September 30, 2003
More Cartoon Fun From Le
More Cartoon Fun From Le Monde
Osama is saying: "It wasn't me?" The book's title, with Dubya's face interposed between the Towers, reads "The Real Culprit."
Note this cartoon is linked to a story that states that 19% of Germans think the U.S. was responsible for 9/11.
Classic hypocrisy. Put the revolting cartoon up in your nation's main paper but make it appear it's describing the German world-view (for more on that angle go here).
Oh, and doesn't the timing and prominent placement of this cartoon reveal, as well, the French elite's increasing discomfort with the burgeoning U.S.-German rapprochment?
Cockburn's Scriveners You knew it
You knew it was coming.
What? A polemic titled "Does a Felon Rove the White House"?
Cute, isn't it?
Scandal Watch One of the
One of the fascinating aspects of unfolding scandals in the Beltway is surveying the breathtaking hypocrisy of the politicians carving out their partisan positions. The winner today, for me at least, has got to be Tom Daschle:
"Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader, said an outside counsel was vital. "The conflicts that would exist in the Justice Department are obvious," Mr. Daschle said. "John Ashcroft won't even go after Ken Lay. How will he possibly go after someone appointed, who appointed him as attorney general?"
Kenneth Lay, who was once friendly with President Bush, is the former chairman of the Enron Corporation, which collapsed amid allegations of corporate wrongdoing.
When a questioner noted that Democrats had opposed several calls for independent prosecutors during the Clinton administration, Mr. Daschle said, "We don't have confidence in John Ashcroft. I had confidence in Janet Reno." ."
Um, ok. But wait, the Enron Task Force is pretty busy. Ken Lay isn't sleeping easy just yet.
And more confidence in Janet Reno? Oh my.
Oh, and there is this too:
"One Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, said on Monday that the situation was reason enough to revive the independent counsel law, which Congress allowed to die in 1999 after widespread concern over Kenneth W. Starr's Whitewater investigation".
Here's what Lieberman was saying back in '99:
"I see the Starr investigation and some of what I would call its excesses as a reason, a basis for us to amend the law when, as I believe we should, we reenact it. For instance, I think we ought to narrow the number of high officials of our government who are subject to this investigation. We ought to -- independent counsel. We ought to raise the threshold a bit for when the counsel gets appointed." [my emphasis]
Put on your seatbelts. There' s a lot more of this on the way...
White House Counsel's Email Here's
White House Counsel's Email
Here's the text:
We were informed last evening by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee. The department advised us that it will be sending a letter today instructing us to preserve all materials that might be relevant to its investigation. Its letter will provide more specific instructions on the materials in which it is interested, and we will communicate those instructions directly to you. In the meantime, you must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation. Any questions concerning this request should be directed to Associate Counsels Ted Ullyot or Raul Yanes in the counsel to the president's office. The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation." [my emphasis]
OK, so this debate (see "What Is Her Job") is moot--she was undercover--or Gonzalez is a really, really careless lawyer. I'm betting on the former (very obviously).
Meanwhile, Howard Kurtz has an interesting media roundup.
UPDATE: David Corn started the whole thing so his current take is worth checking out. This part stuck out at me (I'll explain why in a second):
"Scott," one reporter said, "the statement you gave about why there shouldn't be a special prosecutor was almost word for word what the Clinton people said in 1994 about why there shouldn't be a special prosecutor in Whitewater. Why should it stand now if it didn't stand then?" McClellan answered: "I just reject that comparison." The reporters laughed."
I was just watching CNN Int'l and saw footage of Dubya discoursing on the Plame affair. He said, and I think I've got the quote right, "If that person violated the law that person will be taken care of..."
It all sounds a bit like "no controlling legal authority" (Gore) or the myriad Clintonian tortured legalistic parsings.
C'mon Mr. President--you can do better. How 'bout "if anyone in my Administration revealed the identity of one of our undercover CIA agents they will immediately be relieved of their duties and I will urge that they are prosecuted to the maximum extent allowed by the law..."
Or something like that.
Blair Watch He's still in
He's still in the driver's seat.
"Acknowledging he felt battered after 6 1/2 years in office and seeing growing dissent over his policies, Blair told the party's annual conference: ``So what do we do -- give up on it, or get on with it?''
Delegates gave him the response he wanted -- ``Get on with it!''
Constitution Drafting Can someone show
Can someone show this to the French?
And, even if you want to argue that sovereignty can be handed over before the Constitution is finalized, note this peril:
"Noureddine and other council members said a longer timetable to write the constitution should not result in a longer occupation. They rejected the Bush administration's view that a constitution and elections must precede a transfer of sovereignty, insisting that the issues should be separate.
Bush administration officials contend that if they transfer sovereignty before a constitution is drafted and a democratically elected government is seated, the interim political authority could prolong or subvert the process. "If a constitution has to be drafted before there can be a government, you bet we'll get a constitution," one U.S. official said."
It's smart to pressure the Iraqis to get the Constitution drafted before sovereignty is handed over. That way, we can at least ensure the Constitution contains "principles [of] federalism, democracy, nonviolence, a respect for diversity and a role for women."
Bremer takes pains to stress the document will be drafted by Iraqis. That's, of course, critical. But it's fair to at least monitor that the resulting document contain the above key principles/rights.
So the Constitution-writing process is likely going to prove messy, protracted and complex.
But the larger point is simply to pause and witness how such important debates, ideas, horse-trading etc. are playing out in the nascent Iraqi polity.
Delegates to a constitutional convention to be chosen by popular vote? Or the selection of "wise men" to ward off the dangers of crude Shi'a majoritarianism?
No, wait. How about:
"A compromise approach that appears to be gaining support is to hold caucuses in provinces where religious, political and tribal leaders could assemble and select a few delegates to represent them at the convention. The 250 or so delegates could be augmented with a few appointed members, particularly legal scholars and other academics, supporters of that approach said."
Caucuses? In Iraq? Who would have thought?
From the ashes of Saddam's totalilatarian regime, democracy is stirring. Fitfully, yes. In the midst of a dismal security situation in (one part) of the country, yes.
But progress is being made. Let all the Iraq nay-sayers continue to castigate Dubya for his foolhardy and reckless adventure.
But History's verdict is still very much at play. And I'm betting Dubya's big bet is yet going to pay off. He may yet create a functioning democracy in Mesopotamia. It's just going to take a while. And cost a lot in terms of blood and treasure. But the potential rewards are immense. So keep the faith. This was never going to be easy.
UPDATE: Go check out how Pat Tyler writes up the same story in the NYT. Might there be a "coalition efforts are floundering" kind of agenda at play here? Just asking.
September 29, 2003
Pull a Clinton Joe Klein
Pull a Clinton
Joe Klein has got some advice for Dubya. On a policy basis, given balooning deficits, Klein's ideas make sense. But the last thing Dubya wants is to risk another "read my lips" pledge-breaking imbroglio. So don't expect anything like this to happen.
Valerie Plame The WaPo provides
UPDATE: So, it's not Karl Rove, right? (Or Scott McClellan is smoking lots of crack). Aside from Rove being the person Joe Wilson had fingered as the key culprit--it's interesting to see the Administration come out swinging defending Rove first. At this stage, I'd wager, Dubya needs Rove around more than, say, Cheney. It's getting rough out there....
ANOTHER UPDATE: Via Instapundit, this is a must-read.
September 28, 2003
Prolific Priest Much output from
Much output from Dana Priest in the WaPo today. First, you have got this piece on intelligence shortcomings related to Iraqi WMD. Next, along with Mike Allen, Priest writes about the developing scandal related to the "outing" of Joe Wilson's wife.
On the latter, go see Tom Maguire and Josh Marshall. For what it's worth, my thoughts at this stage are to wait and see if the story is accurate. Next, discipline whatever individuals were involved--to the maximum extent allowed by the law--if the story ends up proving true.
But I think it's a tad early to speculate about whether it was Andy Card, Ari Fleischer (on the day of his departure), Karl Rove or Dan Bartlett who "outed" Mrs. Yellowcake. And let's certainly not start hyperventilating about impeachment of Dubya and the like. We're so far from that stage it's risible to even write about it in serious fashion.
And for the record, don't you find it pretty rich that some like Josh Marshall and Atrios are suggesting that the White House (rather than merely refer to matter to the Department of Justice) should just reveal the alleged leakers right off?
Josh Marshall must surely be thinking of the approach the Clinton White House took re: such matters, doubtless (and no, I'm not just talking of the Monica peccadillo, but several other scandals besides). Wait, I seem to recall that the Clinton White House was not, uh, exactly forthcoming about turning over the goods...
That said, Bush's White House should not be striving to approximate the ethical moorings of the Clinton White House. They must do better. And to "out" the professionally-employed CIA agent spouse of a retired government official who is making public information inconvenient to the Administration is gang-land style politics. It's reprehensible. But this story has many moving parts and nothing definitively damning is yet evidenced. Referring this over to DOJ is the right way to go at this stage. Patience.
On the first Priest story regarding intelligence shortcomings, I'm going to put aside the alleged shortcomings related to the links to al-Qaeda and the nuclear program. On the former, that wasn't one of the reasons that I favored going to war against Iraq. I felt the links between Baghdad and al-Qaeda were pretty de minimis (given the very differing world views of Saddam and Osama). So I'm not surprised to see that the intelligence was pretty weak in that area.
Likewise, on the nuclear angle, I never viewed Saddam's nuclear program as necessarily constituting an imminent threat and suspected a judicious reading of intelligence on Iraqi nukes would render people, if not sanguine, at least not pushing a preemptive war on that basis alone.
That's leaves the intelligence related to the chemical and biological weapons. Saddam's potential possession of chemical and biological WMD is always what concerned me--particularly post 9/11. We've all heard it before, but it's worth stressing yet again. Post 9/11, the possible nexus among transnational terror groups, rogue regimes and WMD forced a reappraisal of U.S. strategic policy.
If Saddam wasn't a madman, irrational demon, etc etc--he was at least a strategic blunderer. To allow such a leader, who has used chemical weapons against people in his own country (and who was commonly considered to still possess chemical and biological weapons capability by myriad intelligence services) to retain such a capability post 9/11 would have constituted (at least) negligence in terms of a government's national security obligations.
Now back to the Priest story. The money graf (in terms of the chem/bio angle at least):
"The absence of proof that chemical and biological weapons and their related development programs had been destroyed was considered proof that they continued to exist," the two committee members said in a letter Thursday to CIA Director George J. Tenet. The Washington Post obtained a copy this weekend.
Now, let me say right off that I have tremendous respect for Porter Goss. And so I don't take his comment on this lightly at all.
But let's analyze that sentence from the letter. Even if you end up agreeing with Goss' conclusions--they aren't that damning.
We all know Saddam possesed WMD at some stage (see Halabja, for instance). We didn't have conclusive proof that he had dismantled the program or destroyed his WMD weapons stockpiles. We knew how he had made a speciality of evading U.N. inspection schemes. Faced with these realities, given the post 9/11 strategic framework, the lack of compelling proof that the chem/bio capability had actually been dismantled didn't leave us with any easy policy options.
In other words, the burden of proof had shifted to those rogue states accused of possessing WMD. And Saddam failed to meet that burden.
Meanwhile, it's worth keeping in mind that collecting and appraising intelligence information is a highly imperfect science. And so to conclude that a threat existed, from a composite picture (no proof of destruction of the WMD and fragmentary indications of renewed activity, ie. possible mobile bioweapon labs) that a chem/bio capability existed doesn't strike me highly irresponsible. Indeed, it strikes me as just the opposite.
Moral Bankruptcy Watch An interesting
Moral Bankruptcy Watch
An interesting read on the terrorist money trail.
Here's an insight into the amoral nature of terrorists fund-raisers we are dealing with:
"In one bizarre money-raising scheme, investigators discovered that Hezbollah financial leaders talked about taking out life insurance policies for operatives in Lebanon who would eventually carry out suicide bombings. The idea was to have family members tell the insurance company that the suicide bomber "had disappeared without a trace," an investigator said, and then try to collect on the policy."
Oh, and here's another reason to quit smoking:
"In Charlotte, N.C., last year, members of a Hezbollah cell were convicted of racketeering in a cigarette smuggling scam. Cigarettes purchased without paying state tax in North Carolina were trucked to Detroit, where they were resold, for cash. The cash was then sent to Lebanon, by courier or by mail. A photo introduced as evidence at the criminal trial showed several cell members sitting at a table overflowing with $20 and $100 bills."
This is Actually Good News
This is Actually Good News
Pat Tyler paints this as a pretty bad story, ie. the troop shortage (contra the Danielle Pletka's of the world) continues. But this is actually good news. Any of Indian (magnets for terror attacks), Turkish (dumb policy to allow troops of any neighboring countries in, too big a tempation for mischief) or Pakistani (more domestic strains on Musharraf, ISI troublemakers in the lot etc.) troops in Iraq would have likely proved detrimental rather than helpful to the U.S. in the middle to long term.
Euro roundup Lots of good
Lots of good Europe-related material around over the past few days--mostly specifically on the state of Euro-U.S. relations.
First, U.S.-Russian relations. I, like David Adesnik, had spotted the "deuling" NYT vs. WaPo headlines re: the results of Bush's summitry with Putin. But, reading the actual WaPo piece, one would see they were pretty much in agreement with the NYT's take. Regardless, the WaPo has updated their headline and story today with a Dana Milbank analysis of the summit. [Does Milbank get a bit carried away with the analysis of Putin's black turtleneck? Yeah, I think so]
As I suspected a few days back--Putin appears to still be getting a bit of a free pass on Russian assistance to Iran's nuclear reactor.
Second, a clarification from an earlier post (go to "Eurodefense Force Issue" section) where I might have downplayed, if to a small extent, the degree of U.S. discomfort regarding the establishment of an independent Euro-defense force. The key issue I neglected to analyze was that there is much sensitivity, at least in some quarters, that painstaking steps be taken so that such a Euro force not overlap, in any material way, with NATO's functions. This article describes the situation pretty well.
Finally, Elaine Sciolino says U.S.-French relations aren't that bad after all. She must have been smitten after all that time with Chirac. Richard Holbrooke, quoted in her article, agrees that the Franco-U.S. spat has been overblown. Take a look too at this piece that uses gender role analysis explain why we appear to have a differing approach to France versus Germany.
Oh, and just in case you missed it, check this out too. Pretty sobering fare.
September 27, 2003
Not Neo-Cons or Neo-Straussiansm, But
Not Neo-Cons or Neo-Straussiansm, But Neo-Hobbesians
Sloterdijk's "Critique of Cynical Reason" remains a wonderful text. Who can forget his treatment of the haunting picture of the entry sign at Auschwitz that read "Arbeit Macht Frei" or "Labor is Liberating"? Little surprise, in his narrative, such events help an "enlightened false consciousness" take root after such grotesquely cynical treatment of the most evil barbarism.
But, as do many Euro-intellectuals these days, Sloterdijk goes off the deep end a bit when it comes to the USA. Not only are brutish neo-Hobbesians populating the Beltway--but Europe has become the idlyic America of the 18th Century:
"Nous sommes devenus des Amricains du XVIIIe sicle, proclamant notre droit vivre dans des espaces o l'histoire ne peut plus nous atteindre."
Translation: "We [the Europeans] have become the Americans of the 18th Century, proclaiming our right to live in the spaces where history can not reach us." [ed. note: yes Sloterdijk does credit Robert Kagan for having made related arguments recently]
But is that what America's founders were seeking? To live in a blissful nation unscarred by History's march?
No, I'd wager. The Founding Fathers were boldly staking out a new polity--not with the goal of creating a paradise outside of history--but with the hope of creating a freer society than that which they had come from. But the key point is that they were surely conscious that threats would gather and need to be confronted to retain the fruits of liberty achieved in the new polity. They had not embarked on a frivolous mission with the chimerical goals of "escaping" history.
Ultimately, Sloterdijk is too tempted to analyze the state of world politics through overly ironic lens thus reaching too cute conclusions:
"Les Etats-Unis se sont construits justement pour chapper la ralit europenne dcrite de faon exemplaire par Hobbes. Car l'auteur du Lviathan justifiait philosophiquement l'absolutisme tatique. Les premiers Amricains sont les ennemis de cet absolutisme et ils n'ont qu'un rve : fuir une Europe o Hobbes a raison. Or aujourd'hui, que voit-on ? On voit les Amricains faire leur le pessimisme ontologique de Hobbes et se convertir l'idologie mme dont le rejet constitua la raison d'tre de leur nation!"
Translation: "The U.S. built itself precisely to escape the European reality described in exemplary fashion by Hobbes. Because the author of Leviathan justified philosphically state absolutism. The first Americans were the enemies of this absolutism and had but one dream: to flee a Europe where Hobbes was right. And today, what do we see? We see Americans make Hobbes' ontological pessimism their own and convert themselves to this same ideology whose very rejection constituted the reason for their nation's creation!"
Doubts about Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, de-mining protocols, and the like do not, even collectively, evince a desire among key policymakers in Washington to return to the "state of nature." Nor does sober analysis evidence attempts by the Administration, acting pursuant to Presidential direction or imperatives, to purposefully make irrelevant any of the varied post-WWII international security/economic architecture. And note only two post-WWII conflicts (Korea and Gulf War I) enjoyed explicit UNSC approval.
So what is it about this latest war in Iraq that causes this intense distrust of U.S. policymakers among so many in Europe, these hyperbolic arguments bandied about by intellectuals about a reversion to the "state of nature"?
I think we need to conclude that it's the presence of a sole hyperpower that's really to blame--the resentment of a behemoth like hegemon without any counterweight(s) on the international stage. It was all tolerable in the '90s when the actions undertaken were either in response to direct aggression against a neighbor (Kuwait) or to tidy up Euro-messes (Bosnia, Kosovo). But its seemingly gotten a bit too burdensome now. And many need to lash out because of it--often in irrational manner.
There's more to this, of course, and we share a bit of the blame. But the lion's share of the lashing out against the U.S. on this side of the Atlantic, I'd wager, stems from the simple fact that the hyperpower appears so omnipotent.
The international system is off-kilter and unmoored from traditional balance of power politics. This has upset many in Europe who, particularly post 9/11, fear that American policy is taking a militaristic turn without any nation (or group of nations) able to restrain such perceived tendencies. All this helps expain some of the happiness (barely concealed) at the perceived comeuppance of the U.S. in Iraq during the post-war slog.
Escalation Watch Is the IDF
Is the IDF heading into Gaza come October?
Old Media Lion Watch Eminence
Old Media Lion Watch
Eminence grise Walter Cronkite lets loose in the august pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"In his two and a half years in office, Attorney General John Ashcroft has earned himself a remarkable distinction as the Torquemada of American law. Toms de Torquemada, you might recall, was the 15th-century Dominican friar who became the grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. He was largely responsible for its methods, including torture and the burning of heretics - Muslims in particular.
Now, of course, I am not accusing the attorney general of pulling out anyone's fingernails or burning people at the stake (at least I don't know of any such cases). But one does get the sense these days that the old Spaniard's spirit is comfortably at home in Ashcroft's Department of Justice."
Condi Watch Lexington on the
Lexington on the National Security Advisor.
But is Lex right when he writes:
"And what about Ms Rice's own prospects? Uniquely among Mr Bush's foreign-policy team, she has the potential for a separate political career." [my emphasis]
Powell still does, doesn't he? You never know...
Conspiracy Theories Guess how someone
Guess how someone landed at this humble blog.
Keller Watch I couldn't find
I couldn't find the link but a trusted source at the NYT forwarded the below via E-mail to me (contents of E-mail italicized):
September 25, 2003, Thursday Late Edition - Final
An article on Monday about Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz's comments at a forum on Iraq misstated President Bush's position on whether there were contacts between Al Qaeda and the government of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Bush has said there were such contacts; he has not said they were unsubstantiated.
So they came clean re: this catch. Hats off to Mr. Keller. It appears there is hope for the Times in the post-Raines era!
UPDATE: Here's the link.
September 26, 2003
Iran Nuclear Program Watch More
Iran Nuclear Program Watch
More on Iran's nuke program. Keep a close eye on what Bush and Putin have to say on the issue after the weekend at Camp David.
This is one of the few areas where Democrats can say that Republicans have taken their eye off the ball on a national security issue, ie. giving Putin a bit of a passe-partout in his dealings with Iran.
September 24, 2003
W. 43rd St. Watch Is
W. 43rd St. Watch
Is the Times going soft and fuzzy? Will it get boring (heaven forbid) under Keller? A look at the post-Raines vibe in the Observer.
"If Mr. Keller lacks the booming Rainesian charisma that could suck the oxygen out of a room, all the better. But Mr. Keller does have something of his own to offer. Attracted like old ladies to the sensitive new young vicar at a country church, the Times is singing a more modern hymn of inclusiveness, humaneness and general good-feeling. The era of fire and brimstone is over; pass the crumpets, please, itÕs time for a heart-to-heart!"
Reader Feedback Not surprisingly, I'm
Not surprisingly, I'm catching a bit of flak on my somewhat negative take re: Dubya's address to the UN yesterday. Reader DG's missive was pretty typical of some of the feedback I've gotten:
"I generally agree with your comments and value the time you spend making your views known on your website, but I strongly disagree with your modest criticism of BushÕs speech. Listening to him made me proud to be an American. He stated clearly and concisely his positions on Iraq and other world issues. The world does not respect not [ed note. "nor"?] follow humility, but strength and Bush exuded strength. Anything less would have energized France and Germany, if not others, with renewed vigor to oppose a resolution to gain UN support in whatever form it might take. They now know Bush will not back down and attempts to sidetrack or veto a new resolution will be futile and will force them into a corner as obstructionist, particularly France. Bush showed that he has resolve and will not be deterred by domestic political considerations...."
This was one of the aspects of my criticism that I was a bit concerned about, ie. expressions of humility can also have negative ramifications. Sadly, humility often leads others to trample on you and/or lose respect in your outlook. Such is, unfortunately, often the state of human nature.
I generally agree that it's very important to project strength in the implementation and enunciation of foreign policy goals. But I wasn't arguing that Bush needed to kowtow to Berlin and Paris. I was just arguing for a bit more of a realistic appraisal of where things stand in Iraq today and little doses of humility sprinkled through the speech. I don't think such an approach would have necessarily led to "renewed vigor" from Franco-German quarters to oppose the U.S. in its attempt to secure a new Iraq resolution. Regardless, nowhere did I mean to intimate Dubya needed to go in on bended knee.
Anyway, thanks to readers who wrote in. I appreciate the level headed feedback. And let the debate continue.
What's Katrina Smoking? Katrina vanden
What's Katrina Smoking?
Katrina vanden Heuvel asks what Bill Kristol has been smoking over at the Nation. Kristol was basically arguing that all the Iraq doom and gloom is getting overblown. Yes, his contention that the U.S. has done an "amazing job" in Iraq is a bit rich--but he made some pretty sober and cogent points about the relative dearth of U.S. casualties and how much of the country outside of the Sunni triangle has remained pretty stable.
Call it the Eminemization (or Madonnaization) of foreign policy analysis. The resulting apercus aren't exactly breath-taking, it must be said.
Baghdad Poll A Pat Tyler
A Pat Tyler piece from Baghdad that isn't overly negative! Check it out.
"After five months of foreign military occupation and the ouster of Saddam Hussein, nearly two-thirds of Baghdad residents believe that the removal of the Iraqi dictator has been worth the hardships they have been forced to endure, a new Gallup poll shows."
Remember that if you've been sitting on your couch from locales like Berkeley and Cambridge cursing Dubya's brutish unilateralist tendencies.
September 23, 2003
Bush's U.N. Speech As regular
Bush's U.N. Speech
As regular readers of this blog know, I'm a pretty strong Bush supporter. But I found his speech to the U.N. today somewhat mixed. The speech was basically divided into three sections (or "challenges"): 1) Afghanistan/Iraq, 2) WMD proliferation, and 3) humanitarian crises ranging from AIDS to famine to the sex trade. I'm not going to discuss 2 and 3 here--despite their obvious importance--but will rather concentrate on Iraq.
My basic beef with that part of the speech was that it didn't show enough humility (the projection of a humble America that Bush campaigned about back in 2000) and there was nothing really new in it, ie. Dubya sounded like a broken record here and there. In a way, both of these issues can sometimes go hand in hand.
For instance, even the most die-hard Bush supporters would admit that the post-war in Iraq hasn't gone too swimmingly. So maybe Bush might have mentioned that the going had been a bit rough and that was one of the reasons he needed more international support.
This would have also served to inject a bit of new language into his speech (over and above the Iraq is the "central front in the war on terror" mantra) while simultaneously showing we can eat a little humble pie now and then.
Nah. Instead he just says as follows:
"Our international coalition in Iraq is meeting its responsibilities. We are conducting precision raids against terrorists and holdouts of the former regime. These killers are at war with the Iraqi people, they have made Iraq the central front in the war on terror, and they will be defeated."
Great, but such language doesn't smell like a fully honest reckoning.
For example, how precise are the "precision raids"?
And are we really meeting our responsibilities? If those responsibilities include provision of security and basic services to the Iraqi people--we simply haven't to date.
We can't just blame it on terrorists and assorted dead-enders. Iraq's our baby now. We've got to make it work--no matter the legions of saboteurs that are rearing their heads to scuttle our efforts.
Sure it's early days. But we should be confident enough to get in front of the podium at the U.N. and talk about the difficulties we are facing in Iraq--rather than sound a bit too pollyannaish.
'Our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were supported by many governments and America is grateful to each one.
I also recognize that some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagreed with our actions. Yet there was and there remains unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations. So let us move forward." [my emphasis]
Why the need for the word "sovereign" here? Was that ever in question, as if the U.S. holds sway over the national security decision-making processes of other states? And great to stress common ground--but the "so let us move forward" sounds a tad breezy--and perhaps to some ears a bit like a diktat of sorts.
All this said, there were some good parts of the speech. Bush made specific mention of the "vital" work the U.N. carries out in Iraq every day--with an eye towards signaling to the French that the U.S. is happy to see the U.N. play a major role in Iraq.
That said re: warming up to the French demands a bit, I also liked the swipe at Chirac and de Villepin's highly unrealistic timetable for transfer of key governing responsibilities to Iraq (that the self-government process would be "neither hurried nor delayed").
Still, it might have been better if that sentence wasn't placed directly before Bush turned to the prospects of a new U.N. resolution on Iraq. Not the most diplomatic juxtaposition.
There were also eloquent parts of the speech that reminded us of why we are engaged in this war on terror: "24 months ago--and yesterday in the memory of America--the center of New York City became a battlefield and a graveyard and the symbol of an unfinished war."
It was also positive to see Bush, in such an international forum (and with many Euro leaders prancing about), state that the U.S., in Iraq, had undertaken "the greatest financial commitment of its kind since the Marshall Plan." A powerful reminder of the scope of the current task as well as the work undertaken after WWII to help create a peaceful and prosperous Europe.
No doubt, Bush has definitely put his (well, our...) money where his mouth is. He's really striving to make a success out of Iraq (more than say, his efforts with the roadmap or NoKo). It's probably still all going to work out pretty well--and the doom-sayers will be proved wrong again. But it wouldn't hurt to project a bit more humility and adjust some of the themes to the changing situations we are confronted with now and then.
September 22, 2003
Chirac's NYT Interview Yeah I
Chirac's NYT Interview
Yeah I know this is a day late but I'm on the road. Anyway, the interview is pretty long but worth reading.
Funny to think, but the piece is actually Chirac's counterpoint to Gerard Schroder's somewhat conciliatory NYT oped from a few days back. It's actually an attempt at rapprochment with those jingoistic Anglo-Saxons--but a la Parisienne--meaning with some verbal epingles thrown in, the requisite haughtiness, an annoying didactic tone sprinkled about, and a good dollop of Gallic disingenuousness.
Why is it a rapprochment interview? Because ultimately he says he won't veto a new resolution unless the resolution is "provocative" (translation: as long as you don't really rub our noses in it, make us feel grossly irrelevant, or don't even attempt to negotiate what might get us to a yes vote).
He then provides somewhat of a roadmap re: what would get a yes vote-- "a precise deadline for the transfer of sovereignty, and second, a timetable for transferring responsibility, and a key role for the U.N."
A "key role" is suitably vague language where middle ground can be easily broached by the diplomats negotiating the resolution. The sovereignty deadline and reponsibility transfer timetable are tricker issues. That said, we could probably push the French on the symbolic sovereignty handover to 3-6 months hence with the transfer of the lion's share of responsibility to about 18 months (double the 6-9 month time frame Chirac mentioned, that's an initial negotiating position, and one he said would happen "little by little").
All this to say--I think we can get a yes--and that would be a pretty good outcome in terms of helping heal the ill feelings over all the spilt milk at Turtle Bay earlier this year. Still, if the French don't agree to more realistic sovereignty handover time frames--we will likely see an abstention. But they are telegraphing that before the negotiations get down and dirty--thus reducing their veto leverage mightily. So, especially viewed in that context, it's all pretty conciliatory fare that Chirac laid out in the interview. Put simply, and critical, the veto cloud has been lifted.
Other key take-aways: 1) no French troops in Iraq (at least in the short to mid-term, ie. he doesn't definitively take the possibility off the table but comes very close to doing so) but the French will likely be happy to help train an Iraqi police force (with some of the training perhaps taking place in Iraq), 2) a view of the world as moving towards multipolarity but with the U.S. and Europe acting with "solidarity for each other, vis vis the others, which have a different culture", and 3) Chirac stressing an effective Euro defense capability is in the offing so that Europe could act outside NATO when it deems it in its interest.
Eurodefense Force Issue
Related to #3 above, Chirac said as follows in the interview:
"We have seen this recently in Macedonia. Our American friends have told us that we should take responsibility for the Balkans from now on. We can do this, but how? With a flute? We have seen it in Africa; we need a system, a European defense policy." [my emphasis]
The Gaul's gall! First, it's worth noting that we bailed the Euros out of the Balkan imbroglio at Dayton. When in 1991, a Eurodiplomat enthused that the "hour of Europe" had arrived (ie., Europe would solve the Balkan mess), Bush 41 was happy to let the Europeans take the lead. Of course it didn't quite turn out that way, did it?
Second, who in Washington DC is leading the call to oppose the creation of a Eurodefense force? Not many people, as far as I know. In fact, the whole Bob Kagan thesis that had post-Kantian Euros keeping defense spending low and enjoying a U.S. paid security umbrella (in somewhat ingrate-like fashion) likely has some in the Beltway cheerleading increased European defense expenditures (as long as they don't get too robust, bien sur).
So why Chirac's sarcastic reference to the "flute"? By all means, get a Euro defense force up and running. And then use it to patrol "your" neighborhood--Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia.
But don't disingenuously argue that the U.S. is keeping Europe from assuming its perceived security obligations and/or ambitions. Its been more a story of European abdication than the U.S. restraining possible Euro military groupings.
The System is Broken, Dude
Note as well that the French still haven't dropped the de Villepinian (and hyper Cartesian) analysis of the "logic of occupation" (Chirac calls it the "system").
"On the contrary, IÕm simply giving my view of how things are. One, it is a complicated business, two it is a dangerous business, and is becoming more dangerous by the day. Three, we must try and get out of it. It is my conviction that the current system-- letÕs be clear, I mean a system of occupation-- will not allow us to find a solution to this situation. It will generate more and more reaction against this system, which will grow even more complicated, as you say, due to the difficulties that already exist among the Shiites, Kurds, Sunnis and so on. All of this is true, but I do not see any other way out. I only see the probablity of the situation getting worse." [my emphases]
This is all pretty bogus stuff. As Dan Drezner points out:
"In what way will the transfer of de jure sovereignty without de facto responsibility accelerate statebuilding in Iraq? Is sovereignty without responsibility merely an example of organized hypocrisy, or is there normative content to this concept?"
A Couple Final Thoughts
Isn't it sad that a French President even has to say something like this in an interview with America's leading newspaper?
"This is all the more necessary since we are watching with sorrow and distress the attacks that have been taking place, often against American soldiers. And frankly, it hurts us whenever. It hurts us to hear about the attacks against American soldiers or to see images on television; the attacks against others as well, of course, but particularly American soldiers. It hurts us."
I'm still left just a tad muddied as to whether Chirac chokes up more when a Ba'athist loyalist dies or an American G.I.--but let's take him on his word--why does this even need to be said? Ca va sans dire, non?
And don't look to the French to come up with major innovations to replace the near-dead roadmap:
"Q: And what can be done about the Israel-Palestinian crisis?
A: It fills me with sadness. But IÕm afraid I must go since I have a plane to catch É"
The NYT and Wolfy So
The NYT and Wolfy
So a courageous (or mad) Paul Wolfowitz gave a talk to the crowd at NYC's New School University. Eric Schmitt writes it up in the Times.
We are treated to this vignette:
"Mr. Wolfowitz has had a lot of practice in the last two years as the administration's lightning rod for Iraq policy. He barely flinched when a burly, bearded protester rushed the stage, yelling, "Nazi war criminal!" Security guards tackled and removed the man, the first of six people ejected."
"The United States waged war for three reasons, he said: the concern over Iraq's drive to obtain chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; Iraq's connections to terrorism; and Mr. Hussein's reign of terror that Mr. Wolfowitz said was responsible for perhaps a million Iraqi deaths.
"It was a human rights nightmare," he said, emphasizing a reason that was not a principal one the administration articulated before the war, but has become so since.
When pressed by Mr. Goldberg and audience members, some of these justifications seemed less certain. "Iraq did have contacts with Al Qaeda," Mr. Wolfowitz insisted, momentarily silencing the audience with an accusation even President Bush now says is unsubstantiated. He added, "We don't know how clear they were." [my emphasis].
Wait a second. Dubya merely said that Saddam (or Iraq) didn't have links to 9/11--not al-Qaeda writ large. It's a bit Guardian-esque of the Times to suggest otherwise.
Even this Beeb story makes that clear:
"US President George Bush has said there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 11 September attacks.
The comments - among his most explicit so far on the issue - come after a recent opinion poll found that nearly 70% of Americans believed the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks.
Mr Bush did however repeat his belief that the former Iraqi president had ties to al-Qaeda - the group widely regarded as responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington." [my emphasis]
Will the Times now issue a correction? Don't hold your breath.
September 21, 2003
9/11 Plot It could have
It could have been even worse.
September 20, 2003
Clinton at Srebrenica Anyone else
Clinton at Srebrenica
Anyone else a bit offended that Clinton is in Srebrenica spouting off about "genocidal madness"--genocidal madness he did so very little about for three long years (after campaigning against Bush pere saying he would)?
I tend to agree with the woman quoted in this article who lost her only two sons (and still dreams they will come home) in the massacre that, as Dick Holbrooke has written, has "become part of the language of the horrors of modern war, alongside Lidice, Oradour, Babi Yar, and the Katyn Forest."
"Clinton could have helped this not to happen," she said. "Now it's embarrassing because he has to come here and justify himself."
But he's always been pretty shameless, hasn't he?
The 20 Billion Dollar Man
The 20 Billion Dollar Man
Jim Hoagland on some of the problems facing Jerry Bremer. Nothing earth-shatteringly interesting in his op-ed.
Except for this interesting nugget:
"The diplomats on Bremer's staff in Baghdad report directly to him, not to Washington. Secretary of State Colin Powell has told friends that he has to rely on newspapers and the diplomatic reporting of other nations that is shared with State to follow developments in Iraq.
Powell no doubt has a point: The lack of communication within the Pentagon itself is a well-known problem, and the fierce rivalries between the two departments rule out what might be described as meaningful contact. This has become a severe problem for Bush, who has tolerated an unacknowledged but visible war between Powell and Rumsfeld."
Hoagland goes on to say he doesn't think this is a big issue. Having Bremer and his staff report up through to State too (and perhaps the U.N.) would just muddy the waters and make the Iraq reconstruction task harder (or so the argument goes).
Hurry up with it all through a clean and simple reporting chain of command from Bremer to Rummy and Dubya. Let Bremer expeditiously pursue "working himself out of a job as soon as he can."
I beg to differ. If true, this is FUBAR, pure and simple.
Listen, perhaps Powell needs to be a bit more careful not to be perceived as overly removed (running out the clock a bit) before moving on to new challenges after Bush's first term (if you believe press rumors, he likely won't serve in a prospective Bush II administration).
Instead, like any good Secretary of State, he's got to fight to protect his turf and thus the interests of Foggy Bottom. I bet he isn't too removed and that he is acting as an effective advocate for State. Still though, to be an effective advocate you need to be well informed.
Surely the Secretary of State of the United States can access information on developments in the "central front" of the war on terror from the American proconsul on the ground. Surely he doesn't need to "rely on newspapers" and the "diplomatic reporting of other nations"? (France?)
You know, Powell might actually have some decent ideas about what to do out in Iraq here and there. Especially if he's getting real time briefings from the guys on the ground rather than reading about it in the WaPo or NYT. Don't you think?
Syria Dispatch Charles Glass has
Charles Glass has an interesting piece up on Syria over at the LRB. Some in the Beltway get a bit carried away about mega-democratization processes unfurling with ease from Riyadh to Damascus; Algiers to Teheran. Iraq, to date, shows us what a hard slog democracy-building in the region will be. So does this extract from Glass' piece:
"In September 2000, 99 members of Syria's intelligentsia - writers, teachers, lawyers, engineers, film-makers - published a letter in the London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat declaring a kind of war on the Government. Called Charter 99, it demanded an end to the 1963 state of emergency, the release of political prisoners, the return of political exiles, freedom of the press and the right to hold public meetings. Two months later, Assad freed about six hundred political prisoners and closed Damascus's notorious Mezzeh prison, where political dissidents have been mistreated ever since it was built by the French. (The much harsher Tadmor prison in the eastern desert is still in use.) A month later, the Government issued a licence for al-Domari (the 'Lamplighter'), the country's only privately owned newspaper. Meanwhile, more civil society networks were forming, and more declarations were being issued. Although the government press in Syria ignored them, Lebanese newspapers reported their activities and published their statements. Some of their pamphlets circulated as samizdat in universities and schools. On 3 June this year, 287 'Syrian citizens' published an appeal to Bashar in the Lebanese daily as-Safir. The petition warned that Syria faced two enemies, Israel and the United States, and was too weak to defend itself against either. While making the usual demand for an end to martial law and the release of political prisoners, it also argued for something more fundamental. 'The authorities have no remedy for our ills,' the petition stated. 'There is a real cure, which is national reform.' Rather than appeal to America to deliver democracy in Syria, the signatories appealed directly to Bashar.
What is happening in Iraq and in Palestine is just the beginning of what America calls the new era. The characteristic of this era is the use of force by America and Israel. We should stop them from achieving their goals by repairing our society and making our country strong. The way to do this is to have a free people. The masses have been ignored and excluded from public life. You should let them come back and use their power to protect the country.
One of the signatories was Sadek al-Azm, a recently retired professor of philosophy. A participant in civil society groups that include both Marxists and Islamists, he spoke to me about the message of the American war in Iraq for Syria. 'In meetings, we asked ourselves: suppose this happened here? Who would go out and fight for the regime? No one said: "I would." The strength of civil society is to tell the regime to be legitimate. There is a difference between defending the regime and defending the country.' He said the Syrian dissidents who drew up the al-Hayat petition have studied the political process in Turkey. 'When Erdogan said: "I have to submit to Parliament," the Americans could not tell him to go to hell. What Arab leader could say that without the Americans laughing him off the stage?' Syrian democrats are not waiting for democracy as a care package from the American Armed Forces so much as wanting to seize it themselves as a weapon with which to confront the American empire."
Put differently: yes there is a hunger for democracy in the Arab world. Groups like Charter 99 are eager for more freedom in the environs of Damascus. But there is, as well, great distrust of the U.S. as the democracy-bearer, as the vehicle for democracy dispensation.
There are doubtless many reasons for this. National pride and fear of neo-colonialism. Or suspicions of U.S. intentions given what Richard Haas has called the "democracy exception", ie. our many decades old policy of dealing with various Arab autocratic regimes without pushing the democratization agenda with as much alacrity as we did in Europe, Latin America, Asia. The strategic U.S.-Israeli relationship. Other reasons besides.
Policymakers need to better keep this complex rubric in mind as the next policy steps in the region are undertaken and implemented. In the short to middle term--much hinges on making Iraq a success and getting power, in time, handed over to an Iraqi authority. This would go a long way towards allaying Arab fears. So would a more comprehensive effort at peacemaking between the Israelis and Palestinians. But even if both of these efforts were to go pretty well (which is so very far from assured) we still have much catch-up work to do in terms of our reputation in the Arab world--and not just with Wahabist types in Saudi Arabia--given the sentiments of intellectuals making up groups like Force 99.
UPDATE: Jackson Diehl has got an op-ed that touches on the above over at the WaPo:
"Arab governments "are not concerned about the success or failure of the U.S. in Iraq," Egypt's veteran national security adviser, Osama Baz, bluntly told me and several other visiting journalists over dinner in Cairo. "They are worried about the consequences for themselves." Don't expect Egypt, Baz said, to supply troops or police to help its nominal American ally. On the other hand, he added, "we can help with the drafting of a constitution. We can help strengthen the governing council and the bureaucracy."
Egypt is betting, in other words, that ultimately it will be easier for Arab states than the United States to reshape Iraq. "You can't export the American system of democracy all over the world," Baz said pointedly."
Krugman Watch You gotta read
"In it, Krugman describes how, just as he was about to send his manuscript to the publishers, he chanced upon a passage in an old history book from the 1950s, about 19th-century diplomacy, that seemed to pinpoint, with eerie accuracy, what is happening in the US now. Eerie, but also perhaps a little embarrassing, really, given the identity of the author. Because it's Henry Kissinger.
"The first three pages of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine," Krugman writes of A World Restored, the 1957 tome by the man who would later become the unacceptable face of cynical realpolitik. Kissinger, using Napoleon as a case study - but also, Krugman believes, implicitly addressing the rise of fascism in the 1930s - describes what happens when a stable political system is confronted with a "revolutionary power": a radical group that rejects the legitimacy of the system itself.
This, Krugman believes, is precisely the situation in the US today (though he is at pains to point out that he isn't comparing Bush to Hitler in moral terms). [ed. note. Gee, great!] The "revolutionary power", in Kissinger's theory, rejects fundamental elements of the system it seeks to control, arguing that they are wrong in principle. For the Bush administration, according to Krugman, that includes social security; the idea of pursuing foreign policy through international institutions; and perhaps even the basic notion that political legitimacy comes from democratic elections - as opposed to, say, from God."
Folks, Krugman is a very talented economist. As he himself admits, the NYT likely hired him at the height of the 90's boom to cover the seemingly ever-expanding economy. Krugman would have been concentrating on issues like supposed labor productivity booms and so on. Instead the bubble economy crashed and 9/11 happened. Krugman is out of his depth commenting on matters foreign policy. I mean, this is the guy who thought Enron would have a greater effect on the course of U.S. history than 9/11.
And how can Krugman seriously contend that a "revolutionary power" in Washington has completely set aside the idea of multilateral cooperation and the "basic notion that political legitimacy comes from democratic elections"? This is absurd fare from the wacky extreme left. You don't expect it from a columnist who has been granted a lofty perch over at the NYT.
September 19, 2003
French Jews Are voting with
Are voting with their feet and leaving France in significant numbers. Why? Incidents like these . Elsewhere, the Jewish community in France is described as being in a "post-traumatic" state. [All links to French language media]
Sample quote: "L'inquitude est indniable. C'est mme le malaise le plus profond depuis la seconde guerre mondiale. Les juifs franais savent que l'option Isral existe pour eux."
Translation: "The worry is undeniable. It's even the most profound malaise since WWII. French Jews know that the option of Israel exists for them."
Think the above is one of the reasons Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is threatening to expel some radical Islamic groups out of France?
There are upwards of 5 million Muslims in France and about 500,000 Jews. Given the presence of these two significant communities--I think Sarkozy has real concerns about outbreaks of inter-communitarian violence. Note that, in April of 2002 for instance, there were 110 separate anti-semitic incidents (that averages out to more than three incidents a day).
It's no coincidence, of course, that such attacks gained in number and intensity during a time when the IDF was pursuing muscular military action in the Occupied Territories. But, of course, there can be no excuses or valid rationales for inflicting harm on random Jews in France because of anger at the policies of the Israeli government.
On a related topic, note that there has been some talk in Europe of the phenomenon that some call the "new" anti-semitism. This latest manifestation of anti-semitism is couched in the rhetoric of progressivism (ie. opposition to racism, injustice, "colonial" policies and the like). A more subtle approach to anti-semitism than, say, these old libels. But the results can be just as poisonous.
I've lost track of how many in Europe have told me they view Israel as a racist, pariah state. As bad as the Nazis and so on. When the rhetoric is so hyperbolic, one can see how the movement from disagreement with Israel's policies towards anti-semitic thought and violence can occur pretty easily. And I think that's part of the reason that French Jews are so worried--to the extent that they consider moving to North America or Israel--despite living in a secure (at least to most), secular, European democracy.
UPDATE: Check out this interesting lecture too.
More on the Beeb Don't
More on the Beeb
The Situation in Iraq Mark
The Situation in Iraq
Mark Danner has a pretty gloomy piece up at the NYRB. But he's a talented writer, pretty judicious, and so well worth reading. This part describing the Iraqi resistance is what gets me worried:
"This is the dynamic that various opponents of the occupation must try to sustain. By whatever means, they aim to produce in Iraq growing political anger and discontent and to focus that anger and discontent on the occupiers, thus alienating more and more Iraqis, who might join the anti-occupation forces, actively support them, or at least count themselves sympathetic to the cause. Since the numbers of the armed opposition, as Paul Bremer noted, are far too small to defeat the Americans militarily, their strategy relies on provoking the Americans to take actions that will create among Iraqis the broader support needed to sustain a guerrilla war."
We can quash the Ba'athist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen and assorted foreign infiltrators over time if their numbers remain relatively constant and trend downwards as we kill and/or capture them. The problem is that heavy-handed counter-guerrilla operations might well increase their ranks.
I think that's the key concern policymakers and the military leadership should be wrestling with right now. Basically, how to catch the bad guys without creating more of them.
Bring on the Gendarmarie
To help with this task, as I've argued before, I think we need to have many more constabulatory-type forces in the theater. Professionally trained military police might help us handle local sensitivities better per some of Danner's concerns.
In this vein, I'm beginning to think, more and more, that this whole effort to get large U.N. peacekeeping contingents into Iraq is somewhat misguided. Especially given the actual countries that are often bandied about as most likely to send troops.
Indians are loathed by many jihadist type Muslims and will therefore also constitute a prime terrorist target. We shouldn't involve neighboring countries (like Turkey) as they will very probably pursue their national interests in a manner that may well conflict with American objectives. Bangladeshi forces are not of particularly high caliber (I remember visiting the Bangladeshi UN battalion in Bosnia in the mid-90s. It wasn't pretty).
What we likely need instead are highly trained European military police types.
On this, remember Joe Wilson, Mr. Yellowcake?
Over at TPM, Josh Marshall has an interesting interview with him. I disagree with much of what Wilson says, (including his opening contention that we are "fucked" in Iraq), but he makes a good point here:
"We don't do national policing. We do state policing, we have a national investigatory agency, the FBI, but we don't do national policing and we particularly don't do it in the way that it probably needed to be done in the aftermath of the Second Gulf War. The Europeans do. The French have a national Gendarmerie, the Italians have the Carabinieri, the Spanish have the Guardia Civil. They do national policing; they train to military standards; they follow a military-style doctrine; they have military-style discipline. It is an organization that is for all intents and purposes paramilitary, but it has policing functions. They would have been perfect for that. When I was political adviser to CINCEUR [Commander in Chief, United States European Command], we did the Bosnia intervention. One of the things we did early on from our European command headquarters was go around and talk to these countries about how they could use their national policing force as an adjunct to our own military presence--understanding that it was the role of the military to win the battle, put in the interposition force, in the case of Iraq fight the insurgency--but you probably had better type forces, in terms of what their training was, in terms of what their understanding of their mission was, in terms of what their resources and capabilities and armaments were, for a policing-style operation."
This rings pretty true. We need more professional constabulatory types to ensure we don't lose too many hearts and minds as we clamp down on the Ba'athist remnants etc. This is where the Euros can perhaps give a real hand. (Note that speaks of Germany helping train MPs rather than contributing any German nationals). Getting those types of forces into Iraq is likely where we should focus once we get the U.N. resolution.
Black Thursday at Le Monde
Black Thursday at Le Monde
Gee, normally Le Monde is pretty strait-laced and sober. No Fleet Street tendencies for the cerebral gaggle that run a paper of such reknown and repute. But apparently the schadenfreude gets a bit overwhelming sometimes, doesn't it?
Note: Le Monde speaks of eleven dead G.I.s. Note these figures haven't yet been confirmed by the Pentagon. Compare Le Monde's story with this one.
But let's not let facts get in the way of a good headline that might well boost Friday sales...
Keller Watch Felicity Barringer has
Felicity Barringer has an op-ed (sorry, an article) about the future of the U.N. over at the NYT. We are treated to the following series of (italicized) apercus--often simply written up as wholly non-controversial, generally accepted facts and realities.
"A mood of skittish uncertainty has descended on the leaders of the United Nations. They are eager to overhaul their institution, but worry whether any change can give it the freedom it needs to survive without being seen as either a lackey of the United States or an easily swattable gadfly."
Very vivid imagery. And the U.N. felt very lackeyish, didn't it, during the Res 1441 imbroglio?
"The fundamental assumption of its neutrality has been supplanted, at the fringes of the Muslim world, with the assumption that the United Nations is simply a stalking horse for the imperial ambitions of the United States."
We are left to ponder what is meant by the "fringes of the Muslim world"? Is that code for al-Q and those who bomb UN headquarters, Jordanian embassies, and Shi'a shrines--or, more ominously, is Ms. Barringer alluding to public opinion over at the omnipresent "Arab street"?
It gets better:
"Europeans today view the United Nations as the embodiment of international law and world order. The United States seems to view it as a tool to be used when handy."
Oh yeah, says who? Ms. Barringer as she was dashing this piece off on the laptop?
And more still:
"The Bush administration is facing a lot of international skepticism. Despite the recent decision to turn back to the United Nations for its imprimatur on the forced remaking of Iraq, many here fear that the United States may step back yet further from the creed of multinationalism hewn to by presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and treat the organization merely as a necessary evil."
Translation: We (over at the NYT) think you (Dubya) have taken the wrecking ball to varied international fora and we're not happy about it. FDR got it. Your daddy did. So did Bill Clinton. So what's your problem you brutish, unilateralist cowboy?
Not quite yet done, Barringer opines some more:
"The French dislike the degree of American power being exercised today around the world, and the American tendency to skirt, isolate or ignore multilateral institutions."
Remember, this is ostensibly a NYT article--not opinion piece.
Is Bill Keller on holiday or something? I mean, this is embarrassing....
UPDATE: Take a look at today's masthead too.
Soundbite: Bush is misleading the American public about a Saddam/September 11 connection (though he never actually said Saddam was implicated in 9/11) and hasn't learned the lessons of the "poison of Vietnam", ie. misleading the American public about overseas developments.
It's shabbily written and so nakedly partisan. Can't the newspaper of record do better?
Root and Branch Review "The
Root and Branch Review
"The BBC is to be subjected to the most wide-ranging review of its role in its 80-year history, amid a growing clamour for the abolition of the licence fee and a curb in the powers of the corporation's governors."
September 18, 2003
Kill Arafat? Israel, per this
Israel, per this article, indicates that it is "a matter of how, not if" that the IDF will act to kill or expel Arafat.
Arafat is certainly taking it seriously--thus the children and women being employed as human shields.
I'm still betting Bush will rein Sharon in on this one. It would just be too dumb an operation with widespread negative ramifications.
Let me add a couple points to Marshall's post. TPM assumes Arafat is expelled, not killed, so that he would be able to retain operational control of the PA's security apparatus from, say, Tunis. And I'm worried an increasing number of Israeli elites are thinking that too--thus bolstering the case to assassinate rather than expel Arafat.
Killing Arafat would be even dumber. I'll touch on some of the reasons why a bit later.
First, a few words on Arafat. Yes he has blood on his hands. Yes he didn't submit a counter-proposal to Barak at Camp David II when he very much should have gone the extra mile to try to get a deal. Yes he still says stupid stuff like this way too often. Yes, he's stuck in a time warp where he romanticizes himself as a 60's style national liberation guerrilla while appearing increasingly incoherent and incapable of comprehending the realities unfolding about him.
Put simply, an Abu Ala or Abu Mazen operating without Arafat hovering about them would be a major improvement in terms of providing a real negotiating partner with unfettered authority to strike a deal some day.
But, despite all this, it would be folly to kill him. Call it the humiliation factor. Arafat, or at least the iconic kaffiyeh-clad figure the world sees poking about his Ramallah compound, is the repository and symbol of Palestinian national aspirations, whether you like it or not.
To kill him would most assuredly not be viewed by Palestinians, as it is in some quarters of Tel Aviv and perhaps Washington, as a means by which to benefit the prospects of forward movement on peace process negotiations by getting rid of a "problem" leader.
Instead, such an action would be viewed as a de facto decapitation of Palestinian national aspirations. It would cause widespread fury, humiliation, and cries for retribution through the Occupied Territories (and, indeed, through large swaths of the Arab and Islamic world).
But put all that aside for a moment. Ultimately, like any leader, Sharon must ask himself whether killing Arafat would enhance the security outlook for his people. Would Israelis be safer with Arafat gone? Would there be fewer terror attacks? No and no, I wager.
Commentators might wonder if Sharon's strategy was to create a quasi-anarchic situation in the West Bank and Gaza with Fatah remnants battling it out with Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Let them devour themselves, he might calculate, while we wait a few years for the storm to cool and hope a more responsible Palestinian government is in the offing.
I think the reality would be quite different. Yes, there would be some internecine violence. But, more significantly, a wave of increased anti-Israeli radicalization would sweep the Territories. You couldn't devise a better Hamas and Islamic Jihad recruitment drive if you tried. Legions of Palestinians (yes, more so than today) would try to blow up any Israeli they could. No fence, no matter how wide or long, would be able to stop all such attacks.
Meanwhile, the regional situation would escalate. The Israelis would be making our life more difficult in Iraq--where an Arafat assassination would play into the hands of the Iraqi resistance--at least as a propaganda tool. The Egyptians might, I think, go beyond a mere downgrade or suspension of diplomatic relations with more substantive anti-Israeli actions. Important Israeli bilateral relationships--like the Israeli-Turkish and Israeli-Indian ones--would suffer. Syria would allow the spigot in southern Lebanon to be turned on (more) to allow for Hezbollah to intensify attacks into N. Israel. More strain would be put on Jordan's stability given its restless Palestinian population. And so on.
Oh, and Israel would be roundly condemned by, well, just about everyone for taking such an action. More than the routine anti-Israeli diatribes over at Turtle Bay--strong messages of disapproval would flow into Israel's Foreign Ministry from pretty much every government around the globe. Israel would rarely have been so isolated on the global stage.
There's more. But I think readers can tell by now that I think killing Arafat is a supremely poor idea. Here's hoping, ultimately, Sharon will too.
Franco-American Relations Watch Its come
Franco-American Relations Watch
Its come to this. France is described as "becoming our enemy" by a leading American columnist writing in the op-ed pages of the NYT.
Also, check out this highly interesting Thierry de Montbrial (French language) piece on the phenomenon of France's decline.
September 17, 2003
Mea Culpa Department The Beeb
Mea Culpa Department
The Beeb (well, at least Gilligan) starts coming clean.
UPDATE: More from the FT.
AND MORE: The Guardian has a U.K. press round up on Gilligan.
"It was not only Gilligan who was forced on to the defensive. Richard Sambrook, the head of BBC news and current affairs, was pressed for an account of the editorial process under which Gilligan was supervised. Why had no legal advice been sought? And no further corroboration of the story?
BBC executives were clearly convinced that - in broad terms - they were on to a genuine story, but they chose unwisely (and unprofessionally) to defend the Gilligan rendition of it in implacable detail. The corporation and its governors will have to answer for that misjudgment."
But instead of addressing these matters, the Beeb headlines this Hutton inquiry related story today.
Or, they shamelessly continue to pass the buck. This last link contains this gem from the Beeb's news director Richard Sambrook commenting on Gilligan:
He said Mr Gilligan was "extremely good at finding out information, but there are sometimes questions of nuances and subtlety in how he presents it which are not all they should be".
They aren't quite ready for a reckoning yet, are they? But it very much needs to happen.
Keller Watch I'm starting to
I'm starting to look at the Lelyveld interregnum with increasing nostalgia. Appears the denizens of W. 43rd St. are beginning to view themselves as a new samizdat or such--with the Pentagon playing the censorious Politburo meanies.
How else to explain this hyperbolic claptrap from a Douglas Jehl article in today's NYT?
"The defense officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were concerned about retribution for straying from the official line." [my emphasis]
Since when are routine leaks accompanied by such melodramatic verbiage?
I mean, if they are caught, does Rummy personally behead such leakers on the Pentagon grounds or something?
All this said, I agree with the thrust of the article that, given the myriad U.S. raids conducted daily, the generally poor security situation, and difficulties with getting services back on tap--the U.S. presence is creating significant resentment among the local populace--particularly in the so-called Sunni Triangle (though the article claims such sentiments are growing in Shi'a areas too).
Resentment that merits better responses from the National Security Advisor than this quote:
"But there is, even in that part of the country, progress," she said in an interview. "People finished their university exams, the Iraqi symphony orchestra performed and took a tour up to the north. Kids went to school."
The Mozart recitals can come later folks--let's get the electricity up and running first.
Listen, this might still prove to have been a long, hot summer of Iraqi transition pangs and discontent--with the situation improving in the coming months. Jim Hoagland, for one, suggests that might be the case.
But only Panglossian naifs would breathessly cheerlead how the post-war scene has gone to date--and much remedial action is obviously still necessitated.
Bush spoke openly of the "great harm" done to the reconstruction efforts by Iraqi resistance and foreign elements operating in the theater in his recent speech to the nation. His advisors should take a page from his book and more often own up that all is not rosy over in Mesopotamia as well.
Their credibility would be enhanced by stressing the bad news along with the good. The American public is sophisticated enough to handle the mixed news coming out from Iraq.
Anyone expecting a Hollywood blockbuster ending has already sobered up. The Iraq denouement will be lengthy (despite absurdly speedy French sovereignty hand-over proposals). So let's get the straight scoop as often as possible from our leaders during this protracted process--we're all adults and can handle it.
A final note. Isn't Jehl's Condi "symphony" quote perhaps suspiciously truncated or otherwise not put in full context? I don't know if a full transcript is available--but might we have a Dowd Award nominee in the works?
September 16, 2003
Folie de Grandeur Watch Delusions
Folie de Grandeur Watch
Delusions aplenty over at Le Figaro.
Sample graf: "...le problme pour Jacques Chirac, aujourd'hui, est de transformer sa popularit dans le monde en influence sur le cours de l'Histoire. Quelle capacit a- t-il d'imprimer sa marque sur le destin de l'Irak ?....Il a moralement gagn la guerre. Reste, concrtement, ne pas perdre la paix."
Translation: "The problem for Jacques Chirac, today, is to transform his popularity in the world into influencing the course of History. What capacity does he have to make his mark on the destiny of Iraq?...He morally won the war. What's left...is to not lose the peace."
Book Corner Ron Rosenbaum has
Ron Rosenbaum has a very interesting book review of BHL's "Who Killed Daniel Pearl" in the NY Observer. Go check it out.
Is Islam the Enemy? Internet
Is Islam the Enemy?
Internet surfers traipsing through large swaths of the post-9/11 American blogsophere would be forgiven for thinking that Islam has become the main enemy of the United States and "civilized" world since the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon--the next "ism" to be confronted after fascism, communism and so on.
In a must-read survey, the Economist helps put the Islamic world into less hyperbolic context. Most of the articles require subscription but this one doesn't and is well worth reading.
The article is particularly interesting as it describes the worldview and thinking of one Sayyid Qutb--a literary critic and key activist of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood about a half century back (note UBL and Zawahiri are both former members of the Brotherhood):
"In the late 1940s, Qutb spent two years living in America, an experience he hated and which appears to have turned him against what most people in the West would call modernity but which he saw as something much worse. On returning to Egypt, Qutb wrote a series of books, many from prison, denouncing jahiliyya (ignorance), a state of affairs he categorised as the domination of man over man, or rather subservience to man rather than to Allah."
Note that Qutb was deeply hateful of modernity itself. Living in post-WWII America for a couple years (doubtless pretty happy times for American society writ large) nevertheless left him embittered, fearful and disconsolate with the mores of a secular, modern society.
Such Qutb-types were (and are) seeking the consolations of reactionary "purity" born of isolation and withdrawal from the modern world. They fear the cacaphonous noises emitting from the boisterous West. They fear the dismantling of theocracies, the values of the Renaissance, Englightenment, modern and postmodern thought. They fear man governing man rather than an omnipotent God (whose teachings would, of course, be interpreted by the Qutbs of the world) ruling over the earthly Kingdom.
In a word, they fear progess, forward-movement, societal transition. They seek to resign themselves to a dystopia of sorts--something of a Hobbesian universe where life might be nasty, brutish and short--but, more important to them, proceeds within the confines of an isolated Islamic caliphate modeled on their aspirational vision of a "pure" Islam.
The battle underway isn't necessarily between the forces of the civilized world's "good" against theocratic barbarism's "evil"--though terrorist tactics are obviously evil in their total lack of concern for the slaughter of innocents.
The deeper battle, ultimately, revolves around whether one believes in the very notion of progress or not. To capitulate to the Osamas of the world would be to forsake, at the very least, the firmaments of post-Rennaisance and Enlightenment Western thought. The very notion of an individual pursuing his or her dreams under a society governed by men and the rule of law--without fear of arbitrary death, enslavement, detention. High stakes indeed.
But here's the good news. Of the 1.5 Billion Muslims in the world today, extrememly few share these grotesquely reactionary worldviews.
Per the Economist:
"How representative are such views? Around one in four of the people in the world are Muslims. Only a small fraction of these 1.5 billion Muslims will have heard of, let alone subscribe to, the ideas of theorists such as Qutb. No more than a few thousand people are involved in the violent activities of al-Qaeda and like-minded jihadi organisations. After September 11th, moreover, Muslim clerics and intellectuals joined ordinary Muslims throughout the world in denouncing the atrocity al-Qaeda had perpetrated in their name. By no means all of these were ŅmoderatesÓ. One was Sheikh Fadlallah, the Beirut-based ayatollah often described as the spiritual guide of Hizbullah, the Iranian-inspired Ņparty of GodÓ. He issued a fatwa condemning the attack. Another condemnation came from Yusuf Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Egyptian television cleric with some fiery views and a following of millions."
I happen to think the numbers are a bit more than a "few thousand people." Hard-core jihadis and the like probably number more in the tens of thousands. But either way--we are certainly not at war with 1.5 billion individuals. And occasionally, given the present, often inflammatory mood, that's worth keeping in mind.
Euro-Cohesion Watch Alan Cowell espies
Alan Cowell espies three Euro "castes."
And see too this informative Economist piece:
"The ŅheartÓ of Europe this last week was the Italian lakeside town of Stresa, where some of the euroÕs smaller members berated France for violating the unpopular stability and growth pact, which sets a limit of 3% of GDP for budget deficits. Both Germany and France are in breach of the pact. But it is the defiance in FranceÕs public attitude as much as the deficit in its public accounts which draws the ire of countries, such as the Netherlands and Austria, which tend to respect the EU treaties they sign. If the Stresa get-together is any indication, the fate of the euro areaÕs smaller members is to keep up the appearance of solidarity and equality among euro members, while the big economies, such as France and Germany, bend the rules to suit themselves. If this is the ŅcentreÓ of Europe, no wonder Sweden prefers to remain out on the edge."
Oh, and shouldn't Romani Prodi be staying awake during these troubled times at European Commission meetings? (subscription required)
September 15, 2003
Guardian Watch So what does
Best part of the interview:
OJR: How does the Web site reflect The Guardian philosophy -- which I understand as independent, irreverent and left wing?
EB: I think we're all of those things in measure. Like the paper, we're very cautious that our news must be news, and our comment is comment. This issue of having a trusting relationship with your readership translates online as well as offline. We try to be as objective as we can in our reporting, and we try to be as forceful as we can in the edginess of the comment that we carry alongside it. [my emphasis]
UPDATE: I guess from "edginess of the comment" Ms. Bell means offering up a quasi-respectable forum (the Guardian op-ed pages) to offensive conspiracy theories like this one?
And then, viola, it metamorphosizes into news (rather than "comment") too!
The Kurdish Hiroshima Samantha Power's
The Kurdish Hiroshima
Most Bogus Headline of the
Most Bogus Headline of the Week
Check it. "Committed"? Like a serial philanderer to his wife, perhaps.
Flypaper Agonists Unite More anti-flypaper
Flypaper Agonists Unite
Oh, and the fact that Colin Powell said there might be up to 1,000 foreign jihadi/terrorist-types active in Iraq (and as little as several hundred) shouldn't be used by flypaper adherents to buttress their arguments. Unless, of course, they think that out of the approximately 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide the hard-core jihadists only number about a K or so.
Powell was really dumping coldwater all over the flypaper argument (ie., Rummy) through his public statements. The not so subtle message was--the main resistance here in Iraq consists of Baathist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen, criminal elements, and likely, parts of the population who are being alienated (mostly in the Sunni Triangle) by frequent U.S. military activity in their regions and towns.
That's not to say high-profile incidents like the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy or the U.N. HQ might not be the work of foreign terrorists--but the day in, day out guerrilla tactics that kill roughly a G.I. a day aren't.
Nor are tens of thousands of jihadis flocking to the flytrap. At least that's what Powell appears to be telling us.
UPDATE: All this said, one terrorist in Iraq is too many. In that vein, check out Powell's warnings to Damascus to make their border less porous. C'mon Bashar, you can do it. Rumor has it your dad didn't let anyone across that border that he didn't expressly authorize to do so.
Keller Watch How many times
How many times can Adam Nagourney of the NYT use the "V" word (Vietnam, that is) in a single article about Iraq? No fewer than ten times!
It's one of those classic NYT "pulse of the nation" pieces that masquerades as objective news analysis but so often reveal the Gray Lady's political agenda--still well alive in the post-Raines era.
Note: In case you didn't get the message full on--the word "quagmire" is thrown in twice for good measure as well. Thus is a 10 odd year engagement with 58,000 plus American fatalities glibly compared to a military effort that has to date resulted in approximately 300 combat deaths and not lasted half a year.
September 14, 2003
Clarifications Department A couple bloggers
Through clumsy drafting, my post made it appear that I believed that Bill Clinton pulled out of Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing in 1983. Of course, this happened during Ronald Reagan's administration. I was actually making two separate points and, in no way, meant to suggest Clinton pulled us out of Lebanon. Here's what I wrote:
"To be sure, the fact that al-Qaeda is opening up a front in Iraq is worrisome and we certainly need to soundly defeat them there. But note, it's just one front, among many others. Sure, al-Qaeda knows that killing over 200 U.S. GIs in a massive bombing in Iraq would have a major impact on the American psyche akin to the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in the '80's. They think (but are wrong, because someone like Dubya rather than Clinton is in office) that such an attack might push the U.S. out of Iraq. They would doubtless love to pull such an operation off."
My point on speculating that al-Qaeda would love to pull off an attack (like that which occurred in Beirut in 1983) in Baghdad today was that, despite my attempted debunking of the flypaper argument, I nevertheless believe al-Qaeda views Iraq as a key front. And that we therefore need to be very cautious re: terrorist dangers, similar in nature to what took place in Lebanon, occurring there.
My point on Clinton was meant as a veiled reference to Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and the like where Clinton displayed a hyper-reticence to U.S. casualties. In short, I didn't mean to suggest that Clinton pulled us out of Lebanon but my wording made it appear so.
I apologize for the confusion.
The State of Rummy The
The State of Rummy
The WaPo provides a roundup on the state of Rummy's stock in the Beltway today.
Meanwhile, let's not get too cocksure about the ease by which we will train Iraqi police that will assist the U.S. in providing security. Read this to get a sense of some of the complexities at play.
UPDATE: And this too.
Does Social Class Have a
Does Social Class Have a Bearing on Political Leadership Abilities?
David Brooks wrote an op-ed in the NYT a couple days back that, more or less, extolled the virtues of a bygone class--the WASP establishment. For Brooks, noblesse oblige appears to have been rendered extinct, with unfortunate ramifications for America's political leadership class.
In brief, Brooks was arguing that politicians of a certain class, often educated at elite prep schools, were blessed by what the French call being bien dans leur peau (literally "comfortable in their own skin").
As Brooks put it:
"And for both, those decades of WASP breeding were not in vain. If you look at Bush and Dean...you detect certain common traits. The first is self-assurance. Both Bush and Dean have amazing faith in their gut instincts. Both have self-esteem that is impregnable because it derives not from what they are accomplishing but from who they ineffably are. Both appear unplagued by the sensation, which destroyed Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, that there is some group in society higher than themselves."
Brooks sketches out how young men inculcated in the crucible of prep schools (an "early introduction to human cruelty", per Alan Clark's memorable phrase) were toughened up and thus "leadership" ready. Sadly, for Brooks, while none of us mourn the passing of the WASP establishment--we do miss the leaders produced during that era.
Hogwash says former Rhodes Scholar Dave Adesnik. Dave writes:
"As a product of "today's top schools", let me just say that Brooks has no idea what the #@$%& he is talking about. At both Yale and Oxford, I met countless young Americans with a fierce and principled commitment to making America a better nation, both at home and in its behavior abroad. These students spanned the political spectrum, left, right and center.
Moreover, America's top schools produce so many potential leaders precisely because they abandoned the cruel and unusual methods that Brooks seems to cherish. While still athletic and sociable, abandoning excessive competition in those fields has given today's students more time to focus on A) their studies and B) happy, fulfilling friendships and relationships."
I think both Brooks and Adesnik exaggerate their arguments. Brooks places too direct a causal link re: the notion that a certain form of education and social class background leads to noble (or "conviction") leaders. And Adesnik discounts this line in toto and ignores that there might well be some truth in what Brooks is arguing.
For me, the death of the WASP Establishment dates sometime around the events David Halberstam chronicled in the "Best and the Brightest." Super bright, super-WASP guys like National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy steered LBJ down paths that led to the President's resignation. Meanwhile, less hawkish WASP types were castigated by a (decidely non-WASP) Henry Kissinger for displaying "cowardice" (see this bio for more) that Dr. K associated with the Eastern Establishment (the very virtue David Brooks extols re: this class). In a word, the old Establishment, those "Present at the Creation" of the post-war system had, this time, failed the country, and badly.
What replaced the Old Establishment was a heavily meritocratic post-Vietnam generation. Gone were the days when, at least reputedly, Andover and Exeter grads would circle their top three Ivy League college picks and, barring truly horrific grades or mammoth disciplinary infractions, gain entrance at at least one of them. Instead, the likes of Harvard and Yale were granting admission to legions of public school grads who continue to make up the healthy majority of those schools.
Fine, right? In a society that prides itself on egalitarianism, this should certainly be applauded. Opening the doors of elite institutions to a more representative pool of society is a definitive plus. And who wants to go to school solely with a bunch of white guys called Skip, Burke and Sumner anyway? Being around a diverse group of students provides its own form of education in its own right.
But What of Brooks' "Resume-Gods"?
But Brooks is getting at something a bit more amorphous when he takes a jab at "Resume Gods" while extolling old-line products of elite prep schools. Call it the Clinton-factor. These are the hyper-achievers who made it solely on their drive, will and smarts--and didn't come from an ensconced and privileged social class (or its secondary schools).
These "resume gods", particularly today as college admission competion becomes even more ferocious, often strive to "check all the boxes," hyper-pragmatically plotting their Harvard admission by ensuring the right mix of high school grades, SAT scores, athletic activity, community service and internships (one sometimes wonders how much they really care about the actual activities they pursue).
Clinton, from a decidely non-elite background (Hope, Arkansas), later made his way to the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and then to what might well represent the pinnacle of the American meritocracy--Yale Law School.
Clinton was nothing if not ambitious. But the ambition, in my view at least, often seemed unmoored from a real political vision or conviction. There was too much Dick Morris "triangulation", polling (even where to vacation, remember?) and, generally, easy recourse to heading wherever the political winds were blowing.
Let's put it a bit differently. Wasn't his Presidency infected by a kind of relativism? A relativism encapsulated and immortalized by his smirkish testimony in response to Ken Starr's staff: "it depends on what the meaning of "is" is."
Leave aside the tiresome sex scandal. Take a look instead at Clinton's Bosnia policy in the context of his alleged relativism and dearth of innate self-confidence born (for Brooks) of social class. There, the stakes were higher than Paula Jones' civil rights and whether the POTUS was screwing the help (A digression: "don't screw the crew", I overheard a smart Briton recently advise his staff here in London).
In Bosnia, over two hundred thousand people were killed and millions displaced. The stake, existentially-speaking, were about as high as it gets. In 1992, Candidate Clinton attacked George Herbert Walker Bush as having an impotent foreign policy. A dictator coddler and so on. Clinton stated that, were he elected, he would lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims and use NATO to strike Bosnian Serb canon fortifications wreaking havoc on cities like Sarajevo, Gorazde, Bihac and so on.
All this talk artificially raised expectations in Sarajevo that the Yankee cavalry was coming to the rescue. But it wasn't to be, at least until Dick Holbrooke helped save the day at Dayton three long years later. In the meantime, the Bosniaks were, basically, left on their own to stave off genocidal policies.
Brooks' point is that a Howard Brush Dean III or George Bush wouldn't say that he was going to bring a Slobodan Milosevic (or Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic or Saddam Hussein) to task and then do nothing. And I think he's got a point.
Dean and Bush strike me as men with a strong internal compass, conviction, and innate comfort with themselves that leads them to do what they say they are going to do. Put differently, they have perhaps been insulated (at least somewhat because of their high school educations and social class) by the more gross forms of relativism that have swept post-60s America--allowing them rule with more conviction.
The question is: to what extent, if any, is this a function of their social class? Dave would probably say very little if at all. I want to argue, perhaps quite a bit, but not as much as Brooks makes out. (see Ronald Reagan as a prime example of a leader with the qualities Brooks extols that doesn't come from the Eastern elite and didn't attend a Groton or St. Pauls).
UPDATE: Innocents Abroad weigh in on all this too.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Dan Drezner weighs in.
What of Boarding Schools Today?
A couple final points for those curious enough to read on. The first somewhat playful, the second serious. Brooks mentions that St. George's (Dean's alma mater) is slightly more socially prestigious than Andover (Bush's alma mater and, incidentally, mine). Many readers may have been puzzled about that as Andover is commonly considered the Harvard (or Yale) of secondary schools.
But Brooks is absolutely right. St. Georges was (and still, in some quarters at least, is) considered more socially prestigious among old-line WASP elites that don't really care (or, indeed, actively don't want) their children to go to schools like Harvard or Yale. Said schools are viewed as too intellectual, overly academic, perhaps institutions that will provoke too much philosophical questioning among the progeny (so, isn't the estate tax just in modern American society? should I forgo the family business and join the ACLU? and so on...).
The serious point. I had earlier argued that Vietnam played a pivotal role in reducing the impact of the old eastern Establishment elites. But it is also worth mentioning the state of the American boarding school--of which Brooks makes much--in the context of training of future elites. As David Hicks, the former rector of St. Pauls, pointed out in an excellent article in the American Scholar's Autumn '96 edition, the state of boarding schools in the U.S. today is rather dire.
He starts by reminding us that those schools were formed ("in their own minds at least") "to serve public, not private, interests. They were for America's 'artificial', not her 'natural,' aristocrats, to use Jefferson's terms; yet true to Jefferson's intent, they wished to make virtuous and brave those who, through the accident of birth, would someday exercise great power and influence."
Or, as Hicks' puts it, this was the "beau ideal." And, as he points out, said schools churned out FDR, Dean Acheson, John Kennedy, Archibald Cox, Henry Stimson, among many, many other notable leaders.
Today, whether you love 'em or hate 'em, note that both Dubya and Jerry Bremmer are Andover grads.
Regardless, today, the situation is more complex and the "beau ideal" potentially in steep decline.
Why? Mostly because of the below factors that Hicks enunciates in his excellent article.
1) the sprawling of suburbia and expansion of the highway system post WWII made these schools less isolated, as did the telecommunications encroachments of TV, cable, Internet and so on (in other words, the schools became more like your typical suburban high school, less Clark's Etonian "early introduction to human cruelty");
If David Brooks wants to dig around more on the death of the eastern Establishment--he'd do well to read this piece--if he hasn't already.
Most Nauseating Book Title Award
Most Nauseating Book Title Award
According to the IHT, Jayson Blair's book is to be called "Burning Down My Master's House: My Life at the New York Times".
Schadenfreude Watch Andrew Gimson reports
Andrew Gimson reports from Berlin. Sure, much of the anti-americanism ("Too Much of a Good Thing?" query imbecilic commentators over at Alexander's Cockburn's Counterpunch) in Germany stems from Mearsheimeresque themes of the end of the Cold War reducing America's strategic import for Europe etc etc. In addition, throw into the mix traditional resentments of any hegemon that so dominates the international system.
But leaders bear responsibility for the quality of a state's national discourse regarding how best to pursue its geopolitical interests as well. To be sure, Chancellor Schroder's desperate use of anti-american rhetoric to wriggle into another term played into latent anti-U.S. feelings that were already present in the German polity.
But he fanned those emotions with such alacrity that they became much more widespread than before. Also, Schroder's reckless anti-americanism allowed such a worldview to occupy a more respected and generally accepted position in the firmament of the national discourse (to such an extent that even his Green Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, had to warn against the perils of "primitive" anti-Americanism).
There will doubtless be some patching up between Berlin and Washington in the coming days. But the damage is real and can likely only be surmounted by real statesmanship going forward. Don't hold your breath while Gerard is still around.
UPDATE: Check out the obnoxious conspiracy theories respected German press outlets will air in the current climate.
September 13, 2003
Dominique's Inscrutable Gaze French Foreign
Dominique's Inscrutable Gaze
French Foreign Mininister Dominique de Villepin has something of an exegesis in Le Monde discussing France's policy proposals for Iraq. Meanwhile, Steve Weisman has a rather poor NYT article on the state of Franco-American diplomacy:
"Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, reopening the trans-Atlantic rift over Iraq Ń this time about expanding the authority of the United Nations there Ń said today that a French proposal to cut back the role of the American-led occupation was unacceptable." [my emphasis]
Note the implication that the blame for re-opening transatlantic rows falls squarely with the U.S. Might not France's unrealistic musings about how quickly sovereignty might be turned over to the Iraqis play a role in all of this? Perhaps worth a brief mention in the context of which party is souring the diplomatic mood, no? Evidently not.
De Villepin's piece, even for a fluent French reader, was somewhat exhausting to get through. It made me wonder if Dominique had been reading Roland Barthes' essay "Writing Degree Zero" recently, which I think is worth quoting here at some length, despite being as exhausting as de Villepin's piece (an affliction that appears to often strike French (real or pseudo) intellectuals) :
"What makes writing the opposite of speech is that the former always appears symbolical, introverted, ostensibly turned toward an occult side of language, whereas the second is nothing but a flow of empty signs, the movement of which alone is not significant. The whole of speech is epitomized in this expendability of words, in this froth ceaselessy swept onward, and speech is found only where language self-evidently functions a devouring process which swallows only the moving crest of the words. Writing, on the contrary, is always rooted in something beyond language, it develops like a seed, it manifests an essence and holds the threat of a secret, it is an anti-communcation, it is intimidating. All writing will therefore contain the ambiguity of an object which is both language and coercion: there exists fundamentally in writing a "circumstance" foreign to language, there is, as it were, the weight of a gaze conveying an intention which is no longer linguistic. This gaze may well express a passion for language, as in literary modes of writing; it may also express the threat of retribution, as in political ones ..." [my bolded emphasis]
Put aside, for a moment, the booming poseur detector alarms going off in your head. For here is poor Colin Powell's conundrum in a Barthesian nutshell! What Dominique is he meeting in Geneva? The bonhomie-laden visage of the so very talented, dashing, and prolific poet? Or the steely gaze of the realpolitiking diplo running Quai D'Orsay with iron will?
Put differently, is Dominique's long Le Monde screed simply a joyous expression of "passion for language," or is there instead, lurking amidst the inscrutable Gallic prose, a "threat of retribution", a "political" threat (a veto even)?
Methinks Mr. Powell is getting tired of hearing such convoluted language such as asides about the "logic of occupation." Sure, racy neo-Marxist lexicon swap about the "logic of dialectics" and such would doubtless be fun to bat about Les Deux Magots over copious cafes au lait and Gauloises some sunny afternoon on the Left Bank.
But time is short and U.S. soldiers are dying almost daily. To the tiresome French recitations about the "logic of occupation" Powell might respond, delicately of course, with a Bronx-like "logic of we are the $%%^% there already--and in large number." You know, just to put the negotiations in context.
Still, Can There Be a UNSC Deal?
All this said, a compromise is in sight. A close read of de Villepin's piece reveals that the French will accept that coalition troops serve under the command of the "principal contributor of troops" (he evidently couldn't bring himself to say they would serve under an American commander). Note: de Villepin's piece only mentions "coalition" forces serving under said U.S. commander--he never expressly (but does implicitly) avers that U.N. forces would be deemed to be "coalition" in nature. Nevertheless, and tortuously arrived at perhaps, it appears the French would vote for a resolution that has blue helmets serving under overall U.S. command.
Next, de Villepin calls for, per the Afghan model, the training and equipping of an Iraqi army. Fine, no objections there. At the same time, he also wants the de-mobilized former Iraqi army to be reconstituted. He's likely right on that score. Only top level Ba'athist commanders were complicit with Saddam. The vast majority of the Iraq army should likely not have been disbanded, but paid to stay on and help with local police work while helping guard Iraq's borders with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria.
So what's the potential deal breaker? This part:
"Les actuelles institutions irakiennes, c'est--dire le Conseil de gouvernement et les ministres rcemment nomms, seraient considres par le Conseil de scurit des Nations unies comme le dpositaire de la souverainet irakienne pour la priode de transition. Dans un dlai trs court, par exemple d'un mois, un gouvernement provisoire irakien pourrait tre constitu partir de ces instances, et se verrait transfrer de manire progressive le pouvoir excutif, y compris l'activit conomique et budgtaire."
Put simply, de Villepin wants the Iraqi interim authority to become the repository of Iraqi sovereignty within a month. But note that de Villepin makes mention of a gradual "transfer" of executive, as well as budgetary powers, from that point on. In other words, the clock starts ticking in a month but a full handover of key powers to the Iraqis could be structured so as to occur well later.
De Villepin's proposal would also give a personal representative of the U.N. Secretary General authority that sounds like it would usurp Jerry Bremer's. But a close read indicates that the representative would be tasked with liasing with "coalition authorities" (read: Bremer) and would only make recommendations and proposals to the U.N. regarding the timing of a full return to Iraqi sovereignty.
Later, per the French, an international conference would be convened after return to Iraqi sovereignty had been achieved to plan international troop contributions and the like. But nothing de Villepin writes indicates the French would definitively be opposed to allowing for international troops before such a conference.
What does all this mean? I think it means that Powell will have to devote most of his efforts to pushing back the French on their grossly unrealistic timetable for Iraqi sovereignty. And he can point to de Villepin's own piece to support his contention that such a timetable is way too optimistic:
"Aujourd'hui, l'urgence est de transfrer la souverainet au peuple irakien lui-mme afin de lui permettre d'assumer pleinement ses responsabilits. Alors les diffrentes communauts trouveront, je l'espre, la force de travailler ensemble." [my emphasis]
Translation: "Today, it is urgent to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people themselves so as to allow them to fully assume their responsibilities. Then the different communities, I hope, will find the strength to work together."
Even for de Villepin the notion of the Shi'a, Sunni, Turkomen, Kurds (not to mention internal rivalries amidst said groups) beginning to work together as a sovereign, effective government within a month is but a "hope." Powell should remind him of that as he tries to hash out the next UNSC compromise resolution.
UPDATE: The NYT has an updated Weisman article up:
"Mr. Powell met briefly one-on-one with his principal adversary in these talks, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin. But American officials could not say what had been accomplished or whether the meeting had been friendly.
American officials are openly irritated with Mr. de Villepin, who wrote up his proposals in a sweeping article published in Le Monde on Friday, a move that was not considered diplomatically adroit as a prelude for meetings that were supposed to be low key and confidential."
September 11, 2003
9/14/01 In my view, Bush's
In my view, Bush's Presidency effectively started on the 14th of September, 2001. I was living in NYC at the time just beginning to come to grips with what had occurred in lower Manhattan three days back.
I was at my gym in Union Square working out--trying to resume some form of normal routine. Bush had just touched down at Ground Zero for his first visit to the site since the attacks.
Gone were the lame MTV videos and moronic gossip programs I'd often spot people watching on the monitors above the exercise machines. All eyes were on the President.
We all remember the moment when Bush, in an almost disapointingly routine fashion, began speaking to the firemen amidst the rubble of Ground Zero.
Most audiences, even in times of crisis, listen dutifully to the Commander in Chief--even when they can't quite make out what a President is saying.
But not this crowd. A fireman, with typical NYC insouciance and chutzpah, shouted to the President: "George, we can't hear you".
The off the cuff words that Bush next uttered, indelibly encrusted in so many of our minds, signaled to me that we were moving on from a muddied pastiche of varied emotions--profound grief, incredulity, and rumblings for revenge.
"I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
Gosh, I thought, thank you Mr. President. I physically and mentally felt rejuvenated, back on even keel, more stolid.
And then the firemen began to chant: "USA. USA. USA." And I thought--more than visiting the Pentagon, more than the ceremony at the National Cathedral the day before, Bush is getting it now.
He realizes the massive scale of carnage at Ground Zero. The unadulterated barbarism of the perpetrators. The need for strong, focused, remedial action. The fact that the nation is at war--and for a long time.
As a passionate fan of NYC, I think back to that moment. How NYC, its firemen in particular, helped Bush realize just how enormous the events of 9/11 were. Indeed, world-historical in scope.
Immediately, Bush understood that we were now operating in an extra-judicial realm. The likely debates that would have occupied a Gore Administration--UN authority for punitive strikes? hale UBL to court? dare we enter Afghanistan?--were swept aside.
But Bush went further. He understood then that the key was not merely rooting out terror groups but states that would harbor them. It was by no means sure that any President in power on 9/11 would have so instinctually and rapidly adopted a similar policy.
Why did Bush get it? Because he innately understood the epoch-making nature of the event. He realized that terrorists would love nothing more than to devise ways to kill 30,000; 300,000; 3 million.
Therefore, given the risks of WMD proliferation, states with track records of harboring or otherwise supporting terror activities needed to be put on warning that they would be considered enemies of the United States post 9/11. There was no other sane policy option to pursue if one takes seriously the duty of a government to protect its citizenry.
Two years later, we see the limits of parts of Dubya's policy (or the manner by which it is sometimes implemented). We see how terror may have sometimes been defined too broadly, how a hyperpower (even one so wounded just two years back) is so easily widely feared, resented, often hated.
We pause too and reflect on how defeating terror is not only a question of military prowess, intelligence cooperation, financial detective work--but also of conflict resolution, of addressing issues of national pride and struggle, of poverty and an enduring sense of injustice that afflicts too many around the globe (yes, even if Mohamed Atta was a son of the middle class and probably didn't really give two damns about the Palestinians).
We will need to adjust, refine, occasionally temper our strategies. But the key reason Bush is still the man to beat in '04 is that, unlike many other prospective Presidents that could have been at the helm on 9/11, he understood immediately how the strategic world order had changed.
Sure, he has overeached here and there (more on that another day). But his initial policy instincts, pressed on and emboldened by New York City's bravest on 9/14, were cogent and sound.
In the naked face of cruel barbarism, Bush sought to protect the "better angels" of human nature during a great crisis. History will, at least, remember him kindly for that.
UPDATE: This blog adds some relevant detail.
Don Rumsfeld At some point
And then I saw some footage on CNN that I had never seen before. Of Rummy, right after the Pentagon was hit on 9/11, rushing about the grounds of the Pentagon helping to carry an injured (or dead?) man on a stretcher. And somehow it didn't feel right to criticize Don Rumsfeld. At least not today.
In-House Matters Regular readers will
Regular readers will see a few more links added in various categories to the right of the screen (some Middle East news sources, a couple new blogs, the excellent International Crisis Group [not really a think-tank but placed in that grouping] etc.). Also, I finally got around to putting up the near obligatory "about me" section. Just click on my name above to see a short bio (mostly slothfully pulled from elsewhere but I hope it does give some relevant info about my background).
I hope to have some thoughts on the conduct of Bush's foreign policy since 9/11 later tonight UK time.
Keller Watch The NYT in
The NYT in a "news analysis" piece on the Patriot Act:
"President Bush, seeking still greater powers to fight terrorism, appears to have calculated that the renewed memories of the Sept. 11 attacks evoked by their second anniversary will be enough to outweigh rising concerns over civil liberties." [my emphasis]
Readers are left to imagine how Dubya has linked "renewed memories" [ed. note: they didn't need any renewing for me, and I trust many others) of 9/11 to a scheme to trample on civil liberties with increased abandon.
Here's how the WaPo handles the same story more judiciously.
The Guardian's 9/11 Anniversary The
The Guardian's 9/11 Anniversary
As for the 2001 9/11--their leader piece blatantly showcases the significant biases of editorialists at the Guardian--while grossly downplaying U.S. successes against al-Qaeda to date.
The concluding graf:
"Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Condoleezza Rice, whose judgments have repeatedly proved unsound, should be dismissed. And if matters have not greatly improved by this day next year, Mr Bush should decline to seek a second term. As a more eminent republican, Cicero, might have told this discredited, distrusted crew: "Among us you can dwell no longer."
Presidential Politiking A Dean-Clark alliance?
September 10, 2003
Logjam Watch The good news
The good news is that the Euros seem to have accepted the principle of a multinational, U.N. authorized force run by an American commander. The bad news is that Franco-German amendments (with the Russians likely positioning themselves to bridge gaps between Paris and Washington) are seeking to have a U.N. representative set the timetable for handing authority back to Iraqis.
That's probably a non-starter in Washington. Some constructive ambiguity and creative diplomacy might yet allow for a compromise. But even if a resolution is passed the benefits may well prove quite modest. Sure, an added imprimatur of international legitimacy would result, some more donor funding might come in, and, perhaps, 20,000 odd international troops might make their way to the theater in half a year or so.
Couple points. Ba'athist resistance and assorted terror groups will just as happily kill Indian or Bangledeshi peacekeepers (or indeed Egyptian or Moroccan ones) as they would U.S. forces. Indeed, they might view them as easier targets. Second, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, 20,000 more troops on the ground might not do the job.
The U.S. responsibility to effectively reconstruct Iraq and allow for a democratic, viable polity is too great to skimp on ground troops. Security is paramount. Again, who doesn't get this in Washington?
Shi'a Watch The CPA's latest
Much Ado About Nothing I'm
Much Ado About Nothing
I'm typically a Bill Safire fan, but his op-ed centered on the Arab League's decision to allow the Iraqi Governing Council's FM to represent Iraq before the Arab League strikes me per the subject tag above.
In addition, his suggestion that Turkish troops be invited into Iraq, even if well removed from the Kurdish zone, is a poor one. Ankara will doubtless use supply chains and troop movements to establish a presence in Kurdish and/or Turkomen areas inflaming tensions in the one main sector of Iraq that has been blessed with relative calm to date.
Bottom line: No neighboring countries should be allowed to contribute troops to the Iraq reconstruction effort. The possibilities for mischief are just too great.
September 09, 2003
Flypaper at Work Carnage in
Flypaper at Work
The situation in the Middle East is detiorating very seriously. The roadmap has flopped again--like Tenet, Zinni and Oslo before. Adult supervision is needed urgently.
Where is the President? He needs to convene a summit with a high-ranking Palestinian delegation (including PM-designee Qurei) and Sharon in Washington as soon as feasible. The message to Queri should be that, if PA security forces are not consolidated asap so as to begin to effectively crackdown on Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the U.S. will give a green light to Sharon to expel Arafat from the Occupied Territories. And the message to Sharon should be to halt all assassinations of Hamas leaders (except for so-called ticking bombs) while the PA attempts to consolidate its security forces.
What's unsaid in all this is the danger that a real PA crackdown on Hamas could lead to a Palestinian civil war. To help avoid that, Bush must extract immediate and material concessions from Sharon if the PA finally moves to really disarm the military wing of Hamas. That means evacuation of settlement outposts, a freeze on settlement construction, reduction of curfews/roadblocks and the like--actions that would need to occur concomitantly with a PA crackdown on Hamas.
At the same time, the President needs to very seriously consider dramatic peace proposals that jettison the incremental, confidence building approach. Other long-time observers of the region agree. Time to take a look at Martin Indyk's trusteeship ideas again too--with simultaneously executed concessions made by the parties as international forces phase in to oversee assuring Israeli security as '67 land is gradually handed over to the Palestinians.
Dubya's bet big in Iraq--he now needs to do the same in the Holy Land.
Meanwhile, John McCain reportedely couldn't get Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman to provide an answer as to when we could expect international troops in Iraq according to a NBC report today. In other words, our diplomatic efforts at the U.N. aimed at securing a multinational contingent under an American commander are still very nascent.
But troops (whether international, reconstituted Iraqi forces, or U.S.) are needed now. The (increasingly chimeric) Indian contingent and such that pundits have been scribbling about for months, even if a U.N. resolution were passed tomorrow, wouldn't be there for many months.
All kinds of contingencies could occur during that time frame necessitating greater force presence. Who in Washington doesn't get this?
Iran Watch Ze'ev Schiff continues
Ze'ev Schiff continues to monitor developments related to Iran's nuclear program. He's not impressed by International Atomic Energy Agency director general
Strauss Watch Bill Kristol on
Bill Kristol on Leo Strauss.
Sullivan and Flypaper Andrew Sullivan's
Sullivan and Flypaper
Andrew Sullivan's weblog is likely the best in the entire blogosphere. I, like thousands of other folks, turn to it daily for an intelligent precis and analysis of the key events of the day. Most of the time I'm reading his blog I think he's pretty much spot on regarding myriad issues. But on the entire flypaper issue--he's way off base (see too an earlier, related post I had up on this topic).
Sullivan has a piece up on the whole flypaper meme in the latest Sunday Times (UK). He gets it wrong right off the get go in the title of his piece: ""Flypaper: A Strategy Unfolds."
Let's stop kidding ourselves and spinning like a Paul Begala. We went into Iraq to forcibly disarm Saddam of his WMD and unseat his regime. Not to have foreign jihadis and al-Qaeda open up fronts in Iraq so we could (allegedly) mop them up outside of Tel Aviv, London and NYC. There was no such strategy. There still isn't. And it wasn't (and isn't) unfolding. To so intimate is to be lapping up Pentagon propaganda without rational antenna up and about.
Sullivan then goes on and trots out Bush's "bring 'em on" quote. For Sullivan, this was a purposeful White House declaration meant to egg on the bad guys to mount terror operations in Iraq so as to keep Grand Central and Big Ben safe and sound. More plausibly, it was a braggodocio-infused Texism meant to warn Baathists die-hards, Saddam Fedayeen, assorted foreign fighters and criminal gangs that the U.S. would ultimately prevail over them.
I had no problem with the Presidential locution then or now--we all like flavorful, tough rhetoric emanating from the White House now and then in these perilous times. But for Sullivan to argue that this passing phrase uttered by Dubya was meant as a formal enunciation of a "flypaper strategy" is laughable.
Next, Sullivan quotes Rummy and Wolfy to the effect that Iraq now constitutes the central battlefield in the war on terror, ie. the flytrap is scooping up the bad guys in the Sunni Triangle and, if we win there--we will have ostensibly dealt near mortal blows to al-Qaeda and other assorted terror groups.
Instead, as observers of international terrorist organizations realize, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, PFLP-GC, DFLP, Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, Chechen separatists (and other groups besides) are not rushing their forces into Iraq to fight the American Satan near Paul Bremer's offices. They, of course, have got their own battles to wage in Indonesia, Israel, Chechnya, and points beyond.
That's not to say that Iraq has not become a key front in the war on terror. (BTW, be careful how you define terrorism. Bombing the Jordanian Embassy or the UN HQ in Baghdad constitutes terrorism. Killing combat-ready U.S. troops in Iraq doesn't. You wouldn't readily have picked up on that distinction listening to Dubya's speech last night). But we won't solve the problems of global terror simply because we prevail in Iraq. The phenomenon is much broader and involves territorial disputes and national liberation struggles from Aceh to Kashmir, from Chechyna to Palestine.
To be sure, the fact that al-Qaeda is opening up a front in Iraq is worrisome and we certainly need to soundly defeat them there. But note, it's just one front, among many others. Sure, al-Qaeda knows that killing over 200 U.S. GIs in a massive bombing in Iraq would have a major impact on the American psyche akin to the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in the '80's. They think (but are wrong, because someone like Dubya rather than Clinton is in office) that such an attack might push the U.S. out of Iraq. They would doubtless love to pull such an operation off.
But UBL and his henchmen know too that a mega-terror attack on the scale of 9/11 in a London, New York or Chicago would have a hugely larger impact. You can place the flytrap from Casablanca to Jakarta and al-Qaeda operatives will still be trying to hit major Western metropolises. And, as Tom Ridge would likely tell you, it's a matter of time before the homeland is struck again--no matter what is going on in Iraq.
Sullivan goes on (regarding recent U.S. moves to attempt to internationalize the force component in Iraq): "It was a move designed to liberate the U.S. military machine from peace-keeping in order to concentrate on war-making - against the terror network they had come to destroy."
Come again? The reason we're asking for more troops is because we don't have enough on the ground, period, whether for hunting down various resistance forces (terrorist or other) or for more traditional peacekeeping duties. And the terror network we came to destroy was the Ace of Spades and a few other key figures specified in the deck of cards occupying the pinnacle of the neo-Stalinist, brutish Baathist ruling class--most of whom have been disposed of already--not fictititious personages born of some catch-all bogus flytrap chimera that has foreign fighters swarming into Iraq from around the globe.
Sullivan: "The extra beauty of this strategy is that it creates a target for Islamist terrorists that is not Israel. A key objective of the current U.S. strategy is to show that Israel is not the fundamental cause of instability and mayhem in the Middle East - but a victim of the same kind of pathological religious extremism that has destroyed Iran, brutalized Afghanistan and blackmailed Saudi Arabia. Before the Iraq war, the U.S. could do little to counter these maniacs directly. Now they have a theater of war - and it isn't the West Bank."
Folks, Islamists terrorists have already found myriad targets that aren't Israel. They've found them in Riyadh, Moscow, Bali, Casablanca, NYC, Paris, Tunisia, the Pentagon and airliners criss-crossing the world for decades.
And since when has it become a "key objective of the current U.S. strategy to show that Israel is not the fundamental cause of instability and mayhem in the Middle East"? Maybe Doug Feith has given this some thought--but a Presidential policy priority it ain't.
And does anyone really think this inscrutable flytrap is going to lessen terror attacks on Israel in the coming days--especially if Sheikh Yassin is killed and Gaza become embroiled in anarchic, self-destructive rage for many weeks--with the attendant (and predictable) vicious rash of suicide bombings such an action will set off in large number?
Again, Sullivan: "One possibility is that better and more aggressive policing in urban areas (by Iraqis and foreign troops) will enable U.S. soldiers to leave the cities and fight a guerrilla war against al Qaeda and Hezbollah in the Iraqi hinterland, putting extra pressure on Iran and Syria at the same time. That would be an elegant solution. But at the moment it's a somewhat optimistic one."
Hezbollah in the Iraqi hinterland? But wait, I thought these guys were based in Lebanon, no? That's not to say an immaterial amount (perhaps a few score or hundred) Hezbollah fighters haven't crossed the Syrian border with Iraq (that Bashar Assad could, and should, make less porous) but to argue that Iraq is now a "flytrap" for Hezbollah is absurd. We'd need to march into Syria, Lebanon and Iran to deracinate Hezbollah. Any takers right now?
"At some point, I'd argue, the president therefore has to make this strategy more formal. He has to tell the American people that more violence in Iraq may not in some circumstances be a bad thing. It may be a sign that we are flushing out terror and confronting it, rather than passively waiting for it to attack again. He has to remind people that this war is far from over, that the mission is still very much unaccomplished, and that this is not Vietnam. Right now he looks defensive, reactive and not in full control. That must end. And articulating the flypaper strategy might just help end it."
With all due respect to Andrew Sullivan, the vast majority of judicious observers realize that more violence in Iraq is most assuredly not a good thing--even, frankly, if you bought into this entire flytrap argument--as the nation-building effort would be imperiled spawning failed state conditions that would produce more terrorists to replace those we caught up in the supposed flytrap.
Here's hoping Bush doesn't make flypaper his strategy. I know that George Kennan isn't manning the helm at Policy Planning at the State Department anymore. But surely the collective intellectual might of the American foreign policy elite will come up with a better strategy than something called flypaper. Or so one hopes.
September 08, 2003
Bush's Speech and Bremer's Op-Ed
Bush's Speech and Bremer's Op-Ed
I was at an aiport lounge about to fly Washington DC-London when Dubya's speech came on. Most of the (white, male, conservative-looking) business travellers around me appeared quite skeptical as they listened to the President. And there was an audible sense of sticker shock when the $87BB figure was trotted out ("if you say it fast enough no one will catch it", someone muttered at the airport)
But that is precisely the portion of the President's speech that needs to be applauded. The strongest parts of the speech reflected his intimations that we had embarked on a generational committment, that there would be no Somalia-style retreat, and, putting his money where his mouth is, pushing to get the funds needed for such a mammoth effort.
Also refreshing was his blunt honesty about the "great harm" that had been done to coalition efforts in Iraq. He wasn't suger-coating his message to the American people.
Weaker, in my view, was the portion of the speech that dealt with potentially further internationalizing the Iraq effort. Bush:
"Some countries have requested an explicit authorization of the United Nations Security Council before committing troops to Iraq. I have directed Secretary of State Colin Powell to introduce a new Security Council resolution, which would authorize the creation of a multinational force in Iraq, to be led by America.
I recognize that not all of our friends agreed with our decision to enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein from power. Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties. Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world, and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized world. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity -- and the responsibility -- to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation." [my emphasis]
I quibble with Bush's use of the word "responsibility" in this context. Certainly, countries like Germany and France have an "opportunity" to assist the U.S. in Iraq. And, as I've argued before, I believe it is in both countries national interests to help the U.S. by contributing troops. This will allow Berlin and Paris to have a greater voice in developments going forward in the Middle East--while also helping, even if modestly, foster the creation of a successful Iraqi polity which has a significant impact on European stability as well.
But inclusion of the word responsiblity struck me as unnecessary. Too much rancor surrounded the decision to go to war in Iraq with France and Germany obviously having staked out very anti-war positions. Their governing elites, largely against the war, are therefore assuredly not feeling a "responsibility" to rush boots to the ground under a U.S. commander. That's a simple reality we need to keep in mind. Maybe France and Germany should feel a responsibility--but they simply don't at this juncture.
Another key aspect of our approach to the Europeans revolves around the (flippant) French complaint that we are not returning sovereignty to the Iraqis expeditiously enough. Bush addressed this (not in enough detail) thus:
"Iraq is ready to take the next steps toward self-government. The Security Council resolution we introduce will encourage Iraq's Governing Council to submit a plan and a timetable for the drafting of a constitution and for free elections. From the outset, I have expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi people to govern themselves. Now they must rise to the responsibilities of a free people and secure the blessings of their own liberty." [my emphasis]
Again, an erroneous use of the R-word. Bush might better have allowed this language to stay in the speech if Iraq was a secured environment with services back on tap. But it's a bit much to asks Iraqis to rise to the responsibility of freedom when many are living in highly chaotic conditions with no water or electricity. And it's language that is not likely to give much comfort to Europeans re: their concerns about Iraqi sovereignty.
That said, Bremer's op-ed in today's WaPo picks off where the President left off regarding how we plan to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people. It's clearly an effort to respond to (mostly) French gripes about needing more detail on how sovereignty will be returned to Iraqis. Powell will be pushing the same message with his counterparts to try to get the key countries on board to bless a U.N. resolution allowing for a multinational force under U.S. command.
But there's one big problem with all of this. Even if a U.N. resolution comes to pass--Powell is only expecting another 15,000 troops to be contributed from other countries. I fear we need at least another 50,000-100,000 U.S. GI's in theater to fully quash resistance, protect infrastructure, get services on tap, and ensure a secured environment is in place to prepare for an eventual handover to the Iraqis.
We can debate whether such forces should be heavily constabulatory or traditional military forces--but passage of a U.N. resolution--allowing for, say, an assortment of 15,000 Indian, Bangladeshi, Turkish, Egyptian and token French forces isn't going to cut it unless we are really lucky.
I prefer a Powell doctrine approach. Make sure you have the requisite forces to win the battle. Ditto the requsite number of constabulatory forces to win the peace. In the Sunni Triangle we are still basically at war. In the Shi'a zones we will likely have to engage in peacemaking if intra-sectrarian violence picks up. In the Kurdish north, luckily so far, we are more in peacekeeping mode. But in none of these areas, with their varied conditions, do we have the requisite number and best force mixture in place now to deal with all the contingencies that may arise.
Bush's speech showed us he is quite serious about the American committment to Iraq--but this Administration still hasn't gotten us to where we need to be if we want to really help assure that historians describe Iraq as a major post 9/11 success story.
September 04, 2003
Armitage Scores Every once in
Every once in a while you hear a story from Washington where a sub-principal, ie. a Deputy, Under or Assistant Secretary of some department or other is instrumental in scoring a major policy victory. Much has been made recently about Powell's best friend, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, going public (ostensibly before the White House had signed off) with the idea of pursuing a new U.N. resolution that authorized a U.N. multinational force for Iraq under overall U.S. command.
As it happens, I'm passing (very rapidly) through Washington today and had my first chance at reading a paper edition of the WaPo in a long time. This is the type of inside the beltway story the WaPo excels in covering.
Today, they have an excellent article on some of the bureaucratic battling that was occuring behind the scenes that ultimately pushed Dubya to decide to approach the U.N (leaving aside other contributing factors like the difficult environment in Iraq, of course).
Powell's task (assembling a U.S. led multinational force under U.N. umbrella) will (like many before) perhaps prove thankless given this initial reaction from Germany and France. That said, the parties are now in early jockeying for position mode. The negotiations haven't yet begun in earnest. Concessions from both sides may yet allow for an intelligent, well-thought out compromise.
Still, this early reaction from Berlin and Paris isn't a good sign. It's too early to tell whether they really are soberly considering their long-term national interests at this stage. Such interests very much necessitate creation of a viable polity in Iraq. Berlin and Paris claim the currently envisioned U.S draft proposal doesn't give the U.N. a big enough role and thus won't help Iraq overcome its current difficulties. But this smells more of policy driven by misguided national pride than a serious effort on determining how best to have the international community expeditiously pursue getting a force in Iraq. A force that would have the best chance at making Iraqi society safer and getting services on line so as to resuscitate the coalition's chances of getting an effective Iraqi government in place within, say, a two-year time frame.
Regardless, let's hope, with some tough, intelligent diplomacy in the coming days aimed at bridging the gaps among the parties--that the French and Germans might be willing to play ball in serious fashion. If not, we might again be scuttled at the U.N. thus reinforcing the view of civilian Pentagon types who allegedly didn't want to go back to the U.N. because, more or less, they view it as useless. And then we'd be still stuck with too few troops in Iraq unless we send more of our own GIs. Powell has to be very tough, convincing, and tireless, while not appearing to be issuing diktats, in pursuing a U.N. resolution that (a non-obstinate and reasonable) Dubya would be able to accept. Let's hope he can pull it off.
September 01, 2003
Travel More travel until beginning
More travel until beginning of next week. I hope to continue blogging albeit intermittently. Until then, check out this Bob Kagan op-ed in today's WaPo on why we need more troops in Iraq asap.
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
--New York Times
--Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
More Cartoon Fun From Le
Cockburn's Scriveners You knew it
Scandal Watch One of the
White House Counsel's Email Here's
Blair Watch He's still in
Constitution Drafting Can someone show
Pull a Clinton Joe Klein
Valerie Plame The WaPo provides
Prolific Priest Much output from
Moral Bankruptcy Watch An interesting
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