's team continued the policies of Bush 41, evaluating our involvement from a perspective of vital national interests, not human rights. The decision to launch proximity talks in Spring 1995 and the resulting mission in Bosnia was still internally driven by national interests not human rights considerations (although the public case was much more driven by human rights as it tends to be). That may be cold-hearted realism, but its not feckless (meaning "weak or ineffective"), nor amateurism, nor avoidance of the deadly serious issues at play. Sorry Greg. A better case can be made for intellectual dishonesty or lack of character because Clinton (like Bush 41) did not openly state the actual cold-hearted policy "we don't yet see any national interests in Bosnia so its not our problem."

-- Lift and Strike was politically impossible without creating broad damage to our European security agenda. Again, national interests trumped humanitarian considerations. Even if you remain convinced it was the right thing to do, its naive or dishonest to raise the issue without acknowledging the radioactivity it was with the Europeans and the huge slate of issues we had going with Europe to bring the CEE states into the Western sphere.

-- Most of your other generalizations on the Clinton national security record("Poll driven" or "innattention trumps resoluteness") are similarly simplistic and mostly wrong when put against a realist/internationalist value set. I do agree more or less with the Somalia critique but it again is much more complicated with plenty of blame for Bush 41 and the Pentagon brass on that one.

-- I don't meant to imply that the Clinton record was without flaws. Far from it. The mistakes and missed opportunities were numerous. A few I would cite are the failure to define a compelling strategic vision and plan for the post-Cold War era, a failure to challenge the Pentagon brass on many of its stale priorities, select failures in military strategy (Somalia, Kosovo air campaign), and a failure to more aggressively go after the gathering menace of al Queda.

If I had to rank the post-Cold War Administrations in national security, I'd have to rate Bush 41 the best, followed by Clinton then Bush 43.

Perhaps I'll offer thoughts on Srebrenica and lessons of Bosnia another time.

Posted by: POTUS B at July 13, 2005 07:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Post script for political objectivity: Lukasiak's comments in quasi defense of the Clinton Administration are pretty laughable. First he essentially accepts Greg's premise of a failed Clinton foreign policy (nice start to any defense). Then he makes marginal to ridiculous excuses for it. Clinton and his team dug their own grave on gays in the military. They got burned and ran in Somalia. As for the Republicans being disloyal opposition, what did we expect them to be? That's the same type of whining we now hear from Bush 43 apologists who think critique of Iraq policy is treasonous.

That said, Clinton's mistakes pale compared to the Bush blunder in Iraq and as soft as Clinton was on Al Queda prior to 9/11, Bush 43 was even softer.

Posted by: POTUS B at July 13, 2005 07:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Your last two posts were spot on. You just saved me a lot of typing…

Posted by: kevin at July 13, 2005 01:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Your last two posts were spot on. You just saved me a lot of typing…

Posted by: kevin at July 13, 2005 01:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First he essentially accepts Greg's premise of a failed Clinton foreign policy (nice start to any defense).

I accept Greg's premise that Clinton failed to respond to humanitarian disasters in an appropriate and timely fashion. That doesn't mean his "foreign policy" was a failure, because the issue is what was possible for Clinton to achieve, not what his aspirations were.

Clinton and his team dug their own grave on gays in the military.

as noted earlier, although Clinton supported "gays in the military" in principle, he had not issued any orders or formulated any policy when the GOP went on the attack in order to undermine Clinton's authority as Commander-in-Chief before Clinton even took office.

They got burned and ran in Somalia.

as you yourself stated, there is "plenty of blame for Bush 41 and the Pentagon brass on that one." Clinton was handed an unworkable policy by Bush 41 (US "peacekeepers" in an active war zone) and withdrew when it became glaringly obvious that the policy was unworkable.

As for the Republicans being disloyal opposition, what did we expect them to be?

what we expect them to be is "loyal", especially in the early days of a new administration. Traditionally, the opposition party lays low for the first couple of months when there is a new administration, because its vital to National Security that the transition from one administration's personnel and policies to the next go smoothly. But the GOP was on the attack even before Clinton took office, undermining him with the homophobically motivated 'gays in the military' campaign. That was disloyal.

That's the same type of whining we now hear from Bush 43 apologists who think critique of Iraq policy is treasonous.

sorry POTUS, but there is a difference between attacking a brand new President before he even takes office in order to undermine his authority (that is, if not treasonous, surely antithetical to the best interests of the US as a whole) and criticizing policies that were based on lies and deceit and have clearly failed after the Democratic Party establishment loyally backed those policies in the interest of national unity.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at July 13, 2005 01:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Republicans didn’t invent the issue of gays in the military; it was Clinton’s intention to issue an executive order changing that policy as his first act of office. The record is clear on this one, as the new Administration spent its first few weeks going back and forth with Congress and the Joint Chiefs about why this wasn’t a slam dunk move.

In the end, Clinton settled for “don’t ask, don’t tell”, which allowed him to claim victory, but also left him looking to most people like he really didn’t understand how the military operated. It also foreshadowed that Clinton’s team largely saw the military as a vehicle for spending cuts (the “peace dividend”) that would allow increased domestic spending on their priorities.

Republicans kept the military discussions on finding and preparing to fight the next world power – usually described as China – so military capabilities and contractor base wouldn’t be gutted by spending cuts and unable to respond when the next threat materialized. Republicans used Clinton’s early failures against him to block his spending cuts, arguing (quite correctly in some cases) that the Administration didn’t understand what it was cutting and what the long-term effects would be.

Clinton’s inexperience was also used in the debate about how the military should be used; whether it should only be used in matters of national security, or while waiting to fight the next war it could also be a sort of ready-made humanitarian force – a Peace Corps with guns, if you will.

Without the collapse of the Soviet Union, this wouldn’t have been an issue, because it wouldn’t have been possible to expand the role of the military to include humanitarian and nation-building tasks in the middle of the Cold War. But then again, Clinton would have needed a very different set of advisors to win the Presidency if we were continuing to face the Soviet threat.

The “vast right wing conspiracy” you allude to wasn’t coined by Hilary until the impeachment hearings. At that time the Democrats looked at the response to gays in the military, Hilary’s health care initiative, and now the Monica affair, and decided the Republican opposition just had it in for the President.

Had anyone – Republican or Democrat – been able to clearly articulate the coming terrorist threat so it became the focus of Clinton-era military discussions, we’d all be better off today.

Posted by: kevin at July 13, 2005 03:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm a believer in the 20-year rule for evaluating Presidencies, so I wouldn't presume to advance a definitive view of how the post-Cold War Presidencies should "rank" in security matters.

I would point out that the first Bush administration did by far its best work on a one-time, unique problem, that being the collapse of the Soviet empire and the reunification of Germany. One could make a case that this was a case where the elder Bush's instinct for passivity and reaction was exactly what was needed, but that case stems from a very jaundiced view of Bush and his team. Whatever else they got wrong, the Soviet empire breaking apart and Germany coming together were very big things indeed, and bush's people handled them very well.

Posted by: JEB at July 13, 2005 08:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB --

Bush 41 deserves kudos for the Gulf War as well. International mandate, true coalition, a MUCH tougher Iraqi Army than Bush 43 faced, only 250 KIA, full surrender by the enemy, and we actually made a PROFIT on the war because the donations from other countries were so extensive. The decision not to go to Baghdad is the only controversy. Could we have done more to doom Saddam at that time and avoid the current mess?

Posted by: POTUS B at July 13, 2005 09:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB --

Bush 41 deserves kudos for the Gulf War as well. International mandate, true coalition, a MUCH tougher Iraqi Army than Bush 43 faced, only 250 KIA, full surrender by the enemy, and we actually made a PROFIT on the war because the donations from other countries were so extensive. The decision not to go to Baghdad is the only controversy. Could we have done more to doom Saddam at that time and avoid the current mess?

Posted by: POTUS B at July 13, 2005 10:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

POTUS B asks, "The decision not to go to Baghdad is the only controversy. Could we have done more to doom Saddam at that time and avoid the current mess?"

The answer, and it doesn't require all that much 20/20 hindsight, only a larger sense of morality, is YES!

Once the systematic slaughter of the Shi'ites and Kurds began in the spring of 1991, after they (foolishly) followed Bush the Elder's advice to rise up and solve the Saddam problem for him, it should have been the moral duty of the international community, or at least the U.S., no less than it was in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, and Darfur, to come to their rescue. Even more so in this case, because the U.S government urged the rebellion that Saddam was crushing.

The U.S. Army would have had moral and legal (see Genocide Treaty) authority to occupy and defend the southern Shi'ite and northern Kurdish portions of Iraq. Saddam's army had just been obliterated and the U.S Army was in place to move in.

In the years after that, we could have trained and advised proxy armies in each region, to defend themselves and prepare for offensive operations against the rump Saddam Iraqi territory. The Shi'ite and Kurdish Iraqis could have formed a provisional government.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives would have been saved, OIF would have been unnecessary, American casualties would have been minimal, and the Iraqis would have had the satisfaction of liberating themselves from Saddam. The Sunni portion of Iraq obviously would have been both the target and the loser, but is that any different than what is happening now?

Alas, President Bush the Elder, advised by General Scowcroft and Secretary Baker, and feeling as if he could "get away clean" after Gulf War I, opted instead to avert his eyes to the slaughter. Like Europe after Versailles, the problem remained to fester.


Posted by: westhawk at July 13, 2005 10:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As I suggested, P B, I consider the elder Bush to have been instinctively passive and reactive, as one might expect of someone who had spent his career as a witness to and occasional public face of policy designed by others. His instinct when Saddam's army crossed the Kuwaiti border was to restore the status quo ante. Under the circumstances I considered that inadequate at the time -- Saddam was really giving us a priceless opportunity to demonstrate to every tinhorn dictator in the world what happens when you break the rules of the New World Order, which overrunning your neighbor with an armored division pretty much did. Bush had an army of a half million men moved halfway around the world, and then proceeded to throw the opportunity away.

Credit where it's due, he did leave the management of the war to a commander in theatre, a practice that has since been departed from now and then, always to our cost. But Bush failed to distinguish between what American interests required and what good public relations and warm feelings from our allies required. A lot of people died because of his poor judgment and failure of nerve at the end of the Gulf War. That was why American troops were not "welcomed as liberators" in the Shiite south of Iraq in 2003; it was why Sadr was able to recruit so easily for his rebellions, and of course it was why we wound up back in Iraq in the first place. Naturally Bush could not see into the future; he only saw as far as the victory parade. Actually, it turned out that his foresight with respect to securing his own reelection was as poor as it was with respect to securing peace in the Gulf. Served him right, as far as I'm concerned. I don't care how good his manners were.

Posted by: JEB at July 14, 2005 02:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush 1's reaction to Saddam crossing into Kuwait had nothing to do with an instinct to restore the status quo or to be passive.

The Bush 1 team has clearly explained their reasons for not removing Saddam; among those reasons: 1) getting the US involved in a protracted and unwinnable war against an insurgency 2) Potential for energizing Iraq Shiite majority such that a strong alliance might be formed with Iran.

So your "instinctively passive" is another man's wisdom.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Posted by: avedis at July 14, 2005 12:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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