January 30, 2004

Shin Bet Watch

"The security service also predicts that if Yasser Arafat remains in charge of the Palestinian Authority, terror attacks can be expected all the way to 2006, for lack of any political progress that includes the Palestinian security services fighting terrorism.

According to Shin Bet information, Arafat is not ordering any terror attacks but neither is he allowing any internal attempts to unify the security services under anyone else, like Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan or Ahmed Qureia, who has been denied any control over any security services.."

from Haaretz.

I think that's about right. Arafat is unwilling to give up real power to a potential heir apparent. And he's unwilling and/or incapable to engage in a good faith, bottom-up, security reform effort.

As we don't meet with him--we don't really have much leverage. If we did meet with him--he'd probably be ineffective regardless.

So, you say, why not let the Israelis get rid of him?

Because, simply, he is viewed as the spiritual embodiment, like it or not, of Palestinian national aspirations. To kill him would cause huge turmoil. And to exile him would change nothing.

He'd issue commands to his cronies from Tunis or wherever.

So the status quo of violence is with us for the forseeable future in the absence of any creative American diplomacy, an ineffective and duplicitous Arafat, and a pretty obstinate Sharon uninterested in any major 'Nixon goes to China' type major diplomatic initiatives.

Regardless, it's worth keeping in mind, Arafat will die, in some fashion, someday.

Why are so few people in Washington thinking about the post-Arafat scene?

Do we want the Territories being roamed by myriad militia groups in anarchic fashion once he's dead?

I'm told by credible sources that people like Mohammed Dahlan control only modest sectors of Gaza.

Barghouti, of course, is in jail.

Abbas and Qureia are viewed, by many, as corrupt stooges--so lack street cred.

Is anyone at Langley looking at the next generation? Someone with popularity on the street who is also moderate and willing to negotiate with the Israelis?

These days, probably not.

Note:

Reader Daniel Aronstein writes in regarding this earlier Middle East related post:

"I stand by my major point and against yours: the seeming inactivity of the Bush Administration in the Arab-Israeli conflict was actually very good policy: isolating Arafat was the best way to get him to appoint aPM and get the PNA on the road to a democratic, non-terrorist Palestinian state.

Without a PM willing to crack down on the Arab terrorist groups, there can be no negotiations, and therefore no statehood for the Arab Palestinians.

There has been no such PM; there is still no such PM.

Therefore, lack of progress must be accredited to the fact that the PNA has of today still no effective PM.

You reasonably can't blame that on Bush or Sharon."

What I guess I'm getting at is that Washington needs to be doing more to bolster real and credible alternatives to Arafat.

And, more generally, our diplomacy has lacked ingenuity, passion, direction and consistency.

Trench warfare between different Administration camps has led to drift in our Middle East peacemaking efforts. The President is not involved. Condi Rice doesn't actively broker between the bickering factions.

I don't blame anyone for the fact that Arafat is ineffective and that Abu Mazen couldn't do his job because of Arafat's interference (and that Sharon didn't help him with some concessions in the nascent stage of his PMship.).

But I do blame, generally, Washington's inattention (at the top) to this grave crisis for so many months now. Believe me, it's not a positive factor for the regional equation.

Posted by Gregory at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

And Then There Were Three

Bye-bye...and good riddance.

Posted by Gregory at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)

Greg Dyke

In my post below yesterday (at the "Still More" update) I took Greg Dyke to task for his reaction to Hutton's report.

But, sadly, he's just getting started:

"Former BBC director general Greg Dyke today hit out at Alastair Campbell, calling him "remarkably ungracious", and said Lord Hutton's conclusions were "quite clearly wrong" on some points of law." [emphasis added]

Later:

"I would be very interested to see what other law lords looking at Hutton thought of it. There are points of law in there in which he is quite clearly wrong."

Mr Dyke said he agreed with the departing BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies, that one could not "choose the referee" and had to accept his decision but quipped: "The government did choose the referee." [my emphasis]

Clearly Dyke is eager to don his legal cap and engage in a spot of legal analysis.

But, unlike Lord Hutton he, er, isn't an eminent lawyer (in fact he has no legal background at all).

Put differently, it's hugely arrogant for him to say Hutton's report was "quite clearly wrong."

And insulting and inappropriate in the extreme to suggest that Hutton's law lord peers would reach a differing result.

Of course, this breathtaking arrogance is an old story (the linked story details Dyke's previous stubborn recalcitrance to pursue reforms at the Beeb).

But back to Dyke's recent comments.

What Dyke has done today is two things.

He's called into question Lord Hutton's competence as a lawyer--amazing given the tremendous respect for Hutton as a top-notch jurist that exists in large swaths of the London legal community.

And, even worse, he's called into question Hutton's integrity (by suggesting that the Lord was not impartial as the "government chose the referree.")

Put simply, he's pretty much doing to Hutton what what he did to Blair--doing the very kind of thing, yet again, that necessitated the Hutton inquiry to begin with.

He's again crudely maligning people's character and competencies.

The only difference is that, this time, he is doing it himself. The last time he allowed subordinates, with impunity, to do so. [ed. note: Note too, of course, that he is today speaking in his personal capacity (though, I reckon, for these folks too)].

So forget repentance. This is about incorrigibility.

NB: When might Dyke take a brief peek at the mirror and appraise his own actions in this sorry affair?

Well, don't hold your breath. Still, one thing is for sure. He's got plenty of time to do so now.

Posted by Gregory at 12:59 PM | Comments (2)

January 29, 2004

Whitewash!

Scream all the Beeb's men. Here's a typical example of the genre.

And the top half of the Independent's paper edition is (risibly), you guessed it, all white (they should do that more often and spare us their grotesquely biased journalism, no?).

But back to Jonathan Freedland's piece:

"For the press benches, this was all too much. Several journalists began first to sniff, then to snort and finally to chuckle their derision. Jeremy Paxman, for once barred from asking questions, was shaking his head in bemusement as each new finding in favour of the government came down from the bench. When Mr Scarlett's subconscious was introduced, the room seemed to vibrate with mockery."

Incorrigible and arrogant, aren't they?

You'd think there might be a smidgen of shame and introspection among the Jeremy Paxmans of the journalistic trade, no?

Alas, quite the contrary.

This attitude is part of the reason the Beeb is facing its darkest hour ever.

I mean, Gilligan actually wants to keep his job!

More likely, like others, one hopes he will be gone soon.

But, believe me, the problem will remain. The mockery in the judicial chambers makes that clear. The message is--we don't care about the facts--when they run contra our deeply embedded biases.

So facts be damned!

Whether the clinically examined facts of the Hutton inquiry.

Or the fact that Blair didn't knowingly mislead the Commons on WMD.

Or 'sex up' any dossiers.

He, you know, did all that anyway. Hutton's an arse. He's a rank apologist for the government. It's a whitewash.

So back to Blair and Bush hating.

It's the best game in town--at least if you are a simplistic, journalistic hack--and don't care to really examine the geopolitical scene with care, the actions really taken by those in power (rather than those conjured up by Islington conspiracy think), the deeper problems related to why so many intelligence services the world over believed Saddam possessed major WMD stockpiles.

No, just run around playing gotcha and impugn, grossly, the motivations and actions of those in power whose views you don't like.

The difference is, this time, this tawdry and incendiary kind of journalism wasn't carried off with impunity.

There will have to be a real reckoning. Heads are rolling.

But, will it really make a difference?

I doubt it.

After all, Paxman's arrogant courtoom sneers don't bode well, do they?

UPDATE:

The Independent's 'whitewash' cover--


Can they do this tomorrow (and the next day) too? It's, er, easier on the eyes...

MORE: Dyke's out. The casualties grow. As they should.

STILL MORE: Yes, Dyke resigned. But in a press conference, he averred:

"I don't necessarily accept the findings of Lord Hutton's report."

And he told cheering supporters: "Don't be cowed."

Again, no humility, no repentance.

Instead, Dyke keeps fanning the flames thus making the crisis messier (yes, it's possible) for the Beeb.

One result? More boorish romantization of Dyke as some besieged keeper of the flame of that so unique (and nauseatingly self-important) Beeb "independence."

Remember, these protestors (er, I mean reporters) all still work at the Beeb.

So don't worry Greg, they're not cowed! Quite the contrary.

Pity they don't have a leader who, when forced to resign, would issue an unvarnished mea culpa.

Who would say that the entire episode wasn't about the preservation of the Beeb's independence--which was never threatened by nefarious Campbell.

It was about being challenged about flatly false reporting--regarding hugely important issues of war and peace--by leaders whose honor and integrity had been besmirched by the Beeb's sloppiness, bias, and bull-headed refusal to apologize or retract the inaccurate reporting for so many long months.

Traits and characteristics, I fear, still well alive at the Beeb.

A final note.

Tony Blair was very magnanimous (imagine the joyous lynching of Blair, in all the likely quarters, had the report gone the other way!) accepting acting Chairman Lord Ryder's apology.

But he didn't mention Greg Dyke. Now you know why.

Posted by Gregory at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

Carnage on Egged Bus No.19

Another bus. More innocents slaughtered horrifically. A particularly grisly suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

This comes after an uptick of violence in Gaza.

It also comes, almost contemporaneously, at the same time as a Hezbollah/IDF prisoner exchange.

And while U.S. peace envoys (read: hapless Foggy Bottom folk without support from the Oval Office going through the motions of roadmap, er, 'implementation') are in the region.

In other words, the bombing comes as good news (if minimal) was in the air.

Put differently, there is some logic to this grotesque, savage violence.

No surprise of course.

The peace process has always been a race between moderates, on the one hand, and extremists on the other.

Right now, the Palestinian extremists are, pretty much, driving the show (lest we forget, Israeli extremists have driven the show in the past, see Baruch Goldstein, or the repulsive Rabin assassin Yigal Amir).

A big reason why is because Bush detests Arafat and won't deal with him. And no other effective Palestinian leader exists. So there's no one, so to speak, to do business with.

In this vacuum, a young suicide bomber can have more impact on short-term Palestinian-Israeli dynamics than leaders in the region.

At the same time, the Bushies never got over their "ABC" approach (Anything But Clinton) that derided Clintonian micromanagment of the peace process.

The images of Bill Clinton intently peering at maps with Yasser and Ehud whilst digesting myriad minutae about Jerusalem neighborhoods and such were viewed derisively by Bush foreign policy advisors--as was the seemingly endless gaggle of special envoys rushing about the Holy Land hither dither through the Clinton years.

But there is a middle ground between cheapening the Presidential (or special envoy) coin by constant use--and, pretty much, not using it at all (at least since Aqaba last year).

There are no easy answers, of course. It's an election year, Bush is busy with Iraq, etc etc.

So 10 dead here, 8 dead there. The toll mounts, day by day, week to week, year after year.

And Washington does little to nothing.

It's an abdication of our leadership role as honest broker. We are the only power that can bring these two parties to the table. No one else can do it.

So we have to roll up our sleeves and try harder, don't we?

This means the President needs to be personally involved. It might mean a special envoy. Or that Condi should go out with a CIA team ready to think, really think, about ways to extract real security reform from Arafat in return for Sharon making real-time contemporaneous concessions if the PA security reforms are fully verifiable, transparent, and fully made in good faith.

But don't hold your breath. The peace process is dead until at least '05.

That's a real shame and, of course, a human tragedy.

And a fact that Kerry will be using against Bush in the election.

Posted by Gregory at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

Kerry Suck Up Watch

"If Karl Rove thinks he can take down John Kerry the way his mentor, Lee Atwater, took down Michael Dukakis, he's got another thing coming. The Kerry who delivered that victory speech in Manchester on Tuesday night was the most effective Democratic politico since the fall of Bill Clinton."

-- Harold Meyerson, writing in the Washington Post, and warming up to the prospect ( pun intended) of all those JFK-esque fetes over at 1600 Pennsylvania...

Most effective Dem pol since Clinton? That was, like, yesterday--guess it means that Meyerson thinks Kerry is a better candidate than Gore (talk about damning with faint praise).

Anyway, go read the article to see Meyerson make the obligatory FDR comparison. Oh, and we are informed that "real men" support Kerry.

Listen, I've said before that Kerry likely represents the Democrats best shot at beating Bush. But Meyerson's piece is not a candidate appraisal but a breathless panegyric.

Oh, and speaking of "real men," is the feminization of politics in abeyance?

Posted by Gregory at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2004

Kay Watch

We will have a lot on David Kay's various reports and testimony, the impact on U.S. credibility (in relation to intelligence matters) with our allies going forward, and the need for change in our intelligence-gathering capabilities. But, for now, let's be sure to note this part of Kay's testimony on the Hill today:

"I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated," he said. "And never, not in a single case, was the explanation, `I was pressured to do this.' "

"Almost in a perverse way," he added, "I wish it had been undue influence, because we know how to correct that. We get rid of the people who in fact were exercising that. The fact that it wasn't tells me that we've got a much more fundamental problem of understanding what went wrong."

How does this jive with images of Dick Cheney playing the heavy and breathing down the necks of hapless Agency intel analysts at Langley?

Ken Pollack, for one, seems to believe some of that went on. But I wonder if, much like the hyped up charges lobbed at the Blair government in recent months, this charge will prove to be just as bogus.

The real issue is that a variety of sovereign nations' intelligence services believed Saddam had WMD.

Believed it on the merits of their analysis--not because Doug Feith, Richard Perle and Dick Cheney were holding a gun to their head and demanding they get the 'right' results.

Posted by Gregory at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

New Hampshire Predictions Watch

So how did we do?

The results with 97% of precincts in (with my pre-primary predictions juxtaposed in parantheses):

Kerry: 38.5 % (34%)
Dean: 26.3% (28%)
Clark: 12.4% (10%)
Edwards: 12.1% (14%)
Lieberman: 8.6 (8%)

So, like much of the punditry class, I got a bit (though not as much as many) too bullish on Edwards.

I really thought he'd beat Clark by 3-4%. I was wrong (perhaps swayed by reader Linda who wrote in from New Hampshire describing Edwards as a "force of nature"!)

Kerry did a bit stronger than I expected, Dean a tad less well.

I nailed Lieberman.

And Clark, well, I still think he looked like a mortician through the final days of the primary. And I think he's now down for the count--despite his protestations to the contrary.

So's Joe.

Edwards admitted he needs to win South Carolina to stay alive last night on Larry King's show.

He better turn on the southern charm--big time--while keeping Sharpton and Clark numbers down there.

Why? Because Kerry has big momentum in SC (from 2% in December to 17% in January--post Iowa, but pre-NH--so that might pick up more).

And Dean? Dean appears in for the long haul (though crushing blows on February 3rd might force some real re-thinking regarding the merits of zig-zagging the country looking a tad Naderite).

He's got cash, lots of drive, Deaniacs still running amok, strong organization, and so on. A very strong show, for instance, in Missouri would give him more cred. His fiery brand of populism will also play well in places like Wisconsin. And Santa Fe types will likely like him too.

So where is this race heading? I think, sooner rather than later, into a two person race.

The quickest way that happens is for Clark to prove very weak in SC (and other February 3rd states) and for Edwards to come in number 2 there after Kerry.

Then Dean and Kerry will likely bloody themselves for a few more weeks.

And I think Kerry will win by TKO a bit further down the road.

For now, I trust most of Karl Rove's troops are busy scouring the very, very long voting history of the junior senator of Massachusetts.

There's a lot to mine there. But I still think Kerry is the biggest threat to Bush--despite his liberal voting record, weakness at the stump, and tired resort to Shrumisms.

That's good news, even for Bush supporters.

A hard-fought, quality general election campaign is a refreshing tonic that re-invigorates our American democracy.

So, as they're saying, bring it on.

Posted by Gregory at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

A (Very) Big Day for Blair

It's a bit nippy in olde London town, but barely a cloud in the sky earlier this A.M. Indeed, it was a beautiful crystal clear blue sky early in the morn'!

And the skies are metaphorically clear too, especially for uber-survivor Tony Blair (he's giving Arafat a run for his money as a cat with myriad lives).

He faced down the ossified legions of Old Labour (brimming with Euro-sclerosis aficionados) by boldly pushing a vote on tuition top up fees.

He won that vote (though, in most of the British press, a win is, it appears, treated pretty much akin to a loss).

And now, if you believe this report, Blair looks to be exonerated in the Hutton report too.

From the Sun:

"But the document--top secret until it is published officially at noon today--is a devastating indictment of the BBC and its defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan. There was no dishonourable strategy to leak Kelly name.

Gilligan is effectively accused of LYING in a bombshell broadcast blaming Number Ten for 'sexing up' a dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Beeb bosses are blasted for failing to check the notes of the journalist, who was already under a cloud over his misuse of language.

And chairman Gavyn Davies, director-general Greg Dyke and the BBC board of governors are implicitly blamed for dereliction of duty to licence-payers."

The Beeb, of course, was spinning this A.M. They were in a tizzy over the overnight leak of the Hutton report.

News-readers, without a hint of irony, faux-anxiously queried: will Hutton demand an inquiry over the leak?

Memo to the Beeb anchors: The Hutton inquiry is over, not starting.

(Note: We'll link the full text here once made public and analyze in more detail).

Memo to Beeb chairman Gavyn Davies.

You once worked at Goldman Sachs.

Check out your old firm's website banner: "Complacency can lead to Extinction."

Memo to Tony B: Take the momentum from the top-up fees victory. Make accountable that atrophying gaggle of paleo rose socialists at the Beeb.

They've been stuck in a 70's warp for too long. They've been suckling on public funding for too many years. Unwean them from their pre-Thatcherite cocoon!

Privatize it already. I mean, it's 2004, didn't you know?

A final note. While Blair is vindicated by Hutton and busy pushing through painful but necessary educational reforms, what is Jacques Chirac, that avatar of international human rights (along with sidekick Dominique) up to?

Out hitting the EU hustings to persuade the Euro-zone to allows arms sales to China.

Who would you rather have leading your polity?

UPDATE:

When the Guardian writes this, you know it has been a bad day for the Beeb:

"Lord Hutton today delivered the worst possible verdict for the BBC, describing its editorial systems as "defective" and declaring that the board of governors led by chairman Gavyn Davies had failed in its duty to act as an independent regulator.

The judge lambasted BBC management for allowing the Radio 4 Today reporter Andrew Gilligan to broadcast "unfounded", "grave" and "false allegations of fact impugning the integrity of others".

Ouch.

Davies should do the honorable thing now (if he's capable of it) and resign promptly.

Here is a compilation of Hutton's key points.

Snippets:

Re Blair:

--No 'dishonourable, duplicitous, underhand strategy' by the prime minister
--There was nothing dramatic in Kevin Tebbit's evidence that Blair chaired the meeting that agreed to confirm Kelly's name, or any inconsistency in their evidence
--The desire of the PM to have a strong dossier may have subconsciously influenced John Scarlett and the Joint Intelligence Committee to produce a strongly worded document

Re the BBC:

--BBC editorial system was 'defective'
--BBC management failed to appreciate that Gilligan's notes did not support the most serious of his allegations
--The BBC governors should have recognised the desire to protect its independence was not incompatible with investigating Mr Campbell's complaints, no matter what their tone
--The BBC governors should have investigated further the differences between Gilligan's notes and his report, and that should have led them to question whether it was in the public interest to broadcast his report relying only on his notes

The third bullet is particularly damning for those who supported Davies' bull-headed and stubborn actions by chanting on about the Beeb's independence.

To be sure, Alistair Campbell's is a tough, 'strong player' as Blair once remarked--but none of his actions imperiled the Beeb's independence.

But Davies' arrogance has imperiled it's reputation. And in a big way.

ANOTHER UPDATE: He is capable of it--Davies has resigned. Frankly, given the scale of this disaster for the Beeb, there was no other choice.

STILL MORE: Yes he resigned, but, not surprisingly, sans class.

In his resignation statement he had the gall "to raise some important questions about the [Hutton] report itself."

As I said, not a class act.

Posted by Gregory at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

CIS Watch: Democratization from Below

These popular trends, which have gained some momentum post the so-called Revolution of the Roses, need more attention and back-up from Washington.

Meanwhile, authoritarian CIS leaders are certainly paying attention:

"The lesson learned by other governments, though, may be not to permit the sort of open dissent that fostered the Georgian revolt, analysts said. In Tbilisi, an independent television station effectively sided with the opposition and Shevardnadze did little to crack down on critics. Other countries around the former Soviet Union zealously control television and often do not tolerate rival political organizations.

"There are authoritarian regimes that clearly pay attention to what goes on in the neighborhood and they're clearly reacting to it," said an official from a Western nongovernmental organization that helps foster democratic institutions in the region, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

In Azerbaijan, where Aliyev's ruling circle installed his son, Ilham Aliyev, in the presidency shortly before the older man's death, the new government has unleashed a wave of repression, locking up at least 1,000 opposition activists and engaging in widespread torture, according to a report last week by Human Rights Watch.

In Uzbekistan, where thousands of people are in prison for what human rights groups call political or religious reasons, the government of President Islam Karimov recently decided to require foreign nongovernmental organizations to register with the Justice Ministry. The groups, calling it a direct reaction to events in Georgia, said they fear that they will be refused registration and ordered to close. Some groups report pressure in Kyrgyzstan as well."

I want our troops, as much as the next guy, to be able to use Uzbekistan as a staging ground to continue prosecuting the war effort in Afghanistan. But we still need to make the Karimovs of the world aware that democracy norms really count for something when we take stock of the bilateral relationship. Will our man in Tashkent raise this issue vigorously the next time he has an audience with Karimov?

Let's hope so. If we overly myopically look at each country solely through the prism of 'war on terror' cooperation we risk giving the lie to our ambitious democratization agenda. We'll keep a closer eye on this issue through the year.

Posted by Gregory at 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

Golden Oldies Edition

"I have no doubt that there are thousands of pages of documents in safes in London and Washington right now - the Pentagon Papers of Iraq - whose unauthorised revelation would drastically alter the public discourse on whether we should continue sending our children to die in Iraq. That's clear from what has already come out through unauthorised disclosures from many anonymous sources and from officials and former officials such as David Kelly and US ambassador Joseph Wilson, who revealed the falsity of reports that Iraq had pursued uranium from Niger, which President Bush none the less cited as endorsed by British intelligence in his state of the union address before the war. Both Downing Street and the White House organised covert pressure to punish these leakers and to deter others, in Dr Kelly's case with tragic results." [emphasis added]

-- Daniel Ellsberg, writing in the Guardian.

Read the Hutton report tomorrow. Tell me then if you believe that Dr. Kelly's death is a result of Downing Street "covert pressure"? (as compared to, say, breathtakingly irresponsible Beeb journalism and dearth of serious institutional controls).

But leave this entire hyped maelstrom aside.

Who is Daniel Ellsberg anyway to ascribe culpability in Dr Kelly's death?

What, finally, does he really know about the complex emotions that led this particular scientist towards his tragic suicide?

Put differently, Ellsberg does Kelly's surviving family no favors trotting the dead scientist out to score cheap points in op-ed pieces.

Oh, and note, contra Ellsberg, that British intelligence did believe there was an Iraq/Niger/uranium connection.

But hey, it's just an op-ed in the Guardian. Facts are, er, of de mimimis import.

Posted by Gregory at 01:41 AM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2004

Blair Vindicated

"Hutton: Tony Blair has been cleared of 'duplicitous wrongdoing', but BBC governors condemned for failing to investigate truth behind Andrew Gilligan's Today story, according to The Sun which has got hold of a leaked copy of the Hutton report... more soon"

From the Guardian's main web page.

And he ekes out the vote on tuition top off fees.

Yay.

UPDATE: The Guardian no longer has story on their main page. And, not suprisingly, they are downplaying the leak to the Sun.

Oh, and I'm watching the Beeb's midnight news. Boy, it sure sounds like a requiem for Blair (Blair in "terminal decline" and such). How they spin!

And, just shy of 10 minutes into the show, still not a whimper on dastardly Gilligan!

Folks, this is worse than Fox news. Much worse.

Remember that the next time assorted Beeb-o-phile pseudo-sophisticates badger you about the crude American media.

Posted by Gregory at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

NH Watch

OK, I couldn't resist.

Here goes:

Kerry: 34% (perhaps hit plateau, still kinda flat on stump, but obviously looking strong given Iowa bounce)

Dean: 28% (Iowa screech mitigated by Judith factor, some re-energizing of Deaniacs because he's no longer front-runner)

Edwards: 14% (press buzz, 'mo, great stump speaker, but little to no NH org, in Iowa-bounce preservation mode, ie. looking on to February 3rd and less to lose than Dean)

Clark: 10% (fading fast, looks increasingly like a mortician, likely dead post NH, especially if Edwards beats him by good sized margin)

Lieberman: 8% ('Joementum', McCainites/independents for Joe--but ultimately doesn't matter--Joe's dead if he's doesn't come in third)

Kucinich: 1% (lest we forget)

Posted by Gregory at 07:31 PM | Comments (0)

Davos Postcard

David Ignatius:

"Top U.S. business leaders here said they can feel the muscle tone of the global economy firming, based on their order books. John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco Systems, said the weaker dollar only made Cisco's products more competitive abroad. Carly Fiorina, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said that while her company had operations around the world, the weaker dollar wouldn't do it any harm.

The only Americans who seem unhappy with the reviving economy (other than the Democratic presidential candidates) are short-sellers who have bet that with its spendthrift trade and budget deficits, the United States' stock and bond markets would inevitably decline.

"It's a squeeze play," said a man who for years ran the currency trading operations at a giant investment bank. He argued that the Bush administration was pumping so much money into U.S. corporations through its war spending and other fiscal measures that their profits will keep soaring -- and Wall Street will keep rising despite the weak macroeconomic fundamentals."

That's probably about right. Check out this article on U.S. budget deficit forecasts too.

But, as is often the case, the Euro-outlook is considerably gloomier:

"Contemplating all this bullish talk about the U.S. economy, a top European financial official was scratching his head. If European economies were facing trade and budget deficits like those in the United States, coupled with a sharply declining currency, European investors would be jumping out the windows. But for America, all news is good news.

Euro-pessimism was a common theme here. One British economist predicted that a strong euro, coupled with the continuing structural rigidities of the European economy, would produce "a decade of stagnation in Europe," worse than what happened in Japan after its bubble economy burst."

Meanwhile, ECB Chief Trichet enunciates a policy of, er, let's call it constructive ambiguity (read: Paris and Berlin can burst the budget deficit ceilings whenever they so desire) regarding the all but dead stability pact.

Note too that the Chinese are hugely bullish on the remnibi going forward:

"The one thing few here seemed to doubt was that China's economic power will someday rival that of the United States. I asked one Chinese investor whether he thought the dollar would remain the world's reserve currency 50 years from now. "Of course not," he said. "The reserve currency will be Chinese."

Posted by Gregory at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

Multipolarity Watch Continued

Even the Germans think the French are rushing too headlong into resuscitating arm sales to China.

Posted by Gregory at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2004

Soros in the Guardian

Some extracts from Soros' book get published over at the Guardian.

Most offensive graf:

"We have fallen into a trap. The suicide bombers' motivation seemed incomprehensible at the time of the attack; now a light begins to dawn: they wanted us to react the way we did. Perhaps they understood us better than we understand ourselves."

Posted by Gregory at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

Arundhati Roy Watch

"In any case, New Imperialism is already upon us. It's a remodeled, streamlined version of what we once knew. For the first time in history, a single empire with an arsenal of weapons that could obliterate the world in an afternoon has complete, unipolar, economic and military hegemony. It uses different weapons to break open different markets. There isn't a country on God's earth that is not caught in the cross-hairs of the American cruise missile and the IMF checkbook."

And don't miss this deep-think further down in the article:

"The best allegory for New Racism is the tradition of "turkey pardoning" in the United States. Every year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the US President with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Every year, in a show of ceremonial magnanimity, the President spares that particular bird (and eats another one). After receiving the presidential pardon, the Chosen One is sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia to live out its natural life. The rest of the 50 million turkeys raised for Thanksgiving are slaughtered and eaten on Thanksgiving Day. ConAgra Foods, the company that has won the Presidential Turkey contract, says it trains the lucky birds to be sociable, to interact with dignitaries, school children and the press. (Soon they'll even speak English!)

That's how New Racism in the corporate era works. A few carefully bred turkeys--the local elites of various countries, a community of wealthy immigrants, investment bankers, the occasional Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, some singers, some writers (like myself)--are given absolution and a pass to Frying Pan Park. The remaining millions lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, have their water and electricity connections cut, and die of AIDS. Basically they're for the pot. But the Fortunate Fowls in Frying Pan Park are doing fine. Some of them even work for the IMF and the WTO--so who can accuse those organizations of being antiturkey? Some serve as board members on the Turkey Choosing Committee--so who can say that turkeys are against Thanksgiving? They participate in it! Who can say the poor are anti-corporate globalization? There's a stampede to get into Frying Pan Park. So what if most perish on the way?"

Notting Hill starlet Roy, embarassing herself ( again), in the pages of the Nation.

Posted by Gregory at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

Belgravia's First Blogiversary?

Belgravia Dispatch is now a year old! The first substantive post--the day after I proved to myself that Blogger was indeed idiot-proof and Luddite-compliant by putting up a test post--aimed at debunking the (then and still now) in vogue theme that, pretty much, the Bush administration was about as theologically radical as Osama and Co.

B.D.'s first real breakthrough occurred when we caught the Guardian grossly distorting comments by Paul Wolfowitz. This led to significant press coverage for the blog in varied media outlets including 1) a Sarah Baxter Sunday opinion piece in the Times (UK), 2) a Clive Davis Washington Times books section piece and 3) other media outlets.

I was even rung up, out of the blue, by the Guardian's ombudsman Ian Mayes (or do I mean 'public editor'?)! He later wrote a piece on the entire episode too.

Shortly thereafter, B.D. was ranked one of the most influential blogs by Online Journalism Review. In text accompanying this chart, Mark Glaser wrote that such blogs were "pushing the direction of media coverage and perhaps even public policy." [ed. note: True, especially the public policy part? Who cares, it sounded great!]

Some of my friends ribbed me a bit about my placement on Glaser's chart (so far to the right (only Taranto was further right on Glaser's chart)! So 'bloggy' (as opposed to journalistic)! But, hey, it was nice to be on the chart at all.

There are a few other highlights in my first year blogography worth noting. It was very fulfilling, given that Sullivan's blog was, truth be told, the main inspiration for starting mine, to have him describe a post that I wrote up for the second anniverary of 9/11 as "the best 9/11 commentary".

The indefatigable Glenn Reynolds was also kind enough to link a bunch of my posts, including this one keeping an eye on potential perfidious going-ons in Paris and this one keeping an eye on Maureen Dowd's, er, Dowdifications.

This brings to mind some of the lucky days when Glenn and Andrew would both link to the same post. The resulting tsunami effect resulting from the confluence of Insta and Sully-lanches did, it should be admitted, sometimes lead to that strange condition defined by the good folks of Samizdata as "hitnosis."

A few other thank yous are in order. One important one goes out to David Adesnik of Oxblog. He was the first major blogger to link to B.D.--way back in early March of last year. And David was also the first blogger I actually met in person (he was kind enough to drop by my office in Mayfair to swap blog and politics talk over a quick cup of coffee).

Thanks go out to Innocents Abroad as well, a fine blog that blog-rolled me in my early days. And Dan Drezner has been kind enough to link me a few times as well--doubtless helping provide me with a smidgen of street cred with cerebral academics hunkered about Cambridge, Chicago, and Berkeley.

Most important, of course, a big thank you to all those readers who boosted my readership from a couple of old high school buddies to a slightly more respectable amount of readers. Please keep coming and, as ever, write in with suggested improvements, gripes, kudos, or whatever is on your mind.

A final note. While this blog is quite often on the conservative side of the foreign policy fence (often pitched, somewhat perilously, between the rocky shoals of realpolitik and neo-conservatism), my most important goal throughout is to strive for intellectual honesty, put simply, to write what I believe.

Thus, when an argument (say, like Flypaper) strikes me as hugely bogus, I won't make any bones about trying to debunk it in muscular fashion even if such a thesis is touted by some of my favorite (right-of-center) bloggers.

Coming soon, therefore, as someone who supported the Iraq war based on the WMD rationale, an in-depth look at where U.S. credibility stands on the world stage (and no, it's not in tatters) given such stories.

Look for continued coverage in B.D.'s second year of Euro-American relations, Middle East politics (including, so critical, the unfolding Iraq story), assorted media excesses, and the like.

And, of course, we hope to ramp up election year coverage too.

So don't go away. We're just getting started.

Posted by Gregory at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2004

More Positive News from the Middle East

Remember all those dire prognostications that the very gates of Hell would open and engulf varied precincts from Tangier to Muscat should a single U.S. G.I. be let loose in Mesopotamia?

Here's yet another positive development:

"Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Thursday that one of the benefits of the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein was that Arab moderates were no longer afraid to have contacts with Israel.

"It looks like many moderate Arab leaders are more willing to have contacts with us, more than they were willing to have in the past, because they were very afraid of Saddam," Shalom told a small group of reporters.

He said he believed Arab leaders were intimidated by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and support for opposition parties in moderate states, although he conceded in response to a question that no Arab officials had told him that.

"I see there was a change after the war in Iraq. I don't say that it's the only reason," he said.

Still, the Egyptians poured a little cold water on Shalom's thesis:

"Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, told AP: "nobody is afraid," and he questioned whether Israel's foreign minister had any more contacts today than he did before the war.

"I don't think the situation is better for Israel," he said. "We are angry and protesting" Israel's building of a wall in the West Bank and its continued policy of constructing settlements.

He added that he had no plans personally to meet with Shalom in Davos."

Posted by Gregory at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

Bush Multilateralism Watch

"The Bush administration's attempt to forge a policy that is both ambitious and multilateral is the right approach."

From today's lead WaPo masthead (might Krugman, Dowd, Soros, and Kerry take a peek at it?)

"...the White House is considering several potentially important new initiatives. One envisions a charter for freedom for the Middle East -- a mutual commitment by countries in the region to embrace the principles and institutions of democracy, linked to a follow-up process. Another centers on a possible program by NATO to forge training and other security cooperation agreements with Arab states. A third would promote economic links between Middle Eastern countries and the United States and European Union. The ideas are nascent and face a few obstacles. But the fact that the administration is discussing them with key European governments is encouraging."

More:

"At best, the Middle East initiatives could form the basis for a common European-American strategy for addressing one of the world's most serious challenges."

Over here at B.D., we were discussing the need for renewed U.S.-European cooperation on a meta-'region-building' project in the Middle East about a week back. We also noted the need to avoid the "trap of Kaganism." If you didn't read the post then, check it out now. I think it's worth a gander.

For more re: enhancements of NATO cooperation with Arab states check out this piece on the so-called "Mediterranean Dialogue."

A partnership for peace style NATO presence in countries like Jordan and Egypt could prove a force for stability going forward in the region.

And might help give, down the road (note I don't mean down the moribund, er, roadmap), Martin Indyk's trusteeship idea more legs.

Posted by Gregory at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

Iraq: Insurgency Watch

The Washington Post has an excellent article on the state of the Iraq insurgency today.

On the positive side of the ledger:

"Commanders are heartened by a sharp reduction in the number of attacks on U.S. forces and say that an overhaul of intelligence operations has produced a series of successes that have weakened the anti-occupation insurgency.

"Things have gone well both in Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of our military's ability to get the job done," Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, said in a interview at his headquarters in Qatar after a weeklong tour of the region and consultations with his commanders and the leaders of Pakistan, Jordan and Afghanistan."

Casualty figures bear Abizaid's analysis out:

"Defense Department statistics show a drop in U.S. troops killed in action since November, when the insurgency was at its peak. After sustaining 70 such deaths that month, the U.S. military withstood 25 in December -- the month in which former president Saddam Hussein was captured -- and 22 so far in January.

Commanders credit a number of sources for recent military advances. Three-fourths of roadside bombs are now being detected before they explode, Army officials in Iraq said. After a shaky summer marked by finger-pointing among intelligence officials about a raft of failures, especially in the coordination of data, the U.S. intelligence effort in Iraq was revamped in October and November. The overhaul has made operations much more effective, officials said."

Still, there are cautionary notes. Abidzaid again:

"I stay away from the 'turning the corner, light at the end of the tunnel' sort of thing," he said. "There are an awful lot of political movements and activities that will take place between now and moving toward some sort of Iraqi sovereign entity, and that will put an awful lot of pressure on the system within Iraq, and that could change the security situation in dramatic ways."

Regardless, it appears we are at a key juncture:

"Military leaders believe that their operations in Iraq are entering a critical phase. One of the biggest troop rotations in U.S. history is getting underway, creating new vulnerabilities as 130,000 seasoned soldiers depart and 105,000 fresh ones come in to replace them. Also, the planned U.S. handover of power to the Iraqi people looms in less than six months, intensifying the already volatile politics of the country.

Some military experts, including officers fighting in Iraq, continue to worry about the Iraqi insurgency, which they regard as surprisingly resilient and adaptive.

Some fear that the resistance could be regrouping and planning new attacks, and is quiescent now only because it is studying the changes in the U.S. force structure and searching for new vulnerabilities. Some point out that attacks on Iraqi security forces have increased in recent months."

A major concern, according to some of these interviews with U.S. military personnel, is that large-scale Shi'a protests, stemming from disaffection with electoral modalities, might degenerate into riots.

On that note, it is obviously critical to try to broach a compromise solution with Ayatollah Sistani.

Adnan Pachachi, chairman of the Iraqi Governing Council, is suggesting a sensible compromise.

He has proposed expanding the governing council "as a compromise between the American insistence on selecting a new government through a complex caucus system and the demand for direct elections by Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani."

Sounds almost like a loya jirga, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, efforts are being made to bring the U.N. on board to argue to Sistani that full, direct elections at this stage would not be feasible.

But Annan has concerns that simply telling Sistani voter rolls aren't good to go and the like isn't going to cut it:

"Mr. Annan is said to feel that it will not be enough to tell the ayatollah that his desire for an election is not feasible. The ayatollah needs to hear, diplomats said, when an election can be held and what arrangements can be made before it occurs."

Annan is probabably right given comments like these from Sistani:

"In his remarks Thursday, Musawi said Sistani would drop his demand for elections if U.N. and Iraqi experts determined they were not feasible. But he said that shift would be possible only if another plan were adopted. He called the current plan "extremely dangerous."

"If neutral experts come and say that elections are not possible, I will retreat from my position, but on one condition," Musawi quoted Sistani as saying. "Foreign experts and Iraqi specialists should find an alternative."

Also an important factor doubtless driving Shi'a machinations, a feeling of continued Shi'a vulnerability vis-a-vis the Sunnis given the brutalities visited upon them during recent Iraqi history (note too that Hoagland suggests that U.S. policymakers not fight the power shifting underway as between coalition authorities and the Shi'a).

Finally, there is an increasing consensus that the initially proposed caucus style elections would be too unwieldy regardless:

"The American-backed plan for caucuses is increasingly derided within diplomatic circles as cumbersome and confusing. Under it, caucuses to choose a new interim legislature would take place in each of Iraq's 18 provinces. But before that happens, organizing committees in each province would be established.

These committees would choose "selection caucuses," which would choose members of the new Iraqi legislature, which would then choose a prime minister and provisional government — all by June 30. Several diplomats say the process must be radically streamlined, if not scrapped."

Developing, as they say.

Posted by Gregory at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2004

Requiem for Dean

When the self-styled "authentic" protest candidate starts getting coached and engaging in major stylistic overhauls, well, you know that the gig is pretty much up:

"Senior aides to Howard Dean took several steps on Wednesday to overhaul his candidacy, including softening the tone of his speeches and eliminating high-voltage campaign rallies in favor of dignified appearances where he would present himself as a mature ex-governor with a command of health care and the economy."

Posted by Gregory at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

Multipolarity Watch

The Chinese-EU connection.

Posted by Gregory at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

Book Corner

Warren Bass has a new book out detailing how the Kennedy administration was so pivotal in cementing the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Here is the NYRB review.

An interesting snippet on how Nasser helped push Kennedy towards closer ties with Israel:

"Nevertheless, Bass is convinced that Phillips Talbot's fears of antagonizing Arabs were overstated. He shows that Kennedy's opening to Israel came only after an intensive attempt to court Nasser was rebuffed by the Egyptian leader himself. To the chagrin of many of his supporters in the State Department, Nasser launched a disastrous war on Yemen, which he himself soon called his "Vietnam." At one point his forces used poison gas and threatened neighboring Saudi Arabia as well. The dramatic collapse of Nasser's ambitious union of Egypt with Syria only made him adopt more radical policies. Egyptian agents tried to kill King Hussein of Jordan. Arab conservatives led by Saudi Arabia and the American oil lobby worked against Kennedy's attempted rapprochement with Nasser and derailed it.

It was at this point that the US changed its previously cool relations with Israel and swung toward the close alliance that continues today. Relations with Egypt further worsened during the Cuban missile crisis when Khrushchev mistakenly calculated it would be profitable (as he had found during the Suez war) to use the threat of nuclear missiles. The Egyptian press sided with Cuba. Kennedy's attempts at improving the situation of Palestinian refugees came to an end. He secretly taped the decisive meeting on this issue. Up to this point the sale of Hawk missiles had been tied to Israeli concessions on the repatria-tion or compensation of Palestinian refugees. On December 27, 1962, Golda Meir, Israel's foreign minister, met Kennedy in Palm Beach. He told her that Joseph Johnson's plan was dead. America, he said, "has a special relationship with Israel in the Middle East really comparable only to that which it was with Britain over a wide range of world affairs." To Meir's delight, the President added: "I think it is quite clear that in case of an invasion the United States would come to the support of Israel."

And a fascinating snippet on that still very hot topic today, nuclear proliferation:

"Opacity" continues to this day. By 1967, according to Cohen, Israel possessed its first rudimentary nuclear weapons. The BBC, drawing on the analysis of the Federation of Atomic Scientists, recently reported that Israel may now possess as many as two hundred nuclear bombs. A report on the MSNBC Web site estimates that Israel has produced enough plutonium to construct between one hundred and two hundred nuclear bombs and that it could also have by now some thirty-five tactical and strategic thermonuclear devices, as well as the long- and short-range missiles to deliver them.[3] The policy of "opacity" has so far prevented a serious public debate in Israel over what is still called obliquely the "nuclear option." The issue has only once been raised in parliament—by an Arab deputy who addressed a near-empty house.

Israel never signed the non-proliferation treaty originally sponsored by the US. It continues to say only that it will not be the first country in the Middle East to introduce atomic weapons. Israel's recent history vividly illustrates the limits of overwhelming power. "Opacity" did not prevent the 1967 war or the Arab surprise attack in 1973; nor did it prevent the two Palestinian uprisings since or the recent wave of suicide terrorists. On the other hand, when a former Dimona technician named Mordechai Vanunu revealed in the London Sunday Times what he claimed to have seen there, he was kidnapped in Rome, taken to Israel, and given an eighteen-year prison sentence, without parole. His term is nearly over by now. He spent more than eleven years in an isolation cell, an unusually harsh and heartless punishment, and I have seen reports that he nearly lost his mind.

On the eve of the Six-Day War, a few liberal and international-minded Knesset members, led by the Labor poli-tician Eliezer Livneh and the prominent conservative Salman Abramowitz, called for a general Middle Eastern nuclear disarmament agreement. After the war, Abramovitz joined Likud and Livneh became a militant of the Greater Israel Movement. The initiative died. Today, only Egypt advocates a nuclear-free Middle East. Israeli doves, precisely because they favor withdrawal from occupied territories to the less secure pre-1967 borders, are now among the most ardent advocates of the "nuclear option."

Posted by Gregory at 10:58 AM | Comments (1)

"Betting the Farm on a Shaky Foundation"

More profound embarassment for Auntie Beeb.

"The programme disclosed that Mr Dyke had pressed Mr Sambrook about his confidence in Gilligan's story, asking: "Have we effing got this right, because if we haven't, we'd better go back on it."

But Mr Sambrook was struck by Gilligan's insistence that his interpretation of Kelly's remarks was right, and he did not ask to see his notes.

"The director general and his senior executives bet the farm on a shaky foundation," Ware said.

Dr Kelly was shown being asked about the threat posed by Iraq's weapons for a Panorama programme in October 2002, a month after the government published its weapons dossier: an interview which was never broadcast.

Dr Kelly agreed that Iraq's chemical and biological weapons were an "immediate threat", and added: "Even if they're not actually filled and deployed today, the capability exists to get them filled and deployed within a matter of days and weeks."

Well, they didn't "effing" get it right, did they? In fact, they got it flat out wrong given the whole snafu over the 45 minute claim (Kelly never said the government inserted it to 'sex' up the dossier). So I'd say this is a mega-eff up.

So wither Greg Dyke given this?

More at the FT too.

Posted by Gregory at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2004

SOTU Watch

Not his best speech. Here's the link to the text. Go read, if you haven't already, Patrick Belton's excellent instant analysis from last night. (Oh, while you're over at Oxblog, scroll up to read some excellent material Dave Adesnik has up. He's wearing his essay reviewer hat).

Here's the Democratic response (Pelosi, of course, trots out the Krugman radical meme: "[Bush] embraced a radical doctrine of pre-emptive war unprecedented in our history.")

I'll leave the parsing of domestic policy to others like Matthew Yglesias: "Long story short -- more budget BS than you can shake an unprecedented expansion in entitlement spending at."

Worth reading too, Sullivan's pretty gloomy take on the speech.

But let's look at the bright side for a little. Here were the strongest parts of the speech:

"As part of the offensive against terror, we are also confronting the regimes that harbor and support terrorists, and could supply them with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The United States and our allies are determined: We refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger." [my emphasis]

In other words, denial isn't just a river in Egypt. The intersection among transational terror groups, rogue states and WMD remains the greatest peril facing the civilized world in the 21st Century.

Bush gets it. Blair gets it. Nancy Pelosi, er, doesn't.

"Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better. Last month, the leader of Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime's weapons of mass destruction programs, including a uranium enrichment project for nuclear weapons. Colonel Qadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off, and far more secure, without weapons of mass murder. Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible - and no one can now doubt the word of America." [emphasis added]

Some will find such a claim risible. They will say the word of the United States, on the most important national security problem facing us (ie. WMD etc.) has taken a beating given that no significant WMD stockpiles have yet turned up in Iraq.

But myriad intelligence services of other sovereign nations were similarly fooled (and the Kay Report provided a good deal of evidence re: WMD programs). There was no mega-hoodwink, no Big Lie.

Governments the world over realize this. We'll have a harder sale, to be sure, if we are suddenly rushing about Berlin and Paris saying that Iran is about to go nuclear--particularly if their intelligence is to the contrary.

But I believe, at the end of the day, that we will still be able to persuade our allies re: the merits of our intelligence. We haven't lost all credibility here. After all, if Iraq's WMD was the rubric, virtually all intelligence services would be considered about as credible as the local weatherman.

Bottom line: I believe foreign governments take this Administration's pronouncements very seriously and at face value. In other words, we have that precious commodity, crediblity, on the world stage.

Contrast that with the Clintonian era of legalistic verbal parsing exemplified by Clinton's smirky utterance "it depends on what the meaning of is is." That very phrase encapsulated a low, dishonest decade where Clinton presided over a party-time bubble economy based on no real foundations except, so frequently, rank graft and looting of the company store.

Back to the speech.

"I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime - a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments. After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted, and tried, and convicted, and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got."

In other words, steer clear of, say, Wes Clark's (Radovan Karadzic's immunity for genocidaires) legalistic approach to waging the fight against international terrorism.

"Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners, or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support. There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country."

This bears keeping in mind. When a Nancy Pelosi poo-poohs Bush's unilateral war--don't forget that Brits, and Japanese, and Poles, and Italians, and many others--have died in the course of multilateral allied action with the Americans. Indeed, Bush is right, we should never glibly dismiss their sacrifices.

Oh, and the "submitting to the objections of a few" language was a winner. Remember folks, "Europe" as such wasn't against us. A few countries' governments, mostly because of self-interested agendas, were (see France, Germany).

The weaker spots on foreign policy?

The passages on democratization in the Middle East were very weak (it will take more than VOA pipe-ins) and light on specific policy. Ditto on Iraq's future.

This is why I say it wasn't one of his stronger speeches. And he should have told us how, specifically, the Libya precedent might be employed with NoKo, Iran, and others.

And nothing (I mean, nothing at all) on Israel-Palestine. Or critical relationships with Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Nada. As I said, weak--even if, like me, you hate laundry lists. Some critical issues bear mentioning. And they weren't.

A couple final thoughts. When Bush first mentioned Iraq

"Since we last met in this chamber, combat forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations, ended the rule of Saddam Hussein - and the people of Iraq are free"

the chamber erupted in applause. And on both sides of the aisle. That's part of the reason why Dean is losing steam.

It's still an election mostly driven by the trauma of 9/11. And the majority of Americans, not because they are imbeciles and think Saddam is UBL, but because of their prudential fears re: the intersection of rogue states, terror groups, and WMD--still think going into Iraq was the right call (yes, despite 500 fatalities and $120B).

Finally, a brief thought on the domestic side of the fence. I was struck by this passage:

"And even some of the youngest understand that we are living in historic times. Last month a girl in Lincoln, Rhode Island, sent me a letter. It began, ``Dear George W. Bush.'' ``If there is anything you know, I Ashley Pearson age 10 can do to help anyone, please send me a letter and tell me what I can do to save our country.'' She added this P.S.: ``If you can send a letter to the troops - please put, `Ashley Pearson believes in you.'''

Tonight, Ashley, your message to our troops has just been conveyed. And yes, you have some duties yourself. Study hard in school, listen to your mom or dad, help someone in need, and when you and your friends see a man or woman in uniform, say, ``Thank you.'' And, Ashley, while you do your part, all of us here in this great chamber will do our best to keep you and the rest of America safe and free."

Well, this ain't Haight-Ashbury folks. Talk about counter-counter-cultural rhetoric. Thank the troops, listen to dad, and study hard--it brings to mind an idlyllic, rosy, nuclear-family-centric Eisenhowerian America.

Rove's not dumb. The SOTU locked in critical swaths of the Republican base that are socially conservative through such rhetoric and talk about sexual abstention and the like.

Now Bush will strike out towards the center during the main campaign season to get critical independent and moderates on his side--having used the SOTU to help consolidate the base.

Bottom line, the SOTU gets a C plus. It didn't look forward enough, as Sullivan points out.

But, as mentioned, it consolidated the Republican base, reminded all that U.N. resolutions on Iraq were finally enforced by real action and the concommitant overthrowing of a genocidal thug, and of continued progress in the war on terror and counter-proliferation initiatives.

Kerry might not be Dukakis. But he will have his hands full on national security.

And given that the economy (at least for the next 10 months) looks to be O.K., Kerry needs to get really smart guys like Dick Holbrooke to make sure his foreign policy stances are credible, tough and not B.S.-ridden.

Otherwise he's likely not going to make it a real tight race.

Posted by Gregory at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

Nation-Building

Carl Bildt sketches out seven key lessons from his Balkan experiences.

Posted by Gregory at 12:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2004

"Comeback Kerry" Takes Iowa

Embarassing the entire punditry class (including this very humble blog) who were busy chronicling the Dean coronation (or occasionally looking over Dean's shoulder at Wes Clark), Kerry (38%) and Edwards (32%) put in extremely strong performances in Iowa. Kerry, of course, goes to New Hampshire with major new energy to face down Dean/Clark. Gephardt, given his poor showing in Iowa, has dropped out. We will have more on Edwards' strong showing another day.

I actually think Kerry's Iowa's victory is the worst outcome for Bush. Kerry is a strong campaigner (having fended off strong contenders to defend his Sentate seat like former MA governor Bill Weld) and has a distinguished personal history including his Vietnam service. We will be taking a very close look at Kerry's foreign policy views and his team of advisors in the coming weeks. There is much rhetoric emitting from the Kerry camp that has been overly hyperbolic and that needs to be analyzed. Such an exercise will also provide some hints re: what a Kerry foreign policy might look like.

But, seeing his victory speech tonight, I would note immediately that he is smart enough to be pre-emptively avoiding Rove's likely attempts to tag him as a Massachusetts, Dukakis-style liberal (looking risible in a tank). He said that, unlike Dubya, he "knew something about aircraft carriers" and that Bush should "bring it on" on national security matters.

This just got much more interesting. Which makes, for political junkies like us, for some fascinating months ahead.

A last note. As much as we hyped Dean too much, let's not count him out down for the count just yet. As Iowa showed--just about anything could happen in New Hampshire (and beyond) in the coming days.

So, and very much so, developing. But still, a very, very big night for the Massachusetts Senator.

NOTE: Despite most Iowa caucus voters being against the Iraq war--they handed a major defeat to the main antiwar candidate Howard Dean. I think this is because this is still, all things considered, a 9/11 election. National security looms large. Some of Kerry's nuances on the Iraq issue (unlike Dean's intemperate and sometimes idiotic utterances) and his Vietnam record helped in all this when people really stopped and took full stock of the key men in the race and what their various positions portended vis-a-vis their respective approaches to national security.

But Kerry's, er, front-runner status (isn't that the case now?) will also provide Dubya major openings. More soon.

UPDATE: Let me briefly mention another major factor in the big Kerry win.

It appears Democrats voted pretty rationally in terms of gauging the electability of the various candidates in the field. And here, Dean came up short (and his speech last night, wild spasm-like gesticulations and all, likely won't help much going forward).

MORE: Here's a cautionary note worth keeping in mind if you are a Kerry fan:

"Tradition holds that a victory in Iowa can be worth percentage points in New Hampshire. But the two states have chosen different winners in all but 3 of the 13 competitive nominating contests since 1972."

Posted by Gregory at 04:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2004

Diplomacy 101: Sample Foreign Service Exam Question

You are the American Ambassador to, say, Egypt. You attend an exhibition opening. There is a piece of art depicting a smiling Mohammed Atta, perhaps on a plane, flying above a pool of blood with a wicked smile on his face.

You think that the artwork glorifies, in horrific fashion, the events of 9/11. To add insult to injury, this artwork is showcased during a Cairo conference aimed at analyzing conflict resolution initiatives post 9/11.

You:

a) Politely continue to make your way through the exhibit (despite your deep anger and discomfort) and keep your diplomatic wits about you;
b) Leave (in a fit of disgust) the exhibit abruptly without telling your hosts why;
c) Register a verbal protest to both the artist and museum curator/director about the work of art expressing, in forceful terms, how reprehensible you think it is;
d) Destroy the installation (as a pre-planned protest); or
e) Destroy the installation (in a fit of spontaneous rage).

I would pick choice "c". But, in a roughly analogous event (substitute a smiling Palestinian suicide bomber for Atta) the Israeli Ambassador to Stockholm picked "d" (Note: it's being mostly depicted as "e" in the press--but it appears the Ambassador had pre-planned his protest.)

Leave aside that the "artist" (himself a Swedish Jew) sounds hugely lame and that the caliber of his "installation" (like so much cutting-edge contemporary, er, "art" is underwhelming).

Leave aside the moronic title of the piece ("Snow White and the Madness of Truth", highly offensive, as "Snow White" is the artist's appellation for the female suicide bomber) and the artist's risible description of himself as an "eye-bleeding ultimate composer of intifadic and eruptive lung-outs."

Leave aside the Stockholm museum director's hyperbole that the Israeli Ambassador "pulled out the plugs and threw one of the spotlights into the fountain, which caused the entire installation to short-circuit and made it totally life-threatening..." (What is, "totally life-threatening", of course, are Islamic Jihad suicide bombers entering cafes and restaurants and blowing themselves up).

And even, as I don't think it's ultimately irrelevant, leave aside that this exhibit was taking place contemporaneously with a conference initiated by the Swedish government on the lessons of the Holocaust.

Now, you could make an argument that free speech runs both ways. The Swedish Jewish artist enjoys freedom of artistic expression, and the Israeli Ambassador has the right to symbolic protest.

Indeed, given postmodern trends towards 'interactivity" with artwork and such--the Ambassador's actions might not prove as atypical as we think.

Offended or underwhelmed by the latest offerings at the next Whitney biennial? Well, pull the plug on the thing.

But such semi-serious musings aside, here are the deeper issues at play.

To better understand them, check out the text accompanying the artwork.

There is a piece up in Haaretz that describes the text as "beautiful." I find it, rather, discomfortingly relativistic.

But the opinion writer in Haaretz still has a point when he writes:

"This is a beautiful text. It has one serious flaw: it violates an Israeli taboo whereby it is prohibited to look hard at the faces of the suicide terrorists. Breaking this taboo made the Israeli ambassador blow a fuse. However, the ambassador gave us the code for what is happening here, not there, and it is no different from the days when "Queen of the Bathtub," Hanoch Levin's play that satirized Golda Meir's government, was withdrawn from the stage of the Cameri Theater. Now the theaters are cautious. There is nothing really political in them. Similarly, there was the "punishment of Jose Saramago," whose tens of thousands of readers boycotted his important book "Blindness." And there are many other examples." [emphasis added].

What lies behind the faces of these suicide bombers? A female lawyer? A young mother of two?

David Adesnik, a few days back, wrote:

"But as Golda Meir said many, many years ago, there will be no peace until the Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel."

That's too easy. The female suicide bomber probably did love her children more than she hated Israel. The real question is, what nevertheless caused her to commit murder and kill herself in the process?

We need to better plumb the motivations behind the scourge of suicide bombing. The "artist" in Stockholm was attempting that--but in an inflammatory, sophomoric and insensitive fashion.

More serious people need to give it thought, however, and not merely by describing "Palestinian Family Values" as barbaric or the "Arabs," writ large, as a demented lot so consumed by anti-semitism that they will trample over the interests of their families--so vitriolic their hatred towards the "Zionist entity."

The reality is much more complex. A collective psychosis hasn't singled out Arabs or Palestinians as singularly devoid of human fellow-feeling and decency. Conditions surrounding their plight must be taken into account too.

Here's more on the story.

Another key point:

"Despite the blunt statements of support from the prime minister and foreign minister, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem on Sunday were not happy with what they called "the festival of support" for Mazel and his action. The sources said they worried Israeli diplomatic efforts to defend the government's policies toward the Palestinians and territories were adopting a strategy of "losing control," with diplomats dropping diplomatic niceties to adopt unusual and unconventional methods of protest that could harm the reputations of Israeli diplomats."

That's why, all told, choice "c" above was the way to go--despite support voiced by Arik Sharon, Ehud Barak, and the Israeli FM for the Ambassador's actions.

UPDATE:

Reader Daniel Aronstein writes in:

1) never has there been a post-modern piece whose title - and subject - better captured the vapidity, mendacity, immorality, banality, elitism, silliness, and ugliness of post-modernism: "snow white and the madness of truth"

2) - outrage at genocide (or those aiding, abetting, condoning, or glorifying it) is not MERELY honorable, admirable, and moral - it is IMPERATIVE.

3 - if you leave aside everything, nothing is left; there's nothing outrageous leftover for those of us with the courage of our convictions to attack.

He also admonishes me thus: "do not apologize for genocide or those that would. It is shameful, wrong, and self-defeating."

I'll let B.D. readers decide if this is what I've done in my post above.

Finally, Daniel sends in this additional information worth reading:

SWEDISH 'ART' OUTRAGE

"On January 16, Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, attended a Stockholm art show linked to an international conference on preventing genocide. Mazel was shocked to encounter there a large exhibit glorifying the Palestinian terrorist who murdered 21 Israelis at Haifa's Maxim restaurant in October. Dubbed "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," the exhibit showed a tiny sailboat floating on a pool of red water. Attached to the boat was a smiling photo of the female bomber, Hanadi Jaradat. In protest, Mazel pulled the plug on three spotlights illuminating the exhibit, and knocked one light fixture into the red pool.

The exhibit and 'artists'

Media coverage largely downplayed the exhibit's clear glorification of genocide Ý a grave irony, given the theme of the conference. Media reports instead suggested that the exhibit's meaning is open to broad interpretation, or that it merely laments all Mideast bloodshed.

Absent from nearly all reports was the poetic text accompanying the exhibit, submitted by the artists, which juxtaposes the 'beauty' of the red pool of blood upon the moral 'Snow-whiteness' of the terrorist:

For the June 12 deaths of her brother, and her cousin... seemingly innocent with universal non-violent character... Weeping bitterly, she added: 'If our nation cannot realize its dream and the goals of the victims, and live in freedom and dignity, then let the whole world be erased'... Run away, then, you poor child... and the red looked beautiful upon the white.

Here are three examples of the media's selective omission:

1) BBC wrote: "Its Israeli-born creator rejected the charge [of condoning violence], saying the work had a message of openness and conciliation... 'I'm absolutely opposed to suicide bombers', he added."

2) The New York Times News Service reports that one of the artists explained: "I wanted to show how incomprehensible it is that a mother of two Ý who is a lawyer no less Ý can do such a thing," she said, apparently confusing the Haifa bombing with an attack last week by another Palestinian woman.

3) The (UK) Observer spun the story 180-degrees, presenting Mazel Ý not the Palestinian! Ý as the killer: Peaceful Swedes were nearly killed when "an ambassador erupted in violent protest... [Mazel] ripped out electrical wires, grabbed a spotlight and hurled it into a fountain, causing it to short circuit and become a potential death trap."

Dutch television has actual film of Mazel, calmly walking around the exhibit, unplugging the spotlights, and pushing one of the (unplugged) lights into the water.

BROADER CONTEXT

While one could debate if Mazel's act was appropriate, it is essential to recognize that this story runs far deeper than one art exhibit. Associated Press provides important background context to the story:

There has long been debate over where criticism of Israel ends and anti-Semitism begins. The current round touched a deeper chord, because many Israelis feel outsiders often accept the Palestinians' use of suicide bombings against civilians.

As Ambassador Mazel explained:

This exhibit was the culmination of dozens of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish events in Sweden. When you don't protest it gets worse and worse. It had to be stopped somehow, even by deviating from the behavior of the buttoned-down diplomat.

The Israeli government supports Mazel's protest, and the Jerusalem Post had this to say:

As for "diplomacy," Mazel was communicating his point in the only way possible. A formal protest would merely have been "duly registered," filtered and lost in the back channels of European diplomacy. So he chose to scream. But screaming was the only option Europe now gives Israel.

Did your local paper's coverage of Mazel's act of protest fail to note the artists' accompanying text, which casts a mass murderer as a 'Snow-white' victim? If so, write a letter to the editor, questioning the omission of the artist's literal 'whitewash' of Palestinian terror."

MORE:

Nelson Ascher writes in:

"I'd just like to remark that, first, that specific piece in the exhibition wasn't actually destroyed or irrecoverably vandalized, because that is not a unique, irreproducible object that has what Walter Benjamin called an "aura". On the contrary, it could be and was repaired in minutes and, based at it is, on an idea, however bad, rather than on unique materials, it can, with some water, red ink, a little boat and a photograph, be reproduced, reenacted, repeated anywhere, for instance, in my own bath tube. Second, the Haaretz articulist arrogantly questions the ambassador's credentials to judge whether that is or isn't art and then, arrogantly too, passes his own aesthetic judgment on the beauty of the text. More to the point, he generalizes as he wishes the meaning of an individual act, interpreting it as paradigmatic of his country's way of dealing with art or disagreement or the Palestinians, whatever. Well, his interpretation of the act seems to me much more subjective and biased than the ambassador's interpreation of the said art object.

But all this is, at best, unimportant. What seems important to me is that there is a symbolic war going on that's in every way as ferocious as the real one. Symbols are attacked and destroyed. Saddam's statue was destroyed in Baghdad? Well, the protesters in London erected and destroyed a statue of George Bush. But limits are artificially imposed on this symbollic battle. Burning the star-and-stripes is OK and lawfull, even in the US. The burning of "la tricolore", on the other hand, can get you in jail in France, and mocking "La Marseillese" too. The star of David can be juxtaposed with the swastika, but try, either on the streets of London, Paris, Stockholm, either on those of Rammallah, Cairo etc., to do the same with the crescent. It would be nice to see what the reaction would be in Europe to an art object glorifying Baruch Goldstein.
Even more important is the following: the systematic corruption of all concepts that once seemed to be crystal-clear. Human rights? Yes, of course, but not those of people murdered by suicide-bombers. Antiracism? Take a look at what went on in Durban where this noble idea went hand in hand with the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". The Holocaust? Of course, but only those (in lower-case and in the plural) perpetraded by Jews, sorry, Zionists, against Palestinians. The Haaretz articulist even mentioned that poor excuse of an old-fashioned boring stalinist, José Saramago (whose works I can read in his own language). He compared Jenin to Auschwitz, an offensive lie that managed to offend someone who couldn't be suspected of being a right-wing or mainstream Zionist: Haaretz reporter Amira Haas. Well, how did the Israelis react? Many of them by not buying his books, and I think that's their right. Did Saramago have to go into hiding protected by the British secret services? Hardly.
In short, the war has been taken over to the symbolic sphere and, there, it is also being fought in a dirty way. Those who react to a journalist's anti-Arab diatribe by firing him have only nice words to say when it comes to the anti-Jewish diatribe of a poet working for the same organization. Not very even-handed, is it?

If even in the real world of real people double-standards are allowed to proliferate, in the symbolic sphere it is much easier to get away with them.
Finally, just a question. I won't even discuss the futility of programming an artistic event as a forum to discuss genocide. Individual authors or artists might be moved to try to deal with this phenomenon, but thinking that, through a medium that is hardly objective and that is almost always, by its very nature, ambivalent at best, genocide can be productively discussed doesn't sound like a great idea to me. But let's admit that genocide might be debated in a place surrounded by creative work associated in some way to it (since art is never about this or that, right?). Then, admitting all this, what is a work dealing in its own way with the Middle East doing there exactly? To allow that work in that very exhibition means that the organizers agreed with the biased and one-sided thesis that there's a genocide going on in the region. Now, we know genocides ocurred in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda and during the Holocaust. But the very fact of giving the contemporary Middle Eastern situtation, the Arab-Israeli conflict, a place in that forum is not a way to formulate pertinent questions, but to pass a sentence, an anti-Israeli sentence, an a priori condemnation of Israel, without anything remotely resembling due intellectual or even artistic process. While we may defend the artist's freedom of expression, however unreasonable that expression is, that doesn't mean that the decision of those responsible for the museum might be defended in the same way, because it is their work to be judgemental, to chose and to be able to explain and justify their choices. And I'm still waiting for them to tell us why have other works been refused and this one accepted, what are their criteria, what's the connection between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the exhibition's explicit theme, genocide, and so on. This they haven't done, protecting themselves behind empty talk about artistic freedom, a freedom they, who must chose between many works, are paid for by the public to grant as much as to deny
." [emphasis added]

Posted by Gregory at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

U.S. Policy Elites' Views of Europe

IHT's estimable man-about-the-Continent John Vinocur has the first of a two-part series up in today's Trib.

Vinocur quotes Robert Zeollick:

"In an interview, Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, who is much admired in Europe for his nuanced views of European realities, and was the key State Department operational player in forging German reunification, offered an elegant description of contrasts in American and European world views as he had seen them evolve:

"The post-modern European notion of international arrangements fits the European context, but doesn't apply well in the rest of the world. That means that the European idea that all problems can be resolved through compromises at all-night sessions at nice locations just doesn't work everywhere.

"This European concentration on local circumstances leads to a status quo outlook on the rest of world. And this is because Europe is preoccupied and uncomfortable with major new approaches to match very changed circumstances."

Coming from Zoellick, this appeared a refined reading of an altered relationship, one not necessarily hostile, but colder, and to be played out in the future on an ą la carte basis."

Call this nuanced Kaganism. As I argued last week, Kagan's thesis is a bit overblown.

Posted by Gregory at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2004

Conflict Intensification Watch

Here comes a big storm:

"Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin topped the list of those the military is stalking.

"Sheik Yassin is marked for death, and he should hide himself deep underground where he won't know the difference between day and night. And we will find him in the tunnels, and we will eliminate him," Boim told Army Radio on Thursday night."

Bush should call Sharon in the next day or two and tell him to "isolate" rather than kill Yassin, ie. the Arafat approach. I fear his death at IDF hands would set off 3-6 months of major carnage in the region. Nor, unlike UBL, do I believe he is important operationally to Hamas terrorists. I'm not sure how much Israel would gain, security-wise, by killing him.

Posted by Gregory at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

The Myth of a Radical Bush Foreign Policy

Today Paul Krugman writes:

"That doesn't mean that the Democratic candidate has to be a radical — which is a good thing for the party, since all of the candidates are actually quite moderate. In fact, what the party needs is a candidate who inspires the base enough to get out the message that he isn't a radical — and that Mr. Bush is."

Radical seems to be one of Krugman's favorite words. Radical=bad. Moderate=good.

Bush, of course, a radical in the Krugmanian universe.

Radical is typically defined as "(f)avoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions". In turn, "revolutionary" often is defined as the flip-side of radical, ie. "(m)arked by or resulting in radical change."

How does Krugman, willy-nilly, feel he can describe Bush as a "radical" or a "revolutionary" given these definitions?

It appears, somewhat ironically, that Krugman had something of a mini-epiphany about how "revolutionary" Dubya's policies were when reading Henry Kissinger's (no Krugman role model, doubtless) "A World Restored."

From a Guardian piece on Krugman (click "mini-epiphany" link above for more):

"The first three pages of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine," Krugman writes of A World Restored, the 1957 tome by the man who would later become the unacceptable face of cynical realpolitik. Kissinger, using Napoleon as a case study - but also, Krugman believes, implicitly addressing the rise of fascism in the 1930s - describes what happens when a stable political system is confronted with a "revolutionary power": a radical group that rejects the legitimacy of the system itself.

This, Krugman believes, is precisely the situation in the US today (though he is at pains to point out that he isn't comparing Bush to Hitler in moral terms). [ed. note. Gee, great! Guess Krugman isn't welcome at Moveon.org then!] The "revolutionary power", in Kissinger's theory, rejects fundamental elements of the system it seeks to control, arguing that they are wrong in principle. For the Bush administration, according to Krugman, that includes social security; the idea of pursuing foreign policy through international institutions; and perhaps even the basic notion that political legitimacy comes from democratic elections - as opposed to, say, from God."

Leave aside the absurdities about Bush believing his political legitimacy comes from God rather than chad-ridden Floridian ballots. Let's concentrate on the foreign policy angle.

Krugman contends that Bush is a "radical" or a "revolutionary" because he's abandoned the "idea of pursuing foreign policy through international institutions."

But this is prima facie false.

Don't believe me?

Read the National Security Strategy ("NSS") document prepared in 2002.

Why, if we've abandoned international institutions, do we specifically mention working with the World Bank? NATO and ANZUS?

Oh wait, you protest! What of the United Nations?

Well, how about this portion of the NSS?

"We are also guided by the conviction that no nation can build a safer, better world alone. Alliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom-loving nations. The United States is committed to lasting institutions like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States, and NATO as well as other long-standing alliances. Coalitions of the willing can augment these permanent institutions. In all cases, international obligations are to be taken seriously. They are not to be undertaken symbolically to rally support for an ideal without furthering its attainment." [my emphasis]

Could our committment to, rather than gross abadonment of, be any clearer?

Ah, the Krugmans and Soros will say, this is but lip service.

Neo-cons consumed by Jacobean fever run the Beltway--and have duped hapless Georgie--and so a nefarious radicalism is indeed ascendant amidst the Potomac.

They point to portions of the NSS that discuss the U.S. holding out preemption as a policy option. But, as I've written before, such critics aren't reading the NSS closely enough (or are purposefully ignoring all the qualifying language).

And (while we're at it) why is Jerry Bremer spending time with Kofi? Or, as the WaPo puts it, trying to "build a partnership" with the U.N.? I mean, if a radical Bush is hell-bent on ditching international institutions, why all this jaw-jaw over at Turtle Bay?

Our chief diplomat, in a long article, enunciates an American "strategy of partnerships."

Again, I ask, where all the radical/revolutionary going-ons?

I could go on with (many) more examples.

But, finally, I would simply query whether a columnist in the leading American newspaper might not attempt to broach this issue in a more nuanced fashion.

You know, it's easy to throw around labels like "radical" or "revolutionary" and paint Bush as some kind of militaristic Ayatollah. But, when you look at the issue seriously, it's pretty clear that that is all pretty bogus.

The Times, in my view, has gotten a lot better under Bill Keller. He's definitely battened down some of the gross excesses of the Raines regime.

And no, I'm not approaching this as a censorious scold hell-bent on Keller muzzling his more, er, dogmatic columnists. Let them periodically issue their fiery screeds. Strong opinions, especially when intelligently argued, are a good thing all told.

But one wonders whether a quiet editorial word along the corridors of W.43rd, perhaps about the merits of empirical fact-based analysis, uttered discreetly to a Dowd or Krugman, now and again, wouldn't hurt.

Posted by Gregory at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

O'Neill, Intimidated?

Krugman today:

"Another is that the Bush people really are Nixonian. The bogus security investigation over Ron Suskind's "The Price of Loyalty," like the outing of Valerie Plame, shows the lengths they're willing to go to in intimidating their critics. (In the case of Paul O'Neill, alas, the intimidation seems to be working.) A mild-mannered, upbeat candidate would get eaten alive."

The Guardian, in a typically anti-Bush piece, doesn't go that far:

"Mr O'Neill's disillusion personifies a latent split in the Republican party between traditional moderates and followers of the president's father, and the hardliners around the second President Bush. Mr O'Neill served in the Nixon and Ford administrations before moving on to run the Alcoa aluminium corporation, where he dedicated himself to improving worker safety. He insists he continues to support the wider Republican cause but he is not going to be silenced. He declares: "I'm an old guy, and I'm rich. And there's nothing they can do to hurt me." [empasis added]

As Glenn pointed out, Dan Drezner pretty much has the definitive post on the whole O'Neill flare up. Go read it, Drezner's created a no-spin zone on the issue with some sober analysis. Too bad he's not writing at the Guardian or Times...

Posted by Gregory at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Franco-American Rapprochement Watch

Don Rumsfeld hosts his French counterpart at the Pentagon for consultations. And this:

"In Paris, there is widespread speculation that France might send troops to Iraq this year, most likely through NATO and under U.N. auspices, once a transitional government is in place in July, as is currently scheduled. The minister said France is open to NATO taking a role there."

Still:

"Alliot-Marie said France is not yet ready to consider reentering NATO's military command structure, from which it withdrew in 1966 in a gesture of independence. Analysts in Paris have speculated that France would renew those ties, which would bring it closer militarily to the United States, NATO's dominant member. "Right now, it's not our highest priority," she said."

And she trots out the "multipolar" theme and glosses over recent history in the Balkans too (the bit about the Europeans acting "independently" is quite rich):

"Our ambition has nothing to do with rivalry with the United States," Alliot-Marie said in her written answers [ed. note: The WaPo sent in queries to her]. "We want to do our part to keep the peace in our multipolar world, to assume the responsibility for Alliance operations or when NATO does not want to get involved."

She cited examples of Europeans acting independently in Bosnia, where the European Union is set to take over operations from NATO, and in Congo. She added: "Where in that is there a rivalry with the Alliance or the United States? I sincerely don't see one."

Meanwhile, looking for a venti non-fat thin latte (sans sultry waiter) s'il vous plait? But will they allow smoking inside?

Posted by Gregory at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2004

Marshall on the Dean as Unilateralist Meme

Josh Marshall has a rather confused post (Is he discussing Bosnia? Kosovo? Is UN approval for U.S. military interventions important? Or not?) on the whole 'Dean as unilateralist' meme.

He writes:

"In short, the issue is not so much whether you get sign off from the UN or NATO on every particular thing you do. It's a question of the totality of one's approach to allies and the rest of the nation's of the world. By that measure, the whole situation in the Balkans and the current one in Iraq could scarcely be more different."

This "totality of one's approach" language doesn't really mean anything--unless Josh wants to try to provide specifics.

In my view, I fear Josh is really just spouting out generalities that mesh with his instinctive worldview of the merits of some kind of kinder, gentler (and rather amorphously enunciated) multilateralism. One, pace Josh, that would suddenly have the entire planet sharing the global security 'laboring oar' with Washington.

Let's be clear on how the Balkans and Iraq were different, however. With the former Yugoslavia, as the conflagration was in Europe, the Europeans felt they had vital interests at stake.

They still, however (despite pronouncements that 'the hour of 'Europe had arrived') couldn't get their act together and needed the Americans to come in.

We (ultimately) assisted--despite, arguably, not having our vital interests at stake.

With Iraq, a prevailing (recall Gephardt standing next to the present as Congress passed the Iraq war authorization) post 9/11 risk posture had many in the U.S. feeling, with regard to Iraq, that vital interests were at stake (like some in Europe had felt about the wars of Yugoslav succession).

Worth repeating, as it's so often glossed over or conveniently forgotten, many European governments (the U.K., Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Bulgaria and more) agreed.

A few, of course (Belgium, France, Germany), didn't. A combination of resentment of America's hyperpuissance status, French interest in somewhat fanciful notions of 'multipolarity,' domestic European politics (anti-war opinion), and ruffled feathers (Rummy-speak and such) led to stolid opposition by some.

The most important factor, perhaps, was that, unlike people like Tony Blair, leaders like Chirac and Schroeder were dwelling in a pre-9/11 mentality. In other words, they weren't willing to make a strategic decision to adopt a policy shift that would put the burden of proof (re: verifiable disarmament) on states in contravention of U.N. resolutions and the reasonable demands of the international community--so very important given the potentially perilous intersections among WMD, terror groups, and rogue states going forward post 9/11.

So yes, the situation in Iraq and the Balkans could "scarcely be more different." Only not as Josh tries to represent.

Sure, our diplomacy was sometimes heavy-handed (we often appeared to be issuing diktats in places like Mexico City and Ankara), we might have quieted up Rumsfeld here and there and reminded him he wasn't Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.

But the real, material differerences between the Balkans and Iraq are the ones I outlined above--not the ones Josh, in vague fashion, alludes to.

Josh also writes:

"This is a big issue and one that deserves more discussion. It's also worth noting that getting our key European allies on board in the Balkans did play a big role in the long-term success of those operations -- and the diplomatic isolation which eventually played a key role in Milosevic's fall."

I wish Josh would tell us (very precisely, very specifically) how exactly "getting our key European allies on board in the Balkans" played a "big role in the long-term success of those operations."

The reality, really, is that if the U.S. had ever pulled out its troops after the initial deployment in 1995 the chances of renewed conflict in the Balkans would have ratcheted up considerably.

In other words, the American role was the critical one--not the European one (Note: After almost a decade now, we will now see how a lead European role plays out in the coming years as the American presence is further winnowed down in the coming months).

Finally, Josh writes:

"It [the U.S.] has moved from being a dominant power which most often works through a sort of informal consensus to one that increasingly seeks to act through dictation."

Concrete examples, regarding major security issues, please!

Posted by Gregory at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

The (Long) Road Ahead

"Berlin, the city that was the cockpit of the Cold War, now hosts foreign policy conferences in which Moscow is rarely mentioned. Instead, events in Ankara, Tehran, Jerusalem or Baghdad are analyzed, celebrated or deplored in terms of their impact on global stability. Conceptually the Middle East today drives U.S.-European relations as directly as the Soviet threat once did.

But a transatlantic strategic consensus on combating terrorism and other threats arising from the Middle East is yet to be reached. Disagreement on Iraq is only the most urgent and salient point of dispute when it comes to a region that many European governments fear can only get worse and the Bush administration feels must be made better.

This psychological gap is important: Europeans decades ago charged into the developing world with a mixture of bold determination and romanticism that presaged the Bush administration's effort to remake the Middle East. But they bogged down in colonial wars and economic quagmires and can expound at length now on why the "utopian" U.S. effort to implant democracy in Iraq and beyond will meet the same fate.

President Bush and his aides hope to counter both complacency and cynicism with their "Greater Middle East Initiative," a package of political, military and economic programs that the White House will assemble and display at high-level international gatherings." [emphasis added]

Jim Hoagland, writing in the WaPo, and helping to remind us of the mammoth scope of our undertaking in the Middle East by comparing the Berlin meetings to similar conclaves during the Cold War.

If this "Greater Middle East Initiative" is serious and well thought out (I haven't seen a document as such), if it indicates a generational commitment (as some in the Administration have previously indicated), if we de-Rummify some of our more, say, 'spontaneous' communications with our Euro-allies--it might, just might, be possible to forge a common policy alongside Europe towards the Middle East--one on par with the relatively united stance of the Western alliance regarding containment of the Soviet Union.

Here, however, the goals wouldn't be containment of Islamic radicalism. We are not dealing with rational Soviet Politburo actors but apocalpytic terror movements that are decidely irrational. Containment, therefore, is simply not an option. [UPDATE: A readers opines that groups like al-Qaeda are actually very rational. Permit me to be clearer--I meant that, unlike the old U.S.S.R., with all the attendant notions of mutually assured destruction and the like--al-Q are not capable of being rationally deterred. In addition, check out the U.K. intelligence operative quoted in this LRB piece who opines that al-Qaeda is "an irrational force that must be combated, unlike a typical European terrorist organisation, the Baader Meinhof, for example, who always had one eye on their press coverage and popularity ratings."]

Nor is hunkering back into some form of paleo-isolationalism and hoping that the outside world doesn't pay us another nasty visit.

So what are the goals?

They are, in no particular order, peaceful progress towards promoting counter-revolutionary tendencies in Iran; stabilizing Iraq (as a unitary non-theocratic state); admitting Turkey into the E.U. (this would help constrain any potentially nefarious behavior from Ankara), robust counter-proliferation efforts (the goal should be a WMD-free zone a couple decades out, however utopian this may seem now); increased democratization of key governments (not at the barrel of a gun and at a realistic pace) like Saudi Arabia and Egypt; forging a just two-state solution for Israel-Palestine (yes this means most settlements need to be dismantled--as well as portions of the security fence--and that the Palestinians finally need to overhaul their security apparatus and do their damnest to put an end to the scourge of suicide bombings); getting the Israeli-Syrian track resolved; resolution of the Pakistani and Indian divide over Kashmir; increased state-support for moderate madrassas; better monitoring of financial flows to dubious charities serving as fronts for terror outfits; continued eradication of groups like al-Qaeda and staunch opposition to all radical jihadist groups and, finally, well thought out initiatives on preserving/distributing scarce water resources, fostering economic development and related issues.

Yeah, it's not a project that gets resolved in a couple election cycles folks. But these are the types of policy goals that need to be accomplished over the next 20 or 30 years if we want to vastly reduce the prospects of terror attacks (of course, you can never fully eliminate terror, which, incidentally, has been around for a helluva long time) on our shores and throughout the West. To get to this stage, of course, one needs to help the Middle East towards real participation in a global community characterized by open borders, free trade, political liberalization and robust economies.

As you might surmise, to use Chuck Hagel's phrase, "we need friends" to get all this done. And, all told, that probably (at least initially) means refurbishing (though the extent of the damage has been hyped) relations with key European allies.

In other words, the so-called Atlantic community must, in cohesive, purposeful and united manner, begin to approach the myriad critical issues facing the global community in the Middle East/Persian Gulf/South Asian region.

To do this, however, we need serious partners in places like Germany and France who, while conscious of the breathtaking scope of such a project, don't dismiss it as the product of fevered, naive and bufoonish American idealism.

In this vein, as some commentators have pointed out, it will be important to avoid what some are calling the "trap of Kaganism," or, put differently, the in vogue tendency to overly dichotomize the differences between the U.S. and Europe.

"At a conference at the Diplomatische Akademie last weekend on the subject of Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy in the context of the EU’s impending further enlargement, a speaker warned of falling into “the trap of Kaganism.” “If you are a big hammer,” he said, presumably referring to the United States, “all your problems look like nails.” As for Europe: “If you have only carrots, all your problems look like rabbits.” Imagining a “European” Theodore Roosevelt, he said: “Speak softly, and carry a big carrot.”

The point is, as the U.S. has shown in Iran, Syria and Libya--it's not just a brutish, militaristic hegemon solely looking to "hammer" in nails (this is a myth largely concocted and propagated by opinion leaders like Soros, Kerry, Krugman and Dowd).

Likewise, the oft-derided Euro-weenies have, here and there, been known to put boots on the ground (Balkans, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, and so on).

Bottom line: we need to cut through the sometimes artificial divides, agree on long-term policy goals for the Middle East, and role up our sleeves and ramp up the collaborative efforts.

The simple truth is, if most of the policy goals described above aren't met, it will make it much more likely that a good portion of a major American or European city will be vaporized in the next, say, 15 or so years.

And, of course, that much more blood will be spilled in the Middle East--from Haifa to Kashmir. In other words, we don't really have a choice but to engage.

The linkage between the necessity of pursuing the many critical goals outlined above in the Middle East (call it region-building) and the maintenance of our basic security and the concomittant preservation of our Western liberal order is one of the key points I don't think Dean and Clark really get.

Or at least not from the foreign policy pronouncements I've seen to date emitting from their campaigns. Instead, they're more consumed by either, scandalously and irresponsibly, making it appear that Bush might have had foreknowledge of 9/11 (Dean, who eventually retracted the statement) or, quite insultingly (at least to our collective intelligence), stating that no 9/11 type attack would happen under his watch (Clark, in a breathtakingly arrogant statement--when you really stop and think of it).

Seriously, I know this is an election year, but can't the political discourse be a bit more elevated?

Worth noting too, that on an innate, basic level (more effective, often, in terms of actual implementation [see Reagan] than a hyper-intellectualized one)--I think Bush does get the stakes.

Remember, the greatest figures in history are often those who engaged in large-scale, bold, and risky gambits. Sometimes such projects (often utopian projects like Marxism) led to horrific trauma and visited great cruelties on the world.

But other times such projects served hugely benevolent purposes (see the reconstruction of Europe after the two World Wars).

That is the direction we need to strive in today--albeit in a much different region that never went through the Enlightenment and similar critical historical junctures--epochs that are part and parcel of our cultural pedigree here in the West.

Hence the task will be all the harder. But it cannot be side-stepped, kicked down the road, or otherwise avoided.

That, finally, is the real lesson of 9/11.

Posted by Gregory at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2004

A Meme is Born: Dean as Unilateralist!

Blogosphere memes can sure travel fast. Drudge reports, Reynolds links--and traffic turns up over here from such Google searches.

For the record, Dean's Bosnia stance would actually makes me respect the guy more (partisan point scoring about the seeming hypocrisy surrounding Dean's hotted up outrage about Bush's "unilateralism" aside).

Let me explain. I've always resented Clinton for campaigning against Bush pere by accusing him of coddling dictators (Slobo, the Beijing gang, etc) and then, typically in the next sentence or so, pledging to lift the arms embargo on the Bosniaks and use punitive NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb gunners terrorizing U.N. "safe" areas in Bosnia.

Why? Because after artificially raising expectations in Sarajevo that the Yankee cavalry was coming to the rescue (all that noble and breezy campaign rhetoric), Clinton did, er, nothing for three long years while the genocidal conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina raged on (Dick Holbrooke finally, and very ably, brokered the Dayton Accords in late '95).

But wait, why the "would actually make me respect the guy more" language above re: Dean?

Because Dean was very, very late to the 'intervene-in-Bosnia' party.

Check out the date of the letter that Glenn links. July 19, 1995.

Why is that date significant?

Because it is just after the mega-massacre in Srebrenica--where approximately 8,000 Muslim males were slaughtered to death by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of the brutish (and wanted war criminal) Ratko Mladic.

In other words, just about everyone in the Washington chattering classes was (finally) waking up to the 'evil still stalks the planet' theme--just at the time Dean penned his letter (there must have been many similar missives landing in the Oval Office during that week).

Al Gore was telling Clinton, at a White House meeting around that time, that his daughters were bringing up the massacre over at the Gore residence (well, something has to drive executive branch policy, right?).

What shall I tell them about our impotence in the face of such brutish carnage, Gore basically queried Clinton (pity Gore's daughters hadn't been following the situation more closely back in '92!)

I mean even Jacques Chirac (yeah, that one) was urging Clinton to, yes, intervene to save the Srebrenica safe haven (though, bien sur, there was the requisite dose of Gallic bluster, ie. Paris wouldn't necessarily have backed up all the noble talk with real action). [ed. note: You're not surprised, are you?].

So you will forgive me if Dean's sudden fit of moral outrage and Burlington, Vermont letter-writing initiatives ring pretty hollow to me.

Nor does the Dean letter display some deep-seated foreign policy gravitas emitting from points Vermont.

Everyone and their mother was jumping on the 'do-something-about-Bosnia' bandwagon at exactly the time Dean penned his little cri de coeur ditty.

Put differently--too little, too late.

Come to think of it, that's likely what a Dean foreign policy would look like.

Posted by Gregory at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

Debunking Neo-Con Myths (Or Do I Mean Myths About the Neo-Cons?)

Go read Max Boot writing in Foreign Policy (Hat tip: Reader CRH)

Posted by Gregory at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

The Edgy Enthusiast

"I'm talking about factual errors, quotation errors and, to some extent, conceptual errors and how to correct them. I've been thinking about this subject for a number of reasons. For one thing, the new realm of the "blogosphere" has focused attention in a more vigilant way on the errors made by "dead-tree journalists"--and by other bloggers as well. The ease of making corrections on the Web has made the exposure of errors made by dead-tree journalists--and the pressure to correct those errors--greater than ever. And it has opened up a whole new set of questions about the correction of errors. For instance, should a dead-tree publication correct its errors on its Web site as well as its hard-copy edition? Should an effort be made to attach corrections to the LexisNexis version of a piece? And even if one did that, is it possible to chase the uncorrected versions of a story proliferating on Web sites in the expanding universe of cyberspace outside a gated community on the Web like LexisNexis?

In addition, the Year of the Error has brought us the rise in prominence and influence of ombudsmen at major metropolitan dailies, culminating with The Times naming a "public editor," in part to respond to readers' complaints of error, although his brief extends to the tricky gray errors of emphasis, balance, agenda and judgment as well." [emphasis added]

Ron Rosenbaum, writing in the New York Observer.

Is this where we say something like "the blogosphere gets results!" ie. blogs are playing a real role in fostering greater accountability among print journalists and, on a more basic level, represent a democratizatization of information flows in our madcap, frenzied 24-hour media cycle?

Read the whole thing, including the bit about Rosenbaum's new self-imposed "Two Minute Warning" routine.

Oh, and fellow bloggers out there--mull over the specific queries quoted below too.

Isn't it time to begin institutionalizing greater accountability norms in the blogosphere too--without overly hampering/constraining its free-wheeling, 'frontierish' vibe?

"And even though bloggers can almost instantaneously self-correct or "update," some of them do it in separate posts, leaving the problem of many people linking to an earlier, error-marred post before the error is noticed and corrected--and so the beta version, so to speak, escapes beyond correction. Should bloggers somehow link to all those who linked to them before they corrected the error to make them aware of the correction after it's made? I don't even know if that's possible (ed. note: this helps, no?)

I don't have the answers to all these questions. I just raise them because I'd like to hear what other people who think about these things (journalists, bloggers, J-schools and readers) have to say--and because evolving some rough standards might make things fairer for readers and writers alike. So take it away, Jack Shafer of Slate, Jay Rosen of N.Y.U., Cynthia Cotts of The Voice--blogger pioneers Mickey Kaus, Jeff Jarvis and Glenn Reynolds--all you smart people who think about these things--take it away, please. I'm sick of my Two-Minute Warning Syndrome."

Glenn?

UPDATE: Glenn has some cogent thoughts on all this. As he is a lawyer, it's perhaps no surprise that he ends up, ultimately, with some kind of reasonableness standard vis-a-vis broaching general "Department of Corrections" issues.

Like Glenn, for instance, I think it would be self-important and unreasonable to, each time you delete a harsh word here or there (typically on cooler reflection), feel compelled to update your post accordingly by explictly noting the deletion or change of the offensive word(s).

But all this can still be tricky. Glenn writes:

"If the error is minor, and I notice it very shortly after a post, I'll just go back and fix it in the text."

What's "minor"? What's "very shortly"?

Put differently, what makes a Beeb "stealth correction" more nefarious than, say, a Sully or Reynolds one?

Ultimately, I agree with Glenn--the best you can likely do is shoot for a judicious reasonableness standard in all this.

But, and following on from Rosenbaum's piece, one wonders if a slightly more formalized enunciation of a standard Blogosphere corrections policy (employing, perhaps, some of Glenn's approaches/suggestions) shouldn't get a bit more thought out there.

Also not yet really addressed, how best to attribute original content taken from one blog that migrates to another (or what to do where there is no attribution). There's an amorphous lexicon of "hat tips" and such--but some thinking here wouldn't hurt either.

MORE: Yglesias has more.

Oh, and and I'm now looking at his blog pic in a whole new light and imagining Matt as some sort of giant or such!

Who knew that such such fearsome, left-leaning creatures bestride the Beltway?

Posted by Gregory at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

Old Anti-War Left Grandee Watch

"I think Bush is an impostor--a pretender. He couldn't find a mandate, so he found a war. But there is the reality of the Twin Towers, which is a challenge to political structures everywhere, and he had to respond. There were no precedents for a democracy. You either do a huge undemocratic thing or you lose. This was a case where we used a massive response when all we had to do, I think, was catch about three people, and you can do that without creating a regional war." [emphasis added]

Former Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, as quoted in the New Yorker, explicating succinctly the robust anti-terror policy that might await us should the ship of state be manned by Wesley ''(y)ou could have gone to the United Nations, and you could have asked for an international criminal tribunal on Osama bin Laden" Clark.

Apprehend UBL, Zawahiri and KSM and, voila, the threat of continued terror attacks on the American homeland would thereby be extinguished.

Didn't you know it was that easy? Or maybe not. (See sections entitled "The competence and determination of the remaining al-Qaeda leadership cadre" and "The resiliency of al-Qaeda and the likelihood of a post-bin Laden al-Qaeda).

See also Peter Bergen on this too:

"President Bush reportedly keeps photos of the 20 or so top terrorists in his desk, and when one of them is apprehended or killed writes an X through his picture. That might work for a Mafia crime family: Arrest all the key members and the organization will disappear. But al Qaeda is now a movement based on an ideology. Arresting a movement is quite a different proposition from arresting people."

Bergen oversimplifies Bush's approach to the war on terror.

But the passage is worth keeping in mind when you hear people talk about how, in response to 9/11, all we needed to do was to send process servers, under Blue Helmet guard, to the outskirts of Kandahar to inform UBL of his hearing date.

Posted by Gregory at 08:51 AM | Comments (5)

Military Spending Watch

More support for Bob Kagan's thesis.

Posted by Gregory at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2004

More Sloppy Tabloid-Style Reporting at the Guardian

U.S. troops are engaged in the "brutalisation" of Reuters journalists in Iraq reports the Guardian. (Press freedoms are imperiled. Bring back Saddam!).

"Although Reuters has not commented publicly, it is understood that the journalists were "brutalised and intimidated" by US soldiers, who put bags over their heads, told them they would be sent to Guantanamo Bay, and whispered: "Let's have sex."

At one point during the interrogation, according to the family of one of the staff members, a US soldier shoved a shoe into the mouth one of the Iraqis.

The US troops, from the 82nd Airborne Division, based in Falluja, also made the blindfolded journalists stand for hours with their arms raised and their palms pressed against the cell wall.

"They were brutalised, terrified and humiliated for three days," one source said. "It was pretty grim stuff. There was mental and physical abuse."

He added: "It makes you wonder what happens to ordinary Iraqis."

The US military has so far refused to apologise and has bluntly told Reuters to "drop" its complaint. Major General Charles Swannack, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, claimed that two US soldiers had provided sworn evidence that they had come under fire. He admitted, however, that soldiers sometimes had to make "snap judgments". [emphasis added]

Really now?

Here's a more, er, sober treatment of this story:

"Asked about the complaint at a news conference on Monday, the U.S. army in Baghdad said it was still investigating the incident and would announce no conclusions until that inquiry was complete.

The three Iraqis were detained on January 2 and released around 72 hours later.

A Reuters spokesman said the global news and information firm had called on the U.S. military swiftly to complete its investigation and provide a detailed response to the complaint.

He declined to give further details pending a response from U.S. authorities.

"The investigation is ongoing," Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the U.S. Army in Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad.

"We are going to hold a full and thorough investigation on the basis of information provided not only by our troops on the ground but also the information provided by the Reuters journalists. It would be premature to make any conclusions before that investigation is complete," Kimmitt said." [emphasis added]

Oh, so there will be an investigation--contra the Guardian's reporting that the U.S. military has "bluntly told Reuters to drop" the complaint.

But that wouldn't fit the 'aren't-those-brutish-Yanks-just-awful' theme would it?

Here's another media outlet that has the U.S. actually investigating the allegations, again, contra the Guardian's reporting.

Meanwhile, Chinese press outlets have joyously piggy-backed on the Guardian story.

The story can now be passed around, say, the Chinese Foreign Ministry for little pep talks ("Next time your American counterpart lectures you about human rights--remind them of their treatment of the press in Iraq" etc etc).

But, of course, the Guardian has a distinguished pedigree in this type of knee-jerk anti-American muckracking raportage.

Hey, at least they are consistent...

UPDATE: A reader writes in with this part of the Guardian's story to defend their treatment of the story:

"The top US military spokesman in Iraq, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, later admitted that they had received a formal complaint and that there was an on-going investigation into the incident." [emphasis added]

O.K. But it's, you know, tucked away, at the bottom of the article, and must be read in conjunction with such choice phrases liberally sprinkled about the article:

"A spokeswoman for the US military's coalition press and information centre in Baghdad hung up when the Guardian asked her to comment"and/or "(t)he US military has so far refused to apologise and has bluntly told Reuters to "drop" its complaint."

Will you forgive me if, after reading the article, I'm left with the impression that the U.S. military told Reuters to bugger off and no investigation, of any seriousness, is forthcoming?

Posted by Gregory at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

The South Asian Model

Early days, to be sure, but Fareed Zakaria outlines how positive developments on the Indian-Pakistani front might prove a helpful model for the conflict-ridden, oft-ossified regimes of the Middle East:

"Musharraf has broken Pakistan's fall. And he realizes now that to modernize Pakistan he needs peace with India. But the country is proving hard to turn around; the rot has set in deep. And yet, as Shekhar Gupta, one of India's smartest pundits, has noted, peace will be a success only when Pakistan is a success.

Here is the lesson: To stop a country from encouraging conflict, place high costs on such behavior. But to truly change, that country must also see a positive future. This is what is lacking in the Middle East. Arab countries that fund and foment terrorism should know that the costs of doing so have risen. But they must also see a vision of prosperity -- and grasp it as India has. So far, too few Arabs believe they can master this globalized world."

Meanwhile, Dave Ignatius looks to the UAE for the model.

A (somewhat) random query.

Did you learn more from reading Zakaria and Ignatius in today's WaPo than, say, Krugman's regurgitation of O'Neill's clumsy and exaggerated Judas-act?

UPDATE: See Bush reaction to O'Neill's hyperbole here.

MORE: Still, I agree with Sully's critique of aspects of the Bush Administration's behavior related to this whole O'Neill affair.

Posted by Gregory at 09:09 AM | Comments (0)

Hankering for Democracy

Think Iraqi Arabs (or Russian Slavs, Chinese peasants, or nostalgic Francoists) are genetically predisposed to prefer to obey, in brow-beaten fashion, a strong authoritarian hand providing rigid order rather than interested in enjoying the fruits of democracy?

Well, maybe not:

"Part civics lesson, part group therapy session, the discussion left people craving more. Men prepared entire speeches that they read from the floor, often to be politely cut off by the moderator. One woman in the dress of a devout Muslim asked how to get women who lead exceedingly traditional lives at home involved in the political process. No one answered her.

When the forum ended, a man at the floor microphone shouted: "A hundred times I requested the chance to ask a question! But I think you don't want some of us to talk!"

This Iraqi sounds like, er, Bob Woodward or something. And, just imagine if he had uttered that phrase during the old Saddam days....

Posted by Gregory at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

Ostalgie Rising in the East

"Ostalgie is complicated, made up of various ingredients. One is clearly the disillusionment felt by many former Easterners over German reunification, which took place 13 years ago. Unemployment these days is commonly 25 percent in regions like Eisenh?ttenstadt. Rents are no longer subsidized. Doctor visits cost money. People can be fired. In addition, as Andreas Ludwig, the West German scholar of urban history who started the museum a few years ago, noted, even capitalist products break down or are shabby and schlocky.

All this has given rise to a sort of East German post-mortem feeling that maybe the East had its good aspects after all, especially a certain economic security and stability, even if your best vacation option was Bulgaria."

Richard Bernstein, reporting on nostalgia for rosy Stalinist days past, in the NYT.

Meanwhile, the good Chancellor is acting like an uber-capitalist and hustling about for big banking mandates.

But, even if Schroeder nabs a piece of this pie, that's not going to help
ostalgie-ridden guys like this
.

Note: The increasingly strong Euro won't help much either--as even ECB Head Jean-Claude Trichet is finally realizing.

Posted by Gregory at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

Pre-9/11 Mentality Watch

"This sort of article annoys the hell out of me. It is again that black and white simplistic thinking and demand for absolute consistency, which allows journalists to play "gotcha." I have been told by US government folks in counter-intelligence that they think there were low-level exploratory contacts between al-Qaeda and Baath intelligence. This allegation is plausible, and it is the sort of thing Clark was probably referring to in Oct. 2002. It is also meaningless. The contacts, if they existed, would only be important if they had gone somewhere or were at all likely to have gone somewhere. They weren't, which is what Clark means when he says now that there were no (significant) Iraq-al-Qaeda links."

Juan Cole, defending Wes Clark, and appearing (somewhat embarrassingly?) hyper-sanguine about "low-level exploratory contacts" between al-Q and a rogue state (sorry, "state of concern") like Iraq.

Elect Dean or Clark--and this type of thinking will pervade large swaths of Foggy Bottom and Pentagon think.

You comfy with that?

Posted by Gregory at 01:09 AM | Comments (0)

Pollack on the Iraq WMD Issue

Ken Pollack has a must read piece up in the Atlantic. In particular, read the section "What We Thought We Knew" in relation to the whole Bush lied meme. Also, from Pollack's analysis of the Kay Report, in the "What We Think We Know Now" section, this snippet is worth checking out:

"Iraq made determined efforts to retain some capabilities for biological warfare. It maintained an undeclared network of laboratories and other facilities within the apparatus of its security services, and as Kay put it, "this clandestine capability was suitable for preserving BW expertise, BW-capable facilities, and continuing R&D—all key elements for maintaining a capability for resuming BW production." To disguise its biological-warfare programs Baghdad had scientists working on overt projects that were closely related to proscribed activities. "

All you public international lawyers out there...does this a material breach of 1441 make?

Pollack also analyzes Saddam's thinking and motivations, ie. why risk military onslaughts in the face of what might well prove to be a pretty de minimis WMD program:

"Saddam's behavior may have been driven by completely different considerations. Saddam has always evinced much greater concern for his internal position than for his external status. He has made any number of highly foolish foreign-policy decisions—for example, invading Kuwait and then deciding to stick around and fight the U.S.-led coalition—in response to domestic problems that he feared threatened his grip on power. The same forces may have been at work here; after all, ever since the Iran-Iraq war WMD had been an important element of Saddam's strength within Iraq. He used them against the Kurds in the late 1980s, and during the revolts that broke out after the Gulf War, he sent signals that he might use them against both the Kurds and the Shiites. He may have feared that if his internal adversaries realized that he no longer had the capability to use these weapons, they would try to move against him. In a similar vein, Saddam's standing among the Sunni elites who constituted his power base was linked to a great extent to his having made Iraq a regional power—which the elites saw as a product of Iraq's unconventional arsenal. Thus openly giving up his WMD could also have jeopardized his position with crucial supporters.

Furthermore, Saddam may have felt trapped by his initial reckoning that he could fool the UN inspectors and that the sanctions would be short-lived. Because of this mistaken calculation he had subjected Iraq to terrible hardships. Suddenly cooperating with the inspectors would have meant admitting to both his opponents and his supporters that his course of action had been a mistake and that, having now given up most of his WMD programs, he had devastated Iraqi society for no reason."

There are also some recommendations for how we should better handle intelligence going forward.

Pollack concludes:

"Finally, the U.S. government must admit to the world that it was wrong about Iraq's WMD and show that it is taking far-reaching action to correct the problems that led to this error. Iraq is not going to be the last foreign-policy challenge in which we must make choices based on ambiguous evidence. When the United States confronts future challenges, the exaggerated estimates of Iraq's WMD will loom like an ugly shadow over the diplomatic discussions. Fairly or not, no foreigner trusts U.S. intelligence to get it right anymore, or trusts the Bush Administration to tell the truth. The only way that we can regain the world's trust is to demonstrate that we understand our mistakes and have changed our ways."

I would add, in Pollack's first sentence, the phrase "the extent of" between the word "about" and "Iraq's WMD." That aside, I agree with Pollack's sentiments. In a perilous world where we will face future counter-proliferation style challenges--the integrity of our intelligence must be respected by key allies in the international community.

Listen, I think a lot of intelligence services got egg on their faces on Iraq, ie. we weren't alone. Still, we should "demonstrate the we understand our mistakes" to faciliate building a coalition the next time one is required.

But let's be careful about how we define what were "mistakes." Let's not go to the opposite extreme and say Iraq had nothing of concern on the WMD front. The Kay Report already disproved that. Pollack, to some extent, makes that clear in this article.

Anyway, read the whole thing, as they say.

Posted by Gregory at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2004

Israeli-Syrian Track Watch

No Jerusalem (or Tel Aviv) visit just yet for Bashar Assad.

Posted by Gregory at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2004

Paul O'Neill's Comments In Le Monde

Le Monde jumps on the O'Neill quote about Bush at Cabinet meetings appearing "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people."

The French daily asks, with apparent seriousness, "Is George W. Bush a Blind Man Surrounded by Deaf People?" (There's even a pic of a Simian-like, hapless Georgie looking pretty clueless).

Posted by Gregory at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

Alexander Cockburn: Bush and Dean Could Learn from (the Early, Keynesian) Hitler

"Hitler, genocidal monster that he was, was also the first practicing Keynesian leader. When he came to power in 1933 unemployment stood at 40 per cent. Economic recovery came without the stimulus of arms spending. Hitler wanted a larger population, so construction subsidies produced a housing boom. There were vast public works such as the autobahns. He paid little attention to the deficit or to the protests of the bankers about his policies. Interest rates were kept low and though wages were pegged, family income increased by reason of full employment. By 1936 unemployment had sunk to one per cent. German military spending remained low until 1939.

Not just Bush but Howard Dean and the Democrats could learn a few lessons in economic policy from that early, Keynesian Hitler, whose hostility to unions they also echo.)"

Alexander Cockburn, writing in Counterpunch, and embarrassing himself throughout his piece:

"My problem with the Hitler-Bush pairing is not so much the comparison per se which is solidly in the respectable mainstream of political abuse, but in the strange hysteria of Democrats about Bush as a leader of such consummate evil, so vile that any Democrat would be preferable. Any Democrat? George Bush is by definition a warmonger, but Wesley Clark, one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination, actually issued an order that could have sparked Armageddon. ."

Bush as Hitler occupies the respectable mainstream of rough and tumble politicking? Says who? No one with any sense of historical proportion or judiciousness.

Oh, not that I'm a big Clark fan, but it's worth noting that a potential little tussle over the Pristina airport doesn't Armageddon make....despite the hyperbolic sputterings of U.K. military personnel about WWIII or such.

As I said, not one of Cockburn's better essays.

Posted by Gregory at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2004

James Traub, Part Deux

As promised, we are returning to James Traub's long NYT magazine article from last week.

Readers may recall my thoughts on parts of the article from last week.

Back then, I relayed that I would have some additional thoughts on Traub's treatment of some Chuck Hagel and Fareed Zakaria comments--in addition to a few other additional observations. (Traub's analysis of Wes Clark to be blogged later).

So here goes.

On Hagel, Traub writes:

"More striking still was the closing speech delivered by Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, who is often spoken of in Washington as a probable presidential candidate in 2008. Hagel sounded a decorous, Midwestern version of Brzezinski's rather frantic alarums. ''Crisis-driven coalitions of the willing by themselves are not the building blocks for a stable world,'' he said. And, ''Iraq alone cannot define our relationships.'' And even, ''Other countries have their own interests, and those interests need to be acknowledged and heard.'' Presumably that included France. Hagel also observed that ''the American image in the world is in need of immediate and long-term repair'' and suggested such instruments of ''soft power'' as educational and professional exchange programs, as well as increased language training for American students.

There are two very large inferences that can be drawn from comments like these and, more broadly, from the current debate over national security issues in policy institutes, academia and professional journals. One is that the Bush administration stands very, very far from the foreign-policy mainstream: liberal Democrats, conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans have more in common with one another than any of them have with the Bush administration." [emphasis added]

Does Traub really mean to suggest that Hagel believes key administration figures like Condi Rice or Colin Powell don't understand that "other countries have their own interests, and those interests need to be acknowledged and heard"?

I mean, is this how Traub hopes to evidence that Hagel is closer to Dean ("liberal Democrats") on matters foreign policy than Bush?

Take a look at the text of a major Hagel foreign policy speech.

To be sure, he stresses the need to pursue multilateral strategies and the need to not too myopically view our entire foreign policy solely through the prism of the war on terror. Still, Bush's supposed tendency to act unilaterally has been greatly hyped.

And does this part of Hagel's speech sound closer to a Dean or Bush geopolitical worldview?

"The "war on terrorism" rubric provides neither clarification nor direction regarding our non-proliferation policy options. That said, if a proliferating state sponsors terrorism, or has links with terrorists opposed to the United States, then these two areas of focus converge. And our tools to deal with both threats should be squarely focused on those states. It is doubtful that we face a viable threat of a large-scale nuclear attack from another major nuclear power. The more real threat is now the development and deliverability of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by terrorist organizations and the states which sponsor them. The Bush Administration has charted a new course in our relationship with Russia by moving to reduce nuclear arsenals to historically low numbers and engaging our former adversary on controlling the spread of nuclear technology. Nunn-Lugar non-proliferation programs have institutionalized an essential cooperative relationship committed to the reduction and control of nuclear or dual use materials."

Speaking of Nunn-Lugar check out this portion of Traub's article:

"Clearly, the policy makers in the administration do not agree that regime change and fighting proliferation are unrelated, and in recent weeks they have produced what they maintain is proof of their belief: Libya's agreement to abandon its unconventional weapons programs for fear (the administration says) of being the next Iraq. At the same time, the administration has starved the budget for nonproliferation measures. After first trying to zero-out the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which provides money to help the Russians keep their thousands of nuclear weapons secure, the administration ultimately agreed to keep financing steady at $451 million, or one-tenth the annual cost of the national missile-defense program."

Is keeping financing steady tantamount to starving the budget?

Of course it isn't. And note that (harsh Dubya critic) Hagel praises Bush's support of Nunn-Lugar.

Traub also quotes Fareed Zakaria saying:

"...with the exception of Britain and Israel, every country the administration has dealt with feels humiliated by it."

Leave aside whether diplomats in Canberra, Warsaw, Lisbon, Rome, Madrid and Bucharest felt humiliated by U.S. diplomacy in the advent to the Iraq war (it's too easy, and ultimately of no real utility, to play this kind of blogosphere 'gotcha').

Zakaria is a really smart observer of the foreign policy scene. Traub's quote came from this long and typically thoughtful Zakaria article.

A relevant graf:

"In diplomacy, style is often substance. Consider this fact: the Clinton administration used force on three important occasions?Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo. In none of them did it take the matter to the United Nations Security Council, and there was little discussion that it needed to do so. Indeed, Kofi Annan later made statements that seemed to justify the action in Kosovo, explaining that state sovereignty should not be used as a cover for humanitarian abuses. Today Annan has (wrongly) announced that American action in Iraq outside the United Nations will be "illegal." While the Clinton administration?or the first Bush administration?was assertive in many ways, people did not seek assurances about its intentions. The Bush administration does not bear all the blame for this dramatic change in attitudes. Because of 9-11, it has had to act forcefully on the world stage and assert American power. But that should have been all the more reason to adopt a posture of consultation and cooperation while doing what needed to be done. The point is to scare our enemies, not terrify the rest of the world." [emphasis added]

Any of you who clicked through and read the interview I linked of Walter Russell Mead yesterday might recall his statement that:

"[Administration officials] presented something that was not revolutionary as if it were revolutionary. My guess is that they were more concerned with frightening our enemies than in reassuring our friends, that they wanted to draw a line under what they saw as a somewhat indecisive policy in the past. There were better ways to do this. They could have had all the scary impact on the bad guys they wanted without giving a propaganda excuse to all kinds of people and also creating a whole lot of misunderstanding. So, in that sense, I think Powell's interpretation of the core policies is the right one, and I wish the administration had used Powell's language and arguments more. We would have had a smoother ride if we had done that."

Zakaria and Mead make good points. We should have tried to strike a better balance as between scaring our enemies but not our friends.

B.D. will be returning to this theme in more detail shortly--particularly as it (tough Admin rhetoric meant to scare our foes) contributed to the creation of an entire cottage industry (see Krugman, Dowd, Soros, Kerry, and many many more) spouting on about how a revolutionary break in U.S. foreign policy has occurred imperiling myriad multilateral fora and the entire underpinnings of the post-war Achesonian order.

Finally, a couple last points on Traub's article (his treatment of Wes Clark, as mentioned above, to be addressed later).

It's again worth stressing that these types of breezy distortions litter the piece from beginning to end:

"Democratic strategists initially expected to concede the issue of national security in 2004. Howard Dean said that he planned to conduct his campaign on ''balancing the budget and having a health insurance program for everybody.'' Other candidates, like Representative Richard Gephardt, barely mentioned foreign policy at all. But when Bush tried and failed to get a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, decisively alienating almost all of our European allies in the process, foreign policy was back in play." [my emphasis]

This is simply flat out false. Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the U.K. (and more) were not "decisively alienat[ed]".

In fact, they supported the U.S.

I mean, even Germany and France were not necessarily decisively alienated.

Final thought. I do agree with Traub on his quoting of this report:

"The State Department asked a nonpartisan group to study American public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world; the report, issued in October, concluded that ''a process of unilateral disarmament in the weapons of advocacy over the last decade has contributed to widespread hostility toward Americans and left us vulnerable to lethal threats to our interests and our safety.'' These were weapons we wielded boldly during the cold war; we allowed them to lapse in the 90's, when the only instrument that seemed to matter was the marketplace. The study found that the State Department has all of 54 genuine Arabic speakers, that outreach efforts rarely reach beyond capitals, that the American-studies centers that were once ubiquitous around the globe scarcely exist in the Arab and Muslim world."

This is painfully true. We must do better on this front. If this is indeed WWIV--well, we need to win the minds of those who might sooner blow themselves up in our cities than travel to our shores as curious, benign tourists.

Hostility to the U.S. in large swaths of the Islamic world, like it or not, has indeed reached "shocking" levels. But we can't just blame, as some chest-thumpers do in the blogosphere, those damn backwards Arabs who just ain't gonna get it.

Nor is mocking Islam as the 'ROPMA' ("religion of piece, my ass") in assorted comments sections of arm-chair warrior blogs going to get us anywhere.

That's not a strategy for the long-term successful projection of the American national interest. That's just the flip side of idiotarianism.

Anyway, read the State Department advisory report for recommendations on how to improve our public diplomacy in the Muslim world.

[Full disclosure: My father, a retired diplomat, chaired the advisory panel that produced the report submitted to Congress].

Posted by Gregory at 06:05 PM | Comments (0)

Bush's Foreign Policy in 2003: A Report Card

Go read this entire Walter Russell Mead interview. He's pretty much right on throughout.

Here's a teaser (especially for any of you flirting with Wes Clark or Howard Dean lurking out there):

Q: Does that mean the Democrats are mistaken in criticizing Bush for not taking the allies more into account in Iraq?

A: "Yes. I think the Democrats have yet to develop either a serious, thoughtful critique or an alternative to the Bush policy. Basically, they've spent several months complaining that he hadn't caught Saddam Hussein. Almost immediately, when Saddam Hussein was captured, they said, "Well, he still doesn't have Osama." This is not a critique. You hear criticism that Bush didn't get France on board. There's a quote from Howard Dean, running around the internet now, that notes that in 1998, I think it was, Dean said, "It is useless to try and get France on your side. They are opposed to us."

The truth is France is opposed to an expansion of United States power in the Middle East and sees that as perhaps more dangerous to France than the activities of some of the local despots. The idea that if we could just ask more nicely everyone would do what we want is as absurd as the thought that if we just tell them firmly everyone will just fall into line. Among the Democrats running for president, you have some very unconvincing and partial criticisms of Bush's strategy. Probably the best approach has been taken by Hillary and Bill Clinton, and neither one is running this time. They have managed rather successfully to do probably what any Democrat needs to do: embrace the core strategy of the war on terror and even accept the prioritization of Iraq within the war on terror, and then make criticisms about "woulda, coulda, shoulda" done this a little bit different or a little bit better."

You know Howard/Wes, I knew Hillary, and you're no Hillary...

Posted by Gregory at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

The Guardian: An "Experiment" In Global Repression

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who sent in this article from the Atlantic.

Check out this op-ed gracing the Guardian's opinion pages today.

Louise Christian, the lawyer who penned the piece describes Guantanamo, Bagram and similar facilities as something akin to sinister Mengele-like "experiment(s)".

"Worldwide, the experiment is becoming the norm. It has been estimated that at least 15,000 people are being held without trial under the justification of the "war on terrorism". They include more than 3,000 detained in Iraq after the war, of whom at least 1,000 are still in detention; an estimated further 1,000 to 3,000 detained at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan; and an unknown number being held on the British territory of Diego Garcia.

Bagram is a CIA interrogation centre, practising "stress and duress" or "torture lite". An investigation has reportedly begun there after the deaths of two prisoners in suspicious circumstances. US personnel stationed at Bagram have described the regular practice of sensory deprivation and sleep starvation, as well as incidents of throwing prisoners against walls while hooded."

This is a very complex area. On the one hand, we have compelling national interests to try to extract as much information as we can from al-Qaeda detainees. On the other, we would likely consider it "un-American," as the saying goes, to torture detainees (or knowingly transfer them to locales where we are reasonably certain they will be tortured).

The best article I've yet seen on this matter was in the Washington Post a while back. It's a must read, despite being a bit dated, and deserves much wider attention (particularly the practice of 'rendering' detainees to third countries--including, in one case, Syria--for further interrogation as well as the extent of post-capture 'roughing' up of detainees).

Clearly, the Guardian op-ed writer relied, in large part, on the WaPo article for her information. But as so often, those writing in the Guardian get a bit carried away.

Here's the kicker:

"It is of grave concern that the example being set by the US and the UK is being used to legitimise repression internationally on an ever-increasing scale. From China, which has imprisoned up to 100 Chinese Muslims without trial, to Uzbekistan (up to 1,000), Yemen (200), Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, India and Indonesia, this alarming lead is being eagerly followed. In Israel and Chechnya, there would be far more people in prison without trial had not the authorities there taken matters one step further and authorised extra-judicial killings. They were safe in the knowledge that the US government boasted last year of killing alleged al-Qaida members in Yemen."

This, of course, fits the typical Guardian readers's prejudices quite well.

It's the U.S., in this Alice-in-Wonderland topsy-turvy universe, that is leading the global community towards a grotesque legitimation of repression on an international scale.

You didn't know?

Countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are now following the U.S. "lead."

Before, as you may not be aware, the human rights records of such countries were pristine--until the brutish Yanks entered the picture to muck it all up by provision of such a rogueish example.

And Yet

Still, more transparency in terms of our treatment of detainees wouldn't be a bad thing--especially in cases where detainees (as may have occurred at Bagram) appeared to have died while in captivity. We, of course, do need to know the circumstances surrounding such incidents.

You know, when I think of these issues, I harken back to a conversation with a NYC cabbie sometime around November '01. I think there may have been a rumor floating about that UBL was about to be captured.

The cabbie suggested that, if caught, UBL be "rendered" to Ground Zero--where he might then be literally torn to bits by crowds of New Yorkers. He was dead serious--and a lot of us felt these types of crude rumblings for revenge then and even now.

Unlike Howard Dean, I've got no big hang ups about UBL's guilt. For one, the videotape showing him expressing giddy surprise that the WTC actually crumbled went a long way towards, you know, convincing me that he may have had a minor role to play in the whole affair....

Still, our appeal as a society, our strength as a polity--revolves around striking a fair balance as between ensuring our national security and protection of our civil liberties.

Yes, the constitution, to use Justice Robert Jackson's memorable phrase, isn't a suicide pact and never can be. But torture is a slippery slope.

Like a reforming alcoholic tippling the bottle--throwing hooded detainees into walls and transferring detainees to countries that have used torture extensively in the past take us a ways towards some pretty perilous straits.

On balance, given the extraordinairy times we find ourselves in (with coerced information perhaps helping stem another 9/11 or the like), nothing I read in that WaPo article has me concluding we are in flagrant disregard of the relevant human rights norms--at least not in term of systemic, official policy:

"According to present and former officials with firsthand knowledge, the CIA's authoritative Directorate of Operations instructions, drafted in cooperation with the general counsel, tells case officers in the field that they may not engage in, provide advice about or encourage the use of torture by cooperating intelligence services from other countries.

"Based largely on the Central American human rights experience," said Fred Hitz, former CIA inspector general, "we don't do torture, and we can't countenance torture in terms of we can't know of it." But if a country offers information gleaned from interrogations, "we can use the fruits of it."

Bush administration officials said the CIA, in practice, is using a narrow definition of what counts as "knowing" that a suspect has been tortured. "If we're not there in the room, who is to say?" said one official conversant with recent reports of renditions." [emphasis added]

But, as I said, a slippery slope.

Regardless, the issue merits wider attention--not just by leftist lawyers in the UK trying to score cheap, hyperbolic anti-U.S. points with their arguments descending into Guardianesque caricature--but by more concerned Americans taking a hard look at how the war on terror is being prosecuted in the Bagrams of the world.

Posted by Gregory at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2004

Go East Young Man


Germans seeking employment in....Poland.

Posted by Gregory at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

Gender Gap Watch

From the NYT's main Internet page introducing this story on Wes Clark's fashion, er, adjustments:

"Gen. Wesley K. Clark Gone has replaced his suit with an argyle sweater in an attempt to increase his support among women."

Think this "argyle" sweater will do the trick?

I report, you decide.

In a more serious vein, expect some commentary on Clark related to this James Traub article over the weekend.

UPDATE: Glenn espies an Al Gore/Naomi Wolf deja vu, of sorts.

MORE FROM GLENN: Heh, as they say.

Posted by Gregory at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2004

Israeli-Syrian Track

What's going on re: the Israeli-Syrian track? This article has Iranian arms, under cover of supposed Syrian humanitarian flights related to the earthquake in Iran, arriving in Syria and then being delivered to Hezbollah forces in south Lebanon.

But scroll down further, and there are follow on articles about the Turkish offer (Bashar Assad was in Turkey this week) to mediate between Israel and Syria, and reports that Sharon is coming under domestic pressure (from, yep, even people like Netanyahu) to respond to Syrian diplomatic overtures:

"The upper echelon of the army believes Israel should not appear to be saying no to a peace proposal and should respond positively, putting Assad to the test even if it appears that the Syrian proposal is for tactical reasons, as Damascus tries to mitigate heavy U.S. pressure.

According to defense sources, the view is supported by IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon along with his deputy, Major General Gabi Ashkenazi, the head of Military Intelligence Major General Aharon Ze'evi, and the outgoing director of the army's Plans and Policy Directorate, Major General Giora Eiland, who will be taking up the chairmanship of the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office at the end of this month. The political leadership has been made aware of their stance.

A senior defense source told Haaretz that Assad's declarations were "an opportunity that Israel does not know how to exploit."

"Even if it is a tactical move by the Syrian president, Israel must corner him with positive signals," the source said. "A positive response by Israel would force Assad to take steps such as restricting Iranian and Hezbollah activity in the north."

Assad doesn't want to look impotent and so wants to signal to the Israelis that he is, despite being pretty boxed in regionally, willing to allow the spigot of rocket attacks into northern Israel to be ratcheted up should the regional situation detiorate.

That said, it appears, he would be willing to clamp down on such activity if the Israelis start talking about the Golan a bit.

More important signs that the IDF is taking it all seriously here:

"Ze'evi-Farkash believes that Assad has made a strategic change, and he bases this assessment on analyses conducted by Military Intelligence researchers who have reviewed the latest Syrian statements, as well as other messages that have been passed on to Israel through back channels.

The researchers point to the fact that Syrian officials are not mentioning the demand that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights to the June 4, 1967, lines. Kupperwasser believes the Syrian moves are instrumental, and are designed only to reduce American pressure.

Sharon and Mofaz do not accept the army's position and are sticking to their rejection of negotiations with Assad, believing that Israel cannot hold up under the burden of "two fronts" - conducting negotiations with Syria while dealing with the confrontation with the Palestinians."

Developing.

Note: A Likud MK if off to Damascus.

Posted by Gregory at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

Constitution Ratification Watch

So, when might the Council start analyzing the new European constitution?

NB: Want to wager that Iraq will likely have one before the Eurozone too?

Posted by Gregory at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

Reader Reaction

"Re: Your post on Juan Cole, WMD and Oil

I agree with you that the U.S. government - and indeed, every sensible, well-informed observer - had a rational and sincere fear about WMD in Iraq prior to the war. But it surely verges on comic understatement to claim that the "intelligence may have been too aggressively analyzed by some in the administration". "may"? "too aggressively"? And in a post taking Cole to task for careless language?

It was obvious even at the time - for example, when the President made the infamous uranium and aluminum tubes claims in the SOTU speech - that the administration was selling the war dishonestly, something which always carries a cost, even when the ends are presumed to justify the means. I recall Wolfowitz publicly refusing to stand up for the aluminum tube theory five days before the SOTU speech - not a very reassuring sign of the administration's faith in the theory.

Comment: I think this reader goes too far in saying that it is "obvious" that the Bushies sold the war "dishonestly." My views today, despite Bart Gellman's WaPo piece of yesterday and other information that has come out since, remain per this analysis.

As for oil, I wonder if you oversimplify a bit. Obviously the war wasn't fought to enrich Haliburton (though surely Cheney finds the enrichment of Haliburton less worrying than I). But there are other ways in which oil might figure into a foreign policy. The U.S. has long maintained an interest in the region precisely because it contains oil. No historian denies that U.S. policymakers noticed the significance of oil to victory in WWII and resolved to ensure continuing access to it. No one thinks that the close alignment with Saudi Arabia for so many years was due entirely to a dispassionate admiration for its culture. No one can deny that the oil embargo of the early 70s was a severe shock to the U.S. economy, which only strengthened policymakers' appreciation for the importance of oil. With the recent release of official British papers, no one can deny any longer that the U.S. seriously considered seizing oil fields in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the crisis. So why should it be controversial to claim that oil might figure importantly in current policy decisions about the Middle East, even if the sillier versions of the claim are obviously false?

The WMD were relevant of course, but the most important reason they were relevant is that they threatened the U.S.'s long term access to oil. As Kenneth Pollack pointed out prior to the war in his book, a single well-placed nuclear missile would permanently irradiate most of Saudi Arabia's oil and send the world into a prolonged depression. But more plausibly, Iraqi dominance in the region might have undermined the U.S.'s standing in Saudi Arabia or put unwanted pressure on crucial OPEC countries. And WMD would have been an essential part of Iraq's ability to punch above its weight. I suppose this is why I find it so mystifying to see concern about WMD contrasted with concerns about oil, when so much of the concern about WMD is motivated by long-term concerns about how Iraq might have leveraged WMD to threaten U.S. access to oil.

In the current debate about oil the two loudest sides claim, respectively, that oil is irrelevant, or that it is all-motivating. Many problems with that, of course, but one serious worry is that it prevents us from having a debate about exactly what is and is not legitimate for a country to do in order to defend vital resources. As Hitchens never tires of pointing out, it would be deeply irresponsible for U.S. leaders not to worry about such a crucial resource. But it doesn't follow from that that anything at all is justified. So what are we to do?"

Chris Young
Graduate Student
Philosophy Department
Cornell University

More comment:

The fact that Iraq is smack dab in the Middle of the oil rich Persian Gulf, of course, has an impact on geopolitical decision-making. I take the readers point about Ken Pollack's concerns about, for instance, a strike on Saudi oil supplies or such.

But to suggest, as Juan Cole did, that we went in for oil remains highly disingenuous.

History, as much as its murky currents can be accurately gauged, is a multicausal phenomenon--and historians will spend much time many years hence apportioning the reasons/rationale we went to war in Iraq.

But here is my rough cut (percentages are a tad ridiculous, yes, but they get the point across)

1) 9/11 related factors related to the intersection of rogue regimes, transnational terror groups, and WMD (particularly given that Iraq, unlike NoKo and Iran, had used WMD against its own people and started two regional wars): 70%

Note: Wolfowitz, for one, separates WMD and terrorism and considers them separate variables (well, he also connects them, click through the link for more).

2) Iraq's strategic location in the Persian Gulf: 20%

3) Bush family animus against Saddam: 5%

4) Humanitarian considerations: 5%

Bottom line, it was, in very large part, the WMD/terror/rogue state post 9/11 risk posture folks.

A relevant aside: As I've blogged before, I was always less concerned about Saddam's nuclear capabilities (where our intelligence was weakest). It was the biological and chemical capability (and his potential willingness to transfer it to, if not al-Qaeda, another terror group) that worried me (particularly post 9/11). On this, even the Powell's and Tenet's of the Administration were pretty confident of Saddam's capabilities.

Did they lie to us too? Did everyone in official Washington lie to the American public? Was it that damn horrid a mega-hoodwink job?

Meanwhile, Juan Cole responds to "blogistan" critics. It's well worth reading and I empathize with Cole--particularly in terms of his Shi'a friends slaughtered during Saddam's reign.

Still, I don't believe his disingenuous suggestion about the U.S. perhaps having gone to war in Iraq for oil quite jives with his evocation of Isaiah Berlin.

A final note: I can't stress how much I enjoy getting quality reader feedback like that posted here today. I enjoy the back and forth of debate immensely.

I would have a comments section--but have too little time to blog generally so can't add to the temporal burdens with a need to monitor comments.

That said, I urge readers to write in and take me to task when they find my arguments too polemical, not well reasoned, partisan, illogical, or, you know, just generally hack-like.

So thanks to readers for keeping me on my toes and intellectually honest.

Posted by Gregory at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2004

The Pakistan Conundrum

What to do about Pakistan? One can almost hear the hand-wringing amidst the policy-making community when that country (or Saudi) comes up.

On the one hand--you look at some of the positives.

1) Musharraf is cooperating against al-Qaeda (but not, as much, against the Taliban or neo-Taliban, which we'll look at in more detail below).

2) He's boldy pursuing peace gambits with the Indians which would go a long way towards stabilizing South Asia (still, of course, a settlement is a long way off).

And on the other hand--you look at some of the negatives.

1) Pakistan's role as proliferator of nuclear technologies.

For instance, see this reporting on Pakistan's alleged assistance with Libya's nuke program (though there is no indication the Pakistani government itself was involved. Worth noting too, this fervent Pakistani denial of the story).

2) The (more radical) madrassas continue to pose a problem in term of breeding potential terrorists (and not just Pakistani ones).

3) Musharraf's failure to completely engage against the Taliban and neo-Talibs.

Former veteran diplomat Frank Wisner recently co-chaired a CFR Task Force report entitled "New Priorities in South Asia: U.S. Policy Toward India, Pakistan and Afghanistan".

Anyone curious about the future of this volatile region and the direction of American policy there should read it (or at least the exec summary). Here's a PDF version of the report.

The report addresses some of the 'bad' side of the Pakistan ledger that I've flagged above.

That said, the report doesn't have too much by way of pathbreaking recommendations on the nuclear proliferation front. The conventional wisdom is, of course, to press for more effective anti-proliferation controls, find ways to get Pakistan and India into the "global nuclear nonproliferation system," and the like.

That's pretty much what you get in the report.

The detailed NYT reporting on the matter certainly adds to the urgency of getting a better handle on this issue. But to put too much pressure on Musharraf, ramped up all of a sudden, given the risks he is taking on peacemaking with India (which would involve painful concessions on Kashmir) and cooperation with the U.S. on al-Qaeda (not to mention the assassination attempts) might just push matters to a breaking point.

It's become pretty common to blame a lot of the bad stuff that happens in Pakistan on rogue elements in the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (the "ISI").

This helps facilitate a narrative whereby the U.S., much like in the past, pursues a 'balancing act' of sorts with Pakistan. As part of this act, Musharraf is the good guy helping us (generally speaking) and needing back up to fend off the bad guys operating in the shadows of the ISI.

Still, to some extent, this isn't just a convenient fiction. Doubtless, anti-proliferation efforts would be enhanced by beating back ISI influence as much as possible--without a full-blown destabilization in the Pakistani polity.

Bottom line: there is no magic bullet or panacea on the nuclear front. But reducing the ISI's general influence in domestic politics and the military would certainly not hurt.

Let's also take a look at the madrassa issue and continued Musharraf support for the Talib and neo-Talib.

On the latter, we unfortunately can't expect 100% compliance.

As detailed in Wisner's report, Musharraf's post 9/11 abandonment of the Taliban "marked a defeat for Islamabad's 'forward' policy of trying to transform Afghanistan into a client state to provide 'strategic depth' against India."

More recently, the abandonment of the Taliban has certainly looked less total. As the report notes:

"Islamabad cooperated with U.S. forces during Operation Enduring Freedom and has continued to do so in pursuing the remnants of al-Qaeda. Islamabad has been less vigorous in pursuing Taliban supporters that have found refuge in the Pashtun tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, particularly after pro-Taliban Islamist parties won provincial elections in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and joined the ruling coalition in Baluchistan."

The hope here, of course, is if peace talks with India go well--Musharraf will not need to be as concerned about 'strategic depth' in terms of a major sphere of influence in Afghanistan. He can therefore, one would hope, crack down more on Taliban and neo-Taliban (at least those that appear most willing to cross the border and engage U.S. troops).

Needless to say, the U.S. should be exerting its good offices and diplomatic muscle to ensure Indian-Pakistani talks get all the backup they need.

Also important, and not often discussed, is ISI support for warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He's doing his best to destablize the U.S. influence in Afghanistan, is very influential, and we need to signal in very clear terms to Musharraf that Islamabad must do its utmost to rein him in.

Finally, the madrassa issue. This gets us to basic questions that people like Don Rumsfeld turn to when they ponder whether we are really winning the war on terror.

Put bluntly, and paraphrasing Rummy, the query is something along the lines of whether we are killing more terrorists than radical madrassas are producing.

And, while it's not macho to talk about endemic poverty, NGOs, and all that kind of lily-livered stuff amidst some commentators--the bottom line is we need to look at some of these factors and/or possible solutions when tackling the madrassa issue.

For instance, is it just coincidence that there is so much radicalism in the NWFP? Is it just related to fervently held religious feelings in that part of the country? Or does poverty play a role?

Wisner's task force takes a view:

"Stress Help for Pashtun areas. The United States should be making support for projects in the Pashtun-populated areas of the NWFP, Baluchistan, and the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) a....priority. The fact that the Pashtun belt remains one of the poorest parts of Pakistan is doubtless one factor behind the appeal of the religious parties. Yet both the NWFP and Baluchistan have considerable although unexploited potential for supplying products needed for the reconstruction of neighboring and even less economically developed Afghanistan....Microfinance, rural development, better schools, and improved maternal and child health programs could significantly boost economic prospects in a region that has been chronically left behind and neglected."

Go read the report for other recommendations on how best to structure our financial assistance (more aid towards economic/social development, less security), strengthening local NGOs (some are "visionary but weak"), easing import restrictions on Pakistani textiles, and more.

More on Pakistan soon.

Posted by Gregory at 08:03 PM | Comments (0)

The First Post-Saddam Month

Samizdata has an interesting post on the (waning?) Iraqi insurgency.

It's, of course, way too early to make any determinations about the course of counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq. But just in case you have been reading too much, say, Juan Cole of late--it's good to take a look at the brighter side of things now and again.

Note: I have much respect for Professor Cole's obvious passion and knowledge on matters Middle East. His site does indeed perform as advertised, ie. provide his readers "informed comment."

But, of late, some of his prose re: French "martyrs" or the "Triangular meat grinder" have sounded a bit, er, Fiskian in tenor and tone.

Here's a passage that, I think most judicious observers would agree, is over the top:

"Clark has also pointed out that it makes no sense for the US to occupy Iraq for its oil, if that is what is going on. Iraq's oil is useless unless it is pumped, and if it is pumped then it goes on the world market for sale, and anyone, including the US, can buy it. It is not necessary for the US to put its troops through the Triangular meat grinder to get oil."

I continue to maintain that the real reason we went to war in Iraq was because of WMD given our post 9/11 risk posture (click here for an update on the whole WMD issue, B.D. will have more on this later too).

Yes, intelligence may have been too aggressively analyzed by some in the Administration--but there was a sincere fear that Saddam's WMD capabilities were significant and some credible intelligence to that effect did exist.

Put simply, the American people were not subjected to a massive hoodwinking re: WMD so as to serve as a mere pretext to secure stockpiles of Mesopotamian crude. And it's irresponsible of Cole to so suggest.

More: In fairness to Cole, one does espy a tad bit of optimism in this interesting post reacting to an opinion poll of Iraqis.

Posted by Gregory at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

The Condi Chronicles

Well, here it is, the long awaited NYT State-of-Condi piece.

Interesting snippets:

"In Northern Ireland this past April, Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice had a tense disagreement about a phrase that Mr. Bush planned to use in a joint news conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. With American and British forces making quick gains in Iraq, Mr. Bush wanted to say that the United Nations would have a "vital role" in an American-led occupation. Mr. Blair and Mr. Powell agreed. But Ms. Rice, according to a senior administration official, was under pressure from officials in Mr. Cheney's office who disliked the United Nations and thought "vital" was going too far.

The president used the word anyway — not once, but nine times. Afterward, the senior administration official said, Ms. Rice was "fussing about it a bit because she was afraid she might have some explaining to do back here in order to cover all of our various constituencies. And after a while, the president got annoyed about it."

The president, the official said, then cut off Ms. Rice, curtly telling her, the official recounted, "I did it, and that's it." The two nearly made a scene, the official said. "They almost had to go off for a minute to sort it out," the official recounted. "And then it blew over."

So tell me again that Dubya is but a clueless marionette in the hands of Dick Cheney. On another note, however, this vignette does showcase how, as against Beltway barons like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell--Condeleeza Rice has often been out-gunned.

Bush pere's NSC advisor Brent Scowcroft is quoted in the article. (As I've blogged before here and more fully here, I view Scowcroft as an effective model of a good NSC advisor--a real broker at the helm of the NSC putting out firefights as between feuding departments).

Scowcroft is gentle (but ultimately damning) in his comments:

"In Washington, Ms. Rice has faced increasing criticism that while she has done a good job as the president's friend and cheerleader, she has done a bad job of managing the president's frequently warring foreign policy team.

Her inability to rein in other powerful advisers, critics say, has helped lead to little planning for the occupation in Baghdad, stalled negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and no success in stopping North Korea from making nuclear weapons.

"She has a problem that I didn't have," said Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to Mr. Bush's father and a longtime mentor to Ms. Rice. "Everyone then was facing in the same direction, but she's got people facing in opposite directions. And that's really hard." [emphasis added]

Translation: She hasn't been able to do her job effectively.

And finally, how Rice sees her job is quite revealing:

"Ultimately, she added, she will look back on her job as that of a pianist in a chamber music group.

"The pianist is always facing the fact that this beast that is the grand piano can just overwhelm in sound and volume and drama any string, or all of the strings together," she said. "So you want your playing to have personality, but you don't want it to be front and center, overwhelming. It has to be part of the team."

An orchestra conductor would be a better analogy. You need to make sure the unwieldy team is moving together in concert. There will always be, just on an institutional bureaucratic politics level, tense relations between State and Pentagon.

With Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, of course, it has been particularly nasty. So having an NSC Advisor willing, ready and able to step up to bat and actively broker the differing policy agendas into a (at least somewhat) coherent whole is even more critical.

And, with all due respect to a hugely talented lady, Condoleeza Rice hasn't been able to pull it off. Put differently, she's been drowned out by the beasts (Cheney, Rummy, Powell).

So the piano playing has had personality--but of the weak-kneed, ineffective variety. The result, too often (and this coming from an Administration supporter), has been policy drift in places like NoKo, Iran, Syria, and Israel-Palestine.

Posted by Gregory at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

John Burns

More fair play from the best journalist the NYT has got on its payroll:

"The new battalion made a creditable showing with a precision marchpast in camouflage uniforms self-consciously different from those of both Mr. Hussein's army and the Americans': British-style berets and badges of rank and other insignia that go back to the first Iraqi republic, which was established in 1958 by the military coup that overthrew and killed King Faisal II. The badges have been stripped of the Baathist tracery that slipped in under Mr. Hussein.

A poignant but somewhat inauthentic air echoed in the discordant strains of the new army's marching band, especially when it played tunes borrowed from the country's occupiers, like "Colonel Bogey" and "The British Grenadier," which harks back to Napoleonic wars.

But the Iraqis on hand cheered up when the band shifted to "The Army Is a Fence for the Country," a tune that originated under the first military ruler, Abdul Karim Kassem, and remained in vogue under Mr. Hussein.

Through the parade and the soldiers' exuberant tribal dancing that followed, there was an air of expectancy, hesitant but still real, that Iraq can overcome the paralyzing insurgency of recent months and construct the Arab Middle East's first, or at least fullest, democracy." [emphasis added]

Posted by Gregory at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

Rapprochement Watch

Posted by Gregory at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

9/11/73

Sick of being pinned to the wall at cocktail parties and scolded about the nefarious U.S. role in that other 9/11 (you know, Allende, Kissinger etc.)? Read William Roger's debunking of leftist mythmaking about the U.S. role in Chile in the early 1970s in response to a Foreign Affairs book review.

You might then be better prepared the next time you, per chance, get a cartoon like this thrown at you or such.

Remember when Le Monde ran this on the 9/11 anniversary last year? Timing is everything, n'est ce pas?

Posted by Gregory at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

Euro Cohesion Watch

French hostility to Euro expansion? And Jacques thought he was on a high-speed track--with the recalcitrant Poles left in the cold. A prospective referendum in France might just place Europe on three tracks--fast, slow, and no-go.

Posted by Gregory at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

Beeb Watch

The Beeb acting pre-emptively?

Say it ain't so. Next they will be accused of a rigid, militaristic form of pre-emption.

Posted by Gregory at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2004

Spinning for the Clintonista Restoration: Traub Cheerleads for the Podesta-Wing

James Traub's NYT magazine cover article on Democratic approaches to foreign policy has gotten a decent amount of attention in the blogosphere over the past couple of days. Drezner calls it a "decent piece" overshadowed by Saddam's capture. David Adesnik blogs it somewhat more critically.

But neither Adesnik nor Drezner seem to have an issue with the fact that Traub's piece might have been penned by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta touting his new, er, "non-partisan" public policy think tank.

In other words, it's a pretty classic NYT magazine piece--a bunch of pot shots taken at Republican foreign policy views--while, brow furrowed in deep think and dense prose, casting about (ultimately futilely) for a stolid Democrat foreign policy (Wes Clark, darling of the Clintons, the savior, but more on that in a follow on post).

Consider some passages from Traub's piece:

"It's not just the war in Iraq that prompted these hopes of realignment; it's the Bush administration's penchant for bellicosity, its barely concealed contempt for the United Nations and for many of America's traditional allies, its apparent confusion about how to deal with North Korea." [my emphasis]

A "penchant for bellicosity"? The war in Afghanistan enjoyed near universal support given the Taliban's refusal to hand over al-Qaeda culprits. Given this reality, to have not pursued a military option (and one where we retained maximum flexibility) would have been constitutive of something akin to a masochistic, fanatical pacifism.

I think most people would agree with that (unless you are Wes Clark, who would have expended precious diplomatic capital over at the U.N. to, per his words, ask "for an international criminal tribunal on Osama bin Laden". Call it the Radovan Karadzic approach to international relations. Impunity for genocidaires).

Of course, another (much more controversial) war, was fought in Iraq. But, and particularly given this Administration's preference for non-bellicose approaches to NoKo, Iran, Libya, Syria and points beyond, does this a "penchant for bellicosity" make? I think not.

Traub also describes a "...barely concealed contempt for the U.N." See Colin Powell on this oft-trotted out fake meme:

The key Powell grafs:

"Above all, the president's strategy is one of partnerships that strongly affirms the vital role of NATO and other U.S. alliances -- including the UN.

Don't believe it? Perhaps this is because the commentariat widely claimed that the president's recent decision to seek a new UN Security Council resolution on the postwar reconstruction of Iraq was a sharp break with policy. To think this, one would have to ignore the fact that President Bush went before the UN on September 12, 2002, to make his case for the UN's enforcing its own resolutions (16 of them in total); that Security Council Resolution 1441 -- which warned the Iraqi regime to comply with its own obligations under previous UN resolutions -- passed unanimously in November 2002; that we tried for a further resolution to unite the international community in the months before Operation Iraqi Freedom began; that we went to the UN in May 2003 after Operation Iraqi Freedom to secure Resolution 1483, lifting sanctions against Iraq that had become obsolete; and that we sought and secured Resolution 1500 in August, recognizing the Iraqi Governing Council."

Memo to Traub: Barely concealed contempt doesn't jive with bending over backwards to get four resolutions passed in the august halls of Turtle Bay on a specific issue.

Or working the phones overtime with Dominique de Villepin to get the French to play ball-- at least when the French Foreign Minister was reachable at the Quai D'Orsay and not gallivanting about sub-equitorial Africa rounding up anti-preemptive war votes amidst such avatars of democracy as Angola, Guinea, and Cameroon.

More from Traub's piece:

"In October, the Center for American Progress, a new liberal policy institute, held a two-day conference in Washington designed to lay out the foundations of an alternative, and politically viable, national security policy. The panels at the symposium (which was also sponsored by the Century Foundation and The American Prospect magazine) featured, in the main, nonideological figures offering sober and pragmatic counsel: reserve the right to act pre-emptively but don't make a doctrine of it; do peacekeeping right; focus on ''failed'' states like Afghanistan and Sudan; devise carrots as well as sticks to deal with state sponsors of terrorism; forge a global strategy to deal with the proliferation of nuclear weapons." [emphasis added]

Leave aside whether the conference was comprised of, "in the main," "nonideological figures." [ed. note: "Nonideological" figures, methinks, has become code for anyone in the Beltway that is not Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz).

But more important, how is what Traub describes an "alternative" national security policy?

I mean, the National Security Strategy enunciated by the Bush Administration does precisely the same as what Traub describes as the "sober and pragmatic counsel" enunciated by all those Democratic wise men over at John Podesta's homme (and femme, lest we forget Hillary Clinton) serieux think tank conclave (I'm curious: was Lanny Davis there?)

Take "reserve the right to act pre-emptively but don't make a doctrine of it". On this, read my previous analyses of the '02 National Security Strategy document (the NSS) here and here. And here's the key text from the NSS document:

"The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather. We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions. To support preemptive options, we will: build better, more integrated intelligence capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they may emerge; coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats; and continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results." [emphasis added]

Maintain an option (the NSS). Reserve the right (Podesta's wise men). What's the big difference here?

Put differently, what's the value added from the Center for American Progress?

The real story is that a bogeyman of a big, bad "doctrine" of preemption has been hyped by the Krugmans, Dowds, Soros' for many months now (call it, you know, a commentariat 'bubble'). Such intemperate musings do not a judicious appraisal of the NSS make.

But like so many of the criticisms floating about against the Bushies--it's taken on an air of reality. Thus a Democrat criticism that adds no value or no new thinking regarding preemption post 9/11 is touted as some grand, sober newfangled strategy by Traub (of course, alacrity re: pursuing this genre of spin re: Democrat foreign policy is somewhat of a professional deformation on W. 43rd St).

So don't buy into the hype--its got no legs folks.

Next major insight from Podesta's shop: Focus on "failed" states like Afghanistan and Sudan.

I think we've focused on Afghanistan quite a bit since October '01, don't you?

And the nation-building is for wimps, 'we don't do kindergartens' strain of macho talk has pretty much been tossed out the window since 9/11 too.

So what's new here? In a word, nothing, again.

Devise carrots as well as sticks to deal with state sponsors of terrorism:

Here I think the record is less clear. In Bush 43, on NoKo for instance, bureaucratic warfare as between Rummy's crew and those cocktail-swilling, pinstriped, yellow-bellied appeasers at Foggy Bottom has created policy drift. I've criticized that here before (needed: an NSC advisor to batten down the differences and act as a real broker as between State and Defense).

But the very existence of all these policy battles mean precisely that regime change was not the only policy option put forward by the Bush Administration regarding NoKo.

In other words, there have been carrots. As even an article in left-leaning Slate suggests--we are pursuing carrots in NoKo right now.

And here's a story on a slight thaw in the always complex thicket of U.S.-Iranian relations.

One can even espy carrots in the humanitarian aid proferred up by Washington in the aftermath of the horrific earthquake that stuck Iran a couple weeks back.

Finally, Podesta's think-tankers would, contra the Bushies, "forge a global strategy to deal with the proliferation of nuclear weapons."

You mean like the global strategy enunciated at Bush's last major U.N. address?

"One crucial step is to secure the most dangerous materials at their source. For more than a decade, the United States has worked with Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union to dismantle, destroy, or secure weapons and dangerous materials left over from another era. Last year in Canada, the G8 nations agreed to provide up to $20 billion -- half of it from the United States -- to fight this proliferation risk over the next 10 years. Since then, six additional countries have joined the effort. More are needed, and I urge other nations to help us meet this danger.

We're also improving our capability to interdict lethal materials in transit. Through our Proliferation Security Initiative, 11 nations are preparing to search planes and ships, trains and trucks carrying suspect cargo, and to seize weapons or missile shipments that raise proliferation concerns. These nations have agreed on a set of interdiction principles, consistent with legal -- current legal authorities. And we're working to expand the Proliferation Security Initiative to other countries. We're determined to keep the world's most destructive weapons away from all our shores, and out of the hands of our common enemies.

Because proliferators will use any route or channel that is open to them, we need the broadest possible cooperation to stop them. Today, I ask the U.N. Security Council to adopt a new anti-proliferation resolution. This resolution should call on all members of the U.N. to criminalize the proliferation of weapons -- weapons of mass destruction, to enact strict export controls consistent with international standards, and to secure any and all sensitive materials within their own borders. The United States stands ready to help any nation draft these new laws, and to assist in their enforcement." [emphasis added]

Wow, and Bush's initiative is (hold tight onto your chair and take a deep breath) consistent with international legal norms and multilateral to boot!

Listen, Traub's piece is something of an opus (13 pages printed out) so it will take a bit more than a single post to respond in full. Consider this a preliminary, quasi-Fisking of sorts.

Coming soon, however, discussion of the Traub article in relation to his (hyped) analysis of Chuck Hagel's criticisms of Bush, objections to some comments by Fareed Zakaria, airing of more unfair potshots and distortions by Traub more generally (sprinkled liberally throughout the article), and why a Clark Presidency would prove detrimental to the national interest of the United States.

Posted by Gregory at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

Back in London

Blogging should resume this evening (jet lag permitting). We will be taking a critical look at James Traub's NYT magazine article as well as the emerging Pakistan-as-proliferator story. Also look for some thoughts on Samantha Power's review of the latest from Noam Chomsky.

Posted by Gregory at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)
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