March 31, 2003
Vitriolic Rants How crazy can
How crazy can the anti-war left get? Take a peek at Wayne Madsen's latest:
"Bush, who fancies himself a "born-again" Christian, is actually a foul-mouthed and erratic alcoholic. For example, the "pretzel" incident had nothing to do with a pretzel. While watching a football game at the White House, the "leader of the free world" got so drunk he fell right on his face and blamed it on his inability to remember his mother's missive about chewing all one's food before swallowing. Such alibis and ruses are the trademarks of drunks. During the presidential campaign Bush called a New York Times reporter a "major league asshole." In 1986, a clearly drunk and disorderly Bush told The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt, "You fucking son of a bitch . . . I saw what you wrote. We're not going to forget this." The rich frat boy was irate about an article Hunt wrote about Bush's father. Time magazine is reporting that during a March 2002 briefing for three senators by Condoleezza Rice, Bush poked his head into a White House meeting room and bellowed, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out!"
Notice the personal hatred aimed at Dubya--reminiscent of an anti-war protestor in London I spotted with a mohawk simply walking around holding a pretzel high. But it gets worse:
"The Joint Chiefs of Staff, armed with enough support from their subordinate commanders, troops, and civilian staff, could place a team of Delta Force commandos and armor on the South Lawn of the White House and in front of the North Portico on Pennsylvania Avenue. Using large loudspeakers designed for use in civil action campaigns like the ones currently taking place in Umm Qasr, Basra, and Safwan, Iraq, the Delta Force commander would instruct the Secret Service to exit the White House and lay down weapons. Five minutes should be sufficient. They should then secure the "football" and the military officer who maintains it. The football is actually a large briefcase that contains the nuclear firing codes and it would have to be quickly separated from the madmen in the White House.
Bush, Cheney, Card, Rove, Fleischer, Rice, and the rest should then be taken into custody and transferred to a remote facility like Wackenhut's large detention center in Kern County, California, which was originally designed to hold American political prisoners and anti-war "protestors.
The Joint Chiefs should quickly name a transition Executive to plan for new presidential elections. Executive authority could be vested in the man who received the majority of votes in the 2000 election. Al Gore would be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. In the interest of national unity, Gore would be asked to pledge not to seek re-election in the upcoming presidential election, which should be held no later than nine months from his inauguration.
Former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter could be named as co-Vice Presidents (it would be constitutional since neither ever served two full presidential terms). These one-time political adversaries are also the best of friends. Although the Joint Chiefs would also have to remove Rumsfeld and his war hawk advisers, Bush Cabinet members (sans Ashcroft and Tom Ridge) who pledged to support the transition government could remain in office pending new elections. However, in all likelihood, many of the Bush appointees would probably be too embarrassed to remain in any official capacity. Washington, DC has a huge reservoir of talented people who could assume Cabinet and other governmental functions - there are a number of ex-senators, representatives, ambassadors, and cabinet members who could step up to the plate during such a national emergency transition."
You couldn't make this stuff up.
But wait! There is also the pernicious slur that Dubya knew about 9/11 before the attacks:
"An American Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would be named by President Gore, would look into what Bush and his cronies really knew about the September 11th attacks and whether they allowed them deliberately to occur in order to seize unconstitutional power, who was responsible for the anthrax attacks on the Democratic leadership of the Senate and the media, i.e., the attempted assassinations of the Democratic Majority Leader and the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeb Bush's malfeasance in the 2000 presidential election in Florida, the alleged profiteering of George H. W., Marvin, and Neil Bush in post-September 11th Middle East business deals, and the role of The Carlyle Group, Halliburton, Enron, and others in disastrous pipeline politics in both Afghanistan and Iraq."
NYT Hyperbole Watch The mood
NYT Hyperbole Watch
The mood in Washington hasn't been this angst-ridden since the Civil War--says the NYT. What about WWI, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11? No, this trumps 'em all:
"Baghdad is of course a lot farther away than Gettysburg. The sense of siege in Mr. Bush's Washington comes not from Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard but from the fear that battles fought in a distant land will inflame hatred of Americans and inspire new acts of terrorism against the United States.
Unlike the Civil War, when the sense of siege ended with the fighting, the current fear may never entirely go away, even after Baghdad falls."
Taxi Suicide Attacker Hagiography Is
Taxi Suicide Attacker Hagiography
Is it just me or does Robert Fisk employ an almost breathless tone in his story on the suicide attack on U.S. troops?
"Sergeant Ali Jaffar Moussa Hamadi al-Nomani was the first Iraqi combatant known to stage a suicide attack. Not even during the uprising against British rule did an Iraqi kill himself to destroy his enemies. Nomani was also a Shia Muslim – a member of the same sect the Americans faithfully believed to be their secret ally in their invasion of Iraq. Even the Iraqi government initially wondered how to deal with his extraordinary action, caught between its desire to dissociate themselves from an event that might remind the world of Osama bin Laden and its determination to threaten the Americans with more such attacks."
"The details of the 50-year-old sergeant's life are few but intriguing. He was a soldier in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and volunteered to fight in the 1991 Gulf War, called the "Mother of All Battles" by President Saddam Hussein, who believes he was the victor. Then, though he was overage for further fighting, Nomani volunteered to fight the Anglo-American invasion. And so it was, without telling his commander and in his own car, he drove into the US Marine checkpoint outside Najaf."
Fisk's offensive tone aside, I think we should all be careful about labelling this attack as a terrorist operation as it was directed at combatant soldiers. One of the better definitions of terrorism I've seen is from Paul Pillar, a former deputy chief of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, who argues that there are four key constitutive elements of terrorism:
a) It is premeditated—planned in advance, rather than an impulsive act of rage.
It appears that the attack fails parts "c" and "d" of the definition--so would better fit under the heading of guerilla tactics (if reprehensible ones). All this said, Fisk's article appears just shy of a hagiography of the perpetrator of the attack--and to describe the Iraqi government as, even briefly, desirous of "disassociating" from this act is a laughable contention given that the Iraqis actively publicize that they have thousands of such martyrs ready to attack allied troops.
The problem with all this, as with so many other aspects of this young war, is that now U.S. soldiers look set to encircle cities like Najaf while barely allowing vehicular traffic out. It makes the gaining "hearts and minds" aspect of this conflict much harder when residents of entire cities can't move around much. And, unfortunately, the Iraqis realize this and will continue using tactics that will provoke various responses by coalition forces that will doubless anger and frustrate many locals. I still believe, however, in cautiously optimistic fashion, that as we slowly take apart Saddam's Fedayeen, as the Shi'a in the south see that this is not a replay of '91, ie. that the U.S. is in it for keeps, and as humanitarian aid starts to get distributed in a more widespread and efficient manner-- more goodwill towards coalition forces will be earned from Iraqis. But there appears to be a lot of hard and messy slogging in the days ahead--particularly as U.S. forces aren't yet in predominately Sunni areas.
Dubya Metamorphosized Into Nero Comparisons
Dubya Metamorphosized Into Nero
Comparisons of Dubya to Hitler are getting too cliched and hackneyed on the Left. So the Baudrillard crowd has come up with a new historical personage to compare Dubya to--Nero!
"How can we admit that we have returned to the worst hours of the Roman Empire, those that bear the tragic seal of Caligula and Nero? How is it possible now, in our day, when supposedly there is the most comprehensive application of "democracy" in the history of humanity, to accept the idea that the most "developed," wealthy and powerful nation in the world has a leadership that has come down with a devastating psychosis?"
"But the United States has also become a pathocracy, that is, a regime that is neurotic in essence, the leaders of which are, quite simply, psychopaths. I offer the hypothesis that the American president is personally suffering from a paranoid psychosis and that the quartet he has formed with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld constitutes a government that is both theocratic and pathocratic."
Francois de Bernard--moving well beyond the Dubya as religious nut argument popular in European circles--accuses a good chunk of the American leadership of simply being psychopaths. He is therefore the latest recipient of the Vidal award for heated anti-american rhetoric devoid of any fact-based analysis.
Friendly Fire Even when close
Even when close allies are engaged in battle together--tensions spill over because of incidents like these.
March 30, 2003
More on Rumsfeld's Warning to
More on Rumsfeld's Warning to Syria
Haaretz has a piece up on this. The news is not good per my initial analysis here. It appears that this was another instance of Rummy freelancing without a unified Administration posture having been hammered out before:
"Despite this, Rumsfeld's statement surprised officials in the State Department and CIA. American sources said secret contacts are being held with Syria to stop the spill of equipment and weapons into Iraq and there was no intention of making this public. Yesterday, State Department sources spoke of the damage caused by Rumsfeld's statement. They said Rumsfeld was playing into the hands of those Middle East organizations and states that claim Washington's plan is not to make do with Saddam's head but continue from Iraq to other Arab states."
UPDATE: This story is getting more complicated. In a speech over the weekend to AIPAC, Colin Powell talked Syria too. Here's what he had to say:
Saying the country faced a "critical choice," Mr. Powell said, "Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria has the responsibility for its choices and for the consequences."
The language is not as belligerent in tone as Rummy's--but it looks sure to ratchet up the tension with Damascus more. Was Powell ordered to back up Rummy's tough talk by the President or did he decide to do so on his own because he believes the assistance being rendered through (or by) the Syrians to Iraq is too significant? And who at Foggy Bottom or Langley is leaking to Haaretz that there is discomfort that this spat has been publicized?
The Syrians, predictably, are sounding off in public more vociferously now too.
Coalition Casualty Watch Regular readers
Coalition Casualty Watch
Regular readers may recall an earlier post where I had expressed some surprise at the amazingly low casualties during the hostilities in Najaf--with reports of 1,000 Iraqis dead compared to a single U.S. soldier in fighting described by U.S. GIs as "Apocalypse Now" in intensity. Rusmfeld was asked a related question at last Friday's Pentagon briefing:
Q: And I had one follow-up, sir. The casualty figures currently officially released by the U.S. military show 28 dead and 40 wounded. Now the proportion of wounded and dead would be -- would seem to be historically way out of skew, because the number of wounded is usually far more than the number killed in action. Is there -- can you explain why that would be, or -- and is there any effort to either unreport or underreport casualties from the battlefield?
Rumsfeld: "Oh, my goodness! Now, you know that wouldn't be the case. There's no -- no one in this government, here or on the ground, is going to underreport what's happening. That's just terrible to think that. Even to suggest it is outrageous. Most certainly not! The facts are reported. (Pounds fist.) When people are killed, they're killed and we face it. When people are wounded, we say so. When people are missing and we know they're missing, we say so. And when we're wrong and they wander back into camp, as several have recently, having been lost or with other units, we say so. Absolutely not!"
Myers: "The only thing I would add to that is that there can be reporting lags. And with embedded media, you know, you can hear reports, but before the families are notified of either wounded or killed in action or missing, we don't release the figures. So, there could be some lag time. But we never -- we're never going to hide those numbers."
Rumsfeld's argument appeared a bit 'he doth protest too much' in nature, but I have to assume he is being completely honest. In addition, I take Myer's point regarding "reporting lags."
But the suspicions regarding casualty totals are, nevertheless, continuing to percolate, most recently, courtesy of the Week in Review section of the NYT:
"Snippets of news from Nasiriya give us a picture of chaotic guerrilla warfare, replete with hit-and-run ambushes, dead civilians, friendly fire casualties from firefights begun in the dead of night and a puzzling number of marines who are still unaccounted for."
I trust this administration to give the American public the unvarnished truth when it comes to casualty totals. What concerns me, however, is that firefights may have been more intense than we perhaps realize at this stage. And that, in the chaotic aftermath of myriad engagements, we are not yet fully aware of the human toll to date.
Robin Cook to Cheney, Rummy
Robin Cook to Cheney, Rummy and Wolfy--I Wish You Were "Embedded"
Robin Cook, fresh from leaving Blair's government, isn't staying quiet.
"We were told that the local population would welcome their invaders as liberators. Paul Wolfowitz, No.2 at the Pentagon, promised that our tanks would be greeted "with an explosion of joy and relief". Personally I would like to volunteer Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz to be "embedded"alongside the journalists with the forward units.That would give them a chance to hear what the troops fighting for every bridge over the Euphrates think about their promises."
Later, however, Cook clarified his position and says he wants the coalition to "see the job through."
Cook resigned with some dignity. I agree that a protracted seige, which Cook suggests is the new strategy for taking Baghdad without any corroboration, would be a public relations disaster (though better than increasingly aggressive bombardments that lead to more destroyed marketplaces and the like) . But Cook isn't privy to the strategy that will be employed to take Baghdad. And this war isn't even two weeks old. So why this piece, now?
It appears, all in all, that Cook was simply emoting in the pages of the Mirror. Like him, we all want the troops out as quickly as possible, this war ended swiftly, few civilian deaths. But as even Cook admits, there is no question of now retreating and leaving Saddam in power. Better to focus our collective thinking on the least messy ways forward to secure victory and begin the mammoth task of creating a viable, integrated, democratic Iraqi polity. Cook doesn't help us, at all, on that score. Which is one of the many reasons that Cook would never prove to be a threat to Blair as leader of the Labour party.
March 29, 2003
Rumsfeld on Syria Rumsfeld's comments
Rumsfeld on Syria
Rumsfeld's comments on Syria certainly did not appear to be off the cuff remarks like, perhaps, his "Old Europe" locution or grouping Germany together with Cuba and Libya as nations not providing any help with regard to the U.S. action in Iraq. As the linked transcript shows, they were part of his prepared remarks. His prepared language was as follows:
"And to Iraq's neighbor, Syria: We have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night-vision goggles. These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces. We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments."
The FT, in somewhat sensationalistic fashion, has run a large headline in their weekend edition titled U.S. Warns Syria on 'Hostile Acts.' One might think the U.S. if off to Damascus in short order!
Meanwhile, the Syrian foreign ministry spokeswoman has described Rumsfeld's comments as "absolutely unfounded."
But one has too look at some of the Q&A to get a better feeling of what Rumsfeld meant. Here are all the relevant passages from yesterday's Pentagon press conference:
Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about your statement about military supplies moving across the border from Syria. You described those as hostile acts. Are they subject to military action in response if that continues?
Rumsfeld: There's no question but that to the extent military supplies or equipment or people move across borders between Iraq and Syria, that it vastly complicates our situation. And that is why I said what I said.
Q: But so are you threatening military action against Syria?
Rumsfeld: I'm saying exactly what I said. It was carefully phrased.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to clear up what you said earlier about the Syrian -- or the NBGs coming in through Syria. Are you suggesting or is there information that this in fact state-sponsored, these are state-sponsored shipments of military goods?
Rumsfeld: I don't think I want to get into it. It's an intelligence issue. They control their border, and we're hopeful that that type of thing doesn't happen. (Cross talk.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, for someone who's always advocating private channels of diplomacy, I'd like to go back to your statement about Syria and Iran. Be very precise. What message are you sending the governments of Syria and Iran from this podium? If the rules -- are the rules of the road for this conflict to other countries the same as they are for the war on terrorism: You are with or against us, which is the president's message? Is that what you are saying here, your message?
A: And specifically, with respect to Syria, I pointed out that we have seen military supplies and materials and equipment crossing the border, and we'd like it to stop. And to the extent it keeps on, we have to consider it a hostile act. [my emphasis]
The FT and other media outlets have headlined their stories per Rummy's initial remarks, ie. that the Syrians are engaged in hostile acts and they could be held accountable as a result. But, as the Q&A shows, Rummy later tipped his hand a bit by stating that, "to the extent it keeps on, we have to consider it a hostile act." In other words, it was the proverbial "shot across the bow," a stern warning to the Syrians (particularly, it appears, regarding night vision goggles--provision of which mitigate coalition forces advantages in urban fighting and, as the weather gets hotter, when allied forces might prefer to engage the enemy during the cooler night hours).
A couple points: I really hope that the U.S. approached Damascus on this issue through private channels before this highly public airing of Washington's concerns. If we did, and the Syrians denied they were allowing any assistance to cross their border to Iraq, and the U.S. had highly compelling intelligence that they were fully cognizant of such transfers, then I can understand Rumsfeld's need to issue a public warning to Damascus. But only if we made best diplomatic efforts in private first. Needless to say, the regional situation is immensely complex with each of Iraq's neighbors. There are, obviously, fears in Teheran and Damascus that they are next. To employ, in public, bellicose language about "hostile" acts in reference to one of these two countries should be done only when absolutely necessary--as it fans suspicions among Arabs (or Iranians) throughout the region that we have designs on strategic control of the entire region. It will be interesting to see if Powell has any comments on Syria in the coming days respecting this issue--I would be heartened if he backs Rummy up as it would show that the entire Administration has a coordinated posture on this issue and, likely, that we had already approached Damascus with our concerns to no avail. If Powell, instead, appears to differ with Rumsfeld on this issue it will be another example of lack of coordination between battling fiefdoms in the Adminstration--not what the U.S. needs during these critical times.
Another issue to keep in mind is whether Syria is allowing Hezbollah or Palestinian elements transit rights over their border and the equipment comes from such groups. If so, Syria still is culpable and needs to be held to account--but the tensions are unlikely to spill out of control. If Damascus itself is providing the equipment--and continues to do so after Rumsfeld's warning--the prospects of greater regional de-stabilization are significantly enhanced.
March 28, 2003
Are These The Sentiments of
Are These The Sentiments of an Ally?
"Svelte" Dominique de Villepin per a British journalist's query regarding where his sympathies lay in the war:
"I'm not going to answer because you have not listened carefully to what I have said before." The text of his speech, however, gave no particular clue as to what he meant, other than a comment that "I naturally wish that this conflict finds a swift conclusion with the minimum possible number of casualties."
Amazing. Shocking too that the NYT categorizes Dominique's lastest broadside against Washington as akin to the extension of an olive branch (albeit a "thorny" one). France's leading diplomat is not even willing to go on the record to say that France, at this time of significant peril to (ostensibly) friendly forces, would favor an American/British victory? This is an olive branch to Washington? Maybe for Howell's Dominique fan club. To me it's a bitter slap in the face. And I'm sure many in Washington will feel the same.
UPDATE: Now the French want a U.S. victory. Kind of like they would support us in the event of a WMD attack. The mere fact that the French Foreign Ministry would have to release a statement saying that France actually does want a U.S. victory in Iraq speaks volumes.
Neo-Cons on the Defensive! Richard
Neo-Cons on the Defensive!
Richard Perle resigns as Chairman of the Defense Advisory Board, Paul Wolfowitz quotes in a WaPo story on the Turkey imbroglio display earlier overconfidence regarding Ankara's position, the Powell doctrine appears to be trumping Rummy/Wolfy style military campaigns of special ops, psyops, heavy reliance on airpower and lean troop movements, and Michael O'Hanlon says Perle and Ken Adleman thought an Iraq campaign would be a "cakewalk."
Well, I can certainly emphatize with Richard Perle's reaction to a NYT journalist's phone call today (they have, of course, been leading the Perle resign bandwagon via mastheads, Maureen and "investigative" journalism a la Hersh):
"In a brief phone conversation this afternoon before the Pentagon's announcement, Mr. Perle sounded angry. Asked whether he had resigned, he replied: "Let me just tell you something. If I had, you'd be the last person in the world I'd want to talk to." He then slammed down the phone."
Did the NYT really have to provide all the gritty details? So, uh, National Enquirerish of them. Regardless, I still don't believe Perle will be found to have committed any illegal actions either on the Khassogi/Bandar Hersh opus or Global Crossing. But his resignation letter to Rumsfeld gets it about right:
In a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld dated Wednesday, Mr. Perle said he was "dismayed" that criticism of his business ties was distracting Pentagon officials while they were grappling with the war in Iraq. "I have seen controversies like this before, and I know that this one will inevitably distract from the urgent challenge in which you are now engaged," Mr. Perle wrote. "I would not wish to cause even a moment's distraction from that challenge. As I cannot quickly or easily quell criticism of me based on errors of fact concerning my activities, the least I can do under these circumstances is to ask you to accept my resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board."
Of course, many will continue to demand that he leave the Defense Advisory Board altogether--not just step down from the Chairman role.
March 27, 2003
Vidal Award To Wayne Madsen
To Wayne Madsen for showcasing the Vidalian penchant for wild anti-american rants devoid of any factual moorings:
"The nations of the world must learn how to cope with living on the same planet with a regime that has resurrected the Nazi war strategy of "blitzkrieg" (lightning war) by adopting the concept of pre-emptive "shock and awe" military strikes. Make no mistake about it, the Bush regime, which came to power through a manipulative election process and then conveniently used a domestic terrorist attack to seize unconstitutional powers, will stop at nothing from remaking the world according to its own concept of a "new world order" subservient to the United States."
Oh, cut through all the verbiage, won't you Wayne? The U.S. is a Hitlerian state is what you mean to say, right? And Dubya the new Fuhrer.
Le Monde Watch From a
Le Monde Watch
From a Richard Bernstein piece in the NYT:
"Le Monde, France's most prestigious newspaper, published a front-page cartoon by its caricaturist, Plantu, that showed an American soldier with an American flag marching over a heap of Iraqi corpses. The soldier says, "This sandstorm is terrible!"
See the cartoon here (scroll halfway down page). UPDATE: This cartoon has been removed (replaced with another anti-american one, however). I'm sorry I don't have a direct link to the original one described in Bernstein's piece.
Meanwhile, in a story on Syria, Le Monde reverses the September 12th, 2001 headline "We Are All Americans Now" with (from the Damascene perspective, bien sur) "We Are All Iraqis."
Speaking of Syria, Bashar Assad is ratcheting up the rhetoric. I suspect this is mostly for domestic consumption--the U.S. and Syria have been cooperating quite intensely since 9/11 on intelligence sharing related to al-Qaeda. Sure, it is a very difficult relationship, but not so bad (at least at the present juncture) that Bashar would credibly fear that he is "next."
Letters Department A reader writes
A reader writes in re: my somewhat gloomy Safwan post below: "You are not getting the full picture. Saddam's loyalists are still active there. Yesterday, a woman who greeted the British troops was found swinging by the neck from a tree. Reprisals have occurred to others, too. Plus, these Iraqis you speak of were on camera and knew it. After we abandoned them to slaughter in '91, the Iraqi Shia are understandably cautious about jumping into our arms so soon. They do not know for sure which way this thing is going to turn out. They do not know our level of committment."
I agree with all these sentiments, some of which are also reflected in Bill Safire's column today. In addition, reports that Iraqi officers are threatening to shoot soldiers who don't fight are increasingly popping up (for instance, here and here).
In short, we shouldn't necessarily get too caught up in speculation that anti-U.S nationalistic sentiment is sweeping Iraq despite widespread hatred for Saddam. But let's not instead get overly triumphalist and believe that we are going to be greeted with warm emotive outbursts the minute Saddam's loyalists are dead or captured or that the population is convinced that, this time contra 1991, we are committed for the long haul. The reality likely resides somewhere in the murky middle.
By the way, regarding reader mail, let me note that I will take the liberty of quoting letter writers by name unless the writer expressly requests that I not do so. And while on the subject of such in-house matters, a quick thank you to Andrew Sullivan and Dan Drezner for their recent links to my site. I hope the readers who have thereby been introduced to the Belgravia Dispach will keep coming around!
The Medievalism of "Embedded" Journalism
The Medievalism of "Embedded" Journalism
Caleb Carr in the Observer. A bit hyperbolic in parts, but worth a quick read.
March 26, 2003
Casualty Reports and Murkiness in
Casualty Reports and Murkiness in Safwan
Alarming story in tomorrow IHT. Per my post below entitled "The Najaf Battle" it appears something fishy is going on with regard to coalition reports on allied casualty figures:
General Brooks declined to comment on the number of United States casualties in the war and explicitly said the military would not provide numbers. "As a matter of practice, we just aren't going to announce numbers of casualties," he said. [Brooks is deputy commander of operations based in Qatar].
That's certainly not a positive development and I'm hoping Vincent Brooks made a mistake when he said the above. The U.S. people need to know what is going on on the battlefield. We're adults, we can handle the difficult truths, transparency is critical. I am getting a nagging feeling that casualties are significantly higher than we are aware at this juncture.
He goes on: "The practices that have been conducted by these paramilitaries, by these others who are out there sometimes in uniform, sometimes not in uniform, are more akin to the behaviors of global terrorists than they are to a nation," General Brooks said.
Well sure. But as I've said before, no one thought Saddam was going to play by Marquess of Queensbury rules. There will be feigned surrenders, soldiers in civilians garb, all manners of ambushes--in a word, brutal guerilla warfare. But, apropos this discussion, that Brooks would say this, with apparent frustration, indicates to me that we've lost more than 20 odd GI's over the past six days.
And, sorry to be so damn gloomy (this article really got to me) but check this out:
"In Safwan, close to the border with Kuwait, reporters said food was distributed in a chaotic scene in which local residents chanted their support for Mr. Hussein even as they collected boxes of goods. Scores of Iraqis scrambled into the backs of three trucks driven over the border by the Kuwait Red Crescent Society. Some 21,000 meals were packed into the convoy, including bread, flour, tea, water and cooking oil.
"With our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Saddam," a group of Iraqis were reported to chant."
Safwan? Shi'a territory just over the Kuwaiti border? Folks, if we're having difficulties there then it's not looking pretty regarding a warm reception in the Sunni heartlands (of course, locals could have been putting on a show for the journalists).
Could it be that, even when on the cusp of liberty from the most brutal totalitarianism, populations revert back to a nationalistic posture when they begin to suffer significant losses from a foreign invader? Another reason to be very intent on keeping to a minimum civilian casualties in the difficult days ahead.
UPDATE: Video from Safwan food distribution.
UPDATE: Publicized coalition casualties to date.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan One of
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
One of America's political giants, dead at 76.
More detailed obit here.
The Najaf Battle The media
The Najaf Battle
The media has been full of reports of a major battle near Najaf that reportedly killed perhaps up to 750 Iraqi soldiers with no U.S. casualties:
"Hundreds of Iraqis died in the attack near Najaf, American military officials in central Iraq said on Wednesday, after the fighting ended. North of town, 400 to 500 Iraqis died, and to the south, another 150 to 200 were killed. These forces were overpowered by American superiority in ground armor, including the Abrams tanks. No American casualties have been reported, but two tanks were lost."
I don't want to sound overly pessimistic regarding coalition casualties, but does this sound strange to anyone else? Particularly as it is the Iraqis who initiated the attack? And were there any personnel in those two tanks?
And take a look at this story:
"Sean D Naylor of the American Army Times quotes a US soldier describing the fighting as so intense that "it looks like Apocalypse Now".
"So intense was the fighting that at one stage the 3rd Squadron commander's driver, Private First Class Randall Duke Newcomb, was forced to steer his Humvee with one hand while firing out of the window with the other."
This sure doesn't sound like a zero coalition casualty fight to me folks. Now maybe the Pentagon will provide figures once they can further confirm the full extent of what occurred on the battlefield--but we have to feel confident that they are not keeping the bad news from us. The public needs to be informed as swiftly as possible about developments so that it retains full confidence that the Pentagon is disseminating information as expeditiously as possible. I hope I'm wrong and we won an amazing victory in Najaf with no U.S. victims. But it's tough to believe, isn't it?
UPDATE: Link to the Army Times story on Najaf:
"The captain said he didn’t count the Iraqi corpses. However, his troops did hang around long enough to confirm they were Republican Guard soldiers by the distinctive red triangular shoulder patches and red brassards they wore on their olive-drab fatigues. One Republican Guard soldier was also carrying a gas mask."
Why are Republican Guard soldiers carrying around gas masks? It appears we may have to increasingly brace ourselves for possible use of nerve gas as troops get closer to Baghdad. The one thing that might keep Saddam from using such agents is the near universal condemnation such tactics will bring. Right now, particularly given events like this, the Iraqis are winning the propaganda war throughout the Arab world (and much of Europe). Such "gains" will be greatly mitigated if the Iraqis go chemical. But, on balance, I fear Saddam will employ whatever means at his disposal to survive (as long as possible) the coalition onslaught. (UPDATE: John Burns must feel like he is back in Sarajevo. Recall that, during the siege of Sarajevo, there was occasional speculation that the Bosniaks were sometimes shelling their own people so that images of slaughter would expedite the arrival of Western powers combatting Bosnian Serbs arrayed around the city. There is some similar speculation in Baghdad about whether the Iraqis orchestrated the attack themselves in a bid to enhance their standing as "victims" per the propaganda war.)
UPDATE: This story has one American fatality and an estimated 1,000 (you read right) Iraqi military deaths. I'm hopeful but still dubious that the ratio is 1:1000.
"This is Not Our War"
"This is Not Our War"
The latest (good) news from Ankara:
"This is not our war," the general said, reading from a prepared text at a local military base here. "This is not our mission."
"His announcement eases fears of a war-within-a-war on the northern front, though General Ozkok did say that he reserved the right to send additional forces into Iraq if the situation there spins out of control."
Needless to say, the situation in the north remains highly fluid but, at least today, developments there are quite helpful to Washington.
Fischer's Hyperbole Joshka Fishcher has
Joshka Fishcher has been making some pretty inflammatory comments recently:
Referring to Britain and Spain, he said: "One must ask whether the countries that are such close partners of the US had or have an influence [over Washington's Iraq policy]." He said the positions taken by the British and Spanish governments had led to "major [domestic] problems that bordered on the destabilisation of democratic systems".
The destabilization of democratic systems? I can assure the German Foreign Minister that presently, the U.K. certainly doesn't feel like, say, Weimar Germany. Democratic moorings appear well intact. The PM faced the Commons and won majority support from the two key parties in the land. His popular support is on a major uptick. What is Joshka Fischer talking about?
He also is trying to paint an impotent Aznar and Blair who constitute an amen corner to whatever diktats emanate from Washington. Another impolitic slur which will do little to begin to provide a better climate for mending fences. Gosh, what an awful team over in Berlin. The irony is, sadly, they are keenly aware that their chances of staying in power are increased by a constant resort to such primitive anti-American rhetoric. But one must ask, to what extent is the German leadership responsible for fanning and intensifying the anti-americanism currently sweeping Germany?
Note too, the Development Minister didn't want to be left out of the Washington-bashing Berlin fun:
Ms Wieczorek-Zeul, who is known for her leftwing views, also lashed out at the US military. "As we see, there are none of the 'clever bombs' that the US military claim; bombs are always destructive and murderous," she said.
The "poisoned" relations might just get worse, I'm afraid.
March 25, 2003
"Find and Fix" Current coalition
"Find and Fix"
Current coalition military strategy per Janes.
"A major effort has been underway in recent days to 'prepare the battlefield' ahead of the advancing US armoured columns in what military doctrine describes as the 'deep battle'. The Apaches of the 11th Aviation Brigade have been in action, trying to find and destroy Republican Guard tanks in the towns and villages south of Baghdad. Once these efforts to 'find' the main Republican Guard positions have been successful, reconnaissance forces, including attack helicopters, will be sent into action to 'fix' them in their positions while the 3rd Infantry Division's three armoured brigades position themselves to strike.
The 'find and fix' phase of the battle is the most crucial for US commanders because they have a numerically inferior force to the Iraqis and have very exposed flanks and supply lines. If US reconnaissance forces and surveillance assets fail to find the Iraqis or misidentify the main Iraqi defensive positions then the US armoured brigades could be committed in the wrong place, exposing them to counter-attack while refuelling or re-arming."
But how will this "fixing" be undertaken?
Thomas Ricks takes a look at the WaPo:
"The impending battle confronts U.S. forces with a dilemma that goes to the heart of the complex mission in which they are engaged: They can maximize the advantages of their overwhelming firepower and bomb a wily adversary hiding heavy weapons in built-up areas, which would inflict civilian casualties and set back the U.S. campaign for public opinion. Or they can try to attack precisely with low-flying helicopters and ground forces, which could mean losing more U.S. troops. If the fight against the Medina Division ends in just a day or two, or if parts of the unit even surrender without a fight, that will send a powerful signal that the climactic battle for Baghdad won't be as difficult as some have predicted, or won't occur at all.
"But if the 10,000-man Medina division manages to undercut U.S. momentum, and especially if it inflicts heavy casualties in the process, or if it just retreats from a battlefield strewn with dead civilians, then the tone of the war probably will change. A bitter fight that takes a week might even persuade the U.S. military to alter its strategy and dig in to wait for reinforcements from the Army's tank-heavy 4th Infantry Division -- which probably would take at least two or three weeks."
Northern Front Dispatch Tim Judah
Northern Front Dispatch
Tim Judah has a good piece in the NYRB.
On the positive side of the ledger, Judah quotes a Mr. Omar, the leading Kurdish official in the small town of Shoresh (just inside the autonomous Kurdish zone):
"Mr. Omar thinks that not much is going to happen here. That is what the Iraqis across the front line are telling him. According to Mr. Omar, Iraqi officers and ordinary soldiers slip across it several times a week to give him detailed information to pass on to his bosses, and to beg him not to attack when the US-led war begins. He told me: "They are saying they will not fight. They say: 'Just don't attack us, give us time to join you or to escape.'" There have always been contacts between the two sides, he told me, but in the last two months the number of men crossing over to visit him has increased dramatically. He explained that Saddam's men "have a contact who brings them over." They change into civilian clothes and, he said, "they come especially at night."
On another topic, as regular readers know, I've defended a good deal of this Adminstration's diplomatic efforts but have criticized occasional U.S. heavy-handedness in some of our diplomatic efforts (Mexico, Turkey). If this vignette is accurate, it's a prime example of some errors the U.S. made in our approach to Ankara:
"In a largely Muslim country of some 57 million people, well over 90 percent of Turks are opposed to the war and there have been large-scale demonstrations against it. While many in the government and especially in the military believed that Turkey's strategic and economic interests lay in cooperating with the Bush administration, "the Americans," Mr. Dulger complained, had disparaged the Turks as haggling "rug merchants" and "belly-dancers" and had refused to listen to Turkish concerns as a good ally should. In the Foreign Ministry an official told me that when Yashar Yakis, the foreign minister, told President Bush that Turkey had severe problems with the war and with complying with all of America's requests, Mr. Bush brushed him off, saying: "I understand, but now go back to Turkey and do the job." The official thought awhile and said of President Bush: "The man is ill."
Well, I certainly don't think Dubya is ill (perhaps a bit cocksure, occasionally)--but, if true, such an approach was a bit too haughty to take with a Foreign Minister tasked with persuading a government to support an action opposed by approximately 94% of the population. Powell should have flown out to Ankara and done some immediate face to face clean-up after this episode--if indeed it occurred.
That said, the Turks were likely communicating to the Americans that approval of a sizable troop deployment was in the bag--and key interlocuters in Ankara were probably just as stunned as U.S. Administration observers when the parliamentary motion was defeated. Powell and team also likely felt, in the final analysis, that the Army would deliver the Parliament. But with Turkey going through chaotic, historic deliberations over matters they consider of the utmost vitality to their national security (even if many of their fears are exaggerated)--more observers should have been cognizant than anything could happen. And in an environment like that, you don't want the diplomatic wires to get soured because of diktat-like formulations or even the perception that there are Washington whispering campaigns that the Turks are just in it for the cash.
High Baathist Death Toll Good
High Baathist Death Toll Good
Or so says Daniel Drezner in a provocative post. Drezner thinks we reap the gains of a more expeditious de-Baathification in such fashion--making the post-war scene easier to navigate for allied forces. Sorry to say, I think a much better way to go about de-Baathification will be through a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Committee or former Yugoslavia style war crimes tribunal once the conflict is over rather than higher body counts at the present juncture.
Why? Well, for one, there are well over a million potential sympathizers of the Baath Party but a much smaller number of actual Baathist leadership:
"....the Baath Party claimed about 10 percent of the population, a total of 1.5 million supporters and sympathizers; of this total, full party members, or cadres, were estimated at only 30,000, or 0.2 percent. The cadres were the nucleus of party organization, and they functioned as leaders, motivators, teachers, administrators, and watchdogs. Generally, party recruitment procedures emphasized selectivity rather than quantity, and those who desired to join the party had to pass successfully through several apprentice-like stages before being accepted into full membership. The Baath's elitist approach derived from the principle that the party's effectiveness could only be measured by its demonstrable ability to mobilize and to lead the people, and not by "size, number, or form." Participation in the party was virtually a requisite for social mobility. "
There is likely a decent chunk of those 1.5 million Baathist symphathizers that may, at this juncture, still fight sporadically based on varied local dynamics underway during the current chaotic unfurling of the allied campaign (but are increasingly likely to lay down arms as Saddam's regime totters). Rather than calculate that we are making the post-war scene easier to manage by killing large swaths of Baathist supporters now, better to think solely in terms of engaging active resistance that must be defeated to assure success.
Further, and importantly, it is the approximately 30,000 cadre members that are the real objects of a necessary de-Baathification once a coalition victory is secured. And, unlike Drezner, I think these 30,000 are not so embedded into Iraqi society that we won't be able to identify them with relative facility once victory is secured.
Bringing them to justice via tribunals or a truth and reconciliation committee will prove an important mechanism for Iraqi society to grapple with the legacies of a brutish, tribal, neo-Stalinist regime. Running roughshod through population centers like Basra to hunt down tepidly motivated Baathist resistance now, at high cost to civilian lives, will be more likely to imperil the war effort than make for an easier post-war scene.
Dueling Mastheads Redux Pretty gloomy
Dueling Mastheads Redux
Nerve Gas Distributed to Republican
Nerve Gas Distributed to Republican Guard?
WaPo article quoting Ken Pollack contains the alarming contention that chemical agents have been passed along to Republican Guard units defending the capital:
"There are intelligence reports that Iraq has distributed chemical weapons, most likely VX [nerve gas] to the Republican Guard," including the Medina division, said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA analyst of Middle Eastern militaries. When reconnaissance images showed munitions being delivered, he said, they were accompanied by chemical decontamination trucks.
Retired Rear Adm. John Sigler, a former chief planner for the U.S. Central Command, agreed with that assessment, saying, "I don't think you'll see bugs [biological weapons], but you might see gas."
A Chilly Reception from the
A Chilly Reception from the Shi'a in the South?
I am a bit concerned that certain observers are being a tad sanguine about the progress of the campaign (though I want to be careful not to overdramatize the difficulties and am still highly optimistic regarding ultimate coalition success). The key issue currently is that U.S. planners may have overestimated the support the oppressed Shi'a in the south would provide incoming coalition forces. The conventional wisdom in the Beltway was that the Shi'a, long under the brutal yoke of Saddam's predominately Sunni government, would rejoice when forces arrived whose objective was the overthrow of Saddam. The problem, however, is that it appears that many Shi'as assumed that U.S. forces would basically rush up to Baghdad and unseat Saddam and, voila, Saddam gone. Not to mention, Iraqi Shi'a-Sunni relations are a bit more nuanced than commonly appreciated. Regardless, resistance along the way has provoked significant firefights and allied bombing that appears to have reduced much of the good will in that part of the country because of civilian deaths and detiorating humanitarian conditions. Such, of course, are the unpredictabilities of even the best laid war plans.
So what's the key issue right now tactically? Retired Marine Corps General Bernard Trainor has a pretty good take on it:
Question: When we talked just before the war started, you were concerned about the size of the U.S. forces, that they might be too thin. Are the problems in the south attributable to the fact that we don't have enough forces there now?
Trainor: "It's certainly part of it. The military planners assumed that we would have the support of the locals and therefore we did not have to worry about our long, 300-mile supply line. But now we do because we don't have the locals. And the fact that the Iraqis have been able to contest us successfully has probably stiffened the resolve of some of the units which otherwise might have surrendered.
We don't have sufficient depth and weight to make up for that. We probably have enough to do the job--at least I hope we have enough to do the job--unless things really get nasty in downtown Baghdad. But we really don't have enough to complete the security of the entire area until we get more units ashore, and it's going to take at least a couple of more weeks to get the First Armored Division and the First Cavalry Division and the Fourth [Mechanized] Infantry Division. The Fourth Mechanized originally was supposed to go into Turkey, and now its equipment is being rerouted. So the troops are getting stretched rather thin and they are getting a little tired also. I still feel that the unease I expressed the last time we spoke still exists and I have greater grounds for it this time than just the speculation and suppositions I had the last time."
Another reason there is so much anger at Ankara in Washington right now.
March 24, 2003
Ambush Alley Marines have a
Marines have a nickname for the environs of Nasiriya: "ambush alley".
Aside from the unexpectedly high death toll to coalition forces, the story deals prominently with the dangers the recent battles in Nasiriya have presented to civilians in the area:
"Iraqi fighters pushed women and children into the streets to serve as human shields and drive up the civilian death toll, officers said. Civilian casualty numbers were unknown."
"It's not pretty," Officer Woellhof said. "It's not surgical. You want surgical, you should have left the place alone. You try to limit collateral damage, but they want to fight. Now it's just smash mouth football."
I have been worried that, confronted with significant urban resistance (particularly feigned surrenders, possible suicide attacks, "troops" fighting in civilian clothes) the degree of anger, frustration and urgency among allied military forces would ratchet up--leading to more robust (and less precise) tactics that would potentially kill significant numbers of civilians. These are the perhaps inevitable results of pitched battles being fought in unorthodox manner by Iraqis resisting the coalition advance. Of course, no one expected Saddam's thuggish regime to play by Marquess of Queensbury rules.
In addition, Saddam likely realizes that the propaganda value of such carnage, beemed back by Al-Jazeera T.V. crews in places like Basra, is almost as important to his efforts as holding back the coalition advance to Baghdad. Prospects of regional destabilization (I am particularly worried, currently, about Jordan) will be enhanced if the numbers of civilian dead begins to mount into the hundreds and beyond. Such developments, I trust, are still far-fetched. But we can be sure Saddam will enhance the chances of such regional shocks occuring so as to ratchet up pressure on Washington from the international community.
American war planners must remain keenly aware of this dynamic and not, in frustration, begin taking out targets where large numbers of civilians are located with any frequency. The problem is, of course, the lives of coalition troops are on the line as well--what to do when soldiers are being shot and killed from a building where civilians are located too?
The Colonel interviewed for this piece answered this question:
"If he puts his combat forces near hospitals, schools, or anything else that uses that area to direct fire, we will engage the enemy wherever he is shooting at us. The enemy commander is responsible for any collateral damage caused by putting enemy forces near a protected site."
We must hope and pray that such actions are not necessitated too often in the coming days.
UPDATE: The above linked NYT story has been significantly changed since it initially went online. There is no longer a reference to "ambush alley" and some of the quoted language I posted has been removed from the revised version of the story. It appears to me that quoted military personnel were emoting in direct fashion (given the strain of pitched battle) and higher-ups felt the language was too direct. Put simply, it appears as if the story were "sanitized" a bit per Pentagon request. Certainly, in my opinion, Howell Raines wouldn't have made these edits of his own volition.
UPDATE: See below a relevant quote from retired Marine Corps General Bernard Trainor:
Question: Are the Marines and the Army troops under too many constraints? They seem so worried about killing civilians that some people wonder if they are taking unnecessary losses.
Trainor: "That one's a judgment call. I mean somebody comes at you with a white flag. And even though you have to be wary of him, you still must make an assumption he's genuinely surrendering. You just can't shoot him. So that automatically makes you somewhat vulnerable. But there is not much you can do about that except keep your finger on the trigger, and if he makes a false move, then unload on him.
But the other restrictions, are they inhibiting us? Yes they are, but I think justifiably so. I mean, if we are going in there to liberate a place, it doesn't seem to me to be appropriate to take out a lot of civilians in the process of liberating them. For example, the British down around Basra have been wanting to open fire on some ancient T-55 tanks and some artillery pieces that the Iraqi military has in the suburbs of Basra. They are not getting the permission [to do so]. Why? Because if they fired on them, there would be collateral damage and civilian casualties. So, I think that's understandable. It's frustrating some of the military but then you have to find means around them. Properly so, the president said the war is not with Iraqis but with the Baathist regime."
French and German Media Coverage
French and German Media Coverage of the War in Iraq
Another must read from John Vinocur at the IHT.
The Baghdad Blogger The Guardian
The Baghdad Blogger
One of the most poignant entries I noted over at his blog was his mixed feelings about pictures of Iraqis surrendering in the south. Even for this Westernized, "pro-liberation" Baghdadi, feelings of discomfort and humiliation arise when he sees his people surrendering to foreign forces.
"On BBC we are watching scenes of Iraqis surrendering. My youngest cousin was muttering “what shame” to himself, yes it is better for them to do that but still seeing them carrying that white flag makes something deep inside you cringe."
This is yet another example of the complexities that await U.S. forces during these momentous times. As Dave Ignatius writes in the WaPo:
"It's a criminal regime, and they execute everyone, for one word, even," said a 14-year-old boy named Mohammed, who said one of his brothers had been executed. Asked what kind of government he wanted to see in the future, a jubilant farmer named Salem Muhsen answered: "Anything but Saddam's terrorism." Two of his cousins had been executed, he said, for the crime of traveling to Kuwait to sell their vegetables. This was the face of Iraqi liberation. The farmers had gathered at the Safwan intersection, the same spot where the peace treaty ending the 1991 Gulf War had been signed.
"Yet soon after these happy sentiments were voiced, a battered white Toyota pickup arrived at the intersection bearing the bodies of two men who apparently died during American attacks. Cradling them was a woman dressed in black, who said the men were her father and brother. She wailed inconsolably, denouncing the American invaders. Her anguish was so intense that when she arrived in the nearby town of Safwan, reporters there said the anti-American mood turned ugly."
UPDATE: Salam Pax had just advised that he had lost Internet access and his server crashed due to huge incoming traffic. He advises that he will be posting a new entry soon.
UPDATE: An IHT story on blogs.
March 23, 2003
The Neo-Sacco-Vanzetti Types Are even
The Neo-Sacco-Vanzetti Types
Are even bugging the anti-war crowd in the Bay Area:
"The protesters are acting like sore losers," said Aitan Melamud, a retired urologist, as he watched a protest outside Bechtel Corp. headquarters Friday morning. "Like if they can't have their way, then we can't go on with our lives."
Said Smears Rudy! Remember the
Said Smears Rudy!
Remember the $10,000,000 million that Saudi Prince Prince Ibn Al-Walid wanted to donate to NYC after 9/11? Then Mayor Rudolph Guiliani turned away the donation because of the below comments:
"I believe the government of the United States should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause," he added, calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"Our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis as the world (looks the other way)," said Walid, listed by Forbes Magazine as the sixth-richest man in the world with a fortune of more than 20 billion dollars."
When informed of Walid's comments, Giuliani retorted: "I entirely reject that statement. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered four or five thousand innocent people, and to suggest that there is a justification for it only invites this happening in the future," he said. "It is highly irresponsible and very, very dangerous. Not only are those statements wrong, they are part of the problem." [Note: The 4,000-5,000 figure, readers will recall, was the number observers thought dead through most of September 2001]
I believe Guiliani was spot on given that Walid's suggested linkage between Palestinian national aspirations and 9/11 was reprehensible. First, no matter how deep seated one's grievances about U.S. policy in the Middle East, the intentional murder of civilians wholly divorced from the conflict is unjustifiable. Second, recall that the first WTC bombing occurred in 1993--highwater mark of rosy Oslo talk with Rabin and Arafat feted on the White House lawn. The enhanced prospects for a Palestinian state then didn't stop theologically driven barbarians from attempting mass slaughter in our greatest city. It was disingenuous, tasteless and, yes, dangerous for the Prince to couple his gift with comments regarding how such actions might be caused by U.S. policy in the Middle East. Dangerous as they seem to provide justification for pursuit of, perhaps legitimate causes, through acts of grotesque violence.
What of Edward Said's take? In a piece ostensibly about a disunited wartime America (seemingly the length of a Tolstoyan tome) Said opines thus:
"In a fit of petulant rage, the then Mayor of New York (which also has the largest Jewish population of any city in the world), Rudolph Guiliani, returned the check to Al-Walid, rather unceremoniously and with an extreme and I would say racist contempt that was meant to be insulting as well as gloating. On behalf of a certain image of New York, he personally was upholding the city's demonstrated bravery and its principled resistance to outside interference. And of course pleasing, rather than trying to educate, a purportedly unified Jewish constituency."
Perhaps Said should forsake the pages of the Nation and other assorted leftish precincts and start submitting pieces over at the American Conservative?
Meanwhile, in a sloppy piece (gosh, doesn't even get Wolfy's title right!) written by one Josh Reubner, Paul Wolfowitz is derisively labelled a "court Jew" and urged to resign.
Who Lost Russia? Martin Indyk
Who Lost Russia?
Martin Indyk thinks Dubya did. He argues that failure to get Russia on board was the key variable that prevented the U.S. from getting a second UNSC resolution. (The latest "blame it on the bad diplomacy" argument, some earlier ones I addressed here.)
Indyk: "The failure lay not with the French but with the way we ignored the Russians. Remember Vladimir Putin? Up until last week, his alignment with the United States was the single greatest achievement of this president's personal diplomacy. Despite the Bush administration's trampling of Russian interests in abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Putin made a personal decision to forge a strategic partnership with the United States. On that basis, the Russian president was willing to abandon decades of Soviet and Russian support for Hussein. In the 1990s such an approach was inconceivable. The Yeltsin government, under the guidance of longtime Middle East hand Yevgeny Primakov, developed a strategic as well as commercial rationale for maintaining close ties with Baghdad. But after 9/11, Putin developed a very different strategic calculus -- that Russia's future lay in partnership with Washington, not Baghdad."
Indyk underestimates the continuing Primakov hangover effect on Iraq policy that colors the judgement of large swaths of the Russian foreign policy elite on matters related to Iraq. Putin, it is likely, communicated to Dubya that he would not be able to actively support a second resolution given a Soviet and then Russian policy that viewed Iraq as akin to a client state. All this said, however, particularly after the French dismissed the British bridging proposal out of hand, it is not inconceivable that the Russians would have abstained rather than vetoed a second resolution had it come to a vote. Regardless, however, this is less a failure of U.S. diplomacy than a reflection of special Russian realities that Putin had to navigate regarding Iraq policy.
Indyk goes on to write: "The Bush administration simply assumed that Putin was in the president's pocket and took him for granted. Even last week, when the president appeared to begin the effort to repair the damage in the Security Council, he chose to fete the president of Cameroon at a private White House dinner. Where was Putin? Left clamoring from the sidelines for the president's attention by personally criticizing our actions in Iraq."
Come again? From where does Indyk corroborate that Dubya assumed he had Putin in his pocket? The fact that the president of Cameroon had dinner at the White House has nothing to do with the conduct of our diplomacy with Russia over the past several months with the UNSC.
The most powerful argument regarding the shortcomings of American diplomacy since the entire U.N. process began on September 12th with Dubya's speech hasn't been widely aired yet. It is that we should have been more proactive about the potential for French trouble-making at the UNSC. In other words, we took Dominique de Villepin too much at his word that he would be willing to vote a second resolution if, per a good faith determination, a judgement were made that Saddam wasn't fully complying with 1441.
We should have, way back in December, for instance, devised highly specific targets that Saddam would have to meet and gotten the French to say on the record that, without Saddam meeting those requirements, Paris would support a second resolution calling for "serious consequences." In other words, rather than amorphous "material breach" language that the French could argue Saddam wasn't in violation of--we should have preemptively pinned Paris down on a specific series of actions Baghdad would have had to take by a time certain.
All this said, of course, hindsight is 20-20. Who could have expected that the French would have chosen this juncture to re-assert neo-Gaullist projects in contravention of matters of immense import to international security? But, aside from occasional heavy-handedness with allies like Turkey or Mexico or a dearth of what former Secretary of State George Schultz calls "gardening" (patient, routinized maintenance of alliance relationships), or a few Rumsfeldian excesses--I think the U.S. diplomatic effort was just fine, thank-you. The ultimate problem was that countries like Germany and France were (and are) still dwelling in a pre-9/11 modality--still not fully cognizant of the dangers presented by the intersection of WMD, transnational terror groups and rogue regimes. And, of course, Paris grabbed an opportunity to counter the hyperpuissance during a high-profile crisis to ratchet up their international profile a few notches--a short-sighted strategy that is bound to backfire.
March 22, 2003
Poor Editing Department In a
Poor Editing Department
In a NYT story about a Navy Seals operation to gain control of several oil platforms:
"Swooping silently out of the Persian Gulf night, Navy Seals seized two Iraqi offshore oil terminals in bold raids that ended early this morning, overwhelming lightly armed Iraqi guards and claiming a bloodless victory in the battle for Iraq's vast oil empire." [my emphasis]
Did Joshkha Fischer's Greens pen this piece? Or the "newspaper of record"? C'mon Howell, less sloppy, please.
Jacques Wants Another Resolution Tussle!
Jacques Wants Another Resolution Tussle!
Not even three days into the conflict, Mr. Chirac is already looking ahead expansively towards the post-war scene! One might expect a little more solemnity and fellow-feeling now that troops are engaged in combat, non?
"Mr Chirac, in his end-of-summit press conference, also toughened his rhetoric against the war allies, claiming their action "breached international legality". His words reflect a French determination that having failed to stop the war, it will attempt to set the terms of the peace through the UN."
French diplomatic miscalculations and folie de grandeur, already embarrasing, look set to go on for a while it appears. As for breaches of international legality, I've addressed that earlier here.
Meanwhile, Le Monde reports a sudden request from Qatar (ie, Tommy Frank's HQ) to the French Defense Ministry for some chem/bio decontamination personnel to be deployed (relevant story at bottom of this link, sorry no time to translate). Perhaps some nascent Iraq-related U.S.-Franco cooperation is taking place to mend fences a bit? Anyone with more information on this please let me know.
By the way, is it just me, or is Le Monde and Le Figaro's coverage pretty slanted today? They certainly aren't headlining stories about the jubilant reaction to the arrival of U.S. and U.K. troops in certain villages in southern Iraq that even the Guardian and the NYT prominently covered. Sour grapes that the land of the French Revolution isn't involved in liberating a brutally subdued people?
Saddam on a Stretcher? This
Saddam on a Stretcher?
This story, of course, is in the fog of war department, ie. veracity unknown.
UPDATE: A must-read from John Burns.
"But what has added mystery to the story since Thursday is that Mr. Hussein, normally inclined to issue long, discursive, grandiose philippics at times of crisis, has simply disappeared. All he has left to Iraq's 24 million people at a time of crisis is Thursday's five-minute, disjointed, hand-lettered denunciation of the "criminal little Bush," and his vow to Iraqis that "these days will add to your glorious history."
"Today, attempts by reporters to gain some elucidation met with a blank wall. At a news conference, an American reporter asked when Mr. Hussein would be making another address on the war to the Iraqi people. "Next!" the information minister, Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf, said sharply, beckoning to another reporter for a new question. Moments later, another reporter tried again. Had the minister seen Mr. Hussein in person at any time in the last few days. "Next! Next!" Mr. Sahhaf replied, still more testily, then demanded: "Please ask something reasonable."
Rumsfeld's Hubris The NYT has
The NYT has a masthead which is mostly a matter of fact recitation of the dramatic events of the past 24 hours. It also contains the following:
"Reporters in Baghdad say that civilian neighborhoods are near some of the targets, so some civilian casualties can be expected. Secretary Rumsfeld, in hubristic remarks that could come back to haunt him, stressed that today's weapons had "a precision no one ever dreamt of" in the past. He said every target was carefully analyzed, the most appropriate weapon selected, and the approach and time of day carefully picked in a humane effort to minimize the loss of civilian lives. There is evidence that the attacks are indeed carefully calibrated. The lights in Baghdad remained on, the water was running and the phones were working, reflecting a determination to avoid damage that would disrupt the lives of the residents. But technical glitches can thwart the best-made plans, and even a few errant bombs or missiles could cause substantial civilian damage....given the administration's insistence that it can pick its targets precisely."
I have to say I agree with some of these sentiments (though Howell, of course, pushes a bit with the "haunt" language). I caught Don Rumsfeld's press conference last night. He appeared overly defensive regarding comparisons between what is underway in Baghdad with Dresden-style fire bombing or the Christmas bombing of Hanoi. We are all aware that there is no valid comparison to be made to these previous bombing campaigns--that the precision weaponry being employed in Iraq is highly sophisticated and commands a great degree of accuracy. And yet, this is not a wholly clinical exercise with guaranteed results. I'm all for hitting with maximum pressure targets of Saddam's regime per "shock and awe." It is important that symbols of his power are dismantled promptly in dramatic fashion to enhance the chances of massive capitulation by large swaths of the Army--especially in the predominately Sunni areas where there is likely to be more resistance.
But there was too much of the Bob McNamara as described in David Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest" in Rummy last night. In an almost annoyed tone, he described how much care was going into the target selection, even the timing of the bombings--so as to minimize the chances of civilian deaths. All true, doubtless, but let's be a bit more modest about the effect "shock and awe" has on civilians--including the vast majority who will emerge unschathed. Liberation may be sweet and anxiously awaited by the vast majority of the residents of Baghdad--but thousand pound bombs impacting your city is sure to be a terrifying experience. Let's all be sure to remember that during the coming days.
Random Anti-War Movement Roundup Snippets
Random Anti-War Movement Roundup
Snippets from the anti-war crowd looniness.
No Sleep Deprivation Here: In one protestors words: "I literally went to sleep and came back out to hit the streets again." Well, hot damn! The fellow protested, went home to get some shut-eye, and then "hit the streets again." A hero!
Stop the Presses!: The San Francisco Chronicle, on what is, to be sure, a busy news day, prominently headlines a story on opposition to the war by Mexican lesbians.
Rap Mogul Watch: P Diddy (or Puff Daddy, or Bad Boy, or whatever else this risible figure calls himself), he who, when not in proximity to Times Square club shootings parades around St. Tropez with bodyguards like a bufoon, is against the war. This opposition, of course, to be swiftly categorized in the moronic inferno department.
Sophisticated Tactics: Note too, "anarchists" are using "sophisticated tactics" during their protests: "The breakaway march wound its way through the city, using a number of sophisticated tactics to out-manoeuver the police. At times they stopped quickly and reversed direction."
Now that's absolutely brilliant, isn't it?
Bad Food: Some SanFran protesters spent the night in jail. Grievances abound, including: "They griped that their requests for water or food were ignored or delayed for hours. When they did get fed, they got cheese or peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches that didn't taste great."
"Those who were released Friday whooped it up as they reunited with their friends outside San Francisco County Jail on Seventh Street. A group of women hugged and cried. Many declined to give their real names as they ate hot cereal and drank tea provided by supporters.
I'm free -- no charges, no papers. Bonjour, mon ami!" exclaimed one man in a bright yellow sweatshirt."
A new rallying cry?
March 21, 2003
Cheers in Safwan Yes, people
Cheers in Safwan
Yes, people are feeling liberated (at least near Basra) as coalition troops advance:
"In Safwan, just across the border with Kuwait in southern Iraq, civilians greeted the First Marine Division with cheers today as they entered the town. After capturing the town, some of the marines pulled down pictures of the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein."
Turkey Update I take a
I take a good deal of what I read at Debka with a grain of salt as I suspect there is a decent amount of Mossad disinformation posted on the site (perhaps, roughly, a quarter of the information). But I'm seeing corroboration of the below elsewhere:
"Fresh flare-up of US-Turkish military frictions. Ankara holds back permission for American over-flights in reprisal for US denial of Turkish troop entry into northern Iraq.
If things continue to go relatively smoothly in the South, and there are no Stalingrad-like scenarios awaiting in Baghdad or Tikrit, the North may well prove the prickliest problem.
UPDATE: At the Pentagon briefing today Don Rumsfeld stated that it would be "notably unhelpful" for Turkish troops to go, in significant numbers, further into Turkey than the so-called refugee buffer zone. He also said it appeared discussions had reached an "end" regarding Turkish-U.S. cooperation on Iraq--ie. even the drastically scaled down U.S. request for air transit rights does not appear like it will be granted and, per Rumsfeld, no future U.S. requests for help appear in the offing. Turkish-U.S. relations have clearly taken quite a beating in the past month or so.
UPDATE II: Turkish troops (1,000-1,500) entering Iraq.
"A few days ago, a U.S. Special Forces team operating in northern Iraq ran into trouble with Iraqi forces and requested air support. Turkey -- still negotiating the terms of granting overflights -- rejected a request to use its airspace, administration officials said yesterday. While the U.S. forces escaped unharmed, Turkey's refusal stunned Pentagon and State Department officials, who said U.S.-Turkish relations have hit a nadir after years of close cooperation."
Tony Blair's Conviction Today brings
Tony Blair's Conviction
Today brings grim reports of the death of eight British commandos and four U.S. soldiers in a chopper crash. And it also serves to remind us that, far from a rhetorical flourish, Tony Blair meant it when he said the U.K. would stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the U.S. throughout the war on terror. It is impossible to predict what will occur in the coming months in Iraq or perhaps in further trouble spots in the months and years ahead. But, for now, it bears mentioning that Tony Blair has honored his pledge in letter and in spirit. The British PM, for instance, could have arranged that the 40,000 or so U.K. troops based in Kuwait were somewhat of a fig-leaf--remaining in rear bases and following U.S. forces towards Basra in "clean-up" mode.
That they are anything but is a testament to Tony Blair's convictions. He believes (soberly, intelligently) in the justness of the cause. He believes Saddam was given a peaceful option out. He is now facing the moments of greatest difficulty for a nation's leader--committing his sons and daughters to potential (and now, actual) death on the battlefield. There will be much speculation about what Blair (or the UK) had to "gain" by standing by the U.S. during the war on Iraq. But beyond such short-term calculations Tony Blair will have earned a far rarer honor--history will smile upon him as a man of conviction and honor--not a cynical, cloying new Labourite devotee of polling and slick, modish campaigns.
Blair firmly believes the intersection of WMD, transnational terror, and rogue regimes represents a clear and present danger. In the face of strong internal opposition, he has rallied his party to action. He is the best the world has on hand in an era marked by the dearth of great leaders and significant perils. We should applaud him.
Was Saddam the Man in
Was Saddam the Man in the Taped Broadcast?
The debate continues.
"Officials also said they were receiving conflicting analysis of the identity of the man in the broadcast, noting that Hussein has long been reported to use doubles as a precaution against assassination. Technical analysts, who used digital enhancement techniques and triangulation measurements of facial proportions, assessed that the broadcast depicted the real Hussein. But the government also consulted Parisoula Lampsos, who the Defense Department believes has passed a polygraph examination in support of her claim that she was Hussein's mistress in Iraq for many years. Lampsos has previously distinguished Hussein from his doubles in more than a dozen cases, one official said, and this time she said he was not the man in the broadcast."
March 20, 2003
Bill Moyers on Flag Pins
Bill Moyers on Flag Pins
Moyer's provides us with an example of grotesque moral relativism:
"I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us."
The U.S. is specifically making best efforts to strike at targets that butress one of the most brutish regimes of the 20th century so as to topple it as expeditiously as possible with minimum collateral damage. UBL's attack on the WTC was aimed at creating the greatest amount of carnage possible in NYC with the express intent of murdering thousands of civilians. And Moyer's equates these two actions?
Reticent Ankara The U.S.-Turkish relationship
The U.S.-Turkish relationship continues to detiorate:
"Today's developments caused an immediate plunge in stocks here. They also represented a setback for American military planning and reflected a serious strain in relations between Turkey and the United States, longtime allies and NATO partners."These two countries are strong partners," said a senior Turkish government official. But, the official added: "If you said there would be no impact on our relationship, that's unrealistic. There is going to be a sort of mark, especially on the American side. They are more upset than we are."
Clearly, the amount of influence Turkey will have in a post-Saddam Iraq continues to diminish from Washington's perspective. The question is, will it diminish so much that Ankara will feel compelled to protect its own interests by force in contravention of U.S. policy objectives?
UPDATE: Airspace transit (with limitations) approved.
WMD Attack? Mais Qui, We
WMD Attack? Mais Qui, We Shall Help! (Well, Sorta)
Much noise yesterday regarding statements from French sources that, should Iraq employ WMD during the conflict, "that would change completely...the situation" and the French would support U.S forces.
Well, let's not get carried away:
France's ambassador in Washington, Jean-David Levitte, appeared to offer an olive branch to the United States on Tuesday when he told CNN that France could help the U.S.-led military coalition if Baghdad used biological or chemical arms. But French diplomats in Paris made clear this was not a change in France's refusal to join the war. "It is obvious we wouldn't sit back and not help if there was a chemical attack. But what we are talking about is medical assistance," one said. [my emphasis]
Keep the ambulances, Jacques. We've got plenty.
John Burns Regular readers might
Regular readers might wonder, if you disparage the NYT so much, why do you continue reading it? One reason is John Burns, who in my opinion, is the greatest correspondent the NYT has. Who can forget his tremendously heartfelt yet sober, elegant yet blunt, panoramic yet highly specific reportage during the height of the Sarajevo seige? Via Andrew Sullivan, here's what Burns had to say on PBS last night:
"Iraqis have suffered beyond, I think, the common understanding of the United States from the repression of the past 30 years here. And many, many Iraqis are telling us now, not always in the whispers he have heard in the past but now in quite candid conversations, that they are waiting for America to come and bring them liberty. It's very hard though for anybody to understand this. It can only be understood in terms of the depth of the repression here. It has to be said that this not universal of course... All I can tell you is that as every reporter who has come over here will attest to this, there is the most extraordinary experience of the last few days has been a sudden breaking of the ice here, with people in every corner of life coming forward to tell us that they understand what America is about in this. They are very, very fearful of course of the bombing, of damage to Iraq's infrastructure. They are very concerned about the kind of governance, the American military governance, that they will come under afterward. Can I just say that there is also no doubt - no doubt - that there are many, many Iraqis who see what is about to happen here as the moment of liberation."
We must hope this war proceeds with minimum civilian casualties and expeditiously. We must hope for, as rapidly as it is safe to do so, allowing Iraqis to gain control of their polity so that a swaggering MacArthur like figure doesn't become a lighting rod for anti-American sentiment through the region. But these hugely important variables aside, read intently what Burns is stating: Saddamism (a brutish, tribal form of neo-Stalinism) is beginning to crumble under the pressure Dubya has placed on the Baathist regime even before the war has begun in earnest. And, most Iraqis would view Saddam's displacement as a liberation. Of course no one wants to be liberated under a hail of bombs--yet still Iraqis are "waiting for America to come and bring them liberty" knowing, tragically, that massive bombing campaigns are imminent.
Burns isn't some impressionable young hack, some Pyle-like figure out of a Graham Greene novel--full of Yankee idealism and thirsting to bring democracy to the natives. This is a great war correspondent who has been around the block for decades telling us something very important--that most Iraqis view the potential fruits of this war as their liberation. What could be more important?
Of Priorities The NYT, on
The NYT, on the first full day of the war, takes us on a long, strange trip through California.
Money quote: "During some lunchtime and office-cooler chatter there has even been longing for President Clinton, a Hollywood favorite, who, the reasoning goes, would never have allowed a war to play havoc with Oscar night, one of the state's most hallowed traditions."
No, I'm not making this up.
Meanwhile, the NYT goes on to do one of its representative "mood of the nation" pieces. This time, however, we are treated to a tour d'horizon focused solely on NYC. Who, you might wonder, are the representative New Yorkers?
An upper west side family whose matriarch advises: "We're a family here...and there's all these families over there, with kids (her 18 month old son is conveniently lolling about during the interview squealing), and they don't have anything to do with this war"; a solitary protestor in Union Square with a poster sign entitled "George You Ignorant Slut"; a chef waiting for a bus who, perhaps resulting from a professional deformation, advises that the commencement of hostilities makes him "sick to my stomach"; a guy called Lars on the No. 1 train reading "The Great Gatsby" who states: "this concerns me only because I don't believe we gave peace a chance (Dominique wasn't available for a soundbite on the downtown train)"; Avenue A kids listening to a Japanese noise band at a cafe opining "This war is so wrong, I'm completely against it"; and a hapless fellow at a Little Italy cafe who wants the Knicks game on over CNN footage from Iraq.
Any balance? Any pro-intervention sentiment is disparaged in barely concealed fashion. Back at the bus terminal, we have a pro-war guy trotted out by the NYT whose favorite film is "Patton" (jingoist fool, right?), as well as veterans, one of whom is mockingly quoted as stating "Thanks God for satellite TV, we didn't watch WWII like this," and, and that's about it folks.
The message is clear: NYC doesn't want Bush's bloody war--or at least Howell's blatantly biased rendition of the city doesn't.
"Decapitation" Attack Attempted But apparently
"Decapitation" Attack Attempted
But apparently this initial salvo of the war has not met its objective:
"According to two senior military officials, American forces launched about three dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles from four cruisers and destroyers and two submarines operating in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf as part of an effort to kill Mr. Hussein, his two sons and other senior members of the leadership. Two F-117A Stealth fighters each dropped two one-ton satellite-guided bombs. But the initial attack was described as limited in scope, and fell short of the far more intense strikes to come. Military officials said the more limited attack was intended to demonstrate that the United States would act on timely intelligence to strike what one official called "targets of opportunity."
Meanwhile, in an unmistakeable signal that the U.S. can prosecute the war in Iraq while fighting the war on terror (at least for those who maintain these are two separate conflicts like Jane Perlez does in this article) a military operation of some importance was begun in Afghanistan seemingly timed to coincide with the advent of hostilities in Iraq.
March 19, 2003
Visionary Policy or Operetta-Style Gaullism?
Visionary Policy or Operetta-Style Gaullism?
Veteran IHT man and long-time Euroscene observer John Vinocur has a piece sketching the initial outlines of increasing Germano-Franco regretfulness regarding the fervor of their anti-U.S. Iraq stance.
Look for this soul-searching to build momentum and last, in Paris and Berlin, for many months to come.
Remember Tom Hayden? He's come
Remember Tom Hayden?
He's come up with what might be the single dumbest anti-Dubya protest phraseology I've heard yet during his paen to civil disobedience:
"Mr. Bush, if you don't listen to our no, if you keep bashing the Europeans, if you keep joking about French fries, your white bread is gonna be French toast."
Another winner: "No to Code Yellow, yes to Code Pink."
Might someone help translate this recycled Haight-Ashbury mish-mash? I'm baffled and thousands of miles from the Bay Area.
Vidal Redux He's back. Gore
He's back. Gore Vidal is now busy acting as UBL's legal counsel: "I can't tell you how tightly controlled this place is and it's beginning to show, because talk radio and so on --I've done a lot of that lately --the questions you get, the people are so confused. They don't know where Iraq is. They think Saddam Hussein, because he's an evil person, deliberately blew up the twin towers in Manhattan. He didn't. That was Osama bin Laden or somebody else. We still don't know because there has been no investigation of that, as Congress and the constitution require. So we are totally in the dark and we have a president who is even in a greater darkness, who's totally uninformed about the world, leading us into war because, because because."
Mass Surrenders According to the
"Relying on human intelligence - British and US special forces already within Iraq who are observing Iraqi military movements as well as establishing contacts - and covert aerial surveillance, it is estimated that 73 per cent of the regular Iraqi army in the south of the country has already made up its mind to surrender to British and US troops. In one dramatic example, the reports note that a US "psy ops" - psychological operation - unit dropped leaflets on Iraq's 51st Mechanised Division on March 9 and March 10. Four days later, 20 per cent of the division had deserted and was no longer in the area. "Many of those who have already gone are reporting that the rest are preparing to surrender," said an intelligence officer."
Defection rates are lower closer to Baghdad--but even among elite troops located in the capital fidelity to the regime appears quite brittle.
Turkey Watch The Times of
The Times of London is reporting that Turkish troops are amassing on the border with Iraq (and have already inserted some troops). I think that if a significant number of these troops go in beyond a 10-12 kilometer refugee control buffer zone problems with the Kurds could start happening sooner rather than later. I really hope Washington is very much on top of this situation.
Note: The Times journalist ignores another possible reason Ankara may go in--to protect the Turkomen (aka Turkmen or Turkomans) minority located in the Kurdish region (whether as a pretext or because of actual Kurdish trouble-making with that minority).
Quote from Turkomen source: "We do not want war with the Kurds because they are our brothers. But some from the Kurdish political parties -- extremist Kurdish groups -- are looking hungrily at our cities. In such cases, these parties are causing provocations between Turkmen and Kurds. We have no problem with the Kurds, but we cannot accept the views of some Kurdish political parties," Ziya said.
Sure, but is Kirkuk, for instance, Turkomen or Kurdish? Well, needless to say, there will be many such questions to sort out once the war is over. Let's just hope these questions will ultimately be settled peacefully--with minimum meddling from outside powers like Turkey or Iran.
Oh, and yes, the Turkomen have a website. And no one is rooting for a federated (let alone independent) Kurdistan on it.
On the Brink What to
On the Brink
What to say? Apologies for the light postings today but, like the rest of the world, I am in a waiting (rather than writing/posting) mode. We are clearly on the cusp of momentous events. My biggest fears at this juncture are a WMD attack on coalition troops or civilian centers in the neighborhood--as well as potential Turkish-Kurdish fighting with U.S. GI's thrown in a quasi-belligerent stance vis-a-vis a NATO ally. I hear that the Beltway barometer is looking at a three week time frame, ie. fewer than three weeks with Saddam out and no calamities a solid Bush win. If it drags on longer, if not quite a dreaded Mesopotamian Stalingrad, concerns grow. In the meantime, like all responsible individuals, we must hope for minimum casualties on all sides. More soon.
Short Update In the interests
In the interests of housekeeping, it should be noted that I was wrong about Clare Short. She appears to be standing by the PM. Also, if you haven't had a chance to read Tony Blair's speech to the Commons it is well worth checking out.
March 18, 2003
Kalorama Revisionism Watch Joshua Micah
Kalorama Revisionism Watch
Joshua Micah Marshall sees ambiguities aplenty in 1441 thus precipitating the alleged diplomatic trainwreck. What's the Marshallian appraisal of the past six odd months of diplomacy at the UNSC? Basically, he comes down like this: "The rest of the Council didn't like being wriggled. And that's how we got where we are. They felt like they'd been played. And, to a real degree, they had."
Why and how did we wriggle the UNSC and get burned? Basically because, wink-wink, we got all the parties to sign up to Resolution 1441 by employing what Kissinger might call "constructive ambiguity." We were looking for truly unfettered, unobstructed, proactive cooperation from Baghdad--while the French and their ilk were basically looking for a more muscular Blixian poking around--but certainly not South African or Kazakh style voluntary disarmament.
Not only that, but if you buy Marshall's take, the ambiguity really got heady when it came to the automaticity question. Alleged non-compliance with 1441, more material breaches, were to be given further consideration at the UNSC. Marshall trundles out the following John Negroponte quote, evidently to support the contention that a second UNSC vote was required per the "legislative record" one would employ to analyze, in legal fashion, the "intent" of the 1441 drafters:
"There's no 'automaticity' and this is a two-stage process, and in that regard we have met the principal concerns that have been expressed for the resolution. Whatever violation there is, or is judged to exist, will be dealt with in the council, and the council will have an opportunity to consider the matter before any other action is taken."
O.K., and so what? Here's how the process was supposed to work, quite clearly, per the language of Resolution 1441. Pursuant to Paragraph 4, "...failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below..."
The key graf in the context of Marshall's analysis is 12 which reads: " [The UNSC] Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security."
There is no express requirement for a second UNSC vote on the matter. There is an express requirement to "convene" and "consider" the situation. This has been done numerous times since the inspections began--including yesterday morning. No serious observer, including previously liberal hawks like Marshall, deny that Saddam is in further material breach as compared to early November when the resolution was passed. Further, there were numerous Administration comments, even right before the November resolution was passed, that stated that no explicit requirement existed for a second resolution. In other words, Marshall's drafter's "intent" argument falls flat on that score.
The problem isn't that the U.S. "played" the UNSC--the problem is that the French deceived Powell on the seriousness of their intent to pursue 1441 with vigor and objectivity. Beyond that, what we have is, as Dubya pointed out, a failure of will--among actors as varied as Cameroon, Mexico and previous Ken Pollack aficionados like Josh Marshall.
As the moment approached to actually make a momentous decision--these varied actors wavered fearful of the fog of war scenarios--how many Iraqis will die, whither NATO, whither the U.N, will there be Kurdish-Turkish fighting, will Israel be drawn into the conflict, will chemical weapons be used etc? All valid fears and concerns--but they don't address the integrity of Resolution 1441 and the need to honor its letter and spirit.
We must hope the war proceeds expeditiously, with minimum casualties on all sides. We must hope for a viable, unitary federated Iraq with few revanchist killings in the chaotic aftermath of combat. And, contra Glenn Reynold's ruminations, the U.S. must lead with magnanimity, bringing in old allies like Germany and France (however distasteful a notion) after the war is over to assist with post-war reconstruction. And there must also be serious efforts to resuscitate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations--perhaps including the appointment of a special envoy who will devote all his or her time to implementing the long-delayed roadmap.
But let's keep in mind that no mortal blows have yet been delivered either the Western alliance or the U.N. And no feverish revisionism, whether from the Tom Daschle crowd or the French, is merited. What we need now is resolve and will--which this Administration is displaying to the international community in impressive fashion. They should be applauded for it--rather then subjected to daily and hyperbolic attacks about the failure of their diplomatic efforts.
Dueling Mastheads! Well, Howell is
Well, Howell is certainly putting his cards on the table. In a NYT's masthead that is embarrasingly hyperbolic Howell's gang opines as follows: "This war crowns a period of terrible diplomatic failure, Washington's worst in at least a generation. The Bush administration now presides over unprecedented American military might. What it risks squandering is not America's power, but an essential part of its glory."
"At least a generation." Is that code for post-Vietnam? And, if so, does this mean that not being able to get a second resolution passed after securing 1441 with unanimity because a Perm 5 member was to veto regardless ranks with Carter's inglorious handling of the Iran hostage crisis, or the embarrasing episodes of Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia? The United States barely lifted a finger in the face of 1 million slaughtered in Rwanda--and the U.N. had never looked as impotent (well, until now) as during the horrors of Srebrenica when 8,000 were slaughtered under the watchful eyes of the world. These were pretty lousy diplomatic episodes--at least in my book.
Contrast the dread on the Hudson to the sober level-headedness on the Potomac per today's WaPo masthead:
"Mr. Bush is right in insisting that Saddam Hussein face the "serious consequences" unanimously agreed upon by the United Nations Security Council in the event Iraq rejected a "final opportunity" to disarm. Though they agreed to those terms, France and Russia refused to respect them; they argued, as they did throughout the 1990s, that no forceful action should be taken against Saddam Hussein. In recent weeks their diplomats did their best to transform the United Nations' attempt to eliminate a rogue state's chemical and biological weapons into a global debate about the United States and its leadership -- and to a large extent, they succeeded. Whether their underlying intention was to protect the Iraqi regime or to create a political mechanism for containing the United States -- or, as they claimed, simply to avert war -- they made it impossible for the Security Council to act effectively. Their claim that no legitimate military action can take place without further U.N. approval, echoed by some Bush administration opponents in the United States, is groundless. The Security Council has explicitly sanctioned armed force only a few times in its history; most interventions have occurred without it, including several initiated by the Clinton administration and others by France. As Mr. Bush said last night: "This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will."
They too go on to criticize the Administration, in more muted and rational fashion, regarding some of the shortcomings of the diplomatic effort. But the WaPo keeps the bigger picture in mind regarding the critical importance of exercising the will of the international community to preserve the integrity of 1441. This is far superior analysis compared to the hysterical shrieks emanating from the NYT's editorial board. More and more people are going to start getting this in the months ahead, I suspect.
Aside: It also bears mentioning, in this context, that the dissolution of the Soviet Union and thus the bipolar international system was bound to lead to increasing transatlantic strains. Immediately upon the re-unification of Germany, for instance, Bonn moved to recognize Slovenia and Croatia (perhaps too rapidly and without enough consultation with Belgrade) in contravention of Washington's desires. Such hasty diplomatic moves helped contribute to miscalculations that expedited the wars of Yugoslav succession--several conflicts in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and (almost) Macedonia.
Rememer too the cocksure European pronouncements that the "hour of Europe" had arrived--European powers would handle their nettlesome southern slavs and get them to behave in more civilized Vienna-like fashion. Of course, European diplomacy in the Balkans, because of a combination of impotence and internal division, was thoroughly ineffective. Richard Holbrooke had to save the day at Dayton.
But the point here is that European powers were spoiling to play more of a leadership role and step out from under Washington's shadow after the death of the Soviet Empire. I'm not saying that the current deep divide between Washington, on the one hand, and the Brussels-Berlin-Paris triumvirate, on the other, was inevitable--but there are historical forces at play here above and beyond Colin Powell not travelling enough during the latest diplomatic rounds or occasional heavy-handedness by our envoys in far flung spots like Mexico City, Ankara or, ahem, Yaounde. And it would be nice if the NYT deigned to point out such other variables once in a while--instead of constantly laying all the blame on Dubya's doorstep.
Dubya's Ultimatum Just heard the
Just heard the presidential address. Best line (I think before reviewing the transcript tomorrow) had to do with Dubya's Iraq policy not being a "question of authority" but a "question of will." He also continued to apply maximum pressure on Saddam by issuing an ultimatum for only the Iraqi leader and his two sons to vacate the country--not other senior Baath leaders. The U.S. still appears to have some hope that he will be assassinated, fall victim to a coup or decide to cut his losses and flee. All very low probability scenarios, but Dubya is wise to ratchet the pressure up during these final hours and enhance the chances of any such scenario taking place.
Clearly, another speech will be required in the coming days to prepare the American people for what may, after all, be a more complex and painful conflict than perhaps widely anticipated. I predict a Saturday start date. 48 hours to see that Saddam didn't flee brings us to Wednesday evening. Another day for more internationals to leave Baghdad, the following Muslim holy day of Friday to be avoided as a start date, the beginning of the conflict therefore likely sometime in the early morning of Saturday the 22nd.
NYT on Cook Resignation Warren
NYT on Cook Resignation
Warren Hoge's article here.
"Prime Minister Tony Blair suffered the first political casualty of his hardline stance on Iraq today with the resignation from his cabinet of Robin Cook, the leader of the Commons and former foreign secretary."
"Hardline" to whom, exactly? Hardline per the Dominique fan club on W. 43rd Street or per the standards of Resolution 1441?
March 17, 2003
Why We Are Poorer For
Why We Are Poorer For Not Having Had the Second Vote (But Had To Skip It Anyway)
One of the reasons I've always respected Dubya is that, after eight years of Clintonian obfuscation, we finally have a leader whose word we can trust. Therefore, I am saddened that he was forced to renege on his press conference statement about ten days back to, no matter the whip count, have a second UNSC vote. It would have been telling to see which countries, during the heated penultimate moments of decision, actually voted no. Perhaps Russia would have surprised us with an abstention? Or Mexico and Chile with affirmative votes? Regardless, we would have determined which countries truly cared about the issues surrounding WMD, the disarmament of Iraq, and the integrity of Resolution 1441--and by extension, the seriousness of purpose of the United Nations in a new century full of perilous threats directly related to the aforementioned issues.
I believe Bush wanted to go ahead with the vote, but decided against it as a favor to his stalwart friend and ally Tony Blair. Blair believes he has enough legal backing for a war based on material breach of 1441, among other post-Gulf War I resolutions, without getting a second vote. But to have gone into conflict with a majority of the UNSC opposed, leaving aside the issue of the French veto, would have violated the U.N. charter and caused him even greater grief domestically.
I wonder if Bush will mention this in his speech tonight. If so, he likely won't mention it in the context of Blair but, as he did in the Azores, in relation to Chirac. He will argue that, whatever Saddam's behavior, the French had all but assured a veto. He will say there was no point in going ahead with a UNSC vote. But the real reason was Blair, I suspect. I agree that Blair merited this concession--but am saddened that we will not be able to see everyone's "cards on the table."
That said, of course, to have gone to war in express violation of the will of the UNSC (however feckless the constitutive elements of this common will) would have placed the U.S. and its allies in quite uncharted territory with respect to international public law. In the final analysis, likely better to have bypassed the second UNSC vote in similar fashion to Kosovo and at other junctures, for reasons above and beyond lending a helping hand to Blair.
Robin Cook Resigns Clare Short,
Robin Cook Resigns
Powell Strikes Back During a
Powell Strikes Back
During a day that we are all waiting (for a vote, a primetime presidential address, something?)--the NYT now gives us its take regarding the "bad diplomacy" argument ie, how the U.S. got to this juncture with allegedly so few allies. (See my earlier reaction to this line of argument here).
Not much new ground here, but a very interesting quote leaked, surely, by the Powell camp.
"Be sure about one thing," Mr. Powell told Dominique de Villepin, the French Foreign Minister. "Don't vote for the first, unless you are prepared to vote for the second." Mr. de Villepin assented, officials who were there said."
Powell is issuing two main messages with this leak: 1) to continue to ratchet the pressure up on the French (and quell their revisionistic instincts per my earlier post) and 2) to cover his flank with the Cheney/Rumsfeld crowd. The Vice President and Defense Secretary, of course, never even wanted to go the U.N. route back on September 12th. They are likely telling Dubya, "see, we told you so." We've lost over five months to Colin's U.N. bargaining and it has gotten us nowhere.
But, believe me, despite all the bad will in the air--I suspect it would have been far worse had we ditched the U.N. route altogether and not even tried to get UNSC approval. For one, Dubya would not have the support of leaders like Tony Blair, Jose Aznar, Silvio Berloscuni, John Howard, the Poles, the Japanese, and so on. So Powell, in effect, is signaling by the leak that Cheney is wrong in this appraisal. That it has been worth four or five months to try to get a cohesive UNSC posture, a fuller imprimatur of international authority--and that it was within grasp--if only key actors like the French were operating in good faith. Alas, they never really were.
March 16, 2003
Quai D'Orsay Revisionism Watch Even
Quai D'Orsay Revisionism Watch
Even before a shot is fired, the revisionism in Dominique's ranks is proceeding with breathtaking speed (and shamelessness):
"The French official insisted that France would have supported the use of force and even participated in a military coalition if the United States had shown more patience with the inspection process."
Yeah sure, and if you believe that whopper, have you heard the one about how Joshka Fischer is worried that Dubya is going too easy on Iraq given its flagrant violations of 1441? There's apparently a lot of discomfort at the German Foreign Ministry about it...
The WaPo article linked above also goes on to chronicle some of the shortcomings of U.S. diplomacy in the past months. As pointed out below, I believe that view--albeit with some reservations--is exagerrated. For instance, there are the increasingly breezy comparisons regarding how Bush pere's adminstration handled cobbling the Gulf War I coalition with such consummate skill--whilst the current crowd botches the coalition-building with one blunder after another. Tom Friedman picked up this theme with a vignette about how James Baker III, Bush 41's Secretary of State, dropped by the Azores too, but merely to "refuel" his jet on the way to ostensibly more important locales.
As I've said before, less heavy-handedness and/or abrasive tactics a la Rumsfeld, more travel and face-to-face by key Administration actors with their foreign counterparts--all this might have helped. But we have to recall that much of the world, at least those continuing to look at the threat environment through pre-9/11 lens, don't realize why Saddam's blatant disregard of 1441 merits swift riposte. Put differently, when Saddam's forces were sitting in Kuwait--people got it, they saw a traditional casus belli, one state invading another. Today, many don't get the issue of the intersection of WMD proliferation, rogue regimes and transnational terror groups. (Leaving aside for the moment the presence of many other important reasons the diplomacy was so difficult, for instance, the opportunistic resurrection of neo-Gaullist projects). As the inevitable post-mortems regarding the diplomacy behind the coalition building effort pick up pace, I think where I come down is that, yes, perhaps the U.S. might have made a better go at persuasion in certain quarters, but ultimately, I just don't think it would have made a material difference. I think this Adminstration source gets it about right:
U.S. officials argue that it is clear that France -- which has led the U.N. opposition to U.S. policy -- always intended to block a war, and that no amount of diplomacy would have bridged the gap. A senior official said the administration could be faulted for not grabbing at opportunities and for not showing a greater commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a bow to European public opinion. But he said it would not have made a difference.
"If we were diplomatically perfect, I'm not sure it would have fundamentally changed the outcome," he said. "The goal is not to reach consensus at any price."
You've Got UBL In Your
You've Got UBL In Your Gunsights? Hold On, Almost Done At the 18th Hole!
The State of Al-Qaeda Two
The State of Al-Qaeda
Two significantly different takes from the NYT and the WaPo. Guess which story is more alarmist and relies more heavily on French and German sources (whom raise the "Iraq equals more al-Qaeda recruitment" linkage argument with alacrity) rather than U.S. ones? Sample quote from the NYT's version:
"Some officials said they began to detect signs of renewed recruitment efforts last summer, just as Bush administration officials began talking in earnest about plans to invade Iraq."
Just then, hah? Just like the WTC bombing of 1993 occured just around the time Clinton was presiding over a Rabin-Arafat handshake at the White House and rosy Oslo talk was permeating the air?
My point here isn't to downplay the odds that the pool of potential al-Qaeda recruits might not grow larger when, for instance, Israeli-Palestinian relations are going through a particularly rough spot or if major colleteral damage were to take place during the Iraq campaign. But terror groups like al-Qaeda don't calibrate the timing or nature of their attacks based on how well the peace processing is going or when Administration officials begin talking about an Iraq invasion.
The roots of their theological barbarism are more deep-seated as are the reasons they find willing recuits. Let's face it: many of their recruits are fundamentally opposed to liberal, secular societies of the Western model. That's why they attacked U.S. and Western targets throughout the 90's despite relatively positive movements on the Israeli-Palestinian front and no major conflict in Iraq since 1991. Or was it the presence of a few pesky G.I.'s on the Arabian peninsula that raised so much ire? Perhaps had they not been there all would have been well?
Note too from the NYT's news summary for March 16th the following:
"Another certainty: war would stir anger among young Muslims in the United States, Europe and Africa and could produce recruits for a new generation of terrorists committed to attacks on America and Israel. In recent weeks, intelligence and law-enforcement officials say, recruitment has surged. Traditionally, mosques have been recruitment centers."
Thank god for the "could" in the above sentence! Otherwise the "certainty" of rising anger among young Muslims would read as the certainty that Dubya's reckless assault on Iraq is creating a whole new generation of terrorists (or "little Bin Ladens" to use Jacques' phrase!).
But seriously, can't we at least debate what effect a war in Iraq might have on terrorist activity? I happen to believe it will lead to a short-term uptick but a mid to long-term downturn. Some, per this WaPo piece, disagree with that assessment. But at least it's debated and kicked around. Not treated as a near "certainty" per the NYT.
March 15, 2003
What Keeps Blix Up At
What Keeps Blix Up At Night
Hint: The avuncular Swede isn't tossing and turning because of Iraqi WMD. But when it comes to Kyoto ....
I don't mean to sound snide about environmental issues as they are certainly important. And when the U.S. rejects a treaty like Kyoto and remarks that the Administration will circulate a competing version of said treaty for consideration--we should actually come through and do so.
But to have the chief U.N. weapons inspector downplay war and peace issues in an interview at this juncture speaks volumes about Mr. Blix. So does the following exchange:
"Norris: Do you believe that in your lifetime, in our lifetime, we will see the world rid of weapons of mass destruction?
Mr. Blix could have begun his answer about whether we will see a disappearance of WMD from many vantage points--but he begins by recapping U.S. bio stockpiles and the autumn 2001 anthrax scares in the U.S. that most link to a domestic crazy. In other words, sniff around your own backyard first fellas--before poking around points further afield.
Telling, isn't it? Other parts of the interview indicate that Hans is pretty sanguine about Iraqi WMD stockpiles given the expedited timetable he believes he could complete the inspections process. All this said, I'm sure your average MTV viewer found Blix to be a swell guy!
UPDATE: It appears even the NYT found this interview rather stunning and make part of it their "quote of the week."
Perle/Hersh Redux I've noted a
I've noted a decent chunk of traffic coming to this site recently is from Perle/Hersh google searches. For convenience, for those interested in the Hersh/Perle story, my main take is here--though there is additional commentary on Perle both in relation to the Hersh piece and other subjects throughout the site.
March 14, 2003
Who Says It's The Bad
Who Says It's The Bad Diplomacy That's to Blame?
What do Joshua Micah Marshall, Tom Friedman and the reader who mailed me the below note in reaction to my Clinton post have in common? Answer: They all think recent U.S. diplomatic efforts with regard to Iraq have been roughly akin to a train wreck.
Reader's note: "No American president in historical memory, maybe since Franklin Pierce has had a more 'amateurish foreign policy' than the current one. We are living a catastrophe made in Crawford. Even measured in raw American power. Also in economic strength. Iraq was a relatively easy sell, which has been flubbed beyond all imagination, and to extraordinary cost. I think it is basically because the President was constitutionally unable to finesse the p.r. or diplomacy or whatever you want to call it. He needed a multi-faceted rhetorical attack on Iraq, rather than a revolving kaleidoscope of arguments,which have harmed U.S. credibility abroad for the remainder of the term. Since the administration has decided the world is Hobbesian, we can only hope their term is too: 'brutish, nasty and short.' "
Oh my, we have to go all the way back to Pierce to find such a terrible foreign policy team! And, dammit, the world (despite mass carnage in NYC) isn't Hobbesian, it's a post-historical Kantian paradise if we would just keel over and, oh, sign Kyoto, swoop into the ICC without reservation, ban landmines, give Saddam another six months, and, while we are at it, solve the problems of poverty, famine and other assorted injustices around the world.
Listen folks, we can all likely agree that comments emanating from Don Rumsfeld were ocassionally unfortunate and inflammatory. Powell's job was made harder when Rummy would lump a Germany in with Libya and Cuba--or would describe France and Germany as "old Europe." And, as Friedman has pointed out, more personalized diplomacy, more visits overseas by key leaders like Dubya and Powell, more backchannel massaging--all might have enhanced the diplomatic effort. But to describe U.S. diplomacy during this crisis as "flubbed beyond all imagination" as this reader does (or, per Josh Marshall, as symptomatic of "shockingly incompetent management of the country's foreign policy") is overwrought and polemical.
Let's all remember the over two months of patient, deliberate negotation that produced a unanimous vote on Resolution 1441--not even an abstention from "no adventures" Herr Chancellor or the Syrians. It's not routine that, over a charged, controversial war and peace issue, unanimity prevails at the UNSC. American diplomacy then gained assent for its Iraq objectives throughout good swaths of Western Europe (ie. U.K, Spain, Italy, Portugal), Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltics and Transcaucasus, Japan and Australia, and points beyond. And, contra suggestions that we simply put together a "coalition of the billing," most of these countries provided their support for free because they believe that the U.S. is right on the issue. Recall, for instance, the substance of the "Gang of Eight's" letter or the Vilnius letter. It wasn't always the Turkish carpet bazaar.
But now the self-flagellation crowd is moving at full steam. The toxic Texan is putting the battering ram to the international system. To Acheson's "Present at the Creation" we are now witnessing Dubya's "Present at the Destruction." Can't we just have one more meeting, one more summit, a couple more months--just a little something more to at least get Cameroon and Chile on board--even if we have given up on Dominique and Joshka?
But we have been at this game for over 12 years. Saddam has no intention of relinquishing his WMD. And the French and Germans have no intention of disarming him. The only reason he has shown even de minimis cooperation is because 250,000 U.S. and U.K. troops are bearing down on him. But they can't linger there for years, and they too are at risk. And as Senator Richard Lugar has pointed out, hardly a radical Helmsian voice in the Republican party, and indeed widely respected as a foreign policy authority on the Hill, he'd take the French more seriously if they had their own troops on the ground.
No, the time to act has arrived. Those with backbone and conviction, the Tony Blairs and Dubyas, will stay strong. They will defeat this tyrant and we will all be the better for it, most of all, the Iraqi people themselves.
British Public Opinion Much has
British Public Opinion
Much has been made about the relatively low degree of British support for a war in Iraq--particularly in the absence of a second UNSC resolution. But stories like this one will likely boost support in some British quarters--nothing to fire up British sentiment like treachery from the Frogs across the Channel!
BTW, TNR again had some sloppy reportage, this time about why IDS, upon leaving a meeting with Tony Blair, publicly stated that chances were low for passage of a second resolution.
"The question is: Did Smith just screw up, or was he actively trying to sabotage the British prime minister in his current moment of weakness?"
Neither folks. Blair likely approved IDS's disclosure allowing IDS to say: "He (Blair) made the reason for this as the fact that the French have become completely intransigent." In other words the Tories, who are on the whole pro-war, are making common cause with the embattled Blair given that the second resolution appears increasingly unlikely to come off because powers like France are not willing to consider it in good faith.
In related news, Robin Cook is now threatening to jump ship should Blair go to war without a second resolution. Frankly, I was always a bit creeped out by Robin Cook and wouldn't miss him (or Clare Short) for a moment. And I trust many Labourites feel the same way.
How Lucky We Are He
How Lucky We Are He Wasn't President On 9/11
Thoughts on Iraq strategy from the former President. He must have been jealous that Jimmy Carter got so much attention in last Sunday's NYT. Remember, by the way, that former Presidents are commonly supposed to extend the courtesy of exercising a statesman-like restraint by not criticizing publicly the policies of their successors. No surprise that Clinton would ignore such Presidential mores--discretion and restraint were never his strong suits--except when answering interrogatories from the Office of the Independent Counsel.
But what really gets me is Clinton's gall at commenting on Dubya's Iraq strategy given Clinton's own amateurish foreign policy record. I won't comment extensively on this now. But remember, for instance, the fiasco that was our Bosnia policy for three long years until Dick Holbrooke, virtually single-handedly, pulled off the Dayton Accords. Clinton had artificially raised expectations in Sarajevo during the '92 campaign that the Yankee cavalry was going to swoop in and assist beleaguered Bosniaks--or at least lift the arms embargo on Bosnia and use NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb gunners terrorizing cities like Sarajevo. Instead, we had three long years of inaction with 200,000 dead and over 4 million displaced. There were also Carter-like displays of impotence as in Somalia. Not to mention the asleep at the switch quality of our efforts to bring UBL to task during that period--with erroneous targets blown up in Khartoum and ineffective pinprick attacks in the Afghan hinterlands.
If Bill Clinton had been in the Oval Office on 9/11, the first question I would have had was whether Clinton realized, when those Towers crumbled that Tuesday morning in Manhattan, that a major conflict had just begun? Would he have instinctually understood the paradigm shift, that we were now in a new epoch, with greater perils on the horizon that would require decades long attention? Or would he be pursuing silly actions similar to turning down, as he did in 1996, offers from the Sudanese to turn over UBL because of legalistic considerations regarding the strength of our case against him?
Another question, even if Clinton immediately and as effectively as Dubya had issued concrete ultimatums to the Taliban and gotten the Pakistanis and other crucial actors on board, is how the conflict would have been prosecuted? I fear we might still be on the outskirts of Mazar-al-Sharif trying to figure out how to take Kabul if Clinton was running the war.
Regardless, given all of the above, does Clinton think he is doing us or Dubya a favor by dispensing his foreign policy pensees on the public airwaves? The very man who presided over the rollicky casino-era '90s, a low decade of corporate corruption, tawdry White House affairs and lack of any serious or sustained proactive attention to the growing terrorism issue--this man is now going to tell us how to handle the intersection of rogue regimes, WMD and transnational terror groups?
Well, I'm not particularly interested and I suspect many others are similarly not perched on the edge of their seats to hear his take. He's not adding anything of value to the debate as the linked story well showcases. And remember, one of his first reactions to 9/11 was a contemplation on how presidencies can only become potentially great when a crisis of such scope occurs on their watch. He's self-obsessed, clearly. But his question did reveal his likely self-knowledge and sadness that his Presidency will be viewed as very mediocre, a breezy, footnote-like interlude between the defeat of the Soviet Empire and 9/11.
Self-Flagellation Alert Another pitiable masthead
Another pitiable masthead from the NYT. The piece basically praises the substance of the ill-fated British bridging proposal, but blames Washington for not giving the Brits enough maneuvering room to get the French and Russians on board:
"Britain's proposal would establish six disarmament benchmarks and a tightly limited time frame for achieving them. The benchmarks are generally right, but the time frames under discussion yesterday were unrealistically short, and the mechanisms for determining compliance need some modification. These defects reflect the conditional nature of Washington's assent to the exercise so far. Britain cannot plausibly offer more time or flexibility than it thinks it can sell to the White House. Unless Washington is willing to engage in serious diplomatic bargaining, the British attempt is doomed to failure."
The NYT editorialists, while they are at it, might as well start a Dominique de Villepin fan club on W. 43rd St. Or will they come to their senses in tomorrow's NYT and castigate the French for dismissing the proposed resolution basically out of hand instead of going back to London with counterproposals on timing modifications and the like? Can they blame Paris for unreasonableness, or does the Bush White House have a monopoly on foolhardy obstinance?
UPDATE: Speaking of pitiable mastheads, here is another "winner":
"Thanks to the President and his hubristic crew of ideologues, America and Europe are not united, as they should be, in the face of global Islamic militancy. Instead, many people talk about the end of America’s strategic alliance with Western Europe. Instead of France and Germany, some say, we will simply align ourselves with the post-Communist states of Eastern Europe—like, say, Bulgaria. Osama bin Laden did not create this sad state of affairs. George W. Bush did. Rarely in the face of war has the leadership in this country—both the executive and the opposition—served it so badly. The opposition has cynically acquiesced; they have not challenged this intellectually challenged President."
I think the person who is intellectually challenged is the writer who penned this myopic claptrap at the Observer. Sure, we were occasionally too brash in our dealings with some of the Europeans, our diplomacy could have been more effective, Powell lost traction cleaning Don Rumsfeld's messes up too often and so on. But to hold Bush culpable for creating the "end of America's strategic alliance with Western Europe" is hyperbolic in the extreme. And the self-flagellation is so tiresome, isn't it? Why is it always our fault that alliances are tottering? Are the other parties involved, to any degree, responsible for the breakdown in relations? Or is just the mean, unilateralist Cowboy on the Potomac?
March 13, 2003
In-house Matters A reader was
A reader was kind enough to write in and mention he "noticed that for some reason none of the external links work - at least with my browser. The links just appear as text, although the 'archive' links do work correctly. I'm using MacOS and IE5." I did a random test of some links and they appeared to be working O.K. Anyone else having problems? If so, please shoot me an E-mail.
UPDATE: Several Mac users inform me, at least on their systems, all is well. Thanks for the feedback.
Stop Scaring Us! George Soros
Stop Scaring Us!
George Soros has a go-slow-adopt-Dominique's-Iraq-stance piece in the FT today. Relatively unobjectionable fare amidst many comparatively more shrill and vitriolic anti-war pronouncements. Except this:
"Terrorism is the ideal enemy. It is invisible and therefore never disappears. An enemy that poses a genuine and recognised threat can effectively hold a nation together. That is particularly useful when the prevailing ideology is based on the unabashed pursuit of self- interest. Mr Bush's administration deliberately fosters fear because it helps to keep the nation lined up behind the president. We have come a long way from Franklin D. Roosevelt's dictum that we have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Might George Soros even bother the briefest of corroborations regarding how "Mr. Bush's administration deliberately fosters fear because it helps to keep the nation lined up behind the president"?
That's a pretty strong statement, isn't it? And a completely unfounded one, to boot. Or are Tom Ridge's threat level color charts part of a nefarious plot to keep the American people in a state of fear so Dubya can trample about the world stage, in full preemptive swagger, to pursue his militarist policies? Come on Mr. Soros, you know better than this.
UPDATE: On the subject of the government allegedly purposefully scaring the U.S. populace, a humorous treatment here.
Warmongering at the WaPo Gosh,
Warmongering at the WaPo
Gosh, I've been so busy beating up on Howell Raines for Hamlet-like indecision over whether to go to war in Iraq (Digression: Is it just me or have the seemingly interminable series of NYT mastheads had a tortured, neurotic tone to them? We need an Upper West Side shrink to analyze the fervent scribblings and report back) that I've been ignoring Kay Graham's newly timarchic progeny.
Quote: "It's too late for nuanced evasions, too late for the Post to reposition its divisions to the rear. It sold this war, and now if America becomes the author of massive violence in a war of choice, not necessity, the Post will be implicated in the bloody consequences. The antiwar movement will not go away once the bombing starts, but all of its objections to this war will become vividly relevant to the news coverage. Reporters and editors can still ask the hard questions and need not pretend to be shocked if the US colonial governor decides to stall on the promise of Iraqi democracy. Americans at large, I fear, are about to lose their sense of injured innocence. Maybe the news media can lose some of their "patriotic" deference to the warriors in charge."
You tell them! But Iet's be sure to "implicate" (whatever that means when used so ominously in the pages of The Nation) the NYT when a major chemical or bio attack occurs, too, O.K?
NYT: France and Germany Constitute
NYT: France and Germany Constitute All of Europe!
Or so it would appear, from the clumsy opening sentence of their lead website story on Iraq today.
"Europe and Iraq voiced sharp opposition today to a new British proposal setting out six ways for Saddam Hussein to prove his commitment to disarmament and avoid an invasion."
But wait, a European country sponsored the resolution. Another two, on the UNSC, support it (Spain, Bulgaria). Maybe the NYT really meant to say "old" Europe was sharply opposed?
Resolution Watch French Foreign Minister
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin: "It's not a question of giving Iraq a few more days before committing to using force. It's about making resolute progress towards peaceful disarmament, as mapped out by inspections that offer a credible alternative to war." [my emphasis]
French foreign policy may be many things dear readers, but one thing it certainly isn't, is "resolute."
French Perfidy Update Can anyone
French Perfidy Update
Can anyone continue to seriously argue that the French really care about the actual implementation of 1441? Not when they so cavalierly dismiss British bridging proposals at the UNSC.
The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw: "What I find extraordinary is that without even proper consideration the French government have decided that they will reject these proposals, adding to the statement that, quotes, whatever the circumstances, France will vote no."
Who is really taking the wrecking ball to the architecture of the postwar international system? The party going the limit to achieve UNSC unity in the face of defiance of the U.N.'s myriad resolutions? Or the party actively scuttling attempts at achieving said cohesion with policy prescriptions that are on their face ineffective?
Remember, U.N. inspectors are not meant to be scavenger hunters--they need unfettered cooperation from the host government to be effective. Inspections-plus is a chimera--unless Saddam were to make a fundamental, strategic decision to disarm. He won't, so what is the good of waiting, as the French advocate, for months more?
UPDATE: Ari Fleischer's reaction from the White House is good for a laugh: "France rejected the British proposal even before the Iraqis did."
Or as a British offical curtly commented: "The French rejected our tests before the Iraqis. Enough said." Indeed.
March 12, 2003
Department of Poor Diplomacy Not
Department of Poor Diplomacy
Not the way to get votes.
Key language: The new United States ambassador here, Tony Garza, a Texas friend of President Bush, has come very close to publicly demanding a yes vote from Mexico in support of the United States at the Security Council, where Mexico holds a swing vote among the 15 members. A maybe or an abstention is not good enough, Mr. Garza said Monday. "Will American attitudes be placated by half-steps or three-quarter-steps?" he said. "I kind of doubt it."
Mexicans, as a general matter, are sensitive enough about what they often perceive to be a domineering Yankee neighbor to the North. Threatening public ultimatums and talk of "placating" American opinion doesn't evoke confidence in the diplomatic skills of our chief diplomat in Mexico City.
Buchanan: Damn Sharon's Amen Corner
Buchanan: Damn Sharon's Amen Corner
Buchanan has a typically pugnacious essay in the American Conservative (unfortunately the piece is not yet available in its entirety). Not too much new ground covered, however. Yes, we know that Perle/Wolfowitz/Feith have all been closely associated with pro-Israeli (O.K. pro-Likudnik) policies over the years. Yes, part of their motivations, to varying degrees, might well be influenced by calculations that the passing of Saddam's regime would make Israel safer.
But do such advisors and officials really analyze U.S. foreign policy solely through the lens of Israel's best interest as Buchanan suggests? I don't buy that. There are several reasons why I don't. One reason is that, in the muscular neo-Reaganite wing of the Republican party they inhabit, there are a significant number of non-Jews like Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who really view Israel as singular in the Middle East because of its democratic trappings rather than feelings of ethnic kinship. Further, I'm simply not willing to accept the canard that, in duplicitous fashion, these individuals would purposefully pursue policies they fully believe are better for the national interest of Israel than the U.S. They often, I suspect, instead reason that the policies they advocate happen to be better for both countries. This is a crucial distinction, assuming as I do that, at the end of the day, they are keeping Washington's objectives uppermost in their minds.
That said, I do believe that their pro-Likudnik stance occasionally colors their judgment where more subtle analysis is required. For instance, Perle inviting Laurent Murawiec to brief the Defense Advisory Board in inflammatory fashion on Saudi Arabia was not a particularly great move. Or a Perle op-ed, part of which reads as follows, is not particularly nuanced: "Those who think Iraq should not be next may want to think about Syria or Iran or Sudan or Yemen or Somalia or North Korea or Lebanon or the Palestinian Authority. These are all institutions, governments for the most part, that permit acts of terror to take place, that sponsor terrorists, that give them refuge, give them sanctuary and, very often, much more help than that."
Gosh, with the exception of North Korea, it appears a plan to take over the entire Middle East (minus the Maghreb, several Gulf States and Jordan). And let's not forget that terrorists are spawned in countries like Algeria where the U.S. might get along with the government but where there are active Islamacist movements that provide many recruits to al-Qaeda. It's a complex picture thereby necesitating a significantly more variegated approach to each of these actors than the one Perle appears to advocate here. For instance, the amount of assistance Syria provides via intelligence cooperation on al-Qaeda is significant. And regardless, to fight all these countries, even if we wanted to and had the ability, would be to invite disaster given the scale of hatred it would engender throughout the Arab and Islamic world. Quite simply, it would be reckless policy.
Regardless, and whatever you might think of neocons like Perle and Feith, they are merely one clique among many that vye for the President's attention:
1) Nationalists with unilateralist instincts (Cheney and Rummy): Cheney more accustomed to dealing with the "Gulfies" and oil issues, so more cognizant of the subtleties of Saudi Arabia, for instance, Rummy more easily impressed by the anti-Saudi arguments of his deputy or Perle.
Given all these complex dynamics and numerous cliques--to argue like Buchanan does-that we are heading to war solely because of a Jewish neo-con crowd is just flat wrong. More on why shortly with an emphasis on how Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are likely to be resuscitated post-Iraq conflict in a way which will show the relatively limited influence of faction #2 above.
A Mockery of 1441 It
A Mockery of 1441
It has gotten beyond material breach after material breach. It's becoming increasingly clear that Saddam, emboldened by the diplomatic effort spearheaded by the French to scuttle any coherent UNSC posture vis-a-vis Iraq, will even at this time of great peril with 200,000 troops arrayed around him, actively flout basic tenets of the inspection regime. Could there be clearer indications that this leader will not voluntarily disarm? The irony is, these typically crude maneuverings by Saddam should be changing minds at the UNSC and helping the U.S. garner more support for its second resolution. But, of course, Paris, Berlin and (likely) Moscow have already made up their minds--actual compliance and evidence be damned.
It's now patently obvious that this entire unfolding UNSC spectacle is not about Saddam's disarmament for the French or Germans. The French, instead of monitoring Saddam's daily non-compliance, are instead in deep huddles over the latest news from Yaounde--fervently hoping to avoid having to cast their veto--incorrectly thinking this might mitigate the diplomatic damage done to their relationship with Washington.
Can anyone now credibly argue that the French have (or ever had) any serious intent of getting Saddam to disarm? I truly wish I could believe that Chirac, at the bottom of his heart, feels like he is acting as a friend of the U.S. and wishes to restrain us from leaping head-long into what he believes will be a disastrous conflict. And that yes, he really, albeit in slower, more methodical fashion, wishes to compel Saddam's disarmament.
But I just can't buy that line given the fervency of the French machinations to impede the U.S. in calling Saddam to task at the UNSC. This combined with the manifest inefficacy of the inspections given Saddam's active non-compliance instead of total, unfettered cooperation as per 1441 shows that no, they never genuinely cared about disarmaming him. This much is clearer by the day.
So what's the game about now? It's about inflicting maximal harm on Tony Blair, Jose Aznar and Silvio Berlusconi--while raising France's profile as the leader of the tame-the-unruly-hyperpower-camp so as to boost Chirac's popularity in the many quarters where, predictably, a quasi-omnipotent hegemon is disliked, suspected and/or despised. But someone has to do the dirty, thankless task of policing the international system--and it certainly won't be increasingly irresponsible regional powers like France or Germany.
The Culture of Imbecility The
The Culture of Imbecility
The "moronic inferno," to borrow a Martin Amis phrase, is in increasingly full bloom. De Tocqueville predicted many years ago that cultural production in an advanced liberal democracy would inexorably decline. With the decline of patronage the "artist" would have to go hustle and peddle his or her wares to the great public to survive economically. Of course, this necessary appeal to a wider audience would often cause the quality of the cultural production to detiorate dramatically. Here are a few prime examples of such trends.
"Between songs, the pugnacious Hynde, in a classic black T-shirt and jeans, bantered and battled with the crowd. She dedicated "You Know Who Your Friends Are" to "all you junkies and f--," gave a shout-out to the late Joe Strummer, opined that she hopes the United States loses if it goes to war with Iraq ("Bring it on! Give us what we deserve!"), and introduced the song "Fools Must Die" with the self-deprecating quip, "I'll show you how it's done."
Great, cheer on the junkies while rooting, in essence, for your countries troops to die. Morally repulsive by any measure, but, of course, drearily predictable. I'm sure the crowd roared its approval.
Novelist (we use these terms quite loosely these days, save for prize hungry quarters of old London) Tom Robbins:
"Quite probably the worst thing about the inevitable and totally unjustifiable war with Iraq is that there’s no chance the U.S. might lose it. America is a young country, and intellectually, emotionally, and physically, it has been exhibiting all the characteristics of an adolescent bully, a pubescent punk who’s too big for his britches and too strong for his age. Someday, perhaps, we may grow out of our mindless, pimple-faced arrogance, but in the meantime, it might do us a ton of good to have our butts kicked. Unfortunately, like most of the targets we pick on, Iraq is much too weak to give us the thrashing our continuously overbearing behavior deserves, while Saddam is even less deserving of victory than Bush."
And the Beastie Boys have a new song out "A World Gone Mad":
First the ‘War On Terror’ now war on Iraq
Now how many people must get killed?
What a luxury it must be to not have to grapple with the great perils of the 21st Century presented by the intersection of easy proliferation of WMD, rogue regimes and transnational terror groups. How easy to recline in cool, ironic pose and suggest that your country be beaten in war without ever really having to worry about the consequences as such a scenario is so extremely remote. These low-grade entertainers, deep down, know this well. They therefore realizetheiressential life-styles are not at risk by any battlefield debacle. But while aware (saddened?) that the U.S. won't lose the actual conflict with Iraq, they are at the same time abjectly unaware about the real dangers facing the U.S. in terms of an attack that would dwarf 9/11.
But hey, "that's no reason to get hysterica."
March 11, 2003
Jackson Lears on Bush's Crusade
Jackson Lears on Bush's Crusade
Well, it appears Jimmy Carter's Sunday op-ed was just a warm-up. Howell is pulling out more heavy artillery via Jackson Lears. I've long been intrigued by the influence of religion on Dubya and have discussed it extensively in this blog. For example, here and here. The main point I've repeatedly made is that, while religion is an important part of Bush's make-up, he is not marching into Mesopotamia in the name of any God--whether some eschatological conception or because he otherwise believes he is the messenger of God's will on Earth (the President of God on Earth as Le Monde puts it).
But let's take a look at what Lears has to say in detail, as it's worth a lengthy examination:
"President Bush's war plans are risky, but Mr. Bush is no gambler. In fact he denies the very existence of chance. "Events aren't moved by blind change and chance" he has said, but by "the hand of a just and faithful God." From the outset he has been convinced that his presidency is part of a divine plan, even telling a friend while he was governor of Texas, "I believe God wants me to run for president."
Well this is a rather thin reed, isn't it? Dubya mentions to an (unnamed) friend that he believes God wants him to run for President so immediately we have a President who thinks his entire Presidency is part and parcel of a divine plan? And how about the breathtaking comment that Dubya "denies the very existence of chance." From where this contention? Surely not Dubya's press conference of a few days back where he stated "If we were to commit our troops -- if we were to commit our troops -- I would pray for their safety, and I would pray for the safety of innocent Iraqi lives, as well." Well, if chance doesn't exist for Dubya, surely no prayers are needed for the Holy Warriors rushing off to battle? They are divinely protected, after all!
This conviction that he is doing God's will has surfaced more openly since 9/11. In his State of the Union addresses and other public forums, he has presented himself as the leader of a global war against evil. As for a war in Iraq, "we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them." God is at work in world affairs, he says, calling for the United States to lead a liberating crusade in the Middle East, and "this call of history has come to the right country."
Patchy quotes from Mr. Lears. Here's what Dubya said verbatim during the SOTU: "The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history." Notice the critical first sentence that Lears omits. America per the President's language is not imposing its version of liberty on all and sundry--but, quite unobjectionably by the traditions of religious imagery in American political rhetoric, Dubya simply links God to notions of love and liberty.
Mr. Bush's speeches are not the only place one finds this providentialist spirit — everyone from Christian fundamentalists to interventionist liberals is serving up missionary formulas: bogus analogies to the war against Hitler; contrasts between American virtue and European vice; denials that sordid material interests could have anything to do with the exalted project of exporting American democracy. To those who worry about the frequent use of religious language, Mr. Bush's supporters insist that the rhetoric of Providence is as American as cherry pie. This is true, but it is crucial to understand that Providence can acquire various meanings depending on the circumstances. The belief that one is carrying out divine purpose can serve legitimate needs and sustain opposition to injustice, but it can also promote dangerous simplifications — especially if the believer has virtually unlimited power, as Mr. Bush does. The slide into self-righteousness is a constant threat. The great rhetoricians of Providence have resisted the temptation of self-righteousness. When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from a Birmingham jail that "we will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands," he was seeking common ground with white Southerners, not predicting perdition for satanic segregationists. Likewise, when Abraham Lincoln invoked Providence in his second inaugural address, his message to the victorious North and the defeated South was one of reconciliation. By characterizing the Civil War as a national expiation for the sin of slavery, he wanted "to bind up the nation's wounds" and make some moral sense of the appalling losses on both sides. At its best, providentialist thinking can offer a powerful antidote to self-righteousness.
O.K, so Lears admits that religious rhetoric is as "American as cherry pie." But he goes on to advance a more subtle argument--that while a belief in divine purpose can serve legitimate needs by opposing gross injustice, it can lead to dangerous oversimplifications and self-righteousness. But of what oversimplications or self-righteousness does Mr. Lears speak? As so many of us tiresomely remind anyone who will listen, Bush is going into Iraq because of a threat born of WMD possession by a dangerous dictator. A strategic paradigm has shifted post 9/11 so that we cannot accept the enhanced risks inherent in having a leader who has used WMD and has links to terror groups continue to defy the (ostensible) will of the international community that he disarm. Dubya went the U.N. route and got unanimous appoval from the UNSC to disarm Iraq. Sadly, this supposed support at the UNSC was merely a delaying tactic by powers like France and Russia--who don't have and won't develop in the future a firm intention of actually disarming Iraq. So where is this damning self-righteousness in all this? Are we self-righteous because we are calling the bluff of powers that will allow Saddam to manifestly be in material breach of 1441? To me, that's judicious legalistic enforcement, not some self-righteous crusade.
Lears has to bring in Wilson to show that is is possible to use rhetoric for purposes beyond nationalism because even he must acknowledge that Dubya is not marching into Iraq in a Horace Greely--like project to subdue the natives, grab oil supplies, and plant the American flag for decades in Iraq. Without saying it, he likely realizes that the reason for war is Saddam's refusal to give up his WMD. But he employs Bush's later arguments that go beyond the disarmament rationale to how a post-conflict-in-Iraq scenario could lead to wider democratization in the Middle East and a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, again, the prime objective is not some naive neo-Wilsonian project that will have Jeffersonian Democrats bouncing about parliaments from Tripoli and Riyadh to Manama and Rabat. It's about the WMD--at the end of the day. It is indeed a "dirty job" that "somebody has to do"--namely the U.S. and a coalition of leaders who realize from where the greatest threats in the 21st Century will emerge.
"To be sure, the cold war fitfully revived the nationalist uses of Providence, at least among true believers like Secretary of State John Foster Dulles — not to mention Ronald Reagan, whose rhetoric arrayed the "city on a hill" against the Soviet "evil empire." But for most Americans, the failed crusade in Vietnam eviscerated the delusion that we had a sacred duty to export American ways — by force if necessary — to a recalcitrant world. Until now. The proposed war against and rebuilding of Iraq has brought the sentimental, self-satisfied sense of Providence back into fashion. One might have supposed that an attack on our country would have rendered utopian agendas unnecessary — as it did for most Americans during World War II. But while a war on terrorism may not need Providence to justify it, a war to transform the Middle East requires a rhetoric as grandiose as its aims. The providentialist outlook fills the bill: it promotes tunnel vision, discourages debate and reduces diplomacy to arm-twisting."
Again, let's not read too much into Bush's speech at AEI. Helping Iraq become more democratic and attempting to then resuscitate the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is not the same as "a war to transform the Middle East." Lears is being hyperbolic, but that increasingly passes for sober commentary these days in the NYT.
"Worst of all, it sanitizes the messy actualities of war and its aftermath. Like the strategists' faith in smart bombs, faith in Providence frees one from having to consider the role of chance in armed conflict, the least predictable of human affairs. Between divine will and American know-how, we have everything under control. So the White House and its backers can safely predict that the unpleasantness will be over in a few weeks, with low casualties on both sides. Combat veterans, from Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf down, reject these scenarios. We can be sure that the soldiers in the Persian Gulf region do, too. This should come as no surprise: there has always been a chasm between the war planners and the soldiers on the ground. The planners are convinced that they can control outcomes; the soldiers know the arbitrary cruelties of fate at first hand — maiming this one, leaving that one alone. They know the power of luck."
Now we get nastier. Bush's alleged divine inspiration (and Yankee techno know-how) make him cavalier about casualties among his troops. "Combat veterans", of course, know better. But then, I ask again, why did Bush say at his recent press conference that he prays for the lives of our troops and Iraqi civilians? He must have some concerns, no? Lears is also skirting near the chicken hawk slur--Dubya, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle--what the hell do they care about our soliders, they've never even been in combat!
"There may be no atheists in foxholes, but there are not many believers in Providence in them either. Combat soldiers have always been less confident than politicians that God is on the premises. They have paid homage to an older deity, Fortuna. From the Civil War through the Persian Gulf war, American soldiers have festooned themselves with amulets and lucky charms — everything from St. Christopher medals and smooth stones to their girlfriends' locks of hair. And why not? Ritual efforts to conjure luck speak directly to their own experience. But the power of providentialist thinking persists, drawing strength from the fervent beliefs of Christian, Islamic and Jewish fundamentalists. The more humane interpreters of those traditions are increasingly ignored, and the ideologues take command, convinced that they are doing God's will. Certainly those of us who doubt the divinity (not to mention the efficacy) of the president's plan must continue to challenge it. But as we watch Mr. Bush prepare for righteous battle, ignoring the protests of "old Europe" and many in his own country, even the most rational among us might be pardoned for fingering a rabbit's foot from time to time."
I've bolded this last as it's particularly important. Lears likely wanted to say this right away, but he controlled himself and saved it for the end. As I've been arguing for months, the kernel of attempts to depict Dubya as a religious nut is that, yes, he's just as bad as the "Islamic fundamentalists." In other words, Dubya is just as bad as Osama! This is the noxious relativism that has been percolating in Europe for many months (Javier Solana inaugurated the "polite" version in the pages of the FT by denouncing American policy as overly "religious.")
Now Howell, after a Carter warm up hinting at Bush being in thrall to the "final days" Baptist radicals, again turns over the pages of America's premier paper to this thesis. I'm sorry Mr. Raines, but we just aren't going to buy it. I know theocratic barbarism when I see it--like I did the morning of September 11th in NYC. I don't see it emanating from the White House today. What I see is an American President determined to bring twelve years of long deception by a vicious regime to an end--via a legal framework emanating from Saddam's material breach of 1441--whether or not a second resolution comes to pass or not.
Africa: The Key to Gaullist
Africa: The Key to Gaullist Grandeur!
The BBC has a decent appraisal of the state of play with the Africa three (remember, for Tony Blair, 5 more countries on board are still helpful even with the French veto as he allowed himself some wriggle room on going to war if a second resolution were unreasonably vetoed). He can certainly say the veto is unreasonable for this reason, or that reason, and others besides. But he needs Chile, Mexico, Pakistan, Angola and Guinea (Cameroon I'm writing off to the French). Meanwhile, Le Figaro gets carried away by Dominique's African tour:
"Aux arguments....trébuchants des Américains, la France peut ajouter ceux du coeur, sur une terre qu'elle connaĒt bien. Qui d'autre qu'un président franćais peut recevoir un accueil aussi chaleureux dans les rues d'Alger ou d'Oran ? Quelle autre ancienne capitale coloniale peut se permettre d'intervenir au sud du Sahara comme Paris le fait ces mois-ci en Côte d'Ivoire."
Translation: "To the...blundering arguments of the Americans, France can make arguments from its heart, on a land it knows well. Who else but a French President could get such a warm reception like that on the streets of Algiers or Oran? What other old colonial capital can permit itself to intervene south of the Sahara like Paris has done these past months in the Ivory Coast."
I couldn't make up such saccharine romanticism if I tried! But it gets worse:
"La France n'a pas gagné. Mais si un nouvel ordre international devait sortir de l'actuel tumulte de l'Histoire, elle aura déją pris date avec l'Afrique."
"France has not won. But if a new international order arises from the tumult of History, she will already have had its reckoning with Africa."
The stakes are getting increasingly clear, aren't they? This isn't about Saddam and the perils of WMD proliferation, this is about a convenient moment to resuscitate the Gaullist project with Chirac a grand avuncular standard-bearer of the "civilized" international law approach to international relations. Except, of course, that he's making a mockery of international law by undercutting Resolution 1441 (in fact, he called it 1442 in his press conference tonight, but why be detained by mundane details when Gaullist grandeur tantalizingly awaits?).
From Jakarta to Algiers, from Buenos Aires to Oslo--Jacques' boundless courage in defending a genocidal thug against the renegade hyperpuissance might even earn him a spot near De Gaulle in French political history!
March 10, 2003
TNR: Getting Sloppy? Is it
TNR: Getting Sloppy?
Is it just me, or has TNR been getting a bit sloppy recently?
"Still, the real loser here isn't the United States: The outcome of the Security Council vote will have little bearing on whether or not we go to war. The real loser, as we've said before, will be France, whose major source of international influence is its permanent seat on the Security Council, a seat which won't be worth very much if the United States renders the United Nations irrelevant by going to war over its objections. As a result, the French can't really be happy that the Russians may be about to exercise their veto. (From the French perspective, it doesn't really matter which of the permanent members exercises the veto; any veto leaves the Security Council--and therefore France--equally irrelevant.)"
Guys, Chirac just announced he will veto.
They go on: "That means France's interests were never perfectly aligned with those of Russia and China, who are world powers in their own right and who can therefore costlessly cast the vote that makes the Security Council irrelevant."
Is France really so much weaker than Russia these days?
And then there is this little satirical number. Good for a chuckle, perhaps, but not exactly the kind of stuff one expects from high-brow Leon Weiseltier precincts. Geez, and they want to start charging for this?
Perle and Hersh, Continued Here
Perle and Hersh, Continued
Here is a link to the Seymour Hersh piece that raised Perle's ire on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer yesterday. Surprisingly, he actually was interviewed for part of this story by Hersh. Looks like Adnan Khasoggi and Prince Bandar decided to have a few jabs at him--but the bottom line is that Perle did nothing illegal. The other key Hersh points include that Perle, a prominent anti-Saudi voice in the Beltway, is being a hypocrite as he attempts to get money from Saudi investors while lashing out at the Saudis or castigating overly Arabist former Foggy Bottom types. Here is a key passage from the somewhat lengthy article:
"When I asked Perle whether the Saudi businessmen at the lunch were being considered as possible investors in Trireme, he replied, “I don’t want Saudis as such, but the fund is open to any investor, and our European partners said that, through investment banks, they had had Saudis as investors.” Both Perle and Hillman stated categorically that there were currently no Saudi investments.
Khashoggi professes to be amused by the activities of Perle and Hillman as members of the policy board. As Khashoggi saw it, Trireme’s business potential depended on a war in Iraq taking place. “If there is no war,” he told me, “why is there a need for security? If there is a war, of course, billions of dollars will have to be spent.” He commented, “You Americans blind yourself with your high integrity and your democratic morality against peddling influence, but they were peddling influence.”
Relying on Khashoggi to make an innuendo that Perle would be pro-war in Iraq so as to make a profit because of an enhanced terror threat at home? I don't know about you, but this seems to be quite a stretch from Sy Hersh? And, like his source for this quote, a bit low, no? Oh, and we need to be at war to have a need for homeland security spending? Kinda like we were at war on September 10th 2001, right?
There is also this interesting quote from Prince Bandar (Saudi Ambassador to D.C.): “There is a split personality to Perle,” Bandar said. “Here he is, on the one hand, trying to make a hundred-million-dollar deal, and, on the other hand, there were elements of the appearance of blackmail—‘If we get in business, he’ll back off on Saudi Arabia’—as I have been informed by participants in the meeting.”
Hmmmm. But are sophisticated Saudi businessmen really gullible enough to think that Richard Perle can make momentous policy decisions regarding Saudi Arabia in his capacity as an outside advisor to the Pentagon? I think not. I do think that Hersh dislikes Richard Perle and did a decent job of embarassing him--but he didn't inflict any mortal wounds in the pages of the New Yorker.
In fact, it's Perle who did the most damage to himself, on Blitzer's show. Intimating that a journalist is akin to a terrorist shows either: a) that the neo-cons have an alarming tendency to see terrorists where McCarthy saw Communists, that is, everywhere or b) that Perle stays up late worried that Ashcroft needs to crack the whip harder on the press.
The Paris-Washington Row Keeps Getting
The Paris-Washington Row Keeps Getting Nastier
While Dominique is galivanting about Africa, Jacques Chirac is considering making a trip over to NYC to potentially cast a veto in person. He is to give a nationally televised speech this evening so stay tuned. Meanwhile, Chirac's party is ratcheting up the anti-American rhetoric:
"Francois Baroin, spokesman for Chirac's UMP party, endorsed the idea of Chirac attending the Security Council session and thought he would not be alone in opposing the resolution backed by the United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria. "The presence of the French president seems to me quite opportune,'' he told LCI television. ``A veto is an extraordinarily important act, but France will not be alone.''Baroin said France's anti-war stand was based on respect for international law and was ``not that of the German pacifists, not Woodstock with a joint in one hand and talk of love all around.''
``We are faced with an American administration that is quite brutal,'' he added, picking out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell for special criticism for what he said were their efforts to divide the United Nations.
``Rumsfeld is no choir boy and Powell, as respectable as he might be considering his service in the earlier Gulf war, is no altar boy either,'' he said.
Note that, even in a period of such Germano-Franco solidarity in glorious opposition to the Yankee hegemon, Barion still manages a swipe at the German "pacifists." Not to be confused with the force de frappe ever present in the rich martial traditions of France!
UPDATE: C'est non. Of course, they still hope they don't have to wield the first French veto against a U.S. resolution since Suez. That's why Dominique is rushing about Angola, Guinea and Cameroon. But this brawl just got a lot nastier.
And note this gem from the press conference: M. Chirac a affirmé qu'il n'y aurait «pas de moyens militaires» franćais engagés en cas de guerre en Irak sans décision de l'ONU, mais que le survol du territoire franćais par les Américains «va de soi».
Paraphrase: If there is war, don't count on French troops (big surprise!) but the right of the U.S. airforce to fly over French territory "goes without saying." Gee, thanks! Guess Jacques doesn't like Saddam as much as Quadaffi.
Iran Watch It's worse than
It's worse than intelligence analysts realized.
Key grafs: "In a nearby building, workers are assembling parts for 1,000 more centrifuges, part of a constellation of 5,000 machines that will be linked together in a vast uranium enrichment plant now under construction. When the project is completed in 2005, Iran will be capable of producing enough enriched uranium for several nuclear bombs each year.
Details about the Natanz complex are beginning to trickle out following the first visit to the site by officials from the United Nations late last month. U.S. officials who were briefed on the visit described Iran's progress last week as "startling" and "eye-opening," so much so that intelligence agencies are being forced to dramatically shorten estimates for when Iran may acquire nuclear weapons."
I've argued before that we are on the cusp of an era of manic proliferation. Only several leaders like Dubya and Tony Blair has shown the foresight to understand the stakes involved given the potential for nuclear technology to be transferred to nihilistic terror movements that will not hesitate to vaporize a major city. The problem, however, with a major regional player like Iran is that they look around and think why can India, Pakistan and Israel have nukes but not us?
There really are no easy answers here. People like Bibi Netanyahu (who are more concerned about Iran than Iraq at the end of the day) would likely advocate disarming Teheran forcefully if they continue to go ahead with their nuclear program. But even the hyperpuissance that is the U.S. cannot march from Iraq, to North Korea and then onwards to Iran?
We likely instead have to hope that demographic trends in Iran spur significant liberalization in Iranian society that allow the U.S. access to more moderate interlocuters in Teheran. In the meantime, in depth discussions regarding the Iranian nuclear program could be pursued, even now, through third-party diplomatic channels. The idea of a regional voluntary nuclear disarmament pact has also been floated--but it is hard to envision India, Pakistan or Israel voluntarily giving up their nuclear programs. The chances of such disarmament would brighten, of course, if resolution of both the Kashmir and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts could be broached. I'm not holding my breath--but let's hope Dubya is serious about reinvigorating the "roadmap" post-Iraq as well as moving beyond reactive diplomacy in Kashmir to pro-active attempts at helping bring the parties to a resolution.
March 09, 2003
Perle: Seymour Hersh is the
Perle: Seymour Hersh is the "Closest Thing American Journalism Has to a Terrorist"
Guys and gals, it's getting nasty out there. Hersh is questioning uber-hawk Richard Perle's motives for being so gung-ho on the Iraq issue. Perle, it would appear, lost his cool on Wolf Blitzer's show over the allegations.
Transcript: BLITZER: All right. Tom, hold on a minute. You know, we are basically
Well, get your copy of the New Yorker folks! When I first heard Perle got steamed I thought it would be over another dual-loyalties-Likudniks-run-amok-in-Washington interrogatory like Tim Russert's last week. But no, something altogether different.
Gosh, who knew journalists could be terrorists? Next thing you know, Seymour will be donning disguises and assassinating our Kurdish and Shia Massouds!
Note: The CNN transcript's phonetic Maylie is, of course, a reference to My Lai.
"In 1969 Seymour Hersh, then a freelance journalist, got a tip about an upcoming court martial. He followed the lead to the Pentagon and finally to a military prison in Georgia. There he met Lt. William Calley, a name now infamous. Calley spoke candidly to Hersh and the resulting story of the massacre of over 500 civilians at a small Vietnamese village called My Lai won Hersh the 1970 Pulitzer Prize, and forever altered the way the American public thought about war and its own soldiers."
So Perle thinks Hersh hasn't written a serious piece in 33 years! Tell that to Tina Brown and David Remnick.
The State of Bush Competing
The State of Bush
Competing NYT and WaPo stories on how Bush is coping on a personal level as war looms ever closer. Dana Milbank's piece is the more impressive effort. Milbank examines to what degree, if any, religion is influencing Dubya's policymaking (an increasingly prevalent theme):
Key grafs: "Bush's religious devotion encourages such distinctions. Bush implies but does not directly assert that he is doing God's work. Still, those who share his religious beliefs say it is natural to assume that Bush believes he is divinely inspired.
"It seems as if he is on an agenda from God," said Jim Cody, a Tennessee Christian broadcaster who was at a convention of religious broadcasters Bush addressed last month. "The Scriptures say God is the one who appoints leaders. If he truly knows God, that would give him a special anointing."
Cody's friend, Steve Clark of the Faith Baptist Tabernacle in Jamestown, Tenn., concurred that "Divine Providence" has a role in Bush's actions. "At certain times, at certain hours in our country, God has had a certain man to hear His testimony," he said.
Those close to Bush say he takes comfort from prayer, but not policy. "It certainly gives him inner strength and conviction," said Brad Freeman, a friend. "It's his religion, but also it's just his makeup. He's always been a firm believer in making a decision, once he knows the facts, and sticking with it."
Contra the beginning of this quoted passage that evokes notions of divine inspiration, I think Dubya's intimates have it down better when they say he "take comfort from prayer, but not policy.' Remember folks, the reactionary religiosity is al-Qaeda and ilk's specialty--not Dubya's.
Say It Ain't So--Sandy Couldn't
Say It Ain't So--Sandy Couldn't Get My Kids Into School!
Disgraced former Solly telecoms analyst Jack Grubman couldn't get the kids into private school after all. It's looking like P.S. 6 for the little kiddies. Via Mickey Kaus who facetiously refers to this Manhattan tale as an example of "Great Moments in Social Equality."
Vidal and Mailer Finally Agree
Vidal and Mailer Finally Agree on Something (Well, Kind Of)
From a Q&A session with Vidal (the questioner is challenging an earlier Vidal assertion that we are going to war in Iraq solely because of oil):
Questioner: "How can the Iraq war be about oil when Saddam already sells us oil, and if we wanted him to sell us more oil, we could just remove the sanctions? Do you think we would just install a puppet government that would just give us the oil without us paying for it"?
Gore Vidal: "You can't tell what the junta has in mind, because this is the most secretive and probably illegal administration we've ever had. The Vice President will not tell Congress who he met with during the energy crisis meeting. They do everything to keep us in total darkness. They are un-American."
Meanwhile, Normal Mailer in the NYRB treats us to a lengthy psychoanalysis of what the Bush team is really thinking when it come to Iraq. So what's his conclusion? Here's a teaser:
"Bush uses evil as a narcotic for that part of the American public which feels most distressed. Of course, as he sees it, he is doing it because he believes America is good. He certainly does, he believes this country is the only hope of the world. He also fears that the country is rapidly growing more dissolute, and the only solution may be—fell, mighty, and near-holy words—the only solution may be to strive for World Empire. Behind the whole push to go to war with Iraq is the desire to have a huge military presence in the Near East as a stepping stone to taking over the rest of the world. That is a big statement, but I can offer this much immediately: At the root of flag conservatism is not madness, but an undisclosed logic. While I am hardly in accord, it is, nonetheless, logical if you accept its premises. From a militant Christian point of view, America is close to rotten. The entertainment media are loose. Bare belly-buttons pop onto every TV screen, as open in their statement as wild animals' eyes. The kids are getting to the point where they can't read, but they sure can screw."
So, too much Britney, let's head to Baghdad? Yeah, that's what is driving Dubya Norman. Well, at least Mailer is more original in ferreting out Dubya's motivations than Vidal's oil rationale. One thing it certainly isn't about, of course, is the WMD. I wonder what a better American writer, say Hemingway, would have to say on the Iraq issue?
Note: I will periodically be publicizing a "Vidal Award" for hyperbolic expressions of anti-Americanism completely divorced from any attempt at rational analysis.
L'Afrique, C'est Moi! Dominique de
L'Afrique, C'est Moi!
Dominique de Villepin is off on an Africa tour! What a wonderful expenditure of French diplomatic resources (as opposed to, say, making a last go at coordinating with Colin Powell on achieving a more cohesive UNSC posture so as to increase the pressure on Saddam). Why is he embarking on this last minute "whistlestop" tour? Because the French will do everything in their power to avoid having the magic number of nine support the second resolution because they are terrified by the prospects of actually having to use the veto. Remember, this would be the first veto of a U.S. resolution by France since Suez in 1956. It's quite obviously not a common event. The U.S. Ambassador to France has already described a French veto as constituting "an unfriendly act," diplo speak not too far removed from describing a state of belligerence (amazing, isn't it?). And, as right-thinking French politicians like Bernard Kouchner have noted, such a veto would be, in essence, delivered on behalf of a genocidal leader.
In Kouchner's words when asked if he supports going to war in Iraq (aside from government service Kouchner is the founder of the well respected Medecins Sans Frontieres, the international NGO that sends medical personnel to conflict zones):
"Je déteste la guerre que je connais mieux que personne, depuis quarante ans. La guerre est une trŹs mauvaise solution. Mais il y a pire qu'une trŹs mauvaise solution, c'est de laisser en place un dictateur qui massacre son peuple. Je souhaite qu'on puisse entendre le plus important protagoniste de cette crise, le premier menacé : le peuple irakien qui subit la dictature."
Translation: "I detest war that I know better than anyone, for forty years. War is a very bad solution. But there is worse than a very bad solution which is leaving in place a dictator who massacres his people. I wish that we would hear of the most important protagonist in this crisis, those first threatened: the Iraqi people subjected to dictatorship."
Howell's Running Out of Room
Howell's Running Out of Room
The New York Times really puts on a full anti-war-in-Iraq press today. First, the seemingly interminable series of tortured mastheads (aka "Hamlet on the Hudson" for the endless should we or shouldn't we ruminations) finally appear to be reaching a (predictable) conclusion per today's lead. Then we have Maureen, Friedman and Jimmy Carter all arguing against war at the present time. Howell did leave a smidgen of space for a piece on the Broadway strike, however, lest anyone think he turned the whole Sunday editorial page over to the anti-war-in-Iraq crowd.
The Carter op-ed is particularly interesting, not for its "just war" musings, but because of its transparent attempt to dissaude Dubya from going to war by referencing wide opposition among religious figures. The subtext is that, for a man like Dubya for whom religion is an important component, such opposition in the Church might just help dissuade him from his folly. It's none too subtle a tactic. Yet it gets more interesting. Carter goes on to, in effect, query Dubya's real motivations for going to war by alluding that he might be captive to those holding radical Baptist views (unlike, of course, good God-fearing mainstream Baptists like Jimmy). So the increasing Euro-trend of depicting Dubya as a theocratic nut now gets support from a former President in the prestigious forum of the Sunday Times. And to add insult to injury, Carter enlists the opposition of religious figures from the comme il faut precincts to persuade Dubya to step back from his supposed apocalpytic eschatologicalism. Am I being hyperbolic? How else to explain the below language:
"As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards. This is an almost universal conviction of religious leaders, with the most notable exception of a few spokesmen of the Southern Baptist Convention who are greatly influenced by their commitment to Israel based on eschatological, or final days, theology."
For more on Carter's piece, the good folks over at Oxblog have a thorough Fisking of Carter's piece up.
I'd instead like to discuss today's masthead a bit more. Given what I write above, you might think the NYT has finally chosen whether it is pro or anti war in Iraq. Well, not really. They are pretty much opposed but just might be in favor in the future, provided bien sur, that we only go in with "broad international support." (I guess support from important countries like Italy, Spain, Poland, Australia and the U.K constitutes narrow support). Put simply, the NYT's has adopted the French position. Not only because they are calling for a beefed up inspections regime and more time, but also, because their definition of broad international support essentially means the U.S. shouldn't go to war without the French on board.
I don't know about you, but the endless Gallic posturing looks set to continue even if a videotape of Saddam bathing in botulunim toxin emerged and got passed around the Quai D'Orsay. As Powell must endlessly argue to the French, Resolution 1441 is about full, unfettered Iraqi cooperation. They should be pro-actively bringing the inspectors to the various WMD-sites and helping destroy the WMD. And no, I'm not talking about the al-Samoud "toothpicks" (Blix wanted a good soundbite didn't he?). That is an ancillary issue of little importance. It's about a stockpile of biological and chemical weapons that Saddam is hell-bent on concealing and won't give up without, sadly, the U.S. leading a coalition to forcibly disarm him.
But Saddam is about to make Dubya's job easier. Always a crafty survivor, he has nevertheless proven himself to be a strategic blunderer (witness failed conflicts in Iran and Kuwait). Miscalculating the discord in the UNSC (and the depth of his support from other member states), the Iraqis are now (incredibly) making their own demands of the U.N. Believe it or not, Saddam has chosen the present juncture to demand sanctions relief! Even Joshka and Dominique won't go to bat for him on this one. I suspect Powell will be able to ratchet up the vote count on the second resolution given such 11th hour machinations by Saddam--even in the Alice in Wonderland world that is Turtle Bay.
Note: Several readers have E-mailed asking me about the reference to "Howell" in the title of this post. For those less obsessed with the New York Times (and therefore, doubtless, happier personages) it's a reference to Howell Raines the head editor of the NYT editorial page.
Pernicious Trends in Deutschland The
Pernicious Trends in Deutschland
The Times reporting from a high school several blocks from the old Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.
Sample sentiments from the students: "Before the 1991 gulf war, some prominent Germans of his generation bucked antiwar sentiment by likening Saddam Hussein to Hitler. Now, for some young Germans, the comparison that Susie voiced in her English class works better. President Bush is "a second Hitler," she said, and the attack on the World Trade Center was the equivalent of the Reichstag fire. However outrageous such a link seems to Americans — and the German justice minister was fired last fall for voicing a less virulent version — it evoked little disagreement from Susie's classmates. On the contrary, several chimed in with conspiracy-laced challenges to the official version of events. Of the Sept. 11 attacks, Franzeska, 18, said, "There are a lot of rumors that the Americans did it alone."
For good measure, there is a also a sense of heightened WWII muckraking underway in Germany. Not Holocaust denial and the like--but rather increased attention to U.S. bombing tactics in towns like Dresden. Watch for more irrational America-bashing and Dresden reminiscenes as the unemployment rate continues to tick up from about 10.5% in the coming months. Contra the former Justice Minister's statement that the U.S. is using the threat of war in Iraq to distract from domestic concerns (she went on to say, predictably, that Adolf used similar scapegoating techniques) it is precisely the Administration she served (before Schroeder relunctantly fired her) that is using an American bogey-man to survive politically. The price of Schoeder's shameless politicking includes poisoned (that word again!) world-views like those of the Berlin students quoted above.
UPDATE: More bad-mouthing of Dubya from German government officials here.
March 08, 2003
Pyongyang Wanted a Hainan Appears
Pyongyang Wanted a Hainan
Appears Kim Jong Il really feels neglected by Washington's refusal to engage in direct, bilateral negotiations and is doing all he can to get Dubya's attention. Pretty much nothing would accomplish getting that attention better than a Hainan-style hostage crisis ten or so days before war in Iraq, right?
Perhaps Kim has been reading Charles Krauthammer, who (quite uncharacteristically) is suggesting the U.S. employ a strategy of "temporary appeasement" on the Korean Peninsula. But is Krauthammer right when he states: "Meanwhile, the United States is preoccupied with Iraq. We no longer have the power to fight two wars at once. And the North Koreans know it. They are pushing their advantage to the edge."? He's wrong in Don Rumsfeld's estimation.
Speaking of Rummy, some of his comments have suddenly led to slightly warmer comments coming from Seoul regarding Washington's troop presence in South Korea.
"In comments at the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld suggested that the American military could play a more supportive role on the Korean peninsula arranging its forces at an "air hub" and "sea hub," and as reinforcements for South Korean front-line troops."
"I suspect that what we'll do is we'll end up making some adjustments there," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "Whether the forces would come home or whether they'd move farther south on the peninsula or whether they would move to a neighboring area are the kinds of things that are being sorted out."
The Ambassador's Verbal Gaffe Buried
The Ambassador's Verbal Gaffe
Buried in a NYT's story about the latest discord at the UNSC is the following highly revealing nugget:
Asked about the British ultimatum, the Iraqi envoy, Mohammed Aldouri, said scornfully, "So they will give us only 10 days to give up all we have?" He added: "Really, this is nonsense. We are doing our utmost. We can't do more." [my emphasis]
Give up "all we have"? But I thought they didn't have any WMD? Yes indeed, the entire inspections process is, as Dubya put it two nights back, a "willfull charade."
Might the Iraqi diplomat be referring to this?
Key language: "The report says there is “credible information” indicating that 21,000 litres of biological warfare agent, including some 10,000 litres of anthrax, was stored in bulk at locations around the country during the war and was never destroyed."
March 07, 2003
Dubya and Religion, Again! O.K.,
Dubya and Religion, Again!
O.K., I'll admit, I winced a bit last night during certain portions of Dubya's press conference. Specifically, when he discussed how much praying he was up to. Not, as the American Scene effectively points out, because he comes off as some crazy Ayatollah hell bent on a Crusade in Mesopotamia. But rather, because so may Euro-observers are persuaded that we have a radical theocrat running amok in the White House. I've tried to debunk this notion repeatedly in this blog from the very beginning (see archives for Jan 27 and subsequently with some frequency). Yet, despite the innate speciousness of that depiction of Dubya's makeup and motivations, perceptions do matter. The President's handlers therefore need to steer him away from the religious theme whenever possible. Too often now, we are treated to analyses like this one in the pages of Le Monde, where Dubya is annointed "God's President on Earth" Matthew Yglesias puts it well when he says Dubya would have been better off saying something like this:
"As you know I'm a man of faith, and in these difficult times prayer and faith help sustain me. If it comes to war I will pray for the lives of America's men and women in uniform as well as for the lives of the Iraqi people. But my decision will be based on the intelligence reports I'm receiving, on the words of my advisors, on the opinions of the other leaders of the democratic world, and of my responsibilities under the US constitution. The people of the world need to understand that this conflict is not about religious disagreement. It's about protecting the people of the world — Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist and agnostic; American, Arab, and European — from the deadly threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue regimes."
The trouble is, he too often says stuff like this instead, as he did last night:
"One of the things we love in America is freedom. If I may, I'd like to remind you what I said at the State of the Union: liberty is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to each and every person. And that's what I believe. I believe that when we see totalitarianism, that we must deal with it."
Or: "My faith sustains me because I pray daily. I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength. If we were to commit our troops -- if we were to commit our troops -- I would pray for their safety, and I would pray for the safety of innocent Iraqi lives, as well.
Nothing objectionable with the second quote. Many relatively secularist leaders throughout history have prayed for guidance and solace during times of peril. The second quote, which I've already discussed in the context of the State of the Union, I'm a tad more discomforted with this go around. It still runs contra Harold Pinter's mad ravings of an American God hell-bent on bombing innocent Iraqi kids.
And yet, he expanded a bit from his SOTU version, didn't he? Sure, God's gift to each and every person might be construed as liberty (or servitude, for neo-Marxists, who are humans too!). But Dubya goes on to say directly thereafter that "I believe that when we see totalitarianism, that we must deal with it." "We" here, is of course the U.S. And, in his construction, totalitarianism is the opposite of God's gift of freedom. So we, ie. the U.S., must "deal with" the forces of anti-freedom disallowing God's gift from taking root on the Tigris.
Of course, it's really about unseating a neo-Stalinist thug armed with WMD to his teeth who has killed hundreds of thousands. It's not about some religious struggle. But it all sounds a bit too crusade-y, doesn't it?
Let's just focus on the weapons of mass destruction, I say. The religious arguments give too much ammo to the Baudrillard crowd, whom are all too ready, in grotesquely relatavistic fashion, to compare Dubya to Osama.
Yank-Hating OXFORD, ENGLAND -- I
OXFORD, ENGLAND -- I was recently standing in line at a McDonald's here, when a drunk Englishman began harassing me. "Is George Bush your hero?" he demanded. I tried to ignore him, but he followed me and a few of my American friends outside. Then, as we walked down Oxford's central street, he grabbed one of my friends by his scarf, turned him around and exclaimed, "If I could get a bomb and get over to the U.S., I'd blow myself up to kill you all."
Read the continuation, here.
UPDATE: Expat Egghead is kind enough to put me up as his "Blog of the Day" and, to boot, to apologize for the "antics of his countrymen." Two points: One, this Oxford based anecdote has nothing to do with me as Brits in my Belgravia precincts have been quite friendly! Second, I post this story really because of the author's contrarian take. As pundit after pundit posits daily how horrific trans-atlantic relations have become this author has a slightly rosier take.
I might take this opportunity to thank Innocents Abroad, The American Scene and Merde in France for perma-linking my site. The readership is growing and I promise to, at some point when time allows, make aesthetic improvements to this site including room for comments and some relevant graphics. Meanwhile, I appreciate your patience and please keep visiting.
Blix Talk Some initial verbiage
Some initial verbiage emerging from Blix's latest UNSC presentation: "Iraq, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed weapons programs," Blix said. "Only a few new such documents have come to light so far, and have been handed over since we began inspections." [my emphasis]
A "highly developed administrative system"? Is that Swedish lawyer speak for a brutish, Stalinist regime?
Family Re-Unification Department Where's pops?
Family Re-Unification Department
UPDATE: In Washington, U.S. counterterrorism officials strongly disputed reports saying bin Laden's sons were captured. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, ABC news has UBL in a "caravan" somewhere in the hinterlands among Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan in the province of Baluchistan.
KSM, We Hardly Knew Ya
KSM, We Hardly Knew Ya
Another brief thought on Dubya's press conference that just ended. He began the press conference by reiterating that KSM had been apprehended and how significant a development that was. Would you think that one journalist might have asked a follow up on this? Apparently, KSM is so yesterday. But he is the man more responsible for 9/11 than any other al-Qaeda operative. He is the reason 3,000 plus died on that fateful day and ushered in a new historical epoch that will likely determine U.S. foreign policy for decades. Might a journalist have wondered where he was being held, what secrets he was divulging, how he was being interrogated, whether he would go before a military tribunal?
Not one. I don't know what this reveals about American journalists. Maybe media folks in any other major market, when the leader of their country is about to embark on a significant new conflict, wouldn't bother to query regarding past events when the plate is so full going forward. But there is something about the warp-speed media cycle that cheapens our national discouse, I fear. Even Dubya seemed to sense that the American public needed reminding about 9/11, before correcting himself and suggesting that the U.S. public didn't need reminding about 9/11 per se but about the very real potential for threats like 9/11 in the future.
Is our national memory so fleeting? Is the single bloodiest day on U.S. soil since the Civil War significantly receding from our collective consciousness not 18 months after the event? Given that the first opportunity to ask the President about the main culprit of the attack wasn't even taken up by the White House press corps--it might appear so.
"Show Their Cards" "No matter
"Show Their Cards"
"No matter what the whip count, we are calling for a vote." So says Dubya at his press conference in response to a question about whether he will table a motion even if the U.S. doesn't think it has the votes.
So he is willing to go to war without UNSC approval. Obviously, no surprise there. But it shows he has the courage of his convictions regarding forcing member states to stake their ground. Can any of Russia, China or France really agree that Saddam isn't in flagrant material breach (or in Dubya's new locution engaged in a "willfull charade")? Will they risk a spectacle of U.N. impotence of perilous scale by casting vetos? Will Chirac cast the first French anti-US UNSC veto since the Suez Crisis of 1956 in defense of a Baathist thug with the blood of over 200,000 individuals on his hands? Questions we will be getting answers to rapidly.
Fair to say too, as Instapundit points out, that Dubya didn't look like a bloodthirsty warmonger. He is still holding out for a peaceful settlement if Saddam would come clean (he said he still prays for peace in response to one question). In that vein, he suggested he had no problem with the exile option and appeared to urge Saddam to consider that exit strategy. Of course, neither true disarmament or Saddam decamping to Qatar or the like appear in the offing. So, aside from U.K. compromise motions that might drag out the U.N. endgame a couple weeks more, the war looks set to begin in the next two weeks.
BTW, after all the speculation, UBL wasn't even mentioned once--just an initial statement re: the KSM apprehension by Dubya. And there were no follow-up Qs on al-Qaeda. Aside from several questions on North Korea, the approximately 50 minute press conference was solely about Iraq.
Here's the NYT's first cut at the story.
No Troops in Turkey? Despite
No Troops in Turkey?
Despite strong signals of discontent from the Turkish military re: the parliament's decision (discussed extensively below), Jim Hoagland thinks the Turkish troop deployment is dead. Yet at least some are touching down.
March 06, 2003
An American Ayatollah The stream
An American Ayatollah
The stream of hyperbolic stories with Dubya cast as religious nut continues unabated. The latest has him nearing Khomeini levels of religious fanatacism--and in the stately, Bostonian pages of the Atlantic!
Not much new here, but here's the money graf: "In the State of the Union address, Bush applied the lesson of his life to the country: "We Americans have faith in ourselves—but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history." History, though, is a theatre of evil—and any God of history would be fiend, answerable for millennia of slaughtered children. But what if God has been holding his piece, waiting for the right man and the right nation and the right moment to act for Him and cleanse history of Evil? If this is what Bush believes, if his talk of Armageddon is not just catnip for the religious right, then he is in a fair way to becoming the American Ayatollah."
I already analyzed that line of the SOTU below in a March 4th entry titled "Bush and Religion." Needless to say, my interpretation is quite different from the one above. Let's all sober up for a second. Ayatollah Khomeini, to take the latest example of whom Dubya is being compared to (believe me, the typical subtext in this line of argument is that he is just as bad as UBL), swept into power on the heels of a radical Islamic revolution that, twenty years past its period of most radical Jacobean fervor, still pursues an academic with death penalty edicts for daring to query why solely clerics had the right to interpret Islamic tenets. And this is well into the Thermidor period!
Next time Dubya tries to impose the death penalty on someone for daring to suggest differing interpretations of Crawford, TX baptist tenets shoot me a line.
UBL Watch Best wrap up
Best wrap up of the chaotic rumor mill re: whether Dubya is set to announce that UBL has been apprehended at his hastily convened press conference scheduled for 8:00 P.M EST. The key point, I think, is that he would have ensured network time if such an announcement were in the offing. Still, he could be being nonchalant knowing all networks would break to the newscast immediately if he announced that UBL was dead or caught. Meanwhile, others speculate he is going to issue a final, final ultimatum to Saddam for later in March or that this is simply damage control for the alleged set-backs of the past couple of weeks (ostensible Iraqi cooperation, Turkish parliamentary vote, Franco-Russian veto threats etc). Regardless, we'll know soon enough.
UPDATE: ABC's take.
What Drives Jacques (aka "Honeychile")?
What Drives Jacques (aka "Honeychile")?
The Guardian (suspiciously silent recently on the alleged U.S. UNSC "dirty tricks" campaign) has this profile on Chirac. Meanwhile, the editors continue their tabloid tendencies with another story soberly entitled Britain's Dirty Secret.
Hamlet on the Hudson The
Hamlet on the Hudson
The NYT continues its tortured series of "should we, shouldn't we" mastheads. This latest one appears to be more in the "shouldn't" camp. The Times sounds very de Villepinian when its opines: "Though Saddam Hussein is far from full disarmament, he has given ground in recent months by permitting the return of arms inspectors after a four-year absence and, more recently, by beginning to destroy illegal missiles. With more time and an escalation of pressure, Mr. Hussein might yet buckle."
More offensive, in my view, is this language: "Mr. Bush and his team laid the groundwork for this mess with their arrogant handling of other nations and dismissive attitude toward international accords. Though they mended their ways to some extent after Sept. 11, and initially tried to work through the Security Council on Iraq, the White House's obvious intention to go to war undermined that effort." [my emphasis]
Was the "obvious intention to go to war" the September 12th speech outlining to Saddam how he could avoid military action through the most multilateral forum in the world? Was it when the Administration gave him yet another chance in December, after the patently false recycled 12,000 pages of omission and deception? Or was this jingostic tendency most apparent during the latest February rigamarole when we were treated to Blixian progress reports about ratios of minders to inspector "improving" from 5:1 to about 1:1, how the Baathists was passing new laws banning WMD (yippie!), or how a South African delegation was travelling to Baghdad to advise the Iraqis on how to disarm (first thing Saddam, don't hide the WMD and refrain from spying on the inspectors so as to determine their movements!)?
As the American Scene pointed out in a little gem: "A priceless line from....[a recent] New York Times story on the Iraq debate: "The Iraqi government told the United Nations that it would provide a new report on the destruction of its VX nerve gas and anthrax stocks within a week, Mr. Ueki said. Why it failed to include that information in its 'final' report in December is unclear ...Unclear to whom, exactly?"
I guess still unclear to Dominique, but not to Colin, it increasingly appears.
Powell: "Has Saddam Hussein made a strategic, political decision to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions?" Mr. Powell asked, in tones of what seemed to be exasperation. "That's the question. There is no other question. Everything else is secondary or tertiary. That's the issue."
March 05, 2003
News of the Weird from
News of the Weird from Wellington
A Turkish General Expresses Concern
A Turkish General Expresses Concern
Turkey-watchers all know that, at the end of the day, it is the Turkish Army that essentially controls Turkey and acts as the key guarantor of its stability. So when the Chief of the Turkish General Staff speaks out in depth on the recent parliamentary machinations--Ankara's entire political class will be listening. Here is a link to the key general speaking out. Some of what he had to say:
"But, we cannot make our calculations by supposing that war will not break out. We should evaluate our move in case of a war. Unfortunately, our choice is between the bad and worse, not between the good and bad. We should either totally stay outside or join the process by helping those who fight. These two moves have been evaluated systematically and in coordination with all institutions and organizations for months," Ozkok said.
Ozkok continued, "we will suffer the same damage if we do not participate in a war, but we will not see compensation for the damage after the war. And, it will be never possible for us to have a right to speak after the war. Some of our losses can be compensated if we help those who fight. We will send humanitarian aid to refugees in Northern Iraq without joining those who fight. War will last short and pain will be less since a northern front will be opened. We think that unexpected developments will not occur and fewer people will die. We would return back by fulfilling our mission without shooting even a single bullet."
Put differently, the message is: This war is happening regardless of our recent parliamentary vote. By refusing to allow the U.S. troops to enter Iraq from Turkey---we have severely limited our voice regarding post-conflict developments that are vital to us. Nor shall we receive compensation for the economic losses we face resulting from the conflict. We don't want to appear like we are intervening in the decisions of the political class, but dear parliamentarians, please reconsider your decision if we re-vote this issue in the coming days. Key security concerns depend on your reappraisal of the situation.
A message, I suspect, enough parliamentarians will heed if a second vote occurs.
UPDATE: The NYT is now giving this serious play.
French Ambassador to Israel ...has
French Ambassador to Israel
...has an op-ed in Haaretz. Interesting to see how the French are pitching their Iraq stance to the Israelis.
"Today's world cannot subscribe to a dualistic logic of good and evil. Without conceding anything of the necessity of getting rid of the threat of weapons of mass destruction, my country believes in the force of its arguments and it intends to promote them relentlessly. This is both our right and our duty." [my emphasis].
Does "relentlessly" mean a veto? Perhaps it does.
"Overpopulated, underprivileged Gaza, the stepchild of Israel and the Palestinians alike, is presenting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new government with its first military policy challenge, a literally vicious circle of violence so inconclusive that it has raised an outcry among the very Israelis the policy was designed to protect.
North Korea Appeasement Watch Japan
North Korea Appeasement Watch
Japan and South Korea look increasingly resigned towards allowing North Korea to possess more nukes. China, despite policy statements to the contrary, doesn't look too concerned either:
"An administration official said Chinese officials have told North Korea that China would consider any attempt to produce nuclear weapons a "direct threat to Chinese national security." While the Chinese told U.S. officials that they made it clear to North Korea they would not accept such a step, the Chinese statement did not address reprocessing or foreign sales of the resulting materials. Many strategists have long asserted that the United States, China and Russia would not allow a nuclear-armed North Korea because it could dramatically alter the power structure in northeastern Asia and lead to an arms race as both Seoul and Tokyo demanded nuclear weapons. Increasingly, however, it appears that North Korea is determined to defy those wishes. "In a way we are wasting our time to talk about dialogue with North Korea," said Masashi Nishihara, president of Japan's National Defense Academy. "Only after they develop a nuclear program will they come to the table."
So, mean, globocop America will doubtless have to forcefully remind various actors of the stakes involved whereby a cash-poor North, a proven serial proliferator, potentially sells fissile material to the highest bidder. Meanwhile, expect more provocations as Kim Jong II calculates that Iraq is a 24/7 occupation at 1600 Pennsylvania. The U.S. is strongly signalling to him that he is is wrong on that score.
Oh, and let's issue a collective sigh of relief and thanks that Madeline Albright is no longer running the 7th Floor at State. Here are some comments she made just last night at the Plaza Hotel in NYC at an awards ceremony:
She told us about meeting and conferring with Kim Jong-il, how he was very isolated and “a little strange,” but nevertheless aware of what’s going on in the world, adding that “we both wear high heels and are the same size.” She told how he lives in an environment surrounded by statues of either himself or his father but that during her tenure, they were able to stave off nuclear testing. “The North Koreans cheated a little on their treaties,” she reported, “but so did the Soviet Union” once upon a time. Talking, negotiating, she said, was everything. That is what diplomacy is."
What she meant to say is that is what bad diplomacy is. But it does help give us a better idea of why al-Qaeda, Iraq and North Korea were given virtually free rein through the Clinton party decade (on top of all the time spent scouring 401K statements in celebratory fashion).
Here's a more judicious appaisal of Albright's sad boast at the Plaza that she helped "to stave off nuclear testing" while in office from John McCain. BTW, sources tell me that Brent Scowcroft was in the crowd and held his applause throughout Albright's speech.
"In 1994, faced with a similar challenge, the United States agreed to provide North Korea half a million tons of fuel oil annually and construct two civilian nuclear reactors in return for a freeze on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs. Many of us questioned how this could possibly serve our security interests. The agreement was frontloaded with benefits for North Korea, even allowing it to retain material to develop more nuclear weapons and advanced missiles that will soon be capable of striking the continental United States. In exchange, North Korea--a regime infamous for its deceit, hostility to the United States and its allies, and the megalomania of its ruler--provided a mere promise of future good faith.
Regrettably, the Clinton administration pursued a policy that was all carrot and no stick. It thus mistook for resolving the North Korean crisis what merely postponed its apogee. By granting North Korea the time and the means to improve its nuclear and missile capability, the agreement made America and our allies less, not more, secure. North Korea began a secret uranium enrichment program after 1995. Pyongyang now flaunts the failure of U.S. policy by trumpeting its nuclear progress and seeking to extort even more concessions.
We clearly enjoyed a false peace from 1994 to 2002. There can be no going back. In the face of North Korea's nuclear provocation, a return to the failed policies of the past is unacceptable. North Korea itself has declared the Agreed Framework dead and withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."
HRC Is a Senatorial Goddess
HRC Is a Senatorial Goddess
Breathless profile of the junior senator from NY, here.
Here is some flavor: "Yet colleagues said it was only a matter of time before she seized more power. "It took a while for some people to really understand her brilliance," said Minority Whip Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "We had to find a place for her -- she is that good." Many Democrats interviewed for this article predicted Clinton will run for president in 2008, if Bush wins reelection. "I think she's very well positioned to be a candidate next time around," said Breaux."
Jeb, get ready.
Vietnam Syndrome, RIP Colin Powell
Vietnam Syndrome, RIP
Colin Powell and other older policymakers certainly well remember the horrors of Vietnam, but the younger troops don't and are increasingly gung-ho.
"The doubts that gnawed at commanders and seeped down to soldiers of the post-Vietnam era until the overwhelming success of Operation Desert Storm in 1991 have long since vanished. "We have the mindset that this is going to be another Gulf War," said Marine Cpl. Geoff Berry, 21, who was a 9-year-old watching television when a U.S.-led coalition drove President Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait. "It's a different mission, but the same area, same climate, same conditions and same enemy, though they'll probably fight harder this time." Warming to the subject, Berry added: "Marines have always been cocky. . . . But with all the recent stuff, like Afghanistan and places without a lot of casualties, we're even more so now. Our unit has a lot of young guys, some just a few days out of infantry school when they came in. They're confident, hard-chargers." Some veteran soldiers express fear that the confidence may turn out to be overconfidence, that the war this time could prove more difficult."
The (Muslim) German Swing Vote?
The (Muslim) German Swing Vote?
Are electoral politics another variable fueling the trans-atlantic rift?
Key language: "In Germany and elsewhere in Europe, a Muslim swing vote is already having a critical impact. Consider the electoral push that newly enfranchised “German Turks” gave to Germany’s incumbent Social Democrat (SPD)-Green coalition in last September’s down-to-the-wire election. These Muslim Germans punished the anti-immigrant Christian Democrats, who oppose Turkey’s membership to the EU. And they expressed their gratitude for efforts by the SPD-Green coalition to change the archaic laws of German citizenship. The bad news for the German Christian Democrats is that in the next general elections in 2006, roughly 1 million German Turks will be eager to cast their votes. A big boost to the organizational capacity of Muslims in Europe came most recently from France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim community. The country’s diverse Muslim community is now represented by a unified French Council of the Islamic Faithu—a potential boon to its lobbying clout. French Muslims have also gained higher political visibility with the inclusion in Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s government of two cabinet members of North African origin."
March 04, 2003
Blimey, They Have No Table
Blimey, They Have No Table Manners!
Provocative read courtesy of Simon Schama writing in the New Yorker on Euro perceptions of the U.S.:
During the Jacksonian period:
"The hallmark of Jacksonian America seemed to be a beastly indifference to manners, the symptom of a society where considerateness to others was a poor second to the immediate satisfaction of personal wants. The conduct of Americans at dinner said it all. They wolfed down their food, cramming corn bread into their sloppy maws during meals that were devoured in silence, punctuated only by slurps, grunts, scraping knives, and hacking coughs. (All those cigars.) At the Plate House, in the business district of New York, the naval captain and travel writer Basil Hall was astonished by the speed at which the corned beef arrived and then by the even greater speed at which it was demolished: “We were not in the house above twenty minutes, but we sat out two sets of company at least.” Only the boy waiters yelling orders at the kitchen broke the quiet. The lack of polite conversation suggested the melancholy and dispiriting monotony of American life, on which almost all the early reporters commented. Tocqueville explained the apparent paradox of anxiety amid prosperity as the result of the relentless obligation to be forever Up and Doing."
And post-WWII, contra the conventional wisdom that all Europeans were besides themselves with gratitude when the U.S. help reconstruct the Continent with the Marshall Plan:
"The charge that the United States was imposing its cultural habits on the prostrate body of war-torn Europe returned with even more force after 1945. Americans thought of the Marshall Plan (together with the forgiveness of French debts) as an exercise in wise altruism; European leaders like de Gaulle bristled with suspicion at the patronizing weight of the program. Complaints against Coca-Colonization, the mantra of the anti-globalizers, were already in full cry in the nineteen-fifties. But as Arthur Koestler, who bowed to no one in his loathing of “cellophane-wrapped bread, processed towns of cement and glass . . . the Organization Man and the Readers’ Digest,” put it in 1951, “Who coerced us into buying all this? The United States do not rule Europe as the British ruled India; they waged no Opium War to force their revolting ‘Coke’ down our throats. Europe bought the whole package because Europe wanted it.”
And, getting to issues rising to the fore today with Iraq the catalyst:
"Yet somehow, in the present crisis, American democracy has let itself be represented as American despotism. Some in the European antiwar movement see the whole bundle of American values—consumer capitalism, a free market for information, an open electoral system—as having been imposed rather than chosen."
In other words, anti-americanism today is based on sentiments well beyond an argument about whether inspectors should have a couple more months in the spring season to ferret about various nooks and crannies for WMD stockpiles. Which gets to the Krauthammer point that the French, it appears, are beginning to oppose the U.S., not any more on the merits of the Iraq issue, but rather with the hope of representing another major force in world politics that defines itself by its opposition to the American hegemon.
I wager that, despite all the hurdles coalescing recently (the Turkish vote against U.S. troops, the evasive "Middle Six" at the UNSC, massive popular opposition in certain countries to the war, Franco-Russian threats of veto brandishing, a cornered Saddam feigning "cooperation" regarding the al-Samouds, and so on--the U.S. stance will be vindicated.
Not because of some divine, innate correctness in the U.S. stance. But because of all the arguments you have heard, seemingly ad infinitum already. Because Saddam is loathed by his populace, has proven himself a criminal leader by his use of terrifying chemical weapons against his own civilians, has started two wars against his neighbors, has avaricious appetites to acquire more WMD, and cannot effectively be contained because of his easy resort to evasion mastered over a decade plus. Further, and perhaps most important, there is the post-9/11 notion of preemption, if not prevention (important doctrinal nuances that need to be further fleshed out by the current Administration), which people like Tony Blair, Jose Aznar and Dubya get. In the interest of the security of millions of civilians worldwide (particularly those located in massive metropolises), rulers who have proven their barbarism in the past, and refuse to give up their WMD, shall be forcibly disarmed. We simply can't afford to wait around for another nasty surprise that dwarfs 9/11. Pacifism in the face of such threats becomes its own fanaticism (a noxious masochistic variant).
As Dubya is increasingly indicating, Saddam's time has come. He has met a U.S. President who will no longer flinch. Let's instead start focusing on minimizing casualties on all sides during the impending conflict. And then on ensuring a viable, post-conflict Iraq that is federated but retains its territorial integrity. And the best means to ensure mitigation of revanchist killings and other assorted score-settling in the chaotic aftermath of the war.
Bush and Religion (Continued) The
Bush and Religion (Continued)
As regular readers may recall (scroll to January 27th entry), I have been disturbed by the increasingly prevalent trend (manifest since at least late last year) that attempts to tag this Administration as somehow being in the throes of reactionary religiosity. A prominent voice was lent to such views when EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, in an interview with the FT, described U.S. foreign policy as motivated by religion rather than more rational, secular Europe. All this talk struck me as another pestilent outbreak of moral relativism. The U.S. was struck on 9/11 by a group driven by theologically barbaric precepts, but lo and behold, the evangelicals from the prairies of Crawford are just as bad! Too Derrida-esque for me; and flatly offensive to boot.
Marty writes: "In the future, when Bush speaks about God and this country, as he assuredly will, one hopes he will heed the example of Abraham Lincoln. In other desperate times Lincoln had to seek Almighty guidance for what he called this ” almost chosen people.” That president accompanied his seeking with a theological affirmation too rarely heard now: “The Almighty has His own purposes.” These purposes may not always match our own, even if we are called to highest office. Awareness of this might bring the nation and its political and religious leaders alike under judgment as we pursue, by our best lights, responsible action."
Yet read the last lines of Dubya's State of the Union: "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history." [my emphasis]
This is a rather typical Dubya rendition of God's role vis-a-vis expansion of freedom in the world. It hardly strikes me as equating a special, providential diety that works its divine will solely on behalf of goals of the U.S.A. Or is Marty arguing that God does not believe that "freedom is the right of every person"?
March 03, 2003
Case Studies: Three Allies, Three
Case Studies: Three Allies, Three Snags
Remember the U.S. Special Forces troops that were supposed to hunt for Abu Sayyaf guerillas?
"...last week, the plan was put on hold, raising questions about how it was put together in the first place. Some details about the process remain unclear, but in interviews here and in Washington, officials described a series of missed signals and apparent misunderstandings that led to an embarrassing public reversal. The Pentagon announced Friday that the plan was being frozen." Some sources questioned whether Philippine officials had given unwarranted assurances to U.S. military planners, allowing them to proceed when they should have been more cautious. Others, including some U.S. officials, asserted that the Pentagon failed to grasp the political and cultural sensitivities in the Philippines, a former U.S. colony in which nationalist sentiment led to the closure of two U.S. military bases a decade ago.
And, of course, whether we have a full-fledged Northern Front remains in doubt given chaotic deliberations in Turkey. As one typical Turkish commentator opines:
"The US learned through the proposal that pressure put on Turkey by ignoring Turkey and its public, without considering its pride important might turn upside down. It understood that there was a public and Parliament in Turkey but it’s too late now. Anyway, Parliament’s decision caused the US to realize its mistakes. It showed that it was a great mistake to consider Turkey a kingdom in the Middle East or an emirate and to put pressure on it as if the prime minister makes all the decisions alone. It was also understood that Turkey isn’t panicked and frightened that it will be ruined and destroyed if it doesn’t do what the US wants. "
And how about South Korea, which we have defended in blood and treasure for half a century? The young are unimpressed.
"There is also recognizable sentiment among younger Koreans that the United States has adopted a bullying attitude in the world since the September 11 attacks. The Internet portal Daum.com was filled with messages blaming the United States for everything from the Korean War to the oppression of the Palestinians in the days and weeks after the attacks. "Mix [the armored-vehicle incident] up with the 'axis of evil' remarks, which irritated and alienated a lot of people in this country, the perception that the Bush administration is not as enthusiastic as the previous one on negotiations with North Korea, and that it is unilateralist and doesn't listen closely to the needs of its allies, and it's a recipe for resentment toward the United States," a senior Western diplomat said.
And these are ostensibly some of our close allies.
Whether we like it or not, and perhaps quite apart from the Iraq issue, we are facing a grave image problem across large swaths of the globe. Part of this perception, of course, is the almost inevitable resentment that our unprecedented degree of "hyperpuissance" inexorably engenders. Yet how painful to hear, so soon after the post-9/11 sentiments of solidarity, that increasing numbers around the globe view us as changed for the worse after we were wounded so greviously.
Regardless, and quite apart from whether one views this increasingly widespread resentment towards the U.S as justified or not, the bottom line is that such perceptions are beginning to impact the U.S. achieving key geopolitical aims. Whether, at the very least, delaying troop movements to the northern Iraqi border via Turkey, or causing snags in our plans to hit back at the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, or generating a political climate in Seoul that allows for overly conciliatory feints to Pyongyang from the South--all these "case studies" argue for fresh approaches, a re-invigorated U.S. diplomacy.
Partly, this relates to Jose Aznar of Spain's message to Dubya of needing (I'm paraphrasing) "more Powell and less Rumsfeld." Yes, many of us like Rummy's fresh talk, no-nonsense demeanour, robust pursuit of the American interest. But, impossible to deny, he creates messes that the hapless Colin Powell must frequently clean up. Many of the problems described above may not have become so grave if we had pursued our objectives with a slightly less heavy hand, a bit more humility, a sense of "i'll meet you half-way."
Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing for limp-wristed appeasement a la Jacques and Gerard show. God forbid. Just a slightly more tactful approach now and then. It will only help us deal with the grave threats we are confronting in so many theaters more effectively.
Chechnya Watch The timing of
The timing of this announcement looks suspiciously close to the requisite timing for avoiding a Russian "nyet" on 1441, doesn't it?
Hillary the Hawk HRC "fully
Hillary the Hawk
HRC "fully supports" Dubya's Iraq policy. I still would rather have had Rudy as my Senator. And why wasn't she egging hubbie on with such alacrity to get Saddam during the cohabitation?
March 02, 2003
War Plans The WaPo has
The WaPo has the most definitive account I've seen yet:
"The framework that has emerged calls for a war that would be remarkably different from anything the U.S. military has done. It aims to combine the armored fist of the tank-heavy 1991 Persian Gulf War with the speed of the overnight 1989 U.S. takeover of Panama and the precision bombing of the 2001 U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. One sign of the innovative nature of the plan is that, without much public notice, its first phase is already underway. Special Operations troops are executing missions inside Iraq to prepare the way for later attacks. U.S. and British warplanes ostensibly enforcing the "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq have increased the number and intensity of airstrikes, and recently expanded their list of targets to include Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles. They were attacked, defense officials said, not because they were in the "no-fly" zones and threatened U.S. aircraft but because they were in range of U.S. troops mustering just over the border in Kuwait. "We've already got a lot of stuff underway -- the air campaign, psychological operations, Special Ops," said Robert Andrews, a former Pentagon official who oversaw Special Operations activities."
And in a little noticed aspect of this story:
"While the Army and some Marines will move north, the British will split off to occupy Basra and the oil fields near it, said people familiar with the plan. For that purpose, said a U.S. official in Kuwait, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit will likely be assigned to a British command. Putting a large U.S. unit under foreign command in combat apparently has not occurred since World War II, when British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery commanded large numbers of U.S. Army troops. As such, it is likely to carry much symbolic meaning, rewarding British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his close support of Bush's Iraq policy by evoking the close ties forged between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill."
So, the French for the first time since the Suez Crisis in 1956 might cast their veto in the UNSC against a U.S. policy objective. Meanwhile, a British commander will be the first since Bernard Montgomery in WWII to oversee U.S. troops in combat. I'd rather be on Tony Blair's side of the issue than Jacques Chirac's. So too, it appears, do an increasing number of French politicians when it comes to the veto issue.
Why the State Department (Not
Why the State Department (Not the Pentagon) Wants Tommy Franks to be MacArthur
Here's part of the reason: "When Saddam suddenly ordered the release of tens of thousands of prisoners from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison last fall, the surge of inmates from within the walls and family members from without overwhelmed prison guards and crushed a number of people to death at the very moment of freedom. Reporters who ventured into the bowels of the prison were struck by the appalling odors of long human confinement. When the seal on Iraq is broken, the surge will be just as intense, and the smell of decades of repression just as rank. ''With the removal of the dictator,'' says Thomas Carothers, a democracy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, ''political life will begin immediately,'' and unless American troops are able to provide civil order while they hunt down weapons depots and resisting units of the Special Republican Guard, it will initially look more like vigilantism than party-building. Peter Galbraith, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, says: ''As the American troops sweep north, they'll pass Basra in the early days. Presumably they won't go into the city. Then who's going to govern the city? Will there be another uprising? I think there's a good chance.''
Sure, the disparate Iraqi exiles will have a big role to play. But, contra some Pentagon thinking from quarters like Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, the U.S. will have to work with many of the individuals (below the corrupt top levels) currently in Iraq. As Condi Rice said, there is a bit of the London Poles to the overseas Iraqi opposition, ie. they haven't been there in decades.
And more on the MacArthur angle from Slate.
Human Shield Watch Leaving Baghdad
Human Shield Watch
Leaving Baghdad town (with Mommie and emergency rations in tow). Heroic exploits, doubtless, to be replicated soon at an anti-war protest near you (virtual or otherwise).
The Guardian is Becoming the
The Guardian is Becoming the U.K's National Enquirer
...when it leads its Sunday copy with such drivel. Matt Drudge asks some initial, interesting questions as to why the alleged E-mail, ostensibly written by some dank, Nixonian Yank, is full of spellings a la Queen's English (favourable, recognise etc). Some treacherous Etonian set loose at the NSA? Here's a link to the laughable e-mail the Guardian has "uncovered". This is pretty bloody embarassing, isn't it? Embarassing, that is, for the editors of the Guardian who likely know they will make a mockery of themselves with this story but just can't control themselves given their knee-jerk anti-americanism.
Can't you just picture John Negroponte, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., in hushed and fervent tones, asking the NSA for the latest emails the Cameroonian envoy has been receiving from HQ in Yaounde? "Colin, Dominique has offered the Africans this, our intercepts reveal." "Let's up the ante then John, bigger pipeline deals for Angola and more train and equip for the Guinean military. And get on the horn to Yaounde soonest to beat back that nefarious French offer for more agricultural aid."
FYI: "It is the policy of the Guardian to correct significant errors as soon as possible. When contacting the readers' editor, please quote the date and page number or website url.
Give a ring/email/letter, folks.
UPDATE: The Guardian now adds: "Footnote: This email was originally transcribed with English spellings standardised for a British audience. Following enquiries about this, we have reverted to the original US-spelling as in the document leaked to The Observer."
March 01, 2003
The "Mukhtar" Apprehended Al-Qaeda's #3
The "Mukhtar" Apprehended
Al-Qaeda's #3 caught in Pakistan. Another reminder of the paucity of arguments like that of former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's that Iraq should be put on the proverbial "backburner" partly because official Washington can't handle more than one crisis at the same time (assuming you view Iraq and the war on terror as separate crises, which they aren't).
"We have finally apprehended Khalid Shaikh Mohammed," a presidential spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, said late tonight, praising the work of Pakistani intelligence agencies. "He is the kingpin of Al Qaeda."
Mr. Mohammed, 37, was one of three suspected Qaeda operatives picked up this morning in Rawalpindi, the old city adjacent to the modern capital of Islamabad.
Well, he's not quite the kingpin. But he's damn close.
The Democratic Exception Richard Hass,
The Democratic Exception
Richard Hass, head of Policy Planning at the State Department, has talked of the so-called "democratic exception". By that, he and others mean that U.S. foreign policy, traditionally bent on fostering democratic insitutions overseas (witness post-war Europe, Japan), has not sufficiently prioritized this objective in the Middle East. The argument, crudely, is that given vital strategic interests (energy etc) in the region the U.S. cherishes stability over democracy in the Middle East. Hence relatively cozy ties with quasi-authoritarians like Hosni Mubarak, unaccountable monarchies a la Saudis, among others. Sure, any US Ambassador in the region has as part of his bilateral beat human rights issues. But they, I would submit, are rarely paramount considerations in the bilateral relationship with key countries in the region.
It is important to bear this in mind in the context of Bush's recent speech at AEI where he said:
It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world--or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim--is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror."
Grand goals, and hopefully not merely in the realm of rhetoric. And I agree with him fully about these common aspirations of mankind and how, even though the region didn't go through the Enlightenment and other key historical periods that we take for granted in the "West", that nevertheless your typical Bahraini or Iraqi would prefer greater freedoms and more accountability from his leaders. But we have to make sure Dubya's speech is not aimed solely at simplifying the war message--"Liberate Iraq!"--so as to bring waverers on board.
I'm certainly not in the camp that believes we have left Afghanistan in the lurch now that al-Qaeda was dealt a heavy blow and our attention is turning full-square to Iraq. I believe key Administration players truly want to continue assisting Afghanistan make a go of becoming a workable democracy (though such individuals must remember that Afghanistan is more than just Kabul). And I trust people from Richard Armitage to Paul Wolfowitz want to leave Iraq with some coherent (if, of course, nascent) democratic institutions in place.
But let's not kid ourselves about the hard slogging that awaits. And let's not be naifs about some easy reverse-domino process whereby Jeffersonian Democrats sprout out from Riyadh to Damascus simply because we were able to create a workable, federated polity in Iraq.
Perry Anderson in the London
Perry Anderson in the London Review
Excellent article by Perry Anderson of UCLA in the London Review of Books. Cuts through much of the shrill commentary regarding Iraq today.
Some key language: "The enormous demonstrations of 15 February in Western Europe, the United States and Australia, opposing an attack on Iraq, pose a different sort of question. It can be put simply like this. What explains this vast, passionate revolt against the prospect of a war whose principles differ little from preceding military interventions, that were accepted or even welcomed by so many of those now up in arms against this one? Why does war in the Middle East today arouse feelings that war in the Balkans did not, if logically there is little or nothing to choose between them? The disproportion in reactions is unlikely to have much to do with distinctions between Belgrade and Baghdad, and would in any case presumably speak for rather than against intervention. The explanation clearly lies elsewhere. Three factors appear to have been decisive.
First, hostility to the Republican regime in the White House. Cultural dislike of the Bush Presidency is widespread in Western Europe, where its rough affirmations of American primacy, and undiplomatic tendency to match word to deed, have become intensely resented by public opinion accustomed to a more decorous veil being drawn over the realities of relative power. To see how important this ingredient in European anti-war sentiment must be, one need only look at the complaisance with which Clinton's successive aerial bombardments of Iraq were met. If a Gore or Lieberman Administration were preparing a second Gulf War, the resistance would be a moiety of what it is now. The current execration of Bush in wide swathes of West European media and public opinion bears no relation to the actual differences between the two parties in the United States. It is enough to note that both the leading practical exponent and the major intellectual theorist of a war on Iraq, Kenneth Pollack and Philip Bobbitt, are former ornaments of the Clinton regime. But as substantial policy contrasts tend to dwindle in Western political systems, symbolic differences of style and image can easily acquire, in compensation, a hysterical rigidity. The Kulturkampf between Democrats and Republicans within the United States is now being reproduced between the US and EU. Typically, in such disputes, the violence of partisan passions is in inverse proportion to the depth of real disagreements. But as in the conflicts between Blue and Green factions of the Byzantine hippodrome, minor affective preferences can have major political consequences. A Europe in mourning for Clinton - see any editorial in the Guardian, Le Monde, La Repubblica, El Pais - can unite in commination of Bush."
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
--New York Times
--Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Vitriolic Rants How crazy can
NYT Hyperbole Watch The mood
Taxi Suicide Attacker Hagiography Is
Dubya Metamorphosized Into Nero Comparisons
Friendly Fire Even when close
More on Rumsfeld's Warning to
Coalition Casualty Watch Regular readers
Robin Cook to Cheney, Rummy
Rumsfeld on Syria Rumsfeld's comments
Are These The Sentiments of
English Language Media
New York Times
New York Observer
The New Yorker
Real Clear Politics
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
Safire and Company
The Reliable Source
Katrina vanden Heuvel
The American Scene
Winds of Change
Roger L. Simon
B.D. In the Press
The Sunday Times(UK)"If It Makes America Look Bad It Must Be True, Musn't It?"
The Guardian "Trial and Error"
Online Journalism Review "Feeling Misquoted? Weblogs Transcripts Let the Reader Decide"
Online Journalism Review "Bloggers Rate the Most Influential Blogs" (see chart)
The Sunday Times (UK) "Rise of the Virtual Soapbox"
Middle East-Peace Process
U.S. Foreign Policy