October 31, 2003

Sadr Watch Probably the right

Sadr Watch

Probably the right call--but the risks of resistance spreading to Shi'a areas will be somewhat increased.

Posted by Gregory at 04:24 PM | Comments (5)

Wolfy Pressures Sharon! Interesting. But

Wolfy Pressures Sharon!

Interesting.

But what will Richard Perle and Doug Feith think?

More here (including, on a somewhat related matter, details of Blair's support of the GVA plan).

Oh, and here's some wise counsel from Moshe Yaalon.

Watch Sharon looking more 'road-map-y' over the coming days. Put differently, he'll be signaling, I'm a man with a plan too! But the roadmap hasn't gone anywhere for so very long. Thus all the new plans bubbling about.

The pressure is building on Sharon's government. The comatose state the Israeli left has been in for at least three years is lifting.

People are increasingly starting to smell out other options. Sharon's avuncular image--as the hawkish best shot to maximize security--is getting old and ringing increasingly false. Developing.

Posted by Gregory at 02:19 PM | Comments (4)

Letters Department UPDATE: My responses

Letters Department

UPDATE: My responses in bold.

Reader BM from Tel Aviv writes in (his comments italicized, portions of my original post that he is reacting to in normal font):

I've been for the most part enjoying your blog since I "discovered" it several months back, mostly for its intelligence and discernment. For the most part.

And here's the complaint! As it seems that intelligence and discernment, in spite of one's best and most earnest efforts, seem to entirely disappear when discussion turns to the Israel- Palestinian issue. Alas, you are not alone.

Two points:

1. "Someone has to move the process ahead despite Arafat's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't."

This is quite a vague suggestion. What exactly do you propose? American deployment? Internationalization? How does one push a leader to the sidelines when that leader controls the apparatus of the regime? You are, it seems to me, demanding that Bush induce regime change (while leaving Arafat around, which means, practically, in power), and seem to feel that this is not only feasible but something that has not hiterto been attempted (or if attempted, not done in the right way). Had you discussed the pros and cons of getting rid of Arafat, you might have been at least offering a concrete proposal, but ignoring Arafat in Palestine is akin to ignoring Saddam in Iraq.

So how would the following have sounded in January 2003?:

"Someone has to move the Iraqi process ahead despite Saddam's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't."

What does removing (or sidestepping) Arafat mean for the Palestinians? And was Arafat "sidestepped" between Bush's June 2002 speech and today? Once again, you are not taking into account that Arafat controls the apparatus and sets and implements Palestinian "policy."

So while I would agree that the situation is very frustrating (and I could suggest to you why this is so), I would suggest that you be more specific and rely less on innuendo.

I've already admitted that Arafat presents a very tricky Catch-22 situation. On the one hand--he's epitomizes the quip that the "Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity." He appears increasingly irrational and incapable of any intelligent decision-making--quite apart from his degree of involvement in any attacks on Israeli civilians (as opposed to IDF forces in the Occupied Territories).

Would we be better off if he were gone? Of course, particularly if a leader with credibility among the Palestinians was there to replace him. The problem is, we can't willy-nilly, pick and choose what leaders should be in power and which shouldn't. Which merit "regime change" and which don't. Thus America's attempts to marginalize Arafat--rather than egg on the Israelis to outright get rid of him.

And yes, Saddam was a different case. We had a legal right to act per Resolution 1441--unlike the situation with the Palestinian leader in Ramallah where such a legal justification to unseat him doesn't similarly exist.

Worth keeping in mind too, as even senior Israeli leaders like Moshe Yaalon have pointed out, Sharon didn't make life particularly easy for Abu Mazen. To help marginalize Arafat--we should have put more pressure on Sharon as well, particularly in the early stages Abu Mazen's PMship, to make some additional concessions so that the Palestinian street saw results that improved their daily lives.

That would have empowered Abu Mazen a bit and put him in a more viable posture vis-a-vis Arafat. And that's part of the reason I criticize Bush. There wasn't significant follow through post the Aqaba summit to bolster Abu Mazen's position.

2. "I say this is dumb policy. I'd take Yossi Beilin's fervent peace processing efforts over this paralysis any day of the week--especially as the Palis gave up right of return in the Geneva arrangements."

Yes, one becomes desperate and despondent; and fervently seeks whatever flicker of light there might potentially be at the end of a long dark tunel (or imagines one may see it). However:

a) What is the difference between Geneva in October 2003 and Taba in January-February 2001?

There are two main differences. First, and unlike at Taba, the so called "right of return" issue was settled. At Taba, both sides read into the old UNGAR 194 per their respective biases with the Israelis stressing the Palestinians "wishing" to return (per the actual text) to Israel proper (1948 borders) with the Palestinians speaking (per subsequent resolutions) of an inalienable right of return. That critical issue had been left unresolved at Taba.

Another critical difference? At Taba sensitive issues related to the status of the Temple Mount were handled more by stressing temporary arrangements rather than reaching final understandings as per Geneva. The Palestinians, per Geneva, actually have sovereignty over the Muslim Holy sites in Jerusalem--albeit with an international presence. Here's the key language that goes beyond Taba.

b) Are you absolutely certain that the Palestinian interlocuters really gave up the right of return (i.e., based on what?)? And if so, what power do they have to implement this politically in Palestine.

Here's the text of the Geneva Accord. The key section on right of return is Article 7. Within that section is an "End of Claims" subsection 7 that reads as follows: "End of Claims: This agreement provides for the permanent and complete resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. No claims may be raised except for those related to the implementation of this agreement." (See also subsection 2 in this section).

This is a highly controversial point. So let's take a slightly closer look.

From the Geneva Accord:

4. Choice of Permanent Place of Residence (PPR)
The solution to the PPR aspect of the refugee problem shall entail an act of informed choice on the part of the refugee to be exercised in accordance with the options and modalities set forth in this agreement. PPR options from which the refugees may choose shall be as follows;
(a) The state of Palestine, in accordance with clause a below.
(b) Areas in Israel being transferred to Palestine in the land swap, following assumption of Palestinian sovereignty, in accordance with clause a below.
(c) Third Countries, in accordance with clause b below.
(d) The state of Israel, in accordance with clause c below.
(e) Present Host countries, in accordance with clause d below.
i. PPR options i and ii shall be the right of all Palestinian refugees and shall be in accordance with the laws of the State of Palestine.
ii. Option iii shall be at the sovereign discretion of third countries and shall be in accordance with numbers that each third country will submit to the International Commission. These numbers shall represent the total number of Palestinian refugees that each third country shall accept.
iii. Option iv shall be at the sovereign discretion of Israel and will be in accordance with a number that Israel will submit to the International Commission. This number shall represent the total number of Palestinian refugees that Israel shall accept. As a basis, Israel will consider the average of the total numbers submitted by the different third countries to the International Commission.
iv. Option v shall be in accordance with the sovereign discretion of present host countries. Where exercised this shall be in the context of prompt and extensive development and rehabilitation programs for the refugee communities.

Note that the specific amount of Palestinian refugees that would theoretically be allowed into '48 Israel is at Israel's sovereign discretion. Yes, a "basis" to get to a number is the average of third country permanent resettlements. But a) that number will likely be pretty token and b) it's merely a "basis" and thus non-binding regardless.

What power do they have to implement this politically in Palestine?

None, of course, right now. But should such an agreement be consummated, the entire international community would have to act as guarantor of the arrangement. Palestinians pursuing irredentist claims re: '48 borders would be heavily marginalized and not gain much support except from radical Islamist circles.

c) But isn't the larger question, the crucial question, one of credibility? We all want to believe, to hope (let's assume). After all, we are all honorable men....But what basis is there to believe anything that emanates from the Palestinian leadership (even those elements of the leadership that are supposedly furthest away from leading)?

And if the response to that question (assuming that I'll not be labeled a racist) is that "in spite of justified doubts one must forge ahead (after all what alternative ist there? etc.)," then can't one rejoin that one is witnessing Oslo a second time, or for that matter acting out Munich redux?

To close, one's opinions reflect one's hopes and perceptions to be sure; but why in this case do normally intelligent people cast all caution to the tendentious winds in the name of hope?

I'm not casting all caution to the wind. I'm saying that Yossi Beilin and his Palestinian interlocuters came up with a quite ingenious potential settlement. Put simply, they pushed beyond Taba without moving purely into the realm of fantasy. I really believe that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians who took the time to read this agreement--should the current atmosphere not be as poisonous today--would likely be in a position to support the document.

It's not some absurd, fantastical document. It's grounded in an entire historical background of negotiations going from Madrid to Oslo to Camp David II to Taba. That's why Sharon was so pissed about it. If it was purely fantasy-land he could have more easily ignored it and it wouldn't have gotten under his skin so much.

Some pretty good points made here. So I'll be blogging a response today or tomorrow.

Posted by Gregory at 12:44 PM | Comments (3)

Khodorkovsky, Putin, Yukos I haven't

Khodorkovsky, Putin, Yukos

I haven't blogged all the going-ons re: this matter. But a trusty B.D. Moscow correspondent thinks it's a bigger deal that I initially (and still) do.

So, while his report may be a tad hyperbolic, it's well worth a read:

Counter-revolution

Historian Richard Pipes relayed to me a conversation with former "kamizakee" Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar in the early nineties whom he asked: "don't you see the massive degree of theft going on in your country, why don't you do something?" According to Dr. Pipes, Gaidar bluntly responded "because that would prompt a counter-revolution and blow away what freedom we have managed to gain and are working to further build." The arrest of Russia's richest man on Saturday and subsequent resignation of Kremlin chief-of-staff Alexander Voloshin, officially accepted yesterday, evidence the fact this very counter-revolution is under way. It is not, as pro-Kremlin spinners will, and most likely have, attempted to communicate to policy-makers in the West, a Russian version of "Operation Clean Hands." Rather, it is a calculated power-grab by the very people the Cold War was fought to remove from political leadership in Russia. The country is moving--if not uncontrollably--quickly backwards.

The Washington establishment spent a good deal of time speculating about "who is Mr. Putin" following is accession to RussiaÕs presidency in late 1999. The United States is not uniquely to blame--it was on German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's good word that President Bush set forth on a positive relationship with his Russian counterpart. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was also an earlier advocate of Putin's bona fides. Putin is reportedly fond of relaying a conversation he had with Henry Kissinger in New York when, according to his telling, the two agreed that there is nothing wrong with intelligence men leading countries--look, after all at Bush the Elder. In Russia's case, though, it's not just a former intelligence man at the helm: following recent events, it is now painfully clear that the intelligence services are running the country, from the top down. Voloshin's departure from the Kremlin signals a victory of sorts for the "silovoki." The last voices of reason in this country are the liberal politicians we support, however, a clearly corrupt (witness Chechnya last month) electoral machine is working to further marginalize them in early December. The figurative crumbs we're being thrown in response (yesterday's decision by the Constitutional Court that journalists might actually be able to report on politics under certain circumstances), cannot obscure the unpleasant truth about what is happening in Russia. Democratic processes here are profoundly compromised and the situation is getting worse.

Time to Do Something

Last July, when this particular series of events began rolling into motion, I wrote--on the urging of another deputy--an appropriately shrill but perhaps underscored piece in a weekly report about the ramifications of what is going on in the Russian political establishment. Prompting what may have been an insufficient gesture on my part, a wide-eyed deputy asked me, incredulously, how Washington could sit by and allow this to happen. The Russians now understands that this is precisely what we have done and no longer look for much help from the West. During a live interview on NTV earlier this week, Javier Solana said current events amount to "an internal Russian matter," following this, though, by stating his personal concern (which was not translated.) In a full-page add in yesterday's Kommersant, self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky wrote, among other things, that Russia's opposition needs to stop looking to the West for help and start relying on themselves.

Perhaps Berezovsky was correct in some aspects of what he said. A unification of forces who stand for market-reforms, freedom and open communication with the outside world is very much in order. If, like Berezovsky himself or, as the General Prosecutor and FSB are doing their damndest to demonstrate, now Khodorkovsky, the advocates of these principals are not the most attractive people in the world, that is at best a side note. We are not unfamiliar with scoundrels playing virtuous tunes or appealing to higher values in the hopes of winning our sympathy--Americans are uniquely succeptible to such overtures because we actually believe in the principles. In the current case, however, Russia's oligarchs, for all their dirty laundry, are telling us something important:

Cognizant of what little we can do in this situation, at the very least I would urge you to neither accept nor implicitly legitimize the Kremlin spin on this matter. This is not an isolated business matter, as some Russia-boosters successfully persuaded the markets at the beginning of this week, pre-empting a financial freefall. It is not just about re-distribution of the world's fifth-largest oil company (a controlling stake in which was frozen late yesterday). It is certainly not about Putin fighting corruption. Rather, it is history moving in the wrong direction.

UPDATE: More very serious concern.

Posted by Gregory at 11:22 AM | Comments (3)

A Neo-Con in London So

A Neo-Con in London

So I went to hear John Bolton speak last night here in London. The talk was hosted by a British think-tank shop called the Bruges Group.

In the audience you had MPs, former British ambassadors, Boris Berezovsky, some expat Americans like myself. Bolton was to speak on the new world order after Iraq.

Instead, however, Bolton (who is commonly described as the neo-con 'spy' in dovish Powell's State Department) gave a hard-hitting speech that mostly centered on counter-proliferation efforts, various countries WMD capabilities, and the like.

I say "instead". Why?

Well, you might have thought the speech would be more expansive thematically given the theme of a new world order post-Iraq. But I suspect, for Bolton, the new world order after Iraq is much like the new world order after 9/11. It's all about the WMD.

His list of rogue states was impressively long. Of course, NoKo and Iran. But Syria, Libya, Cuba as well (and perhaps others but memory fails me--there were so many!)

He comes off as deeply expert on matters arms control, missile defense (a topic which clearly excites him and came up in the Q&A) and the WMD programs of various "states of concern".

Where Bolton didn't come off as expert was under questioning from some, like a retired British Ambassador to the Middle East, about issues like the potential perils of democratization in the Middle East.

What, the questioner asked, if free elections install Islamist regimes in power? The one man, one vote, one time issue. A theological party comes into power and bans, going forward, free and fair elections.

This scenario is likely hyped a bit among the crusty Whitehall old guard chuckling about the clumsy neocon Yanks (there were quite a few of those types in the audience)--but Bolton's response didn't give confidence that he had given such 'deeper' issues much thought.

He glossed over the current state of play in Iraq so I asked him about that. I prefaced my Q by relaying that guys like John McCain, Bill Kristol and his fellow AEI'er Tom Donnelly (Bolton used to be affiliated with that think-tank) were calling for more troops in Iraq.

What did Bolton think? Was he comfortable with the Iraqification strategy? The number of boots on the ground?

Oh, and Bolton painted Syria in pretty poor colors--though stated Damascus had been more amenable to Washington's demands lately. But I pushed him on the porousness (or lack of porousness) of that border. He conceded that the real foul play from Syria occurred during the "major combat operations" stage and they had cooled it recently.

On the troops issue--he passed the buck--like Rummy and Dubya--leaving such ruminations to the commanders on the ground. But he stressed that he felt that passing more responsibility over to the Iraqis, as quickly as possible, was good for us and good for them.

He didn't pause to query whether we might be training them in too hasty a manner and that, consequently, they wouldn't be ready for prime time given the sophisticated insurgency campaign we are facing.

All in all, I was impressed by Bolton. His command of counter-proliferation issues is truly impressive. I'm glad folks like him are keeping an eagle eye on WMD issues from Beltway vantage points.

But I would have liked to have seen more of a facility with historical undercurrents in complex regions like the Middle East, more thought given to ethnic and secretarian subtleties/issues, and, overall, a slightly less myopic view of the post 9/11 scene.

WMD proliferation is a hugely important issue--perhaps the defining threat of the post 9/11 era. But we have to put the issue in context and pursue more sophisticated strategies that take into account the individual factors driving each states' weapons programs.

To often, I fear, a guy like John Bolton will come at the issue solely from the prism of diktat-like clarion calls to disarm, disarm, disarm--without a deeper sense of regional dynamics or how best to apply the pressure points vis-a-vis the relevant government.

Posted by Gregory at 10:46 AM | Comments (3)

Condi Watch B.D. has occasionally

Condi Watch

B.D. has occasionally issued polite criticisms in the direction of Condi Rice.

But boy does she get it per this article. And, doesn't she sound, you know, quite Vice-Presidential? Like she'd be a significant political asset in the campaign, even?

"It is now undeniable that the terrorists declared war on America and on the civilized world many years before Sept. 11, 2001," she said in remarks delivered to the legal center at the Waldorf-Astoria. "The attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988, the World Trade Center in 1993, the attacks on American installations in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000: These and other atrocities were part of a sustained, systematic campaign to spread devastation and chaos. Yet until Sept. 11, the terrorists faced no sustained, systematic and global response."

Indeedy.

Posted by Gregory at 10:15 AM | Comments (4)

October 30, 2003

Bush Reelection Prospects Watch Wow.

Bush Reelection Prospects Watch

Wow.

How will Paul Krugman spin this?

Doubtless that the rapid growth is on the back of perilous and spiraling deficit spending etc etc.

Noam Chomsky, hanging in Havana, provides a preview of this theme and--as a bonus--additional offensive musings.

UPDATE: As if on cue here is Paul Krugman writing today.

"To put it more bluntly: it would be quite a trick to run the biggest budget deficit in the history of the planet, and still end a presidential term with fewer jobs than when you started. And despite yesterday's good news, that's a trick President Bush still seems likely to pull off."

Posted by Gregory at 02:52 PM | Comments (5)

Turkish Troop Deployment Watch What

Turkish Troop Deployment Watch

What was always a bad idea continues to dissipate as a viable policy option. In blog-land, you read about it here first!

Posted by Gregory at 02:48 PM | Comments (3)

The Perils of Iraqification I've

The Perils of Iraqification

I've been getting a bit worried that, given mounting casualties and attacks in Iraq, some in the Bush Administration are tempted to "Iraqify" the security effort--perhaps with the goal of getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible.

A version of this view has Bush wanting to avoid any post-March '04 U.S. fatalities as the election approaches. The problem with this, of course, is that the forces may be too hastily trained.

And if they are not yet ready for prime time they will likely be out-fought by Baathist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen, assorted jihadis and criminal elements.

But I'm not buying all the 'cut and run' speculation at this stage. Jim Hoagland, who has excellent Washington sources, writes today that:

"Bush was adamant that he will see through the challenge in Iraq. In private he is even more insistent, I am told, about not declaring a false victory and running out, as some prominent Democrats predict he will do. Bush aides say that is neither in his nature nor in his political interest."

Perhaps needless to say, but if this White House does cynically change course and leave Iraq--before having made a protracted and serious effort to leave a viable democratic polity behind--George Bush will have at least one fewer vote than he got in '00 courtesy of a B.D. defection.

And doubtless many others feel the same.

Anyway, as I said, I don't think that is going to happen. I really trust Bush is wedded to making a serious go of the Iraq effort.

But I'm worried he might go about it the wrong way going forward, partly because of the manner by which the renewed emphasis on Iraqification appears linked to potential troop reductions (or at least not troop increases).

Don't get me wrong. I think we should Iraqify--partly, per the plan, so as to free up more of our troops tied up with force protection duties, border monitoring, routine security. These troops are then free to concentrate on going after the bad guys.

But even with Iraqification freeing up more of our G.I.s to hunt down the resistance and terrorists--I still fear it will prove too little, too late.

So what to do? I'm with the McCain-Bill Kristol crowd at this stage.

McCain: ÒWe need more troops,Ó said McCain. ÒWe need more special forces. We need more marines. We need more intelligence capabilities

By the way, I suspect Bush too has some concerns about whether we have enough forces on the ground. Otherwise why would he be "constantly" asking Rummy about it (see bottom of linked post)?

Maybe it's time for key opinion leaders in the Beltway (McCain, Hagel, Kristol, Donnelly etc) to ramp up the pressure and make the argument more loudly and forcefully. The stakes certainly warrant it.

The Mix of Forces

As Donnelly points out in his piece, counter-insurgency campaigns are manpower intensive. Another reason to assure appropriate force levels in the theater.

In this vein, as mentioned above, McCain is wise to call for more troops, more marines, more special forces, more intelligence-gathering capability.

But what about constabulatory forces?

Once an area has been secured--are we really going to feel good about passing off the security maintenance duties solely to a hastily trained Iraqi police force?

Yes, they will have more cultural sensitivity and, of course, facility with the locals. But will they be able to keep a secured area secure?

This is where having sophisticated constabulatory forces available comes into play. This is where, just maybe, once we've secured key areas, countries like Germany could make a real contribution.

Not only by helping to train professional Iraqi military police cadres--but also, perhaps under a NATO umbrella--by having a presence on the ground to monitor the security maintenance implementation better.

Yeah, I know this sounds like an Afghanistan redux. And the Germans might balk. As far as I know, Schroder has merely offered to train Iraqi security forces and never specified whether he'd even do the training (let along joint patrols and the like) in Iraq proper.

Worth noting too, of course, that large swaths of Afghanistan are increasingly becoming unsafe again as the Taliban, neo-Talibs and al-Qaeda remnants regroup. Which argues for having more manpower there too. Clearly, we can't do all this alone.

The Larger Picture

Forget all the debates about multilateralism versus unilateralism. The charges of stubborn unilateralism lobbed at the Bushies were always of the nature of a straw man erected by opponents of the administration.

After 9/11, we are all multilateralists. We might have implemented diplomatic efforts at gaining multilateral cooperation better--but Bush, as much as his critics like to claim, never told the world to go f**k off. There was too much diplomatic effort exerted at the U.N., for one, that renders such claims of brutish unilateralism highly disingenuous.

He and his advisors realize that the challenges are too massive, even for the behemoth-like hyperpuissance, to be handled alone.

Financial detective work to track terrorist finances, intelligence sharing on terror groups and rogue states, troop deployment requirements--we require assistance on all these fronts.

As Chuck Hagel puts it in folksy Nebraska terms, "we need friends." But let's structure that cooperation and friendship intelligently. So a suggestion.

It's increasingly clear that the NATO community will be facing threats emanating from the "next door" region of the Middle East going forward. Might it not make sense to develop multinational constabulatory NATO brigades that are ready and able to both train third country military police and assist such cadres, on the ground, with stabilization duties in "peace-making" environments?

Above and beyond the Nato Response Force that was recently formed?

Posted by Gregory at 11:39 AM | Comments (3)

October 29, 2003

Clark Oversteps I'm starting to

Clark Oversteps

I'm starting to like Clark less and less. Oh, and Jamie Rubin has joined his team as senior foreign policy advisor.

More on Clark via Sully.

Posted by Gregory at 01:54 PM | Comments (5)

Syria Border Watch It appears

Syria Border Watch

It appears that it's not quite as porous as you might have been led to think:

"Commanders from the 101st Airborne repeated this week that neither the aircraft nor human intelligence sources show significant infiltration from Syria. Foreign fighters could still be reaching Baghdad from Syria, Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait by passing through border posts with valid or forged travel documents, but concerns about illegal infiltration along the Syrian border appear unfounded, the officers said.

"If somebody is saying the Ho Chi Minh Trail runs through my area of operations, I'm going to tell them they're wrong," said Lt. Col. Joseph Buche, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne's 3rd Battalion, referring to the infiltration route through Laos used by North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War."

Posted by Gregory at 11:27 AM | Comments (3)

Arab Solidarity Watch Multiple suicide

Arab Solidarity Watch

Multiple suicide bombings in an Arab capital. Dozens killed, hundreds wounded. The vast majority of the fatalities Iraqi Arabs. Indeed, Iraqi nationals serving in nascent post-Saddam police forces mostly the intended targets.

So I thought I'd do a quick Lexis-Nexis search date segmented for the past four days.

Search terms: Hosni Mubarak, Bashar Assad, Crown Prince Abdullah, King Abdullah.

Would leaders of the key Arab states have anything negative to say about the spate of bombings? Would they condemn the brutality that felled so many of their fellow Arabs? The scourge of suicide bombing coming home, so to speak?

No. Not a whimper of condemnation from Hosni Mubarak (he tepidly wished for "Iraq's stability" in a meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister), Crown Prince Abdullah (who told a cabinet session that "he hoped Muslim countries and peoples would seize on the holy month of Ramadan to end all kinds of disunity and disputes"), King Abdullah (nada), or Bashar Assad (no surprise there).

Now, it might be that English language journalists simply haven't written up the strident condemnations issued by these key Arab leaders as word of the horrific bombings raced around the globe. Perhaps the Arab language press is full of such denunciations of Arab killing Arab.

Or maybe not.

Sadly (and pretty predictably), the reaction has been mostly of this nature.

Talk about morally bankrupt leadership. Leaders have to lead--not just bow to the prejudices and fears of their people. Sure, Washington has made some missteps in its Middle East policy and our reputation is at somewhat of a nadir in the Arab/Islamic world.

But does that mean that long term allies like Crown Prince Abdullah, King Abdullah and Hosni Mubarak can't even bring themselves to condemn the horrific suicide bombings of earlier this week?

Not on Washington's behalf, mind you. Listen, the U.S. isn't asking varied potentates to sycophantize and kowtow to America by always condemning whatever happens in the region that we deem worthy of condemnation.

But surely when Arab blood is spilled in such large number--Arab leaders might step up to the plate to condemn these vicious tactics?

Nope. Rather a quite deafening silence or broad banalities uttered about Ramadan bonhomie.

Guess the resurrection of any great pan-Arabist projects isn't looming just over the horizon, huh?

Posted by Gregory at 10:38 AM | Comments (11)

The Mother of all Rogues

The Mother of all Rogues

Over at Le Monde Diplomatique, it's not nuclear proliferation in NoKo or Iran that's of significant concern.

Rather, it's the U.S. nuclear capability that's the real concern.

No, seriously. (subscription required).

Dominique de Villain (I mean, de Villepin) is doubtless in the bowels of the Quai D'Orsay plotting a containment strategy now that Iran is all, um, tidied up.

Posted by Gregory at 01:14 AM | Comments (0)

Krugman Suck Up Watch There's

Krugman Suck Up Watch

There's something of a love-in over at the NYRB with Russell Baker discoursing on Paul Krugman's greatness (or something like that).

I feel a tad nauseous after reading it, to be frank. And no, it's not the snifter of Lagavulin that's to blame....

"Before anyone could say "narcolepsy," politics intruded, and it quickly became obvious that Krugman was incapable of being either boring or genteel, but was highly gifted at writing political journalism. Starting in January of the election year 2000, he rapidly acquired a large, adoring readership which treasured his column as an antidote for the curiously polite treatment President Bush was receiving from most of the mainstream media."

You can't make this stuff up.

Posted by Gregory at 12:40 AM | Comments (3)

October 28, 2003

Dubya's Press Conference Read it

Dubya's Press Conference

Read it here. Some parts were strong, some less so.

Some key snippets (italicized) with observations below the relevant text in normal font.

Defining Imminency Down

Check out this interesting exchange.

QUESTION:

Your package of reconstruction aid, sir, that the Congress, as you point out, is considering, that's an emergency package, meaning it's not budgeted for. Put another way, that means the American taxpayer and future generations of American taxpayers are saddled with that.

Why should they be saddled with that? I know you don't want the Iraqis to be saddled with large amounts of debt, but why should future generations of Americans have that?

BUSH: First of all, it's a one-time expenditure, as you know.

And secondly, because a peaceful and free Iraq is essential to the future security of America.

First step was to remove Saddam Hussein because he was a threat -- a gathering threat, as I think I put it. [my emphasis]

Dubya's been reading Sully (see "The Real Issue")--or his advisors have.

Later in the press conference:

Q: Sir, David Kay's interim report cited substantial evidence of a secretive weapons program, but the absence of any substantial stores of chemical or biological weapons there have caused some people even who supported the war to feel somehow betrayed.

Can you explain to those Americans, sir, whether you are surprised those weapons haven't turned up, why they haven't turned up and whether you feel that your administration's credibility has been affected in any way by that?

BUSH: David Kay's report said that Saddam Hussein was in material breach of 1441, which would have been casus belli. In other words, he had a weapons program, he's disguised the weapons program, he had ambitions. And I felt the report was a very interesting first report, because he's still looking to find the truth.

The American people know that Saddam Hussein was a gathering danger, as I said. And he was a gathering danger, and the world is safer as a result for us removing him from power. Us being more than the United States, Britain and other countries who are willing to participate -- Poland, Australia -- all willing to join up to remove this danger.

And the intelligence that said he had a weapon system was intelligence that had been used by a multinational agency, the U.N., to pass resolutions.

It's been used by my predecessor to conduct bombing raids. It was intelligence gathered from a variety of sources that clearly said Saddam Hussein was a threat. And given the attacks of September the 11th, it was -- you know, we needed to enforce U.N. resolution for the security of the world, and we did. We took action based upon good, solid intelligence. It was the right thing to do to make America more secure and the world more peaceful.

And David Kay continues to ferret out the truth. Saddam Hussein is a man who hid programs and weapons for years. He was a master at hiding things. And so, David Kay will continue his search.

But one of the things that he first found was that there was clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, material breach they call it in the diplomatic circles. Causes belie (ph), it means that would have been a cause for war. In other words, he said it's dangerous.

And we were right to enforce U.N. resolutions as well. It's important for the U.N. to be a credible organization. You're not credible if you issue resolutions and then nothing happens. Credibility comes when you say something is going to happen and then it does happen.

And in order to keep the peace, it's important for there to be credibility in this world, credibility on the side of freedom and hope."

You know, I've said it before, but it's worth saying again. Dubya's right. Saddam, by not disclosing the existence of the weapons programs that Kay has uncovered, was in breach of 1441.

Casus belli right there. Sure, in the heated advent to war, there may have been some (very) unfortunate hyping of intelligence by some Administration figures (though nothing I've seen, to date, by the President, proves anything beyond very aggressive readings of imperfect intelligence--as compared with purposeful deception).

Would I be happier if we had stumbled upon large stockpiles of anthrax, sarin and botulinum toxin back in April? You bet.

But post 9/11, the burden of proof must lie on states running afoul of U.N. resolutions (particularly when led by leaders who have used WMD before) to persuasively show compliance with valid demands of the international community with respect to their weapons programs and stockpiles.

The Middle East Peace Process

QUESTION: Mr. President, your policies on the Middle East seem so far to have produced pretty meager results, as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians...

BUSH: Major or meager?

QUESTION: Meager.

BUSH: OK.

QUESTION: ... as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians continues. And as you heard last week from Muslim leaders in Indonesia, your policies are seen as biased toward Israel and I'd like to ask you about that.

The government of Israel continues to build settlements in occupied territories and it continues to build the security fence which Palestinians see as stealing their land.

You've criticized these moves mildly a couple of times, but you've never taken any concrete action to back up your words on that. Will you?

BUSH: My policy in the Middle East is pretty clear. We are for a two-state solution. We want there to be a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

Now, in order to achieve a two-state solution there needs to be a focused effort by all concerned parties to fight off terror. There are terrorists in the Middle East willing to kill to make sure that a Palestinian state doesn't emerge. It's essential that there be a focused effort to fight off terror.

Abu Mazen came here to the White House. You were here. You witnessed the press conference. He pledged a focused and concerted effort to fight terror so that we could have a Palestinian state emerge. And he asked for help, which we were willing to provide.

Unfortunately, he is no longer in power. He was eased out of power. And I do not see the same commitment to fight terror from the old guard.

And, therefore, it's going to be very hard to move a peace process forward until there's a focused effort by all parties to assume their responsibilities.

You asked about the fence. I have said the fence is a problem to the extent that the fence is an opportunity to make it difficult for a Palestinian state to emerge. There is a difference between security and land acquisition, and we have made our views clear on that issue.

I have also spoken to Prime Minister Sharon in the past about settlement activities. And the reason why that we have expressed concern about settlement activities is because we want the conditions for a Palestinian state on the ground to be positive; that when the Palestinians finally get people that are willing to fight off terror, the ground must be right so that a state can emerge -- a peaceful state.

This administration is prepared to help the Palestinians develop an economy. We're prepared to help the long-suffering Palestinian people.

But the long-suffering Palestinian people need leadership that is willing to do what is necessary to enable a Palestinian state to come forth.
[emphasis added]

Was Bush joking when he prodded the questioner about whether results of Middle East peace processing efforts were meager or major? Sadly, I think he was seriously asking--though I didn't see the conference on video and am solely relying on the text.

Regardless, the bolded portion pretty much says it all. The peace process is moribund and in tatters. And it will likely remain so for quite a spell.

We are in the strange position that Arafat's presence all but means Bush has decided to hit the pause button on the peace process. At the same time, we are against the Israelis killing or expelling him--as the consequences would be dire (as senior IDF folks are aware too--another reason Sharon has held his fire).

Catch-22 in the Holy Land, you might say.

Someone has to move the process ahead despite Arafat's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't.

I say this is dumb policy. I'd take Yossi Beilin's fervent peace processing efforts over this paralysis any day of the week--especially as the Palis gave up right of return in the Geneva arrangements.

Condi's Role

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

You recently put Condoleezza Rice, your national security adviser, in charge of the management of the administration's Iraq policy. What has effectively changed since she's been in charge?

And a second question: Can you promise a year from now that you will have reduced the number of troops in Iraq?

BUSH: The second question is a trick question, so I won't answer it.

The first question was Condoleezza Rice. Her job is to coordinate inter-agency. She's doing a fine job of coordinating inter-agency. She's doing what her -- I mean, the role of the national security adviser is to not only provide good advice to the president, which she does on a regular basis -- I value her judgment and her intelligence -- but her job is also to deal inter-agency and to help unstick things that may get stuck. That's the best way to put it. She's an unsticker... [emphasis added]

(LAUGHTER)

... and -- is she listening? OK, well, she's doing a fine job."

An unsticker? No folks, she's got to be a proactive broker--like I've argued before.

A few points here. The use of the term unsticker is quite revealing. For one, it presupposes such frequent "stickiness."

Put differently, it means that in this Admin, it's pretty much simply assumed Rummy/Powell will go to the mat each time (with Armitage sparring in the background with Wolfy, Feith and Co.) and produce a morass of conflicting policies. And then Condi comes in and simply unsticks the mess, ie. the attendant inertia/policy paralysis.

Nah. That's not an effective M.O.

Again, think Brent Scrowcroft. We need an active broker with the gravitas, skill and intellect to bash Beltway barons like Powell and Rummy (and deal with a very, very powerful Veep with his own mini-NSC) into line when the national interest demands innovative bridging proposals (or other out of the box thinking) emanating from the NSC--when the other principals can't get their ducks in line.

Condi Rice, with all due respect, hasn't played this role to date.

Troops Levels in Iraq

Q:....And, in addition, are you considering the possibility of possibly adding more U.S. troops to the forces already on the ground there to help restore order?

BUSH: That's a decision by John Abizaid. General Abizaid makes the decision as to whether or not he needs more troops.

I constantly ask the secretary of defense, as well as when I was visiting with General Abizaid, "Does he have what it takes to do his mission?" He told me he does. [emphasis added]

Why is Dubya "constantly" asking Rummy if we have another troops? Maybe because he, just might, instinctually feel we don't have enough? He might be on to something...

Posted by Gregory at 10:06 PM | Comments (4)

Resolve Watch Glenn Reynolds and

Resolve Watch

Glenn Reynolds and Megan Mcardle nail it on the head. Though the Kucinich thing would be tough!

Posted by Gregory at 02:37 PM | Comments (3)

Mahatir Watch A look at

Mahatir Watch

A look at post-Mahatir Malaysia. Oh, and Sholto Byrnes gets carried away and informs Spectator readers that they should "cherish" Mahatir.

Posted by Gregory at 12:35 PM | Comments (4)

The Turkish Angle Owen Matthews

The Turkish Angle

Owen Matthews sees some good that has come out of the Turkish troops in Iraq issue.

"But there may yet be an up side to the affair, a rare instance of a positive manifestation of the law of unintended consequences. The IGC, as a result of its opposition to the US over Turkish troops, has never enjoyed more credibility or popularity among ordinary Iraqis, who were previously inclined to see it simply as US stooges. Since whatever government eventually grows up in Iraq to replace the coalition occupiers will grow out of the IGC in some shape or form, growing public trust in the Council, rather than some more radical alternative, must be a good thing. In the long term, the confidence the IGC has won by standing up to America may do Iraq more good than Turkish peacekeepers ever could."

David Phillips has more.

Posted by Gregory at 12:29 PM | Comments (3)

Regional Escalation Watch More cause

Regional Escalation Watch

More cause for concern.

Posted by Gregory at 11:07 AM | Comments (3)

October 27, 2003

A Bloody Day in Baghdad

A Bloody Day in Baghdad

A horrific day in Baghdad with dozens dead and hundreds wounded. The pictures of scores of traumatized Iraqis is heartwrenching. Four suicide bombs within 45 minutes, coming on the heels of a brazen attack on the al Rashid hotel, must serve as a wake up call to Washington policymakers. The guerrillas (likely Baathist resistance acting in concert with some foreign fighters) telegraphed to Washington (indeed, the world) that they were capable of highly coordinated and devastating action in persuasive and dramatic fashion.

Like the three laws of real estate (location, location, location) in Iraq today it's about security, security, security. Want NGOs to help out? They need a (somewhat) secure environment. Want outside investors in? They need security. Want additional "peacekeeping" troop contingents from other nations? Security again. Want to have a viable exit strategy? Need security--or what good is some chimerical constitution and hobbled interim governing authority? Without ultimately establishing security, the U.S. would be leaving before the job is done and would lose credibility as a serious international actor for a good while.

How to achieve this security will prove difficult. Some AEI'ers had some suggestions that I linked in my post below on the attack on the al Rashid ("Insurgency Watch"). But one thing is becoming increasingly clear. Our strategy requires, at least, some tweaking. Because it ain't working as is.

Supporters of this war (me included) need to stop spinning like the Paul Begalas of the world. Much of the news emanating from Iraq is bad. And, I note in passing, some of the big bloggers who carp on and on about how the media ignores the "good" news haven't even deemed it appropriate to briefly blog about this day of unprecedented post-war carnage in Baghdad. Their credibility is being strained too now.

How Will the Arab World View the Attacks?

A question. How will the horrific footage of Iraqis bloodied, hysterical, traumatized, wailing for loved ones lost--how will such footage play in the Arab world? What effect will seeing the devastation that felled scores of Iraqis have on swaths of the Arab world seeing the horrific face of modern terror in atypical fashion?

Put differently, the targets are not removed Bali discoteques, NYC skyscrapers, Riyadh expat targets--but rather the common citizenry bustling about a major Arab capital. Hundreds of Arabs wounded by suicide bombing tactics.

Will there be some revulsion at the tactics voiced by media and intellectual elites? Or will it just be viewed as "just desserts" to the occupiers (and those who cooperate with them, ie. Iraqi police, with the 'innocent' dead ignored)? Put differently, will the horrific scene ultimately be blamed on the Americans? Sadly, it probably will.

UPDATE: Rummy is spouting off on Fox about how we've got 85,000 Iraqi security personnel trained. Well, goodness gracious! Super.

Listen, I'm not one for Vietnam (or Vietnamization) analogies. But the divorced from reality feel, the pulled-back hair, the cockiness--all make me think of Bob McNamara. It doesn't matter if we've got 850,000 Iraqi security personnel trained if they can't block suicide bombings of the ICRC HQ or their own police stations.

It's good Don Rumsfeld is being frank about a long, hard slog (though there's a good deal of butt-covering involved to countervail the more triumphalist civilian Pentagon rhetoric of rosier Saddam-statue pull down days). And hje admitted it's been a tough day.

Still, the Secretary of Defense shouldn't appear so sanguine about the security situation, ie. all will be well because some Iraqi security personnel are being trained. His deputy almost died yesterday for pete's sake.

Posted by Gregory at 11:11 PM | Comments (3)

Hope Springs Eternal In defense

Hope Springs Eternal

In defense of the Geneva Accords.

Posted by Gregory at 10:22 PM | Comments (2)

The Iraqi FM This poor

The Iraqi FM

This poor man's job is being made so difficult (including, it appears, by individuals on the "inside") that the cross-Beltway sniping from Rummy on Powell (and vice versa) looks like child's play by comparison.

Oh, and don't you love the "nostalgia for the past" headline?

Posted by Gregory at 09:13 AM | Comments (3)

Enough What Bush should say

Enough

What Bush should say to Sharon. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Jackson Diehl has more.

Posted by Gregory at 01:37 AM | Comments (4)

October 26, 2003

Insurgency Watch The guerrillas in

Insurgency Watch

The guerrillas in Iraq had a really good day today. I think the spin that this attack was in the offing for at least two months and thus Wolfy wasn't the target is bogus. Sure, the attack was being planned for a good while, but the insurgents very likely waited to strike when such a high profile U.S. visitor was staying at the hotel (which leads one to wonder whether some Baathist intelligence agents might be infiltrating coalition information sources).

Kudos to Wolfy for spending the night in Tikrit and then Baghdad--rather than overnighting, like so many other VIPs, in Kuwait City--choppered back to safety at night. But say goodbye to the "small American victory" one might have surmised, symbolically speaking at least, from the Tikrit overnight.

That ended with the multiple rocket attack on the al Rashid hotel. The attack was a real propaganda coup for the guerrillas. A chief architect of the Iraq war overnights in a hotel synonymous with the U.S. occupation. Rockets slam into various floors--including the floor just below where Wolfowitz is sleeping or just beginning his day.

The sophisticated attack will likely be portrayed, at least by the enemies of the U.S. operating in Iraq, as a literal and figurative wake up call to Wolfowitz--and by extension, his higher ups in the Beltway, Rummy and Dubya.

For what it's worth, it's probably B.S. that he was "shaken", as both CNN and the Beeb (on air) reported. Dave Ignatius, who was actually there, says that Wolfy wasn't shaken.

That said, it surely isn't fun to be so woken up around 6 A.M., find a Lt. Colonel is dead and many wounded, and then move along and make a normal day of it. And the footage that went around the world of a pale and tired looking Wolfowitz somewhat grimly enunciating that, you know, we won't be cowed, the criminals will be defeated, etc. etc. had that grainy, historical feel you could almost imagine constituting a brief part of a documentary, produced a few years hence, meant to evoke a period that represented a pivot point in the occupation.

Listen, its been 7 months into this occupation and, truth be told, it's not going too swimmingly. Time to get tougher and smarter. Here's a smart place to start. And yeah, it might mean sending fresh Marine Units in rather than reducing our force presence in Iraq.

UPDATE: Check out this new soldier-blogger writing from Baghdad. Read his post called "Exciting Day." He gets the stakes--but is dubious that the American people will have the wherewithal to pull it out. I'm not so sure I'm as pessimistic as he is--but can understand his frustration. I wouldn't be surprised if this solider wouldn't advocate getting more "boots on the ground", btw.

IN-HOUSE NOTE: I'm thinking of adding, given the massive strategic import of how Iraq plays out to the American national interest, a new links section at B.D. focusing on Iraq (specialized media sources, CPA sources, Iraq media, Iraq-based blogs etc). Readers please chime in if you'd like to see this and I'll try to get one up and running at some point later this week if sufficient interest exists. Oh, and chime in on any other improvements and/or grievances you have about the site, if any.

Posted by Gregory at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

Keller Watch A few beauts

Keller Watch

A few beauts on tap today. First, in a Steve Weisman piece on the donor funds in the offing for the reconstruction effort:

"The United States, completing an extraordinary campaign for economic aid to Iraq, won commitments on Friday of at least $13 billion over five years for reconstruction of water, power, health care and other systems devastated by the American invasion six months ago." [emphasis added]

None of the infrastructure, of course, may have been damaged before the U.S. invasion. None of the reconstruction efforts the U.S. is spearheading, in the largest such effort since the Marshall Plan, in sectors as disparate as water, power, and healthcare, require a bit of upkeep or a spot of polish here or there due to the state of affairs during Saddam's reign.

All was rosy then, of course.

I mean, it almost seems like NYT correspondents are surprised that some Iraqis prefer life without Saddam rather than with him, at least given headlines like these.

Oh, and check out this sad story about a Corporal who made it through the dangerous security situation during service in Iraq only to die in a California shooting. But note the hyperbolic NYT language. The Corporal made it through the "killing fields" of Iraq-- only to be felled in Long Beach, California.

Posted by Gregory at 10:27 PM | Comments (3)

October 25, 2003

Al-Qaeda Inc. The Algerian Salafist

Al-Qaeda Inc.

The Algerian Salafist movement officially comes on board with al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda thus continues to formalize its conglomeration strategy vis-a-vis having other Islamic radical groups formally move under its umbrella. The U.S. reacts to the Salafist news.

Syria Watch

In other Middle East news, Syrian FM Farouq al Shara is sketching out possible deterrent scenarios vis-a-vis Israel.

Elsewhere on Syria, check out this Neil MacFarquhar NYT piece from yesterday. Let me just say that, and not to question Mr. MacFarquhar's motives, this piece rang pretty hyperbolic to me.

There was perhaps a bit of an undercurrent of 'the U.S.-going-into-Iraq-radicalizing-the-region' bias underpinning this story and its prominent treatment by the NYT. I'm not an expert on religious dynamics in Syria--but I've followed trends in that country pretty closely.

And I'm confident that this article, at least to the extent that readers believe a significant Islamic resurgence is underway in Syria, exaggerates the situation there to the point of providing an inaccurate picture to the readership of the NYT.

As an example of said Islamic resurgence, MacFarquhar trots out a firebrand mullah from a working class district and, additionally, writes:

"Friday Prayers draw overflowing crowds. More heavily veiled women and bearded men jostle unharried among city pedestrians. Family restaurants on the outskirts of Damascus do not serve alcohol, and one fashionable boutique even sports a sign advertising Islamically modest bathing suits."

Busy Friday prayers? How unbusy were they before? A few "more" chadoors in evidence amidst the pedestrian traffic? Booze-less "family" restaurants? And a store selling slightly more modest bathing suits than this one?

This an Islamic resurgence makes?

Nah. Don't believe the hype (and don't add this to any checklist you may have about all those negative ramifications stemming from the Iraq intervention).

These Syrian intellectuals have it about right:

"Some Syrian intellectuals say militant Islam has peaked. They say the government manipulates the religious resurgence as a safety valve, periodically loosening the restraints to see who is involved so they can be monitored.

"The regime on this issue continues to put the question ina very drastic way, `It's either us or a Taliban government,' " said one Syrian intellectual."

Oh, and to the extent this is true the Syrians are playing a very dangerous game.

"Such experts say the government opened the doors to jihad in Iraq to see who would go, detaining those who made it back alive. Islamic activists make up the biggest block of political prisoners, human rights activists say.

Syrian observers also attribute a heavy government hand to the fatwa that the grand mufti issued last spring sanctioning suicide attacks against the American forces in Iraq, a ruling that his son now describes as a mistake."

By the way, and I say this as someone who appreciates the complexities and subtleties of the role Syria plays in the neighborhood--don't believe Syrian reps on Fox news that blame any Syrian infiltrations into Iraq on "porous" borders. A goat didn't cross that border when Bashar's father controlled it. The son could likely ensure the same if he really wanted to.

I'm worried Bashar Assad, on some level, thinks he can play a calibrated spigot on/off game in terms of guerrilla infilitrations in Iraq from Syria (much like the calibrated Hezbollah activity in s. Lebanon against Israel). Assad might calculate that, ultimately, the U.S. will pull out of Iraq and his occasional support to guerrilla forces would have preserved his hard-line, pan-Arab rejectionist credentials.

Likely a dumb move. Iraq might very well still prove a success. And regardless, Bush isn't pulling out anytime soon (see "long, hard slog").

Posted by Gregory at 10:27 PM | Comments (3)

Taliban Watch Instapundit's keeping score:

Taliban Watch


Instapundit's keeping score: America 100 and the Taliban 0. Great pic. Listen, she's doubtless got the best legs this side of Kandahar (when she's not chilling in Cali, where she's been living for quite a spell, having wisely vacated '96 era Talib-land for the more libertine climes of Orange County).

But here's what's really going on--and the score is decidely less resoundingly in America's favor. If you are, for instance, keeping score by looking at the amount of provinces Karzai-friendly (or tenuously allied) forces effectively control--it increasingly appears a significant number of provinces have now fallen under effective Taliban control.

The U.N., perhaps more risk averse post the Baghdad HQ bombing, is ceasing operations in four provinces (and says security conditions are such that armed escorts are needed in all districts of Kandahar).

While I'm on the topic of Instapundit, another quick remark. First, let me say how I respect this tremendously prolific and smart blogger. He's undeniably the Grand Central of the blogosphere and legions of us go there daily to see what's happening in the blogworld on any given day.

But this post was pretty crude and offensive, I thought. With all due respect, I might suggest that the good professor get out and about more often. He might even find out that not all those scurrilous Palis are genocidaires....

[Ed. note: Idiot, you've ensured even longer odds against getting those vaunted Insta-lanches going forward].

Yeah, I like heavy-traffic days as much as the next guy. But first, I figure that Glenn Reynolds is magnanimous enough to take such criticism in stride and link me if he thinks something in B.D. merits a link sometime down the road.

And second, I am simply uncomfortable, even in the context of making a point about NoKo, that one of America's leading bloggers writes phrases such as "(a) cynic might advise Israel to simply kill all the Palestinians" or "(t)he Israelis are, of course, too humane to subject the Palestinians to the genocide that the Palestinians would surely visit on them if positions were reversed."

This isn't about political correctness, naivete about irredentist impulses in the Palestinian polity, or otherwise making apologies for Palestinian terrorist activities.

But to somewhat breezily suggest a country undertake genocidal actions against a people and/or assume that said entire people would doubtless visit a genocide on another group is not evocative of reasonable, rational discourse. It smells, even in the context of the thoughts on NoKo, just shy of beyond the pale. You know, an inverted Easterbrookian feel of sorts (the Palis as genocidal savages, incapable of reaching a negotiated settlement, primitives, violence-prone, etc.)

And it's grossly speculative and somewhat incendiary, isn't it? Particularly coming from a YLS grad, law professor, and leading figure of the blogosphere commentariat (with all the presumed responsibilities such a background and/or role might suggest is merited).

Posted by Gregory at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)

The U.K. Isn't Cool Anymore

The U.K. Isn't Cool Anymore

Complains Zoe Williams' in an imbecilic piece in the Guardian.

Why? Iraq, of course:

"All those, however, are sideshows to the main sellout, which was, naturally, the attack on Iraq. Clearly it would be crazy to discuss hawks or doves in terms of whether or not they're "cool", but the truth of this is that to support Bush against the UN is a quintessentially un-Labour [ed. note: un-cool, that is] thing to do. Nothing in the rich history of leftwing internationalism could have prepared us for a Labour government that would side with the Bush family against the rest of the world. And all this would have been unthinkable without the erosion of ideas brought about by the "freshness", the "newness", the "thinking outside the box" that actually equated to "treading on the box, then throwing it away, even though it was a perfectly good box".

Incidentally, this theme has a totalitarian timbre - both Nazi and Soviet propaganda addressed itself first to youth, winning over the middle-aged later. Blair's Youth Experience Rally of 1996 now starts to sound a little sinister. Youth talk is like racist cant and patriotism. Its central aim is to go for the gut and stop people thinking. It isn't cool!"

Doubtless, Williams' risible musings will be welcomed as provocative, spot on, witty and "cool" by most Guardian readers--helping showcase the major intellectual capacity deficits of your typical Guardian reader.

Posted by Gregory at 08:07 PM | Comments (4)

October 24, 2003

Turkish Reticence Watch More on

Turkish Reticence Watch

More on Ankara's pull back re: a major troop deployment to Iraq.

Posted by Gregory at 06:56 AM | Comments (3)

IDF Military Activity Redux I

IDF Military Activity Redux

I blogged about Sharon's occasional heavy-handedness a couple days back--specifically with regard to an operation in Gaza that press reports indicated wounded eighty individuals. The Israelis are rebutting the charges. Check out this imagery.

Or see Ze'ev Schiff. I still think it's quite likely many civilians were injured in the operation (so does Schiff, it appears).

But I will say this. At least the Israeli authorities, when accused of killing innocents, often attempt to show that their military strikes were targetted, in specific fashion, at terrorist targets. Groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas will sometimes all but stumble over themselves to take credit for the slaughter of innocents. That's surely a distinction worth keeping in mind.

UPDATE: More important information on this strike.

Posted by Gregory at 06:54 AM | Comments (3)

October 23, 2003

Au Revoir Yay.

Au Revoir

Yay.

Posted by Gregory at 11:13 PM | Comments (3)

October 22, 2003

Still Talking Turkey Safire's still

Still Talking Turkey

Safire's still pretty clueless.

A female Iraqi blogger explains why Turkish troops are not wanted in Iraq.

For readers who are new to the blog--here's my Turkey take from a little while back.

Posted by Gregory at 09:51 PM | Comments (3)

Middle East Peace Initiatives Brad

Middle East Peace Initiatives

Brad Pitt is helping fill the void. No, seriously.

Posted by Gregory at 09:12 PM | Comments (3)

Don't just blame the CPA!

Don't just blame the CPA!

This is a pretty damning report.

Posted by Gregory at 05:31 PM | Comments (2)

Iraq Watch An interesting and

Iraq Watch

An interesting and nuanced piece from the WaPo on the current mood in a literary quarter of Baghdad.

"After a summer when tempers ran as high as the temperatures, a fragile sense of normalcy has returned to Mutanabi Street, a narrow stretch of bookstores and shops in old Baghdad that serves as the capital's intellectual entrepot. Frustration and the anger it brought have subsided, with the return of electricity and the tangible gains of the occupation in returning police to the streets.

But the debate in shops like Hayawi's is seldom over the success or failure of the six-month occupation, even less over support or opposition to U.S. forces. Rather it is more nuanced, with sentiments as intricate as the turquoise tiles that adorn the old city's minarets. The conversations drive to the essence of the country that is being shaped -- whether occupiers can understand those they occupy, how violence will interrupt their lives, what role new forces unleashed will play."

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, some gloomier news on the Afghan front. Check out this Kandahar dispatch via TNR (subscription required):

A snippet:

"In fact, the Taliban isn't just regrouping--it's recruiting a whole new generation. Several months ago, Omar, who is reportedly hiding in Afghanistan, contacted trusted aides. He asked them to start recruiting Pakistani madrassa students in the southern province of Baluchistan in order to begin a more intensive guerrilla war. "Mullah Dadullah [one of Omar's aides] was sent to Pakistan because he is ... widely respected ... by many Pashtun youths," says a Taliban insider. In the last few months, the insider says, Dadullah has visited dozens of religious schools in Pakistan, asking boys to join his jihad against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. Those who volunteer are provided information about how to proceed to Afghanistan and whom to contact in the resistance once they arrive.

Omar and his lieutenants have also taken steps to insulate their activities from Pakistani police loyal to President Pervez Musharraf's mission of erasing religious radicalism. According to sources, Omar's lieutenants meet students but rarely interact with the principals of the madrassas or other local religious leaders. "Mullah Omar believes that most of these leaders are cowards or have been bought by U.S. dollars and so cannot be trusted," says one of Omar's associates."

Posted by Gregory at 12:22 PM | Comments (4)

The Post-Arafat Scene Check out

The Post-Arafat Scene

Check out this interesting article.

The IDF has been gaming potential post-Arafat scenarios. The conclusion? At least in the short term, and this even if Arafat died of natural causes, there could be an uptick in violence in the Holy Land.

This is probably part of the reason that Arafat doesn't fully groom a successor--to so do would not only facilitate U.S. and Israeli efforts to marginalize him but would also give IDF planners less concerns about the post-Arafat security scene. And if a charismatic leader with street cred emerged (Barghouti is in jail, not sure Dahlan fits the bill) the concerns outlined below would be mitigated.

"The post-Arafat forecasts were said to have been mooted last week in simulation war games held with the participation of officials from the IDF's Military Intelligence, the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service and army units
operating in the West Bank.

The scenarios were contained within contingency plans bearing the unpromising code name "Yom Sagrir" - a term describing a day of gloomy, inclement weather. Among the scenarios, outlined in frightening detail on state-owned Israel Radio and in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper, were the following:

-- A funeral march by tens of thousands of Palestinians sweeps in a human tidal wave over and past IDF checkpoints and barriers, heading for Jerusalem with a furious determination to bury Arafat where the intifada began, the Temple Mount - sacred to Muslims as the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, and to Jews as site of the ancient Temple.

Israel would prohibit the burial of Arafat on the site, but would be hard-pressed to stop the multitude without a huge price in Palestinian casualties.

-- The Palestinian Authority could dissolve and the territories could be plunged into wholesale anarchy on a scale heretofore unimaginable, driven by unstoppable rioting and unrestrained violence by rogue militias.

-- Palestinians could mount a campaign to take over settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This could trigger violent responses from threatened settlers, who could form militias of their own."

These concerns are likely a bit overblown. The IDF, after all, is wise to game worst-case contingencies. But they're certainly not fantastical or hyperbolic.

The article also makes it clear how much Arafat would love to outlast Sharon:

"Fresh speculation was prompted Tuesday, when senior aides to Arafat said the chairman, acknowledged to have been weakened by recurrent vomiting and diarrhea, would need to undergo surgery to remove gall stones in the near future.

Still, if past experience is a guide, Arafat may rally indefinitely, rendering the scenarios theoretical for years to come - perhaps long enough to realize his dream of watching a discredited Sharon leave office."

Guess who else is dreaming of outlasting a prominent political leader? Not Sharon, but rather Bush?

Saddam Hussein, of course.

Deep down, Saddam's fantasy is probably to outlast yet another Bush in the White House. You can almost hear him rooting for a Howard Dean or Wes Clark to unseat Dubya while he remains unapprehended through the inaugural handover. Remember, the election is just over a year from now on November 2, 2004.

Of course, a year is a long time. And I'm not going to sit here and play arm-chair general. But I will ask a few questions.

Out of our total troop presence on the ground--how many are tied up with force protection duties? How many are in areas where Saddam isn't? How many Special Forces are looking for him round the clock? Should we "flood the zone" with more boots in the regions where the likely hiding places are? Put simply, are we fully confident we've devoted the requisite resources to apprehending Saddam?

We probably are. But here's stressing that we should be absolutely sure we are doing everything possible to get Saddam and not create another protracted UBL-hunt scenario. Let's squash Saddam's 'outlasting-Bush-fantasy' from the get-go--before it begins to appear a real possibility as the months roll along.

Posted by Gregory at 11:37 AM | Comments (3)

Galloway Watch Expel him, already.

Galloway Watch

Expel him, already.

UPDATE: Oops, wrong link. Go here. Thanks to the readers who pointed this out to me.

Posted by Gregory at 11:20 AM | Comments (3)

Fleet Street Watch Over at

Fleet Street Watch

Over at the Guardian, we've got a gale force Washington scandal brewing that's worse than Watergate:

"It is early autumn in Washington. The leaves are falling, another election season is limbering up, and the nation's capital is once more embroiled in a gale-force scandal. It is an extraordinary affair that combines espionage, political dirty tricks and weapons of mass destruction - a heady mix normally found only in airport thrillers. But fact has had a knack of trumping fiction in Washington lately. In principle at least, this is worse than Watergate and far worse than Bill Clinton's sexual liaisons."

Posted by Gregory at 11:17 AM | Comments (4)

Daniel Pearl KSM, the mastermind

Daniel Pearl

KSM, the mastermind of 9/11, appears to have personally murdered Pearl.

Talk about an odious and repulsive human being. Rejoice he's in captivity.

Posted by Gregory at 10:35 AM | Comments (4)

In-House Matters A reminder that

In-House Matters

A reminder that you can read about my background by clicking on my name above. Oh, and a more tech savvy friend helped me post a passport pic if you want to put a face to the BD musings....

Posted by Gregory at 10:11 AM | Comments (3)

October 21, 2003

Arik Sharon Heavy-Handedness Barometer It's

Arik Sharon Heavy-Handedness Barometer

It's getting worse, isn't it, with this "IAF blitz"?

A Rafah a day (or week), keeps the terror at bay? Is this now the military strategy of Arik?

"Security forces were on high alert Tuesday for threatened terror attacks by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in retaliation for an unprecedented wave of IAF helicopter assaults throughout the day Monday, in which 14 Palestinians were killed and some 80 wounded."

"Most of the casualties were believed to be non-combatants. National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said Tuesday that Israel should apologize for the civilian casualties and compensate the victims, Israel Radio reported."

Asked Tuesday about the civilian casualties in IAF raids, Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said "The murderous Hamas and Jihad terrorism nests deep within the civilian population. Some of this population - and I emphasize, some-collaborates and aids these murderous organizations.

"Not all are innocent there, certainly not those who store lathes (for producing Qassam rockets) and weaponry, bombs, and Qassams in their homes," Boim told Israel Radio, adding that "some of them also receive good money for this. This is also true of the (arms-smuggling) tunnels in Rafah." [emphasis added]

Yes, of course, Israel has a right to protect herself from the scourge of suicide bombing. But gunship attacks in crowded population centers are simply dumb policy.

Why? For one, such attacks won't deliver security. Robust IDF military activity has been underway in the Territories for some three years now. Have they stopped the suicide bombings?

For another, too many innocents are felled in such attacks and so Israel begins to lose the moral highground. If you are reasonably certain that an attack in a dense population center will kill and/or injure civilians that are not complicit with the terrorists/militants/gunmen how different is that, in actual effect, than a suicide bombing?

It's still removed from the purposeful intent of massacring as many innocent civilians as possible, to be sure, but the moral differences start getting blurred.

To put it differently, how many of the civilians are "collaborators" and how many are fully innocent? And who defines when one has become a "collaborator" anyway?

Is it just me, or is this a slippery slope where, in some sense, the IDF is beginning to rationalize the increasingly large numbers of so called "collateral damage" stemming from its operations?

Are we comfortable with this M.O.? It's getting too heavy-handed, I say. And it's not just the Mahatirs and Chiracs of the world who agree with me, by the way.

Minister Partizky sentiments to compensate the victims are all well and good. But those who have lost (or had injured) relatives are not waiting for checks from Tel Aviv. They're likely planning revenge. And when more blood of innocents is spilled in Haifa or Tel Aviv--then more gunship attacks. And so on.

Yeah, yeah. Lots of people get hot under the collar when you talk of the "cycle of violence." It smacks of some form of moral relativism. That's a fair criticism when IDF military responses target those directly culpable for the terror activity.

But if Sharon blows up a Hamas thug that's one thing. If he blows up a Hamas thug and injures 80 people, many of whom don't have blood on their hands, it's very much another.

We can't all sit around wishing that the Palis just turned in all their weapons, got rid of Arafat and played nice, so that we could move back to rosy Oslo days after a nice period of interim "understandings" and roadmap implementation-with the requisite "quiet" period achieved first.

Problem is, there is massive anger on both sides given the bloodshed that has transpired over the past three years. And waiting around for the parties to exhaust themselves again with reinvigorated bouts of bloodshed is a morally weak strategy.

Adult supervision by Washington is critically needed. We simply don't have the time to just wait around as various Palestinian PMs are trotted out and attempt to hash out with Arafat which leader has effective control of the security apparatus.

Yes, these are hard issues. I understand that Bush is frustrated that Abu Mazen is no longer available as a partner. But inertia and impotence do not constitute a diplomatic strategy.

In short, Bush's Middle East policymaking is in danger of becoming a bloody farce. The Bush Administration is just shy of being flat out AWOL. It's starting to look like a full-blown abdication of responsibility.

As a Bush supporter, I expect better. Don't you?

Posted by Gregory at 12:17 PM | Comments (3)

Counter-Proliferation Watch Now, this is

Counter-Proliferation Watch

Now, this is interesting (from the Haaretz ticker):

13:36 IDF intelligence chief: Saudis are asking Pakistan to deploy nuclear warheads on the Arabian peninsula.

Hmmm.

Meanwhile, here's the latest from Iran. Don't believe the hype.

The Iranians are tremendously subtle and will continue to aptly navigate the rocky shoals of supposed IAEA compliance. They might well still have a nuke in short order despite agreeing to cease production of enhanced uranium.

If this European diplomatic troika really believe this is a real breakthrough--then they've been bamboozled.

The deeper question is, really, why can Islamabad have a bomb and not Teheran (as viewed from Iran, of course).

Hezbollah, for one, the West will respond. But that's not persuasive fodder to the gang in Teheran. They view themselves as a much more sophisticated society than Pakistan. They want a nuclear bomb. Badly.

Developing, you might say.

Posted by Gregory at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

Perfidious Quai D'Orsay Watch According

Perfidious Quai D'Orsay Watch

According to this report, Dominique de Villepin wanted to abstain on the latest U.N. resolution--but Putin helped rein in Chirac who, in turn, overruled Dom.

Thus does the former Soviet Union help bring France and Germany to the table to vote alongside the U.S. Yep, the world has sure changed post 9/11, in all kinds of ways.

Posted by Gregory at 07:46 AM | Comments (3)

Singing the Blues John Cougar

Singing the Blues

John Cougar Mellancamp has donned his political commentator hat for a spell. Given the quality of the advice he has previously proferred at commencement addresses, however, I figured his insights on the political scene wouldn't be blindingly penetrating:

"The fight for freedom in this country has been long, painful, and ongoing. It is time to take back our country. Take it back from political agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation. It is time to take action here in our land, in our own schools, neighborhoods, farms, and businesses. We have been lied to and terrorized by our own government, and it is time to take action. Now is the time to come together."

The Revolution is nigh. Grab your pitchforks and head to 1600 Penn.

Gee, and I thought Mellancamp was more of a realist about this kind of thing.

Posted by Gregory at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2003

Defining Expectations Down Erdogan begins

Defining Expectations Down

Erdogan begins to pour cold water on what was manifestly a poor idea from the get go.

Posted by Gregory at 11:56 PM | Comments (3)

Is the Worst Over? Walter

Is the Worst Over?

Walter Russell Mead writes that the clouds may be clearing for Dubya and the Republicans.

Or maybe not.

Posted by Gregory at 11:43 PM | Comments (3)

October 19, 2003

Easterbrook and Anti-Semitism Others have

Easterbrook and Anti-Semitism

Others have discussed this pretty extensively whether Instapundit, Roger Simon, Meryl Younish, Dan Drezner or Josh Chafetz. The only reason I'm blogging about it is because no one has mentioned another Easterbrook post that I remembered reading a few weeks back.

Before I get to that, let me say a few things first, however. I think it's absurd that ESPN has fired Easterbrook and think they should reverse their decision (whether it resulted from Michael Eisner being pissed that Easterbrook criticized Kill Bill [ed. note. doubtful], or because of the anti-semitic sounding comments, or both). Easterbrook has apologized. TNR readers are venting. Life moves on. I think Eugene Volokh has got it about right.

Now to the older post. Easterbrook was writing about Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy. For the record, and to put it plainly, I view Pollard as a loathsome character and agree with everything Easterbrook wrote.

But I was still taken back a bit by some of the tone. Especially given that the piece was showing up in TNR--a periodical that is generally pretty pro-Israeli. Suffice it to say, it didn't sound like something Marty Peretz would pen.

Here's what Easterbrook wrote:

"LET HIM ROT: The traitor Jonathan Pollard slithered through Washington last week, though now is back in his prison cell where, it is hoped, he will remain until the end of his natural life. Or until there is peace in the Middle East, whichever comes first....

Pollard has become an icon to the lunatic Israeli right, to the same sick crowd that cheered the assassination of the great Israeli patriot Yizthak Rabin and who cheered the revolting mass murderer Baruch Goldstein. Flown to Israel, Pollard would be greeted by adoring crowds that would swoon before him and chant his name. Even some non-lunatic center-right Israelis might be inveigled to join the celebration.

An image on American newscasts of a traitor against the United States being received as a national hero in Israel would do immense damage to U.S. support for the Israeli cause. Americans would be reminded that the Israeli government paid Pollard to steal classified documents from the United States; that Israel cooperated with Pollard's betrayal of the country that is Israel's greatest friend in all the world; that after he was caught Israel even decreed him an Israeli citizen--this last helping Pollard thumb his nose at the citizenship America was obviously so wrong to grant him. Images of a man who hates and betrayed America being cheered in the streets of Israel would send Americans into a fury. This is an international train wreck waiting to happen; the solution is to keep Pollard in the cell he so richly deserves to occupy." [Emphasis added]

My quibbles? Use of the word "slithered" seemed a bit, well T.S. Eliot like, perhaps? (Nor am I as sure as Easterbrook that Pollard would be greeted by "adoring" and "swooning" crowds in Israel).

Back to Eliot. He's commonly viewed as one of (if not the) greatest poet of the 20th Century. Check out a poem like "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar"

Burbanks crossed a little bridge
Descending at a small hotel;
Princess Volupine arrived,
They were together, and he fell.

Defunctive music under sea
Passed seaward with the passing bell
Slowly: the God Hercules
Had left him, that had loved him well.

The horses, under the axletree
Beat up the dawn from Istria
With even feet. Her shuttered barge
Burned on the water all the day.

But this or such was Bleistein's way:
A saggy bending of the knees [ed. note. a "slither"?]
And elbows, with the palms turned out,
Chicago Semite Vienesse
.

A lustreless protrusive eye
Stares from the protozoic slime
At a perspective of Canaletto.
The smoky candle end of time

Declines. On the Rialto once.
The rats are underneath the piles.
The jew is underneath the lot.
Money in furs.
The boatmen smiles,

Princess Volupine extends
A meagre, blue-nailed phthisic hand
To climb the waterstair. Lights, lights,
She entertains Sir Ferdinand

Klein. Who clipped the lion's wings
And flea'd his rump and pared his claws?
Thought Burbank, meditating on
Time's ruins, and the seven laws.

[emphasis added]

To me, and most judicious observers, parts of this poem are undeniably anti-semitic. And yet we continue to read this poetry--it remains, just as undeniably, great art.

Both Eliot and Easterbrook were, in a fashion, discoursing on the canard of the "money-grubbing" Jew, whether Eliot's Bleistein with his "palms turned out", Harvey Weinstein turning higher profit margins on violent films, or Jonathan Pollard selling American secrets to Israel for cash.

The key to avoiding falling into anti-semitic discourse is to avoid evocative language that taps into the symbolic anti-semitism of the venal, deracinated, money-loving Jew. You get a tad close when you are describing someone as slithering through town who happens to be of Jewish origin and who sold out his country. But you haven't crossed the line. It's language that, ultimately, fairly describes a repulsive and shameless character traveling about. It's not anti-semitic.

You come closer when you accuse Jewish executives of "worship(ing) money above all else" and, while saying some Christian execs do the same, holding out the need for Jews to possess some form of higher ethical responsiblity because of their special history of persecution.

And you cross the line with you write something like: "The rats are underneath the piles. The jew is underneath the lot."

But you don't necessarily delete all that person's writings because of it. I'm happy I can still find Eliot's poem online. It is "creepy", as Glenn Reynolds put it, that Easterbrook's writings have been pulled from the ESPN site.

Also, to be clear, let's recognize that some hyperventilation in the blogosphere likely helped lead to Easterbrook's firing. We should all take this as a cautionary tale and pause (if just for a bit) before hitting the post button.

The movement of content as between blogs and the major media is getting more fluid. When the story moved from the blogosphere to the NYT--Easterbrook was suddenly facing a major scandal.

All this is partly a good story. Blogs are gaining in influence. We can force the Guardian to retract a faulty story claiming Paul Wolfowitz admitted the U.S. went to war in Iraq for oil. Or get, particularly more recently in the post-Raines era, the NYT to correct erroneous stories more often. Or, of course, get Easterbrook to apologize.

But with this enhanced influence comes enhanced responsibilities too. Both Easterbrook and his more fervent critics, as well as all the rest of us, should keep that in mind going forward.

Posted by Gregory at 10:37 PM | Comments (7)

Just Another Night Out in

Just Another Night Out in London

The world sure has changed a lot since 9/11. But no, this isn't going to be a post about the terror threat posed by the intersection of rogue regimes, WMD proliferation, and transnational terror groups. Rather, it's about the perception of Americans overseas. And there has been a sea change all right.

A few days after 9/11, I got this E-mail in my inbox from a nice Hungarian woman I had met in Bosnia when I was there in 1998 doing election monitoring as part of an OSCE mission.

"I am so so so happy to hear from you. You were the first one I was thinking of when I have seen the disaster at WTC. I think I can not imagine the mood and the scene in NY, I just assume it is very very sad and united. The word Americans has a different meaning as from now, everybody feels your sorrow and loos [sic.]. At the Hungarian Embassy in Israel we also put the black flag outside the building and tribute some minutes silence to those lost. I am very very happy that there is no close loved one among the dead or injured, it is still very hard to see those on TV who do. Here in Israel we are living with the 'fear' of terrorist attacks on a daily basis, but of course nothing comparable to this. Here everybody keeps eyes open, looking for suspicious subjects, faces. Otherwise it is very nice here, sunny, we actually live in a very nice area outside of Tel Aviv - I think I don't have to tell you that you are welcome for a visit to Israel any time, our guest!!"

Hard to remember, but those sentiments from a Hungarian living in Israel summed up a lot of world opinion at the time.

Fast forward a couple of years post-Afghanistan, post-Iraq. I'm at a dinner party in London last night. Lots of Oxford/Yale types about so you had a bit of the requisite left-leaning group think in evidence (most of the guests evidently weren't of the Oxdem variety!).

Among the crowd a Columbia academic (actually a really nice guy) sketching out the similarities between Roger Williams (or was it John Winthrop?) and Usama bin Laden.

You know how it goes. Early puritans viewed the Indians as heathen and massacred them in large number. There was, of course, a fervent reliogisity pervading the entire genocidal project. Put simply, America was born in dark shame.

Indeed, the academic suggested, Roger Williams types operated in a fashion that al-Qaeda's acolytes could learn from and appreciate--so rich the similiarities born of theocratic fervor and disdain for the infidels--be they Pequot Indians in colonial America or, you know, a Honduran waiter working at Windows on the World (the latter doubtless deeply implicated in the House of Saud's efforts to prevent pure Wahabism from flowering on the Arabian peninsula or plotting Sharon's latest military gambits).

Thus the relativism of the academic left reaches full circle! The apocalapytic theological barbarism that pervades al-Qaeda's thought--precepts that would lead its followers to be happy (nay, ecstatic) to massacre literally millions of Americans (if it only possessed the means to do so)--is compared by an Ivy League anthropologist to the actions and beliefs of some of our Puritan forebears.

Of course, all these allegedly evil-doings by the forebears happened about 400 years ago, while al-Qaeda is calling for the slaughter of innocents right now. Even as somewhat of a Burkean--I've espied some progress in human rights norms and such since then. You know, it's a basic belief (perhaps naive, but even hard-boiled cynics are allowed wisps of optimism every now and again) in some form of progress (tortured and slow, to be sure). But don't try those arguments over here.

You'll likely be pinned to the wall and treated to dogmatic seminars re: more recent historical episodes that showcase that omnipresent special breed of American nefariousness. Thankfully, this crowd spared me dark intimations about that "other" 9/11 (good guy Allende so bruthishly dethroned by the meanies of the CIA).

But, permit me to note in passing at least, that theme has been increasingly trotted out by varied dinner companions in the 7th arrondisment, Notting Hill and similar encampments--all of whom appear to have recently seen some movie on 9/11/73--one I was litererally forced to view at someone's apartment a month or so back (truth be told, I was underwhelmed).

It gets worse though. Since it was a Saturday night, and an easy Sunday loomed, I decided to go out post-dinner. I end up at a loft party in the environs of Shoreditch/Islington. I actually felt at "home" when I first walked through the door. Big loft space, a DJ spinning on one side of the room with an ethnically mixed crowd alternately hanging out, dancing, chatting. In a word, I felt like I was back in downtown Manhattan! Whoppie. (Take that dank, dark Isle Britannia)!

Felt at "home," that is, until one of the woman at the party insisted on introducing me (and a friend) to others as "Americans" in a tone and manner that evoked a tortured hybrid consisting of 1) disbelief that a couple hapless Yanks had happened upon the "hip" Shoreditch scene, 2) a strong dose of horror that we were indeed Americans (as, of course, we're pretty much ignorant, fascistic buffoons in the eyes of those who get their news from skimming the Guardian or intermittent pipe-ins from Auntie Beeb), and 3) a good deal of astonishment that we didn't pop out some grits, Freedom Fries, Pabst Blue Ribbon and start pounding our chests and going on about how Texas was the repository of all that was civilized, true and just in the world--starting with its speedy and efficacious enforcement of the death penalty--before discoursing on how imperial garrisons need to be erected with dispatch in Damascus, Teheran, NoKo, Tripoli, Kharthoum and Mogadishu.

Seriously, it almost felt like a couple of Einsatzgruppen types has waded in from the street. Fascists in the house, bespoiling the crib!

The solace of sleep loomed, thankfully. Sunday morning found me back in the (somewhat) safer precincts of Belgravia. Al hamdulillah!

UPDATE: Oh, check this out too. Amazing, isn't it?

Perhaps another day I'll blog about the "why they hate us" meme; and talk about the needs for more clarity and humility in the enunciation of American foreign policy by this White House. The interesting thing is, Bush's policies aren't that removed from Clinton's. But, for various reasons (some having to do with the cowboy gun-slinging caricature, some not) the Euro masses focus in on Dubya with a special consternation and revulsion.

Still, even if Dubya were unseated, the deep uneasiness and dislike of the U.S. in large swaths of the globe will still be very much present. So the issue of our plummeting popularity needs to be seriously addressed. But, to do that, you need serious listeners on the other side. The extent of the widespread curiousity re: crude 9/11 conspiracy mongering (peddled about with increasing alacrity) in sophisticated adult democracies like France and Germany is alarming. Better leadership is needed--both by the political and media elites. The anti-Americanism has become too primitive, as even Joschka Fischer had warned a few months back.

Tell us it's time we either try or release the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Tell us you have real worries about the ramifications of the preemption doctrine. Tell us we come off as heavy-handed in some of our diplomatic activity and handling of alliance relations.

But don't tell us Gitmo is akin to a concentration camp. Or that you are worried America is in danger of no longer being a democracy as it's becoming a hyper-militaristic society. Or that we solely issue diktats to friend and foe alike without any attempt at multilateral understandings.

Because those hyperbolic contentions are simply prima facie false.

On Iraq, tell us we were naive about being greeted as liberators--particularly in the Sunni areas. Tell us that our anti-resistance tactics are too often alienating the local populace and allowing for conditions of a more sophisticated and protracted guerrilla conflict to perhaps take root. Tell us we were dumb as hell to disband the Iraqi Army and not better secure all known munitions/weapons depots.

But don't tell us we went to war for oil or some form of neo-colonialist land-grab. Or that most Iraqis nostagically have a hankering for Saddam. Or that is was better under Saddam.

In a word, make the anti-americanism less primitive. That might help produce a more concerted effort to address valid (and soberly relayed) grievances.

Posted by Gregory at 01:57 PM | Comments (2)

October 17, 2003

The Blogosphere Gets Results! Another

The Blogosphere Gets Results!

Another NYT correction--if a tad reluctantly phrased and a bit late.

"An article on Oct. 5 about tensions between the White House and George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, referred incorrectly to the comment in President Bush's State of the Union address that Mr. Tenet was blamed for not having deleted. The president said Iraq had been seeking to buy uranium in Africa. He did not specifically mention the African country of Niger, though it was identified several weeks earlier Ñ along with Somalia and Congo Ñ in the National Intelligence Estimate provided to members of Congress on Iraqi purchase attempts."

Posted by Gregory at 03:09 PM | Comments (3)

An American "Success" Sure, Colin

An American "Success"

Sure, Colin Powell did well getting the resolution passed and deserves a cheer or two. But it really doesn't make much of a difference as this article makes clear.

The real lessons of all this U.N. rigamarole?

All these unanimous Iraq resolutions (Res 1441, of course, the one before) bespeak how increasingly chimerical the U.N. as guarantor of international stability etc etc really is.

Resolution 1441 basically showcased how, to make nice, a bunch of countries will vote for a resolution with no real intent of following it precepts should the going get rough and real action be necessitated.

And yesterday's resolution shows that, for a variety of domestic/foreign policy reasons (Syria appearing like a 'good' citizen over at Turtle Bay to, among other things, help stave off IDF air runs over its airspace; France/Germany to patch up with the U.S., Russia to stress that they (not the Germans) are the real middleman between Washington and Old Europe; and so on) countries will support a resolution they don't really believe in.

Why do I say that? Because, at the end of the day, the likes of France, Russia and/or Germany are barely going to lift a finger to contribute positively towards accomplishing the goals of the resolution.

No, the UNSC is just too often an extension of national interests (often clumsily and crudely) played out on the world stage. Not much more, and not much less (note I'm not talking here of excellent branches of the UN like the UNHCR, UNESCO, WHO etc).

Oh, take a look at Le Monde's editorial on the American "success".

"Mme si les apparences sont sauves gr‰ce ˆ un communiquŽ conjoint France-Allemagne-Russie, celle-ci privilŽgiera toujours sa relation avec les Etats-Unis sur ses liens avec les moyennes puissances europŽennes. Cette rŽalitŽ-lˆ souligne l'inanitŽ de l'axe Berlin-Moscou-Paris : Poutine a choisi Washington, et rŽciproquement."

Translation:

"Even if appearances are saved thanks to a joint communique among France-Germany-Russia, Russia will always privilege relations with the U.S. over its links to the middle European powers. This reality underlines the inanity of the Berlin-Moscow-Paris axis: Putin chose Washington..."

Well of course. But my point here is, really, that it's all more about keeping score than the actual content of the various resolutions, as this frank analysis showcases.

I hope to have more soon on the absurdities of the seeming Franco-German love in. That's a chimera too.

Posted by Gregory at 01:42 PM | Comments (2)

Grotesque Historical Revisionism Watch Clinton's

Grotesque Historical Revisionism Watch

Clinton's always been pretty shameless. But this one is really, really rich.

"At Wednesday's luncheon, Clinton said his inability to convince Bush of the danger from al Qaeda was "one of the two or three of the biggest disappointments that I had."

Wow, what a whopper from a guy who basically issued UBL a passe-partout through the '90s.

And Clinton's forgetting these nettlesome details from the past too (go to the Chapter 7 link)

Posted by Gregory at 12:47 PM | Comments (9)

Madeline Albright On Tour! She's

Madeline Albright On Tour!

She's buzzing about Europe and practicing her language skills on French radio (via Drudge).

Doubtless some of her continental crowd-pleasing anti-Bush musings might help create a little buzz and get her book off the racks a bit faster in jolly Old Europe, no?

UPDATE: I just saw Colin Powell interviewed by Tony Snow and asked about Albright's comments. He noted, very diplomatically, of course, that Madeline Albright was on a "book tour in France"
when she made the comments.

Translation: Madeline should never even have been promoted from US Ambassador to the UN up to SecState. Can't she at least stay quiet on the post-war travails in Iraq and peddle her book less offensively?Particularly as nothing she said provides deeper insight or helps add value to the policy debate...

Or at least that's what I think Colin Powell really meant....

Posted by Gregory at 12:32 PM | Comments (7)

Ground Zero Update A story

Ground Zero Update

A story regarding one of the FDNY's many firehouses--this one on Liberty Street.

Posted by Gregory at 10:39 AM | Comments (13)

October 16, 2003

European Backbone Watch Check out

European Backbone Watch

Check out Solana rather forcefully telling Arafat to deliver on security or, if he can't, to step aside--by handing over the security administration reins to a competent PM.

Maybe if the Europeans and Russians bash the message in as well Arafat will finally let a PM handle the security enforcement tasks he so woefully fails to perform time after time.

Which, in turn, might help Dubya feel he has a stake in the peace process again.

Posted by Gregory at 02:10 PM | Comments (11)

UNSC Vote Looks like a

UNSC Vote

Looks like a three-way telecon among Putin, Schroder and Chirac is leading to a yes vote by all said countries. But it's being done pretty reluctantly--and no troops or major funding donations appear in the offing from any of these three either.

Posted by Gregory at 12:29 PM | Comments (7)

Sign of the Times Guess

Sign of the Times

Guess what parties are pressuring our allies the French and Germans to vote yes rather than abstain on the latest UNSC resolution? The Chinese and Russians!

"China and Russia offered their support on Wednesday for the latest version of the draft Security Council resolution on Iraq's future, putting heavy pressure on Germany and France to vote in favor of the measure, rather than join Syria in abstaining, Council diplomats said."

UPDATE: The WaPo provides better detail on the current state of play.

Posted by Gregory at 09:25 AM | Comments (4)

October 15, 2003

Post-Raines Watch Poor Dave Sanger

Post-Raines Watch

Poor Dave Sanger appears a bit torn today. On the one hand, there's the temptation to describe Dubya as an incurious buffoon when it comes to the greater world outside of Crawford:

"Past presidents have taken in the restaurants of Sydney or the wonders of the country. Not Mr. Bush: He cut the trip down to a visit to Canberra, a capital that is a bit like Ottawa but not quite as vibrant."

Note: Thanks for the Canadian and Australian travel tips Mr. Sanger!

And, on the other, there's the temptation to make it look like we are so badly losing the war on terror that Dubya can't even overnight in Southeast Asia (though even Sanger concedes he's in Thailand for a spell):

"This visit [Manila] will have no overnight. It lasts exactly eight hours, because the Secret Service will not permit Mr. Bush to stay past dinner in a country whose army officers are sometimes of dubious loyalty and where terrorist groups still strike with audacity.

But the Philippine government is not complaining. Indonesia gets the presidential presence for only three hours. It is all part of what one official calls "the trip from Al Qaeda hell."

Good work digging up some hypochondriac over at the Secret Service for the money quote, huh?

Oh, there's a third theme too. It seems Bush has spoiled all that rosy Clinton era globalization fun with all this nettlesome talk of security and such.

"The enforced haste shows how much Southeast Asia has changed from the region Mr. Bush's predecessors once traveled in so freely.

For 15 years, when American presidents visited Asia, it was to celebrate the region's dynamism and to marvel at the semiconductor factories and auto plants that sprang up like bamboo before the Asian economic crisis.

But the politics of globalization, too Clinton-sounding to be a favorite subject in the Bush White House even before terrorism took center stage, seems to be the furthest thing from Mr. Bush's mind.

Instead of factories, Mr. Bush is visiting Thai troops who recently returned from Afghanistan.

When Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, briefed reporters about the trip on Tuesday, she described no new economic programs with Asian allies and never mentioned the trade deficits with China or a decade of stagnation in Japan. Mr. Bush, she said, was intent on putting "security at the heart" of the Asian talks."

[emphasis added]

When terrorism took center stage? You mean that little 9/11 thing?

UPDATE: Reader ES writes in:

"Appreciated your bit today on the Sanger piece. Perhaps he'll be so kind as to print a retraction when Mr. Bush announces intent to negotiate bilateral free trade agreement with Thailand this week, and uses the APEC forum to
renew interest in the WTO Doha Round. There's that damned globalization thing again..."

Indeed.

Posted by Gregory at 12:30 PM | Comments (9)

Of Maps and Mockery Some

Of Maps and Mockery

Some bloggers are making sport of a section of the State Department website where the map of Saudi Arabia doesn't make mention of Israel.

They ignore the other maps on the site. How about Syria? Or Jordan? Or Egypt? And look, those nefarious kow-towers at Foggy Bottom even sneak in the word "Israel" in this map of Lebanon! Or, put differently, Israel is prominently indicated in every State Dept. map of every country that borders it.

Hey pundits, don't just concentrate on the negative. There's good stuff too, right? Give us the whole picture!

Meanwhile, we've lost security personnel connected to a U.S. diplomatic convoy today in a tragic terrorist attack in Gaza. Yeah, they were probably there trying to make something of the oft-derided roadmap. Let's remember State Dept personnel face perilous risks too--just like our GIs in Iraq.

Posted by Gregory at 10:41 AM | Comments (15)

October 14, 2003

Straussian Self-Awareness Watch Hey, are

Straussian Self-Awareness Watch

Hey, are you a neo-con? Now you can take a quick quiz to find out!

UPDATE: So my initial score put me in the "realist" camp. But since I've been "accused" by so many friends and acquaintances of being a neo-con, I went back and changed one answer I was really wavering on.

And well, that tipped the balance! Voila, I was then in the neo-con camp! So I guess I'm right in the border regions between Kissingerian realpolitik and Wolfowitzian messianism. Or something like that.

I wonder what all those guys over at Oxblog would score? Is Belton more of a realist than Adesnik? What of the mysterious Urman? And Chafetz, perhaps the biggest neo-con among them? Or does that title go to Adesnik?

Posted by Gregory at 08:25 PM | Comments (9)

Condi Redux Dan Drezner courteously

Condi Redux

Dan Drezner courteously links my thoughts on the NSC Advisor's performance.

But he goes on to directly contradict my post, particularly, the part about how Condi needs to actively broker/mediate, ie. play a Brent Scrowcroft role.

I wrote:

"But this is what the National Security Advisor should have been doing all along. Condi should be acting as a Brent Scrowcroft type. By that I mean she shouldn't merely be synthesizing different policy recommendations as between State and Defense. She needs to act like a broker, to proactively mediate, to suggest policy perhaps different than Powell or Rummy (or Cheney) would put forward.

Put differently, the NSC advisor shouldn't merely be a conduit for policy proposals that happen to be dispensed by an individual the President is comfortable hanging with at Camp David or hitting the treadmills with."

Drezner writes:

"For those tempted to criticize Rice's management skills, it's worth remembering that her attitude of what the NSC advisor should do is a direct copy of Brent Scowcroft's management style. H.W.'s administration is considered to be an exemplar of foreign policy management. The problem isn't with the management style -- it's with the President and the foreign policy principals that have been selected."

Dan's simply wrong on this one. Check out, for instance, Larry Kaplan in the current TNR (subscription required):

Money graf:

"But the fault hardly rests with the Pentagon alone. The White House--and, specifically, the NSC--bears ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the war in Iraq and its aftermath. It does so because it is the responsibility of the president and his national security adviser to have the final say on matters of foreign and defense policy and, as such, to mediate the frequent disputes between State and Defense. They have done neither.

Rather than coordinate the positions of the State and Defense departments, Rice has been overpowered by them. On Iran, North Korea, the United Nations, and Iraq, the United States has not one, but two policies."

The efficaciousness of the "management style" of an NSC Advisor--first and foremost--is judged by how well disputes between the ever bickering State and Defense Departments are mediated. Brent Scrowcroft, to take one example, did that well. Condi hasn't been--at least she hasn't been effectively--particularly on the big issues.

And when, as in this Administration, you've got virtually open trench warfare between State and Defense--this NSC Advisor brokering role is even more important. Perhaps critical even, vis-a-vis the successful implementation of foreign policy by the President.

Nor should Condi get a pass because of allegedly mystifying and unbridgeable philosophical divides between Rummy and Powell. Put differently, there is no mission impossible here. A new Secretary of State or Defense need not be appointed to assure smooth policymaking takes place.

It's about hammering out smart policy in the midst of strongly held and often differing views. And it's simply not happening often enough. So we've got dangerous drift (see Iran, NoKo, Middle East peace process, Iraq).

And, as Kaplan points out, creating a new layer of bureaucracy won't solve the problem. A more forceful Condi (or new NSC Advisor) might.

Important too, and this coming from an often Dubya fan, the President is not Nixonian in his foreign policy facility and apercus. All the more important that he be provided with forcefully and intelligently brokered policy options he can expeditiously act on.

We can't have him get off the phone with Powell thinking one thing, and then talking to Cheney or Rummy and feeling another. Too often, the President then goes on to emit confusing signals to foe and friend alike.

Note: In all fairness, Condi's role is made more difficult by the presence of an uncommonly (unprecedentedly?) powerful Veep who appears to have assembled his own NSC. Dan Quayle (even ably assisted by Bill Kristol!) he ain't.

Posted by Gregory at 04:18 PM | Comments (6)

Turkish Embassy Bombing You mean

Turkish Embassy Bombing

You mean they will even try to kill fellow Sunnis! Who would have thunk!

BTW, readers of this blog might think, by looking at my surname, that I'm biased on issues Turkish given my part Armenian background.

Just to clarify, note that I recently returned from a trip to Armenia. Some nationalist opinion there would prefer that the Turks go into Iraq.

Why? Because, to put it plainly, they think Turkish troops will die there--and maybe even in significant number. That goes some way towards outweighing regret in some nationalist quarters that a Turkish troop contribution might contribute to a U.S.-Turkish rapprochment or help better ensure protection of vital Turkish national interests in northern Iraq.

No, I'm looking at this purely from the prism of the U.S. national interest. I won't bore readers by linking my original post on five reasons why this is a dumb idea again. Suffice it to say that I remain stunned this is flying in the Beltway.

Oh, and since you've likely been getting Iraqi polling date thrown at you--check this one out too.

Posted by Gregory at 03:34 PM | Comments (8)

Geneva Accords The NYT now

Geneva Accords

The NYT now has a story on Yossi Beilin's peacemaking efforts. The main aspects of the plan:

* The Palestinians will concede the right of return. Some refugees will remain in the countries where they now live, others will be absorbed by the PA, some will be absorbed by other countries and some will receive financial compensation. A limited number will be allowed to settle in Israel, but this will not be defined as realization of the right of return.

* The Palestinians will recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

* Israel will withdraw to the 1967 borders, except for certain territorial exchanges, as decribed below.

* Jerusalem will be divided, international force will ensure freedom of access for visitors of all faiths. However, Jewish prayer will not be permitted on the mount, nor will archaeological digs. The Western Wall will remain under Jewish sovereignty and the "Holy Basin" will be under international supervision.

* The settlements of Ariel, Efrat and Har Homa will be part of the Palestinian state. In addition, Israel will transfer parts of the Negev adjacent to Gaza, but not including Halutza, to the Palestinians in exchange for the parts of the West Bank it will receive.

* The Palestinians will pledge to prevent terror and incitement and disarm all militias. Their state will be demilitarized, and border crossings will be supervised by an international, but not Israeli, force.

* The agreement will replace all UN resolutions and previous agreements.

Barak denigrated the plan as "delusional." Frankly, I think that's partly because he's wasn't involved and felt out-maneuvered by some fellow left-leaning Israeli politicians. For one, there isn't too much here that goes beyond what Barak had offered at Camp David II.

And no, the Palestinians do not get a right of return--it's worth stressing again.

I agree with Haaretz that opines that this entire Geneva Accords effort shouldn't be viewed as a product of a "secret and illegitimate relationship with the enemy"as some Likudniks are darkly suggesting.

It's actually a pretty good plan and mirrors much of the Camp David II negotiations. Of course, it's doesn' t have a snowball's chance in hell of getting anywhere. Sharon and other Likudniks detest Yossi Beilin. On the Labor side of the fence--Peres is pretty much saying nothing and Barak is pouring water on it. And, not suprisingly, not a peep out of the White House.

Still, we can perhaps categorize all this under the oft-used "developing" label. Sharon hasn't delivered security to the Israeli people. If you're actually living in Israel--and so aren't issuing arm-chair diktats from far afield to round up all the Palestinians and kick them across the Jordan River--you've actually got to worry, on a daily basis, about existential threats born of the scourge of suicide bombing. Sharon hasn't really helped his public on that score.

The fence is increasingly problematic and will not stem all bombings. Remember, the Haifa bomber got in via a fence checkpoint. It's not a fail-safe solution.

So there is a continuing rationally-derived appetite for the contours of a peace deal. At the very least, Beilin's peace efforts show that the Israeli left hasn't become totally scelerotic. It has survived the last three years of bloodshed--not really in spite of all the violence--but to some extent because of it. Further, and to their credit, people like Beilin realize there is no morally viable military solution to the conflict, ie. the peace processing must go on.

Not as quixotic, academic and rosy-eyed gambits pursued just for kicks, Nobel Prizes, and such--but to try to make real, material progress towards a general settlement. But, to get there, you also need an active U.S. mediation effort. Especially when the Israeli government in power is reticent to make significant concessions. And, on that score, we're pretty much AWOL. So keep expectations low. Real low.

Posted by Gregory at 10:33 AM | Comments (9)

Anti-Yank Hyperbole Watch Uh, did

Anti-Yank Hyperbole Watch

Uh, did you hear the one about the future of American democracy being under threat?

"Roxanne Jekot, who has put much of her professional and personal life on hold to work on the issue full time, puts it even more strongly. "Corporate America is very close to running this country. The only thing that is stopping them from taking total control are the pesky voters. That's why there's such a drive to control the vote. What we're seeing is the corporatisation of the last shred of democracy.

"I feel that unless we stop it here and stop it now," she says, "my kids won't grow up to have a right to vote at all."

What's sad is that relatively educated Britons buy this paper and actually believe this crapola. But what can you do?

Posted by Gregory at 09:41 AM | Comments (4)

Funding Watch Walter Slocombe has

Funding Watch

Walter Slocombe has an op-ed worth reading over at the WaPo. It's basically a call to various Washington actors to stand strong and help push through the requisite funding per the President's request for $87B. To drive that point home, Slocombe writes:

"Iraq is rich in resources -- not just oil, water and fertile soil but a resourceful population with a respect for education and hard work. But for those resources to be mobilized as the basis of a stable, democratic, prosperous and peaceful country, everything from the railroads to the electric grid to the school system must recover -- not from war damage, which was minimal, but from a generation or more of neglect, corruption and mismanagement.

This task will take many years, and most of the money after the president's supplemental funding request will have to come from Iraq's own efforts, private investment and the support of the international community as a whole. The U.S. contribution now being considered is designed to address only the most urgent needs -- to bring electricity production close to demand so factories can reopen, to increase the safety of drinking water, to repair the worst of Hussein's depredations on the environment, to build basic conditions for private investment, to bring communications into the 21st century and to meet the most critical of a host of similar basic needs. Doing that contributes to security every bit as much as training police or reopening border control posts." [emphasis added]

Get it? The $87B (on top of the money already spent) is just to cover the cost of the troop deployment and funds deemed to be urgently required for basic reconstruction expenditures. Much more cash will be needed going forward.

That's fine, we all knew what a massive undertaking this was going to be. But, assuming that Bush doesn't cut and run (very contra his personality), and further assuming that we don't get as much funding as we'd like from partners, varied "allies," oil production etc, we should get prepared for another large funding request next year.

Posted by Gregory at 08:49 AM | Comments (4)

October 13, 2003

Resolution Watch The latest Turtle

Resolution Watch

The latest Turtle Bay going-ons via Brian Knowlton of the IHT:

"By incorporating a deadline [ed. note: for constitution/election], if only for a transitional step, the new draft being circulated today represented a departure from the earlier version, and gave a nod to its critics, notably France."

Here's Dominique de Villepin's reaction:

"There is progress compared to the previous text," Dominique de Villepin, the foreign minister of France, said today in Luxembourg, according to Agence France-Presse. "The real question is whether this progress is enough."

Well sure--it's blatantly obvious that's the question. Might the French Foreign Minister instead clue us in to the Quai d'Orsay's position rather than state the blindingly self-evident?

Doubtless a long and tortured Derrida-like inspection of the latest draft needs to take place first, bien sur?

Meanwhile, Spanish PM Aznar is quoted as saying:

"I have the impression that some in Europe think that if things go wrong in Iraq they could benefit," Mr. Aznar said, according to Reuters. "That seems to me a very serious error."

Hmmm. Wonder who he's talking about?

Posted by Gregory at 10:15 PM | Comments (2)

Reservists Here, There, Everywhere Here.

Reservists Here, There, Everywhere

Here. And here.

And from the Haaretz ticker:

"22:05 Syrian diplomat tells New York Times that Damascus calling up reservists due to heightened regional tension"

Posted by Gregory at 08:24 PM | Comments (2)

How Not to Start a

How Not to Start a Peacekeeping Mission

This is getting off to a great start, isn't it?

"Turkish soldiers deployed in Iraq will open fire on Kurdish fighters if they come under attack, a senior general has warned."

"If the convoys are attacked, the necessary response will be given," said the army's deputy chief of staff, General Ilker Basbug.

"The Turkish armed forces have the abilities and capacity to protect their convoys and themselves."

What convoys? What happened to Bill Safire's sea route?

UPDATE: Mort Abramowitz has more on all this.

Posted by Gregory at 01:03 PM | Comments (4)

Middle East Round-Up Lots of

Middle East Round-Up

Lots of links worth reading re: the current Mideast situation. Check out Rob Malley's op-ed in today's WaPo. His dire assessment about the moribund state of American peacemaking efforts is pretty much on the mark. Nor will these types of de minimis fact finding expeditions tip the balance into a reassertion of a strong U.S. "honest broker" role.

So, much like with the Oslo process, some Israelis are picking up the slack (through Swiss rather than Norwegian intermediaries). Yossi Beilin has been working on a peace plan. Former Labor PM Ehud Barak thinks it's "delusional."

Sharon, no surprise, doesn't like it either--and denies that he was being briefed on the plan as the negotiations were underway--as Yossi Beilin contends.

Note that all this peace negotiating, while unlikely to prove frutiful given the overall bleak atmospherics throughout the Holy Land, showcases that the Israeli left is emerging from the somewhat comatose state its been in since the start of the last intifada three years hence. There are now some stirrings of life.

Partly, this is a result of the limitations of Sharon's strategy. His military actions in the Occupied Territories have failed to deliver security to the Israeli public. A military solution remains a chimera--thus the necessity to continue to strive for a political settlement.

For instance, what's really accomplished by this Rafah raid? That's a lot of newly homeless people to close three tunnels (and doubtless there are others the IDF hasn't found--so arms will still filter in from the Egyptian border).

Is this smart strategy? Given the human costs--I doubt it. Reports indicate dozens of individuals were injured when a helicopter gunship shot into a crowd. A couple young children were killed. Doubtless many gunmen were felled as well. But, and it's worth noting as innocent Palestinian lives are worth every bit as much as Israeli ones, that shooting missiles into crowds doesn't just get the bad guys. Put simply, I think Sharon sometimes is too comfortable accepting so called collateral damage resulting from missile attacks in crowded population centers like refugee camps.

On the Syria front, the Jpost has a series of Syria-related articles worth looking at--particularly the article detailing the IDF's massive military advantage in any prospective confrontation.

Finally, the JPost also has an alarming story that terror groups may be planning attacks against British Jews.

Posted by Gregory at 10:40 AM | Comments (4)

October 12, 2003

Candidate for Understatement of the

Candidate for Understatement of the Year

"As a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, I know something about managing investigations of the White House and even more about managing the White House when it's under investigation."

John Podesta, Bill Clinton's old Chief of Staff, writing about Plamegate in the WaPo.

Posted by Gregory at 10:07 PM | Comments (9)

Condi in the Spotlight The

Condi in the Spotlight

The WaPo has a piece on Condi Rice and, more generally, the role of a national security advisor, that closely mirrors a Belgravia Dispatch post of a few days back.

Some key grafs:

"Many officials with firsthand knowledge of White House decision making contend that Rice is weak at forging those decisions, sometimes attempting to meld incompatible approaches that later fail. She is also perceived as not resolving enough issues before they reach the president and doing a poor job of making sure his wishes are carried out.

Administration officials said the situation has left many problems unresolved, especially at lower levels, and led to frequent policy shifts. Decisions are made and then altered or reversed, and feuding advisers have been emboldened to keep pressing their case or to even ignore policy guidance in the hope of achieving final victory."

Indeed.

Posted by Gregory at 09:40 PM | Comments (5)

October 10, 2003

Nobel Peace Prize Patrick Belton

Nobel Peace Prize

Patrick Belton of the always estimable Oxblog has a good roundup re: this year's winner.

Posted by Gregory at 10:43 AM | Comments (3)

Glenn Reynolds Gets Results! As

Glenn Reynolds Gets Results!

As Dan Drezner might put it. The NYT comes out with a more, shall we say, "fair and balanced" Iraq piece. Instapundit blogs it here.

All well and good. I'm happy the Administration is being more forceful about getting the message out that it's not all doom and gloom over in Iraq. Dubya made a good speech re: that theme recently. Jerry Bremer is getting the message out too.

But I hope Condi doesn't waste too much time on spin. I remember hearing a depressing tale of George Stephanopoulos virtually running a national security meeting re: Somalia during the Clinton years. No real discussion of the security implications of the going-ons in the environs of Mogadishu. Instead, the press flaks were running the show. Spin, spin, spin.

The Bushies need to keep in mind the paramount challenge in Iraq right now. And that's security, security, security. The rest can follow. People typically prefer even brutishly delivered order to conditions rife with anarchy.

We've got to give Iraqis a better deal on security--by devastating the foreign jihadis and Ba'athist remnants. The trick, of course, is to do all that without creating legions more disaffected Iraqis who might take up arms because of heavy-handed tactics. That's where the adminstration needs to focus it's thinking.

Posted by Gregory at 09:41 AM | Comments (2)

Phoney Jobs Watch The UK

Phoney Jobs Watch

The UK has got Kelly-Gate and we've got Leak-Gate. What's cooking in Paris?

Corruption? Alain Juppe? Perhaps Jacques Chirac? Say it ain't so....

"Mr JuppŽ has insisted that all RPR officials paid for by the public purse exercised real town hall jobs that had dual political and administrative functions.

However, this line of defence met with scepticism yesterday as the court was told that Patrick Stefanini, who succeeded Mr Cabana as Mr JuppŽ's chief of staff, had received Û210,000 ($247,000) from the city - even though he allegedly never kept an office in the town hall, never appeared in the municipal directory and would appear to have left little or no written trace of his existence.

It has taken a long time for such grubby details to reach a courtroom. But now old practices are coming to haunt France's political establishment, precisely at the moment when everything is presented as being in good order. The outcome could yet affect high-profile political careers, from the president down."

Surely these are some of the values of which Dominique de Villepin speaks, so eloquently, in Le Monde?

Posted by Gregory at 09:30 AM | Comments (7)

Resolution 1441 Revisited Another strong

Resolution 1441 Revisited

Another strong piece by Charles Krauthammer.

Key grafs:

"Kay's list is chilling. It includes a secret network of labs and safe houses within the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi foreign intelligence service; bioorganisms kept in scientists' homes, including a vial of live botulinum toxin; and my favorite, "new research on BW [biological weapons]-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin" -- all "not declared to the U.N."

I have been to medical school, and I have never heard of Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever. I don't know one doctor in 100 who has. It is a rare disease, and you can be sure that Hussein was not seeking a cure.

He was not after the Nobel in physiology (Yasser Arafat having already won the peace prize). He was looking for a way to turn these agents into killers. The fact that he was not stockpiling is relevant only to the question of why some prewar intelligence was wrong about Iraq's WMD program. But it is not relevant to the question of whether a war to preempt his development of WMD was justified."

And this very key point, which I've discussed before, wholeheartedly agree with, and stress again:

"...Resolution 1441, unanimously passed by the Security Council, ordered Hussein to make a full accounting of his WMD program and to cooperate with inspectors, and warned that there would be no more tolerance for concealment or obstruction. Kay's finding of "dozens of WMD-related program activities" concealed from U.N. inspectors constitutes an irrefutable material breach of 1441 -- and an open-and-shut justification for the U.S. decision to disarm Saddam Hussein by force."

Posted by Gregory at 09:16 AM | Comments (6)

October 09, 2003

Putin's NYT Interview This Putin

Putin's NYT Interview

This Putin interview is a from a couple days back but there are some fascinating nuggets which weren't picked up in the blogosphere. As they say, read the whole thing (it's long though).

But here are some excerpts I found particularly intriguing.

Q.: Can it happen that America will get bogged down there for 10 years?

Mr. Putin: You are a dangerous person. You are taking from my stomach everything that I am trying to hide. I think that what the U.S. administration is trying to do now to internationalize the situation there is the right course, because such danger exists, of course. For the internationalization to take place, one has to take into account the interests of those who are going to be involved - first of all, the Iraqi people.

Yeah, I know. It's that lame (and predictable) New York Times quagmire question. But Putin's answer (employing an old Russian saying) is of interest. Maybe I'm naive, but I really don't think Putin has been infected by the Franco-German schandenfreude virus. So it's interesting to see him answer the "Q" Q thus. Sure, it's in his interest to tout internationalizing the effort and so on. But he's got a point--it helps our exit too, doesn't it?

But be careful how you internationalize! Putin touches on this a bit later.

"Mr. Putin:...But if you allow me, I would share few of my thoughts. Perhaps I will express aloud one thought of mine. It is not the answer to your question, it is just a conversation over tea. But this is something that deserves some thinking about. Of course, the more different types of contingents that are there, the broader the political base of support for the coalition forces will be. And this is very important, but there is nothing good in it from a military-technical point of view.

Even now these multinational, or I would call them, motley forces do not add anything good to the stabilization of the situation there. In order to act efficiently there, professionals are needed. There must be people who understand where they are, people who know the traditions of the local population and are capable of respecting these traditions, who are capable of finding and improving contacts, are capable of demonstrating their force and are capable of displaying big-heartedness. Today, according to information we have, these are poorly trained military formations, which think about fleeing as soon as possible, about being replaced as often as possible every three or four months. Then new untrained people come and commit the same mistakes for the third of fourth time.

Q.: What contingents ... The Polish? The Mongolian?

Mr. Putin: Different countries of the coalition. I will not name them. You know them better than I do. Some abuse alcohol. Some write slogans offending and insulting local people and cause multithousand rallies and demonstrations against the coalition forces. The third begin to sell weapons. In general, multinational forces are good politically, but there is nothing good in it from the military point of view. This is why I think that the Americans could very well be put at the head of the forces of the international coalition because unity of command is needed. But as of now, there is a political drawback here that the local people are not very enthusiastic about presence of the U.S. military. I think that in order to improve it, we need patience and coordination of all the forces."

Putin is on to something here too, I think. Just because Rummy can proclaim from the Pentagon podium that we've got 30 plus nations serving doesn't make it smart to have random Salvodorean and/or Mongolian contingents running about the Iraqi hinterlands. Who knows if any of them are slamming back the booze, insulting the locals, or selling arms? But I still think myriad contingents from a bunch of countries isn't the way to go...

Later, on Chechnya:

Q.: Did President Bush raise the question of Chechnya during the meeting at Camp David?

Mr. Putin: I informed him of the current status of affairs there.

Q.: But did he raise the question?

Mr. Putin: Well, I do not remember at this time whether he raised it, but we did discuss it.

I think Dubya did raise it. Good for him.

AND FINALLY:

Q.: Which terrorist organizations?

Mr. Putin: From all Muslim world. Different fundamentalist organizations send their militants there. These organizations struggle against legitimate regimes in their own countries and in general oppose the entire civilized world in many regions of the planet: in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the Middle East, in our country, in other parts of the world. The coalition forces received two enemies at once both the remains of the Saddam regime who fight with them and those who Saddam himself had fought in the past - the fundamentalists. It is a difficult task to fight them efficiently. As for the weapons of mass destruction, in this respect we did not have any contradictions with the U.S. administration. We also thought that there might be weapons of mass destruction on the territory of Iraq. The question is what has happened to them? In this sense, it would be better if the armed forces and the special services knew in advance what was located where and would have seized these places during the first hours of the military operation. But if it did not happen, I would not like to blame or criticize anybody. I think we have to act differently. We have to unite efforts to do everything to neutralize these possible threats."
(my emphasis)

Yeah, it was just Dubya and Poodle Tony who thought Saddam had WMD, right?

Posted by Gregory at 09:53 PM | Comments (3)

Naive Romanticism Watch Dominique de

Naive Romanticism Watch

Dominique de Villepin has penned another quasi-tome in Le Monde. This time it's not about U.N. resolutions--but French decline. Soundbite: France ain't in decline. We're king (or at least the conscience) of the world!

"Et c'est au moment o notre pays retrouve sa voix originale dans le concert des nations, c'est au moment o un grand nombre de peuples se reconnaissent dans les valeurs que la France dŽfend...."

Translation: "And it's at the moment where our country rediscovers it original voice in the community of nations, it's at the moment that a large number of peoples recognize themselves in the values that France defends..."

What values are those? The obstruction of the legitimate enforcement of unanimously passed U.N. resolutions?

More:

"Point de dŽclin, mais un destin. Au regard destructeur et dŽsenchantŽ, j'oppose celui que je croise jour aprs jour, renvoyant l'image d'une France influente, entendue et attendue, respectŽe pour ses idŽes. Je veux continuer ˆ dŽfendre cette France audacieuse et solidaire, servie par un Etat moderne. La force du compromis national rŽside dans l'Žquilibre qu'il a su trouver entre sacralitŽ des libertŽs individuelles et solidaritŽ publique, initiative et protection, humanisme et universalisme."

Translation: "No to decline, but to destiny. To the destructive and disenchanted look....let's send back a message of an influential France, heard and waited for, respected for its ideas. I want to continue to defend a France of audacity and solidarity, served by a modern State. The force of the national compromise resides in the equilibrium that was found between the sacredness of individual liberties and public solidarity, initiative and protection, humanism and universalism."

Take that you brutish Hobbesian Anglo-Saxons!

Posted by Gregory at 09:27 PM | Comments (10)

Talking Turkey Glenn Reynolds thinks

Talking Turkey

Glenn Reynolds thinks the Turks want to go into Iraq because they are betting the Americans will come out the victors there, ie. hey it's good news!

Nah. Here's the real reason the Turks are going in.

All of this has nothing to do with stealthfully mounting operations against the PKK, protecting the Turkomen minority in the north, keeping a presence in places like Kirkuk and/or Mosul, and otherwise pursuing Turkish national interests in Iraq (including where said interests conflict with U.S. interests).

And who gives a damn if the Iraqi governing council is unanimously opposed. The Turks think we're gonna win! So send 'em in...

Note: If you missed it please check out my previous post on the top five reasons why sending Turkish troops to Iraq is a really bad idea.

Posted by Gregory at 09:19 PM | Comments (7)

Condi Watch OK, so Condoleezza

Condi Watch

OK, so Condoleezza Rice is going to head up the so-called Iraqi Stabilization Group. And Rummy isn't too happy about it-- despite these reports.

But this is what the National Security Advisor should have been doing all along. Condi should be acting as a Brent Scrowcroft type. By that I mean she shouldn't merely be synthesizing different policy recommendations as between State and Defense. She needs to act like a broker, to proactively mediate, to suggest policy perhaps different than Powell or Rummy (or Cheney) would put forward.

Put differently, the NSC advisor shouldn't merely be a conduit for policy proposals that happen to be dispensed by an individual the President is comfortable hanging with at Camp David or hitting the treadmills with.

Dan Drezner writes:

"Many have given the president a pass on these issues and blamed NSC advisor Condoleezza Rice for the kinks in the policy process. That would be grossly unfair. The only real leverage an NSC advisor has is the ear of the president, and that only matters when the president takes an interest in the process."

I don't think that's quite right. An NSC advisor has more leverage than the ear of a President. For one, they have their own sizable staff. They can bring some muscle into the policy-planning process. Think of Zbigniew Brzezinski, for instance.

Further, as alluded to above, NSC advisors are supposed to broker disputes as between and among outside agencies. That's a lot of power right there. You're, in essence, in a position to "make" the policy by ingeniously bridging the inevitable gaps that appear between State and the Pentagon (and sometimes the CIA).

Regardless, to say the "only" leverage a NSC Advisor has is the "ear of the president" is somewhat disingenuous. There's nothing more important than that in all of Washington! A huge part of the battle is having the ear of the President. It's often the determinative advantage in any Beltway policy battle.

It's pretty much common knowledge in Washington that Rummy and Wolfy appeal to Dubya's "heart" and Powell occasionally to his "head". In other words, Bush remains firmly ensconced emotionally in a 9/11 frame of mind. Homeland security is paramount. He views entire regions through that prism.

So Putin gets a pass on Chechyna. And Arik Sharon can go and bomb Syria for the first time in thirty years and Bush will talk about how Sharon shouldn't feel any "constraints" (with some modifying verbiage appended). After all, Arik's got to defend the homeland. And so does Putin.

But Bush is smart enough to adjust his policy for the U.S. national interest. He'd be tougher on Musharraf, for instance, given Pakistani-supported terror-like activities in India, were it not for the massive U.S. interest in Musharraf cooperating with the U.S. post 9/11 (though that's in some abeyance now).

My point? Too often, Powell hasn't had the President's ear. And Rummy/Cheney/Wolfy have more or less had a free rein because they appeal to Bush's heart and are all very capable individuals in their own right who couch their policy proposals in an intelligent manner.

But we are now nearing a stage in the Middle East where, I believe, serious policy errors are being made. We need to be less AWOL in terms of the brewing situation among Israel/Lebanon/Syria. We need to really think hard about the impact Turkish troops might have in Iraq. We need to (honestly, seriously) ponder whether we really have enough troops in Iraq.

To help these policy deliberations really get going, it would help to have a major broker role played by the NSC advisor.

Can she pull this off? I'm a bit skeptical. She's not a Middle East expert--so I'm not sure she will bring major insights in that realm. And her regional expert on the Middle East, Elliot Abrams, is pretty much going to tout a Wolfowitz type line on what we need to do in the region.

Further, Rummy, Cheney and Powell are skilled bureaucratic blackbelts and all have more Washington experience than her. So what am I saying? I guess I'm just not sure this new bureaucratic structure is going to make any difference.

And that's a bit concerning. We're six months into the nation-building effort in Iraq. Time is racing by. And we're simply not where we should be at this stage.

Too much doom and gloom over here in Belgravia? Maybe. But I think people like Tom Friedman are right. We need to get more sophisticated in our policymaking approach in the Middle East. And I don't think enough people really get that in Washington right now.

All this said, take a look at this bleak alternative. Gosh, Dean is certainly not ready for primetime:

"Regarding Iraq, Dr. Dean, who opposed the American invasion this spring, promised to bring National Guard and Army reserve troops home, leaving 70,000 American troops, and to add about 110,000 international troops, mostly from Muslim and Arab nations. "

Um, yeah, whatever.

Posted by Gregory at 11:32 AM | Comments (10)

Troop Contribution Watch So even

Troop Contribution Watch

So even Ahmed Chalabi is against this dumb move (the Governing Council is unanimously opposed).

Why isn't this getting more attention in the press and/or blogosphere?

Beats me.

Posted by Gregory at 10:49 AM | Comments (5)

October 08, 2003

Poor Journalism Watch Big bloggers

Poor Journalism Watch

Big bloggers like Sullivan and Reynolds are approvingly linking to this Ralph Peters story--seemingly endorsing it in toto.

The theme? What Glenn Reynolds has been hitting on for weeks--ie, that the media is downplaying any success in Iraq and solely focusing on the negatives. Sure, but not as much as Reynolds makes out.

Listen, you're a reporter. You're in Iraq. In one area the power has come back on, a new school has opened, a symphony orchestra is back on tap.

And in another, say, three GIs have been killed. Or the United Nations headquarters has been blown up. Or a major cleric has been killed in a bombing. What story are you going to cover?

The answer is: mostly the latter category. Sure, one should be duty bound to give a full picture and cover the former category as well. Yes, there's a valid complaint being made by Reynolds. Indeed, it's one I often make myself--regular readers of this blog no I spend a lot of energy catching media bias against the Bush Adminstration.

But let's not get carried away with Panglossian visions of how it all goes in Iraq--if it weren't for those damn journalists.

But put all that aside. This Peters line sure is rich, isn't it?

"Of course, things still could go badly. Even if we do everything right, we may find, in the end, that the Iraqis aren't ready for prime-time. Iraq ultimately may fail because the Iraqis fail themselves."

Where to start with this absurd quote?

For one, let's show a little humility. No one is infallible. Even the most ardent (and serious) supporters of our postwar performance wouldn't argue we are doing "everything right" in post war Iraq today. That's risible.

And what is "prime-time" in this context? Stepping up dutifully to the responsibilities bestowed by the American liberator--all ethnic and religious complexities to be tossed aside before the kleig-lights--the better so that the American public can more easily enjoy the show around the living room with Fox News being beamed in?

Who has responsibility for security given that the coalition disbanded the Iraqi army? Or getting the oil back on tap? Or the power?

Does Peters even think of these questions?

UPDATE: QandO has more on this.

Posted by Gregory at 03:55 PM | Comments (4)

Bureaucratic Trench Warfare (Part Two)

Bureaucratic Trench Warfare (Part Two)

Rummy speaks to the FT.

The interview transcript.

Key snippet:

"Q: Not to belabor the point, but it sounds from your response there that you had not been briefed about this prior to Dr Rice's briefing of the Times and the memo.

DR: That's true.

Q: OK. Did you talk to the president about this beforehand?

DR: Have I talked to him about it? No.

Q: OK. OK. Did it come as a surprise to you then?

DR: No, that's what the NSC's charter is. It's a kind of - the only thing unusual about it is the attention. I kind of wish they'd just release the memorandum.

Q: You said already, working for one year in the way you said, told us, why then is it necessary to make the memorandum?

DR: I don't know. You'd have to ask them. I don't know.

Q: Do you have any [inaudible] why?

DR: I've already responded to that.

Q: It's not quite clear why.

DR: Pardon me?

Q: It's not quite clear for me why.

DR: I said I don't know. Isn't that clear? You don't understand English? I was not there for the backgrounding.

Q: One might think you'd talk about it with Condoleezza and with others in the National Security Council when you're sitting together, five or six of you.

DR: Yeah, we talk about everything.

Q: And she doesn't say: Now I'm writing a memo, by the way, I'll tell you.

DR: I happen not to know that she was going to write a memo, but that's true every day that somebody on the NSC writes a memorandum, or someone in one of the principle departments. I mean I write memorandums all the time that people don't know I'm writing until people receive it. I think you're looking for something that's not there."

Sounds likes Rummy was just taken down a peg or two.

Posted by Gregory at 10:00 AM | Comments (5)

October 07, 2003

Is the Bush-Musharraf Honeymoon Coming

Is the Bush-Musharraf Honeymoon Coming to an End?

Some tough talk from the next U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan:

"Mr. Khalilzad indicated a new, tough line against Pakistan, saying that the first priority was for Afghanistan's neighbor to stop cross-border activity and stop providing sanctuary to Taliban and Al Qaeda members.

"That is really critical," he said. "Pakistan cannot become a sanctuary for Taliban and Al Qaeda people who want to attack Afghanistan."

He added: "There has to be a decrease, and at best an end, to cross-border attacks by Taliban and Al Qaeda people from Pakistan. I welcome the recent actions by the Pakistani government but we would like to see more, in fact a lot more."

Posted by Gregory at 10:30 PM | Comments (4)

A Potentially Very Negative Development

A Potentially Very Negative Development in Iraq

Today brings news that the Turkish parliament has approved a troop deployment to Iraq. This is being greeted as good news in some quarters. Here are five reasons why it is anything but.

1) The Iraqi governing council opposes the move. Do we really want the first major non-U.S., non-U.K., non-Polish troop contingent to come from a country whose troops the (U.S. appointed) Iraqi governing council doesn't want inside Iraq? What message does that send to all those who think solely the Americans are calling the shots in Baghdad?

Oh, and don't let this month old report comfort you. An Ahmed Chalabi spokesperson doesn't speak for the entire governing council. By a long shot.

Note that it's not just the Kurdish members of the Iraqi governing council complaining:

"We believe any interference from a neighboring country, either north, south, west or east, is unacceptable," said Mouwafak Al-Rabii, a Shiite council member and longtime human rights activist. "This interference is unacceptable. This interference will jeopardize Iraq and that country."

2) Which leads me to the second reason. If Turkey is allowed into Iraq in such significant fashion--the Iranians are more likely to begin to make mischief in predominately Shi'a areas of Iraq. They simply won't allow Turkey to consolidate (through supply chains and communications networks) a stronger foothold in northern Iraq while not making their own inroads in Shi'a areas.

And it it won't be hard. For one, there's major human traffic between the two countries. It's not hard to imagine a large amount of Iranian agents seeping over the border.

A (not too tangential) digression: In 1995 I was in Sarajevo and got a good look at the Iranian Embassy. A large and spanking new structure. Myriad accredited "diplomats" were based there. They weren't all chugging along to Foreign Ministry meetings and audiences with Alija Izetbegovic. Instead, the Mullahs had sent them there to use Bosnia as a European beachhead from which to export the Islamic revolution. They weren't successful--but they did manage to infiltrate the U.S. led "train and equip" program of the Bosnian Federation military (a project I worked on and that ultimately lessened Iranian influence in the region).

My point? The Iranians are good at this type of thing. They might even try to scuttle Dubya's electoral bid like they did to Carter. Don't underestimate them--and don't facilitate their tendency to trouble-make by letting the Turks in.

3) The Turks are most likely going to be based somewhere in the Sunni sector. Why? To have them actually based in the Kurdish area would be folly. And to have them located in the Shi'a area would piss off the Iranians even more. So it is pretty much a no-brainer that they will go to the Sunni areas.

Another reason they will likely be headed to Sunni regions? Some planners actually believe that--as most Turks are Sunni Muslims--assorted Saddam Fedayeen, Ba'athist remnants and foreign jihadis will be less likely to kill them than, say, Americans or, you know, Serb troops and the like.

Well folks, if you believe that one, come on over so I can tell you about how amazingly charismatic Gray Davis is or what a dashing figure Cruz Bustamante cuts on television.

Incidentally, some Turks realize they might lose some of their soldiers too. It's a real concern.

4) Oh, some "analysts" believe the presence of Muslim forces in Iraq will mollify Muslim public opinion about the nefarious Crusader occupation of Iraq.

Rubbish. From Jakarta to Marrakech, few will give a damn. This won't change perceptions a wit.

Further, regarding Arab Muslims, the tendency will be to view the presence of Turks in Iraq as a negative. To fears of a Wolfowitzian American empire asserting itself through the region--old and nasty memories of Ottoman dominion will swell to the fore to boot. Swell.

5) The prospects of a conflagration between Kurdish peshmerga and Turkish troops "passing through" their territory is very real. The northern front has been pretty quiet so far. This might help ruin that.

Folks, I said this is potentially a bad development in the title to this post. I used the italicized word because, despite parliamentary approval, there is still a good amount of time that is going to pass as details are fully hammered out and the troops deployed. Here's hoping someone gets around this debate in Washington and brings an end to this dumb policy before the troops are actually deployed.

UDPATE: Sully doesn't get it. Nor does Safire--who writes:

"To reassure the democratic Kurds who fought Saddam, we are setting up ways to transport and supply Turkish troops without establishing that army's presence in cities like Mosul and Kirkuk. A sea route may be the solution." [my emphasis]

What "sea route" might that be? Through the sea of Atlantis?

Believe me, enough Turkish troops will cross the long, contiguous border with Iraq to increase friction in Kurdish areas--even if other contingents are shipped over to the Gulf to come in via Kuwait or through chopper lifts from Jordan.

Note: True, the Turks are very worried about keeping Iraq as a unitary state in its current borders like the U.S. (indeed, they are probably the only state that cares about this more than the U.S.)

Beyond that, however, our interests will diverge significantly and the Turkish presence will cause us good sized headaches.

If Don Rumsfeld claims we don't need more troops in--why are we making such a bad move just to get 10,000 more boots on the ground?

Posted by Gregory at 09:29 PM | Comments (15)

Israel-Syria Watch From the Haaretz

Israel-Syria Watch

From the Haaretz news ticker:

18:09 Sharon: Israel will not be deterred from defending its citizens, will hit its enemies any place and in any way.
18:04 Israel releases map pinpointing homes and offices of Palestinian militant leaders in Damascus.

Sharon is certainly keeping the pressure up. But I doubt Asad would deport and/or arrest all those militant leaders. Would Sharon strike targets in Damascus? He just might--particularly if he calculates Washington would accept it.

Despite speculation otherwise, however, I don't think that the Israelis have received a blanket authorization from Washington to engage in purportedly preemptive actions throughout the neighborhood.

Sharon has to be careful to balance the totality of Dubya's statements:

"I made it very clear to the prime minister, like I have consistently done, that Israel's got a right to defend herself, that Israel must not feel constrained in terms of defending the homeland," Bush said in Washington.

"However, I said that it's very important that any action Israel take(s) should avoid escalation and creating higher tensions," he said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States had urged Israel and Syria to avoid "actions that heighten tensions or that could lead to hostilities."

"But we have repeatedly told Syria that they need to stop harboring terrorists," he said.

I think attacking targets in Damascus is just the type of action that would create "higher tensions." Developing.

UPDATE: Some informed Israeli opinion thinks that moving more robustly against Syria could be a bad idea:

"But others, among them former chief of military intelligence Uri Segui, suggested that the Syria raid would do little to persuade Damascus to curb terror chieftains, whether in the Syrian capital, south Lebanon, or in central Gaza.

"One possibility is that the war on terror, justified as it may be - and on principle, it is justified - will spread to other battlefronts as well, and I am not certain that the results will be any better," said Segui, once Israel's chief negotiator with Damascus.

Suggesting that the Syrians were most likely to attack Israel through Hezbollah, which has often acted as Syria's client militia, Seguisaid the current situation was a "a sort of game, a balance of horror."

Many felt that Israel might be saved from war with Syria not through the wisdom of its own policies but only because of the crippling military, economic and diplomatic weakness of Syria, stripped by the end of the Cold War of its chief ally, the Soviet Union, and by the Iraq conflict of its sole ally in Ba'ath politics, Saddam Hussein."

Posted by Gregory at 05:02 PM | Comments (4)

Arabic Speakers at State Josh

Arabic Speakers at State

Josh Chafetz, I think, points to perhaps the only time ( ed. note: or should I say only country?) where purposefully keeping a fluent Arabic speaker from serving in one of our Embassies in the Arab world was "intentional policy" (though I couldn't access his Weekly Standard link and maybe he has other examples).

But why would we let the Saudis get rid of a Hume Horan anyway? Surely this represents a poor precedent of kowtowing to a host government on the selection of our envoy. If an Ambassador is ludicrously under-qualified we should be receptive to a host country's concerns. But not when they are perfectly qualified for the position in question. Hume Horan was a real regional expert--and likely spoke the best Arabic out of the entire Foggy Bottom clan. The USG should have held firm and kept him in Saudi.

Of course, he's just the type of person the Saudis wouldn't want hunting about the Kingdom with too much language and cultural facility. Not only because he might stir up and embolden some dissenters--but also because of the embarassing information he might have unearthed.

But Horan wasn't some Robespierrian figure trying to stir up revolutionary fervor in the Kingdom. He was a talented career diplomat who was simply advocating U.S. interests in Riyadh. And just the kind of guy we should have poking around doing so.

I'm with David Adesnik on this one. Let's flood the zone with Arabic speakers. Boy do we need them right now.

Posted by Gregory at 01:57 PM | Comments (5)

Bureaucratic Trench Warfare Bill Kristol

Bureaucratic Trench Warfare

Bill Kristol on Saturday.

"One reason for this is that the civil war in the Bush administration has become crippling. The CIA is in open revolt against the White House. The State Department and the Defense Department aren't working together at all. We are way beyond "fruitful tension" and all the other normal excuses for bureaucratic conflict. This is a situation that only the president can fix. Perhaps a serious talk with Messrs. Tenet, Powell, and Rumsfeld can do the trick, followed by strengthening the National Security Council's role in resolving intra-administration disputes. Perhaps a head or two has to roll. But the present condition is debilitating, and, given the challenges facing us in postwar Iraq, in Iran, and in North Korea, it is irresponsible to let it fester." [my emphasis]

The White House yesterday:

"President Bush announced yesterday that the White House will take a stronger role in overseeing the struggling effort to rebuild Iraq through a new group intended to speed the flow of money and staff to Baghdad and streamline decision-making in Washington."

The Admin might consider such a 'consolidation of policy process' for Iran, Israel/Occupied Territories/Syria/Lebanon, and NoKo as well.

Posted by Gregory at 10:40 AM | Comments (8)

Escalation Watch More worrisome developments

Escalation Watch

More worrisome developments from the Middle East. And was Sharon's Syria strike simply a substitute he pursued because he didn't feel he could yet deport Arafat?

Meanwhile, Ze'ev Schiff has some new information about the strike that is likely pretty reliable:

"The Syrians announced that one person had been injured in the attack, but sources say there has been loss of life as well. A number of hours passed between the attack and Syria's announcement, an indication of its surprise and confusion over the strike. The casualties were probably not high-ranking officials of the organizations, who live in Damascus."

Posted by Gregory at 10:05 AM | Comments (6)

What Kay Found "The interim

What Kay Found

"The interim findings of David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group make two things abundantly clear: Saddam Hussein's Iraq was in material breach of its United Nations obligations before the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 last November, and Iraq went further into breach after the resolution was passed."

Secretary of State Colin Powell, October 7th 2003, writing in the Washington Post.

Posted by Gregory at 10:01 AM | Comments (11)

October 06, 2003

The Northern Sector This hasn't

The Northern Sector

This hasn't been reported much. If handled in an overly heavy-handed manner--it could create difficulties for the coalition in the Kurdish sector.

And if this is partly meant to facilitate a Turkish parliamentary decision to send troops into Iraq--I continue to believe that's a poor idea. We shouldn't allow any neighboring countries to supply troops. For one, look for Iran to enhance its Iraq related activities if Turkey sends in a force. And look for increasing Kurdish discontent if Turkish forces have extensive communications and supply lines cutting through predominately Kurdish areas.

Posted by Gregory at 11:32 AM | Comments (3)

Give New York Its Due

Give New York Its Due

This report is worrisome. While on the topic of NYC, take a look at this interesting report.

Posted by Gregory at 11:20 AM | Comments (3)

The Iraqi Constitution Somebody should

The Iraqi Constitution

Somebody should show this report to Dominique de Villepin. Message: you just can't do this stuff overnight.

Posted by Gregory at 10:43 AM | Comments (12)

One Middle East Policy The

One Middle East Policy

The U.S. needs to make its policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more coherent and cohesive. Such stories depress me as they indicate the lack of a systemic, disciplined approach to Middle East policymaking.

The President must direct, from the top down, the specific policy direction on issues of significant import like the Israeli security fence. This type of story, if true, is unnacceptable:

"According to the sources, Israel reached an agreement on the fence with the White House, not the State Department, during a recent visit to Washington by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, and the director-general of the Defense Ministry, Amos Yaron.

"The route that is to be built in the coming six months is not disputed by the Americans, and was spoken of in talks held between Weisglass, Yaron and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice," the sources said.

"Once these six months are over, there will be further talks between Israel and the Americans on the continued construction.

"On the one hand, therefore, Powell's stand is not surprising as he has always objected to the fence. On the other hand, he is probably unaware of the details of the agreement reached between Israel and the White House." [my emphasis]

This almost sounds like Henry Kissinger running roughshod over William Rogers.

Here's another depressing view of the state of U.S. peace processing efforts.

Posted by Gregory at 10:17 AM | Comments (4)

The Israeli Strike on Syria

The Israeli Strike on Syria

It's perhaps a bit early to get too worked up about this strike. For one, the target in question appears to have been pretty much deserted.

Put differently, the IDF didn't intend to inflict human casualties on Syrian soil with this strike. It was meant as a carefully calibrated action meant as a signal to Syria to reduce cooperation with the likes of Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Still, what appears carefully calibrated to one side can appear a reckless provocation to another. This was the first attack this deep in Syria for three decades.

Bashar Asad knows that he has no satisfactory military option. The Israelis have overwheming military superiority. Still, he might allow Hezbollah to pursue rocket attacks and the like from southern Lebanon (a front that has been relatively quiet recently despite the continuing violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories). It's not hard to see how, pursuant to robust Israeli responses to such attacks, a more significant escalation could occur in the coming weeks.

I'm also worried about whether Tel Aviv is signaling a change of strategy going forward. Over the weekend, both Dore Gold and another Israeli spokesman made mention of an "axis of terror" involving Syria, Iran and Gaza.

The undertone of the message is pretty obvious. If the U.S. has its "axis of evil"--and feels it can pursue its national security interests vigorously vis-a-vis the axis countries--so can Israel with its "axis of terror."

But as Arik Sharon contemplates further moves he should recall that, to date, the U.S. hasn't pursued military action in two of the charter "axis of evil" countries--Iran and NoKo--preferring to employ diplomatic pressure. And the Administration, while not explicity condemning the Israeli action--has pretty much made it clear that further attacks on Syria would be counterproductive.

Indeed, the Administration has sought to distance itself from the attack a bit by stating that it had no foreknowledge of the planned Israeli strike. Still, the Administration's reaction has been perceived as something of a blinking green light extended to the Israelis--especially in the Arab world--where conspiracy theories run rife and few think Sharon would have attacked Syria without prior approval from Washington.

We have no way of knowing what Bush has communicated privately to Sharon. But I would suspect that he has indicated that further military action by Israel in Syria would negatively impact U.S. interests in the region. For one, it would make it more difficult to ask Bashar Asad to seal his border with Iraq if he needs to be concerned about a possible conflagration on the Israeli border. For another, there will be a perception that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has emboldened the Israelis to violate Syrian sovereignty for the first time in decades. This would further antagonize Arab public opinion.

For such reasons, it would be a mistake if the Israelis feel they have a green light from the U.S. to pursue more significant strikes on Syria. If that were to occur, Asad would be compelled to respond in a manner more forceful than callling a UNSC special session and perhaps turning on the spigot of Hezbollah activity in southern Lebanon.

The risk of a regional war would thereby be significantly enhanced. If history is any guide, there's been one about every decade (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982). All parties should do their best to help prevent another one. Avoiding further attacks on Syrian territory would be a good start from the Israeli side. And Syria making more stolid moves on closure of Jihad Islami and Hamas offices in Syria would be another.

Posted by Gregory at 09:52 AM | Comments (4)

October 05, 2003

Beeb Watch An excellent FT

Beeb Watch

An excellent FT magazine cover story on the Beeb:

A key graf:

"Relations between the British government and the BBC have often been fractious. The broadcaster has been infuriating governments almost since its founding in 1922, from the 1926 General Strike, to the second world war, Suez, the Falklands and Northern Ireland. And a national broadcaster's ability to criticise its government is an important test of a democracy's strength. Even so, it is hard to think of another time in recent history when these two British institutions have displayed such outright contempt for each other. And after talking with politicians of different parties, aides, BBC executives and industry insiders during the past month, it has become clear to me that something far more corrosive lies behind this latest conflict: the political class now believes that the BBC, the world's biggest and most respected public broadcaster, has been infected with the cynical, tabloid newspaper values that dominate much of the British media. As the aide who was talking about political reporters put it: "We don't see the BBC as a medium any more. It's a barrier."

Posted by Gregory at 07:27 PM | Comments (9)

Pfaff on Terror Take a

Pfaff on Terror

Take a look at William Pfaff's IHT op-ed contending that terrorist violence often results from excesses of devotion.

I'm not sure I agree with his concluding graf. But it's worth thinking about:

"What the leaders of the Bush administration are intellectually unprepared to acknowledge is that they are at war with the dominant phenomenon of man's history, as identified by Koestler: the pitiless violence that comes from an excess of devotion."

Posted by Gregory at 07:24 PM | Comments (8)

Profile of a Suicide Bomber

Profile of a Suicide Bomber

The Haifa suicide bomber: not only a woman-- but an attorney as well.

Clarification: She was to qualify as a fully-fledged laywer next week after consummation of her trainee peroid.

Meanwhile, check out this story on young secular Israelis leaving Israel and heading to Williamsburg.

Posted by Gregory at 04:52 PM | Comments (5)

Keller Watch "DOES anyone remember

Keller Watch

"DOES anyone remember Sept. 11? No, not that one, the Sept. 11 of less than a month ago. If you channel-surfed on that day, you caught some of the children reading their lost parents' names at ground zero. Then, in all likelihood, you moved on, just as the networks did.

Or you made my mistake and, in an effort to retrieve some meaning from our new memorial day, visited a couple of the theaters that observed the second anniversary of the terrorists' attacks by staging plays about 9/11. The American theater has a history of rising to the occasion of national crises, from Clifford Odets's Depression-era "Waiting for Lefty" to Larry Kramer's enraged call to arms in the AIDS crisis, "The Normal Heart." But the two 9/11 shows I caught, "Omnium Gatherum" and "Recent Tragic Events," are, as Dick Gephardt is fond of saying about George W. Bush, miserable failures. They are tiny but pungent examples of the cultural bankruptcy of a moment when the most cunning dramatist in the country is its wartime president." [my emphasis]

Frank Rich, writing in the New York Times today.

Posted by Gregory at 04:22 PM | Comments (2)

October 04, 2003

Le Monde's Incredibly Shrinking President

Le Monde's Incredibly Shrinking President

"Don't talk about poll numbers" whispers Colin to Condi.

What a wearily predictable paper Le Monde is, no?

Oh, and see here what happens when you dare to cross those mighty editorialists of Le Monde--so woefully infected by Schandenfreude over the Seine group think.

"Mr Schneidermann says that instead of countering the accusations openly, Le Monde "reacted like a Sicilian clan insulted by the provocation of a rival clan."

Posted by Gregory at 11:37 AM | Comments (8)

Germany Rising So France is

Germany Rising

So France is in decline. Tony Blair is sorta busy shoring up his domestic support.

And the estimable German Chancellor? Holding court with Dubya, reasserting an Atlanticist foreign policy, significantly involved in Afghanistan, and looking to replace Blair as umpire between the U.S. and Europe on Iraq.

Who would have thought? Sure his electoral position is weak, but he's not done too poorly for himself all told.

So don't be surprised that middle power Germany is eager to start suggesting that it's ready to start punching a little bit more above its weight:

"Chancellor Gerhard Schršder said Friday that Germany had been right to oppose the American-led war in Iraq, driving home his defiant message by repeatedly using the German word for power, which leaders here have long eschewed because of its associations with the Nazi era.

In a speech marking the 13th anniversary of German reunification, Mr. Schršder described the country as a "civil power" and an "economic power," responsible for fueling the growth of the European Union.

The word macht, or power, has been laden with meaning since Hitler used it to describe a Germany bent on dominating its neighbors. But Mr. Schršder talked about Germany's "civil power," which he said manifested itself in a peaceful foreign policy that could be spread throughout the world.

"German peace polices are policies for Europe and beyond," he said in a nationally televised speech in Magdeburg."

I don't know about you, but I get a bit spooked when German leaders start talking about spreading their policies "for Europe and beyond"--whether "peace" policies or other. And, believe me, veteran diplomats in places like Paris and London likely don't like the rhetorical muscle-flexing emitting from Berlin too much either.

Have you read John Mearsheimer's "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" lately?

If you haven't, here's a little teaser. The U.S. pace Mearsheimer, plays the "American pacifier " role in Europe. Were the U.S to pull out all its troops from Europe--"Europe would go from benign bipolarity to unbalanced multipolarity, the most dangerous kind of power structure. The U.K., France, Italy and Germany would have to build up their own military forces and provide for their own security. In effect, they would all become great powers [ed. note: ie, within Europe], making Europe multipolar. And...Germany would probably become a potential hegemon and thus the main source of trouble in the new Europe."

Don't buy the (very transient) Franco-German love-in born of jealousy (and some shock) that the U.S. decided to, from a European view, show that it is willing to seek "conquest" outside the Western Hemisphere (among other factors). Nascent talk of a Euro-defense corps remains more farsical than serieux (see the inclusion of Luxembourg and Belgium). Deep in the bowels of the Quai D'Orsay (far from de Villepin's fanciful notions and dreamy neo-Napoleonic musings) and Whitehall the professional diplos are still keeping Mearsheimeresque realities well in mind. And they're wise to.

Posted by Gregory at 09:02 AM | Comments (3)

The Wall John Burns, easily

The Wall

John Burns, easily the best correspondent currently at the NYT, sends in a dispatch from the environs of Israel's so called security wall. Here are some excerpts, but do go read the whole thing.

"To a visitor who last saw the West Bank a few days before the current uprising began in September 2000, the length of barrier already completed and the wider changes in the territory brought about by the intifada are a shock. Three years ago, an air of hope and growing normality prevailed. Mostly, Israelis and Jewish settlers moved safely through Palestinian areas, visiting casinos and shopping at roadside bazaars.

Now, the West Bank has the appearance of a wasteland. Life is mostly at a standstill, with big cities, as well as the towns and villages, cut off from one another by a maze of Israeli-built "bypass roads" Ñ open to settlers but closed to most Palestinians Ñ Israeli Army checkpoints and new concrete-slab walls and fencing and piles of bulldozed rubble blocking roads everywhere.

To a Westerner with a permit to travel the territory, it seems like an archipelago of brooding ghettos, of weary men, women and children crossing a patchwork quilt of checkpoints and barriers. East of Jerusalem, where only limited sections of the fence have been completed, it cuts across the hills near Bethlehem. North of Tel Aviv, at Palestinian cities like Qalqilya, which has been surrounded by the fence, farmers heading for their lands and children heading for school must reach gates operated by Israeli soldiers at the set opening hours, especially at dusk, or face camping out overnight.

The deep divide between Palestinians and Israelis is captured by the mood here and in Ariel. Ariel projects modernity and middle-class prosperity, with its blossom-lined avenues, attractive stone houses and apartment blocks, arts and sports centers, well-equipped hospitals and schools, and its own Japanese-financed mini-golf center. It is the citadel of settlements, a vision that the 230,000 Jewish settlers across the West Bank and Gaza, many still in trailers, see as their future.

Haris, barely two miles away, is deeply dispirited. Here, only two of the men, among a dozen who stopped to talk about the fence, had work of any kind. The men focused part of their recriminations on President Bush, dismissing as "theater" American pressure on the Israeli government over the fence. Mostly, they spoke of their fears."

Let's be clear. This wall isn't going to bring Israel long-term security. That's a chimera.

The only thing that will provide Israelis with real long term security is a general peace deal--with the U.S. (and others in the Quartet) acting as guarantor of the settlement.

At the risk of sounding like a Shimon Peres (his critics view him as too much a dreamer re: a new Middle East, too effete, too Euro and so on) let's be clear: walls separating populations are supposed to be a thing of the past. Who can forget the euphoria of the Berlin Wall coming down? Who has forgotten one of Radovan Karadzic's more noxious plans for Sarajevo (erecting walls dividing Serbian and Muslim sections)?

Is this where the Zionist project currently stands? If so, it's a tragedy.

And no, I'm not equating Bosnian Serb genocidal thugishness with Arik Sharon's government. Sharon is reacting to very real security concerns. The campaign of suicide bombings is a grotesque outrage. All effective efforts must be made to stamp out such terror activity. But trust me, the wall won't do it. Instead, it will create more willing to die to inflict brutally haphazard harm on Israeli targets. They will find ways to reach Israeli targets no matter how high and wide the wall.

Back to the Burns' piece

"When they take your land, kill your sons, deny you food for your family, demolish your houses, and deny you any freedom of movement, what do they expect you to do?" said 52-year-old Najeh Souf, who returned to Haris from more than 20 years working as a hospital clerk in Kuwait and invested his savings in olive groves near the bypass road. "All this I will write in my diary, all they have done, all we have suffered, so it will be read and remembered by my children, and my children's children. We will never give up. Write that down. We will never give up."

Mustafa Salami, 24 and never employed, belongs to the under-30 generation of Palestinians that Israeli security officials regard as most threatening. Most days now, he said, he stands by the road, selling artificial sunflowers to passing motorists.

Early on Wednesday, before the cabinet decision, he watched as Israeli troops with a bulldozer demolished his uncle's corrugated shed beside the road for continuing his plant business without an Israeli permit that had been regularly denied.

"I am very angry, very angry," he said. "I can't work, I can't marry, I can't build a house. "Life is not worth living. I want to die. Many of us do not care if we live or die." [my emphasis]

As long as such conditions exist--more innocent Israeli civilians will die in the Holy Land. That's the brutal reality--wall or no wall.

UPDATE: Powell weighs in.

ANOTHER UDPATE: Well, here's another horror today-- this time in Haifa.

Posted by Gregory at 08:31 AM | Comments (4)

October 03, 2003

Vidal Award Yes, I know,

Vidal Award

Yes, I know, I haven't handed one of these out in a long time. But this Arthur Schlesinger piece really got to me:

"Looking back over the forty years of the cold war, we can be everlastingly grateful that the loonies on both sides were powerless. In 2003, however, they run the Pentagon, and preventive warÑthe Bush DoctrineÑis now official policy. Sixty years ago the Japanese anticipated the Bush Doctrine in their attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor. This was, FDR observed, an exploit that would live in infamyÑexcept now, evidently, when employed by the United States."

We can quibble about whether the Iraq campaign constituted a preventive war as opposed to preemptive (contra Schlesinger, I'd argue the latter, albeit based on faulty intelligence and in a climate characterized by post 9/11 "better safe than sorry" reasoning).

But to simply call Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz "loonies" is not befitting an eminent historian.

And, most galling, note the gross relativism Schlesinger employs comparing Axis Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor with the Bush Administration's attack on Iraq.

Did Imperial Japan consult international bodies before sending suicide planes into our Navy ships? Was there a rough equivalent of Dubya's September 12th speech to the U.N. followed up by a unanimous UNSC resolution emitting from the Emperor's chambers in Tokyo? Most assuredely not--and not just because the League of Nations was no longer extant.

And then there is this gem:

"I think the press and television are also to be blamed for the absence of opposition. Comments by Cheney and Rumsfeld were given top billing in most American papers, even The New York Times, while thoughtful and reasoned speeches by Edward Kennedy and Robert Byrd opposing the rush to preventive war were consigned to a paragraph on the back pages or wholly ignored." [my emphasis]

Yeah, the NYT is supposed to provide neo-Kennedy court hagiography style slant on all matters Iraq, didn't you know? How dare they not give front page billing to the Iraq strategy musings of Ted Kennedy?

But there's more:

"There were no such apologies in Mr. Bush's inaugural address. He acted as if he had won in a landslide and had earned an electoral mandateÑand he got away with it.

"For all his buffoonish side, the President is secure in himself, disciplined, decisive and crafty, and capable of concentrating on a few priorities. He has maintained control of a rag-tag Republican coalition, well described by Kevin Phillips (author of The Emerging Republican Majority, 1969) as consisting of "Wall Street, Big Energy, multinational corporations, the Military-Industrial Complex, the Religious Right, the Market Extremist think-tanks, and the Rush Limbaugh Axis." All these groups agree in their strong support of their president, though they sharply disagree among themselves."

Oh yes, Simian George, the bufoonish cretin widely derided in Central Park West pads. The moron even thought he had an electoral mandate after winning the electoral college. Imagine that!

Oh, and what's the "Rush Limbaugh axis"? Pill-popping fellas who don't think African-American QBs can cut it?

This is all pretty inflammatory fare. I think Schlesinger can and should do better than this. This reads too much like a hoary screed hastily written up contra the Crawford redneck. Doubtless it will get a few guffaws of appreciation among the oh-so multilateralist folk pining for Dominique de Villepin in selected (and soi disant) sophisticate Manhattan parlors. But all that aside, it's simply not a judicious appraisal of the Bush Presidency worthy of a major American historian.

Posted by Gregory at 10:24 AM | Comments (3)

Some Perspective From Charles Krauthammer.

Some Perspective

From Charles Krauthammer. Meanwhile, check out David Ignatius writing in the WaPo too.

Money grafs:

"American soldiers have been attacked again here the day I visit this smoldering core of revolt in Iraq's Sunni Triangle. But what is worrying Sheik Khamis Hassnawi, the leader of one of the region's largest tribes, isn't the possibility that the U.S. occupiers might stay, but that they might leave.

"It would be a disaster," says Hassnawi of a quick American pullout. "If coalition forces withdraw now, the strong will eat the weak and people will start killing each other in the streets."

Fallujah is the last place I thought I would hear Iraqis plead for the United States to stay the course. But the tribal leader's comments are an illustration that things in postwar Iraq aren't always what they appear from a distance. What angers most Iraqis isn't the U.S. invasion -- which nearly everyone I met still describes as liberation from a hated regime -- but America's surprisingly poor performance in delivering services and security."

Posted by Gregory at 06:49 AM | Comments (2)

October 02, 2003

Home News September was a

Home News

September was a pretty good month for us over here at the Belgravia Dispatch. The site averaged about 500 unique visitors daily. Of course, this isn't significant traffic by many bigger blog standards--but this humble site feels pretty good about it (particularly given time constraints on blogging activity resulting from long work days, frequent travel and an alarming tendency to want to pop out for drinks in London town now and then [best Martini found to date, if you're curious, at Duke's Hotel in St. James])

We hope you will keep visiting and thank you for reading. And please write in with any comments/criticisms/suggestions at belgraviadispatch@hotmail.com.

Posted by Gregory at 10:40 PM | Comments (3)

Iraq Report Newsweek has a

Iraq Report

Newsweek has a pretty gloomy Iraq story up. There isn't much new ground covered in the report. I'm blogging about it because of this interesting snippet from Ehud Barak:

"Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak recently passed a message to Rumsfeld. It ran roughly: ÒThereÕs a 5 percent chance you get Saddam tomorrow, the energy goes out of the resistance and things get dramatically better. ThereÕs a 5 percent chance a car bomb takes out the entire Governing Council, and things go to hell. In between those, it will get better over time, or worse over time. Right now, I say itÕs twice as likely that it gets worse.Ó ItÕs not known how Rumsfeld responded."

Of course, none of us really know what the coming months will bring. But this struck me, coming as it does from someone who knows the region like the back of his hand, as an appraisal worth mulling over.

And I get back to thinking we need, in greater number, highly trained constabulatory forces out there. Yeah, I know that's not a panacea. But I think it will help. I'm not sure moving quickly to "Iraqify" various police will do the trick--until they have been trained by, say, the Germans and such.

Posted by Gregory at 01:39 PM | Comments (2)

No to an Independent Counsel

No to an Independent Counsel

Say two law school profs. Viet Dinh, my old Corporations prof in law school, is a Republican--but Neal Ketyal served under Clinton. They make some very cogent points:

"The problem was with the law itself. The independent counsel was a constitutional orphan, with no base in any branch of government. The person in the job had nothing to do but investigate a single entity for some kind of wrongdoing. Independent counsels were almost entirely insulated from budget constraints, investigation deadlines and Justice Department policy and practice. And because they were judged by the indictments and convictions they obtained, they had an incentive to investigate, accuse and pursue relentlessly. To paraphrase a saying made famous by Mark Twain: to a man with a hammer, a lot of things look like nails.

Such incentives are particularly problematic in a case involving leaks. Leak investigations often drag on endlessly and rarely culminate in indictments. They can demoralize government staff members, who often must take several polygraph tests. They also have a chilling effect on reporters and columnists, who face tremendous pressure from the government to reveal their sources.

In a case like this one, where national security concerns may be pitted against the First Amendment freedom of the press, it is important that the investigation proceed carefully and methodically and with accountability. So far, there is absolutely no reason to think that the Justice Department is incapable of handling it."

Indeed.

Posted by Gregory at 10:40 AM | Comments (3)

In Other News Meanwhile, if

In Other News

Meanwhile, if you can pull yourself away from hunting down photos of Valerie Plame or observing the carnivalesque going-ons of the gubernatorial race in the great state of California, we bring you the following developments:

NoKO. Israel. Iran.

You know, just to take stock of in between Ah-nuld, Kobe, and Val (ed. note: insert obligatory proviso that blowing the cover of an undercover agent is a really big, big deal).

It is, or course. And we love the mono-maniacal coverage we can expect from a Mickey Kaus on CA or a TPM on Plame-Gate.

But given the immense importance of counter-proliferation efforts (see, for instance, Dubya's recent speech to the U.N.)--we might just keep abreast of Iran and NoKo here and there too.

And, for the record, I think the decision to proceed with the wall makes, even more than before, a continued mockery of the current state of the road-map. Though, in all fairness, U.S. pressure has resulted in some Israeli concessions re: the fence.

Nevertheless, continued building out of the separation fence represents the kind of action that is seen by many (with some justification) as pre-judging final status negotiations.

As the so-called "honest broker," we're supposed to ensure that we don't allow that to take place. So why aren't we?

UPDATE: See Tom Friedman on this too:

"I know a vast majority of Israelis want a decent, normal society, but their ideologically driven leaders are lost in space, squandering their people's great strength rather than channeling it into creative options. And the Bush team, which should be acting as a reality check, has fallen so deep into the pocket of Ariel Sharon you can't even find it anymore."

Posted by Gregory at 09:48 AM | Comments (3)

Clark in the NYRB Is

Clark in the NYRB

Is it something in the Arkansas water? Check out this Clark piece in the NY Review.

Some fair points. But isn't the last graf kind of Clintonian in a wishy-washy, amorphous, fence-sitting kind of way?

I'm throwing in the towel. I still don't really know if Wes Clark wanted this Iraq war or not. Readers, help!

Posted by Gregory at 09:02 AM | Comments (3)

The Biggest Headache So Far

The Biggest Headache So Far

Is that, for some reason, the press is still stressing a possible Rove role in the whole Plame affair. We'd expect that from the Guardian--who continue to go full throttle on a possible Rove role.

But, more worrisomely (as we are dealing with a serious newspaper rather than the Guardian), take a look at this NYT piece. It concentrates on Ashcroft's potential conflicts of interest given his ties to Rove.

Sure, it's predictable fare coming from the gang over at W. 43rd St. But they're running copy that is still hanging out a good-sized shingle that Rove might still have been involved in all of this. They wouldn't do that lightly, I'd wager, at least post-Raines.

So why would this still be a story given White House press spokesman Scott McClellan's denial of Roves' involvement in this whole mess?

Well, for one thing, Bush's enemies (amidst the political and media classes) are smelling blood. And yeah, you've kinda got the "perfect storm" conditions brewing.

An election is approaching. All know that Bush, especially sans active Karen involvement, needs Rove big time.

And then, there's something about Scott McClellan's initial handling of what might be called the "it ain't Rove" angle that wasn't totally convincing:

Here's the key exchange:

"QUESTION: Ambassador Wilson has said that he has information that Karl Rove condoned this leaking, and I've seen your comment that that's absolutely false -- [my emphasis]

McCLELLAN: It is ridiculous. It's ridiculous.

QUESTION: What do you --

McCLELLAN: And keep in mind, I imagine that only a limited number of people would even have access to classified information of this nature.

QUESTION: So he doesn't have information?

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

McCLELLAN: Yes, go ahead. And, Helen, you may always follow up. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What, then, do you think the -- given that you say Rove condoning this is ridiculous, what do you think Ambassador Wilson's motivation is for leveling such a scurrilous charge?

McCLELLAN: I can't speculate about why he would say such a thing. I mean, I saw some comments this morning, where he said he had no knowledge to that effect. But I can't speculate why he would say that.

QUESTION: Did Rove say, "ridiculous"?

McCLELLAN: I did, for him.

QUESTION: Did you speak with him about it?

McCLELLAN: Yes, I've spoken to him.

QUESTION: But he told you, "ridiculous"?

McCLELLAN: No, I said -- I told some of your colleagues that it was ridiculous. And, remember, I said this back -- what, July and September this issue came up, and said essentially what I've said now.

QUESTION: Can you characterize your conversation with him about this?

McCLELLAN: I talk to him all the time, so --

QUESTION: About this?

McCLELLAN: No, about a lot of issues.

QUESTION: But can you characterize your conversation about this subject with him?

McCLELLAN: I don't think there's anything to characterize. I mean, I think that what I said speaks clearly, that the accusations just simply are not true."

Note that McClellan is calling Rove's condoning of the leak ridiculous--not the allegation that Rove himself was the leaker. A pretty strong denial.

And yet. I didn't like the part where McClellan is getting into a debate about whether he or Rove used the word "ridiculous."

I mean, so what did Rove have to say about it? Well, nothing, at least on the record, it appears.

Which smells a lot like a laywer told him to clam up. Sage advice, doubtless, but gets you curious, doesn't it?

Back to McClellan. The back and forth at the press conferences was a bit awkward. You might chalk this up to a relatively new press spokesman handling his first full-blown Beltway scandal.

At least I hope that's what explains it. And that there isn't some murkiness that's being papered over in terms of Rove blessing a lower-level staffer's decision to out Plame--that may have been corroborated by a stray E-mail or handwritten annotation somewhere. And so on. You get the drift...

Well, as they say, this one sure's developing.

Posted by Gregory at 08:36 AM | Comments (3)

And Why? Call it the

And Why?

Call it the Andrew Sullivan question.

The WaPo leaps on the bandwagon musing as to possible rationales as well:

"Here's today's question, chattering class: If the White House wanted to discredit and/or shut up Joseph "Yellowcake" Wilson, who was embarrassing the administration over Saddam Hussein's alleged quest for nuclear weapons, why would aides try to accomplish this by dragging his wife into it?"

Oh, and TPM merits a mention in the piece as well.

Posted by Gregory at 08:10 AM | Comments (4)

October 01, 2003

Bearish Buttonwood I don't normally

Bearish Buttonwood

I don't normally blog about matters related to international economic issues. For one, a bunch of people in the blogosphere are likely better positioned to pontificate on such matters. For another, I deal with a lot of international finance related issues as part of my day job.

Blogging is meant as a bit of a break from all that. A chance to scratch my foreign policy (defined as traditional "high politics") itch--not discourse on Doha rounds and the like.

So I haven't blogged about the balooning deficits in the U.S. Yeah I'm aware, that in a recessionary environment, some deficit spending isn't all bad. But the deficit is spiraling out of control in worrisome fashion--as most judicious observers realize.

But there is something else that's been bugging me lately. Perhaps predictably, it's the weakening dollar. But not just because it hurts my pocketbook, I swear!

Rather, and especially if there is a precipitous decline in the dollar, for these reasons.

Bob Rubin, where art thou?

UPDATE: See too Jim Hoagland who see a bit of wider disarray these days emanating from the Administration:

"As the U.S. campaign approaches, the Bush team already shows a disturbing tendency to merge political and other agendas with foreign-policy and economic decisions. The recent effort by Treasury Secretary John Snow to jawbone China and Japan into steps that would devalue the dollar against their currencies is an especially transparent example.

China predictably rebuffed Snow's calls to adopt flexible exchange rates. Beijing correctly assessed that Snow was really speaking to American manufacturers and workers disturbed by inexpensive Chinese imports and that China would pay no price for politely brushing off the demand."

Posted by Gregory at 09:29 PM | Comments (5)

Joe Wilson: Having A Grand

Joe Wilson: Having A Grand Old Time Amidst the Maelstrom?

Hardly a man deeply troubled that his wife's career has inexorably been scuttled because of thug-like leaking over at 1600 Pennsylvania, huh?

"As the world now knows, Wilson is married to Valerie Wilson, nee Plame. She is his third wife. She is 40, slim, blonde and the mother of their 3-year-old twins. In the photos in his office, she has the looks of a film star.

"She is really quite amazing," Wilson said. "We were just discussing today who would play her in the movie," he cracked."

O.K., so now expect a lot of of such searches [ed. note: Don't waste your time, no results].

But, more seriously, should Wilson really be cracking barbs about future film roles for his wife? Of course, he's free to play the showman and, to be sure, the charges remain dead serious. If she was a full-blown undercover agent, and the leaker(s) knew this and nevertheless had the intent to out her, send him/them to the docks I say.

But Wilson isn't doing himself too many favors appearing on myriad news shows and looking a tad too showboaty. Don't you think?

Posted by Gregory at 01:59 PM | Comments (5)

Guardian Watch Here's the Guardian

Guardian Watch

Here's the Guardian on L'Affaire Plame.

Some key grafs:

"President George Bush's closest political adviser, Karl Rove, was yesterday at the centre of a criminal investigation into allegations that he leaked the name of a CIA agent in an attempt to suppress criticism of the administration's Iraq policy, in what is fast becoming the administration's worst scandal since coming to office." [my emphasis]

And more:

"If Mr Rove was implicated, it would seriously damage the president's standing at the start of his re-election campaign and rob him of an electoral mastermind who orchestrated his rise to the Texas governorship and then the presidency.

One veteran of the Clinton administration compared it to the Hutton inquiry. "In the Kelly case there's a body but no crime. Here there's no body but there is a crime," he said."

Whoah there. The White House press spokesman is on the record saying Rove wasn't the "outer".

From the WaPo Q&A to the Plame going-ons:

Q: Why was White House political adviser Karl Rove initially thought to be the leaker as opposed to someone in Vice President Cheney's office or the National Security Council?

A: Wilson initially said he thought Rove had told Novak about his wife's undercover work, although he has since backed off that assertion. He now says that he believes Rove "condoned" the leak. Asked about the accusation, a White House spokesman responded on Rove's behalf by saying, "It is a ridiculous suggestion, and it is simply not true." [my emphasis]

So either the Bush White House has f*&$*d up big time and not taken the old adage to heart--about the cover up being worse than the crime (a close call with this scandal given how egregious the charges)--or the Guardian is out to lunch again.

I think I know where the smart money is on this one. I mean, is it responsible journalism to describe Rove as being at the "centre of a criminal investigation" when the White House is already on the record having expressly denied that's the case?

And geez, even Josh Marshall thinks, given what has been said from the White House podium, that Rove isn't the guy.

But bad news for Dubya is too tempting for the Guardian to run away with, in hyperbolic Fleet Street fashion, facts be damned. They've got a major Howell Raines problem--and badly need some adult supervision.

Posted by Gregory at 08:53 AM | Comments (3)
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