July 29, 2003

Letter from London Here's a

Letter from London

Here's a link to Clive Davis' piece in the Washington Times that makes mention of the Belgravia Dispatch. Please check it out. Also, apologies for the lack of blogging but Internet access has been more difficult than anticipated while away from London on vacation.

Posted by Gregory at 02:57 PM | Comments (4)

July 24, 2003

Summer Holiday I'm leaving London

Summer Holiday

I'm leaving London for some R&R through August 4th. Blogging will likely continue if intermittently. In the meantime, especially for any readers living in Washington D.C., note that the Belgravia Dispatch will be featured in the "Letter from London" section of the Washington Times Books section this Sunday July 27th.

Posted by Gregory at 05:54 AM | Comments (4)

What TF1's Editorial Judgment Says

What TF1's Editorial Judgment Says About France Today

I didn't have the time last night to blog a bit more about TF1's ludicrously buried treatment of the news of the death of Saddam's sons per the post immediately below. The French station's handling of the story is something well beyond the bias of, say, the Beeb, the Guardian or the Independent. No matter how deep-seated the relatively knee-jerk anti-americanism of the Independent, for instance, that paper will at least appropriately judge the death of Saddam's sons as highly newsworthy and rightly play it as the major story of the day. Sure, there may well be subtle (and not so subtle) anti-American digs within the story--but they will at least give the coalition its due for having scored, for instance, a "major breakthrough".

Which brings me back to TF1. How to explain that 31 minutes of the broadcast on France's main televised news show had passed before that station even deigned to mention the events surrounding the death of Saddam's sons? This is well beyond sour grapes regarding the diplomacy before the war. Nor does it have to do with a neo-Gaullist nationalism that prevents the French media from airing a success in what is widely derided as a misguided Anglo-American neo-imperialistic adventure (though such resentment at a coalition success certainly played a role in tamping down the story). After all, it has been a tough summer for the coalition, and news of the death of Uday and Qusay may well have dampened some of the schadenfreude over the Seine.

But the root causes for the absurdist way TFI handled this story are deeper. Deeper even than Rob Kagan's notions of a post-historical neo-Kantian Europe living blissfully outside of history--neglecting "high" security issues for the nitty-gritty of the lastest European Central Bank interest rate cut or agricultural subsidy rows among EU member states. More too than France's bitterness resulting from its lack of real hard and/or soft power leading to vague mumblings about the importance of multipolarity rather than a more realistic, nuanced approach advocated by (yes) the Germans!

I feel, when hearing about such a pitiable handling of this major news story, that France (and I say this as a sometime Francophile) is a wounded country. Wounded because it is grasping for its role on the world stage in an unmoored, ad hoc way. De Villepin's naive neo-romantic approach to diplomacy has proved somewhat reckless, incoherent, self-indulgent. Paris embittered a real and important ally involved in, as seen from Washington, an existential battle against a bitter, evil foe. And the French, at some level, likely feel some odd form of embarrasment or self-hatred for having abandoned a fellow democracy in her time of need--perhaps at some level, given shared Englightenment values, aware that she was on the wrong side of the fight.

There is, of course, more to all this. But I'm left with a nagging feeling that France is facing somewhat of an identity crisis post-Iraq. The ramifications of its Iraq stance continue to manifest themselves several months on. And one result appears to be that France has withdrawn. Not in terms of a protracted navel-gazing exercise, which is likely needed and would be welcome, but simply curled up and provincialized. How else to explain that stories on prison breakouts, small claim judges or pollution in Bouches du Rhone warranted more prominent billing than that of the death of Uday and Qusay?

Posted by Gregory at 05:04 AM | Comments (1)

July 23, 2003

French Television Watch This is

French Television Watch

This is remarkable. I'd like to say adult editorial supervision is desperately required over at TF1. The problem is, of course, finding a single, mature Parisian media player who wouldn't do his or her best to similarly downplay what was so very obviously the story of the day--the death of Saddam's two sons.

Posted by Gregory at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

Fisk Watch OK, OK, this

Fisk Watch

OK, OK, this probably isn't even worth posting. But it's fascinating to me to see Fisk's deeply encrusted anti-americanism prevent him from admitting such an obvious coalition success. Look at his piece replete with deep denial regarding the death of Saddam's two sons:

"And in a family obsessed, with good reason, with their own personal security, would Uday and Qusay really be together? Would they allow themselves to be trapped. The two so-called "lions of Iraq" (this courtesy of Saddam) in the very same cage?"

Amazing stuff, really.

UDPATE: Oh my.

Posted by Gregory at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

The Death of Saddam's Sons

The Death of Saddam's Sons

When the Independent is describing a "major breakthrough" for Americans in Iraq you know it has been a good day for the coalition in Iraq. Of course, the death of Saddam's two sons certainly provides some much needed unambiguously good news from Iraq. And lends further blows to deposed ruler Saddam's dwindling psychological hold on that country. As Haaretz points out:

"The fact that former senior Ba'ath members will express no sorrow at their deaths, will, for most of Iraq's citizens, come as a big revelation." Indeed.

Still, don't expect a major dimunition in guerrilla activity. It's unlikely Saddam's sons were involved in coordinating such actions--they were most likely in full-blown hiding mode.

Also a possibility, per Haaretz:

"In fact, in the short term, the manner of their deaths could boost more resistance operations against U.S. troops: unlike other Iraqi leaders who turned themselves in, Uday and Qusay fought until the bitter end against the enemy, which
turned them into shahids (martyrs)."

Some bitter dead-enders and Baathist loyalists might indeed transmogrify Saddam's sons into martyrs and help stoke reinvigorated jihadist instincts in the short term based on such misguided mythologies. But the bottom line is that their deaths lend further severe blows to the possibility of the Baathists presenting a middle-to-long term threat to the coalition. Should the father have been killed first their continued presence would still have loomed as a threat per notions of succession.

At the present juncture, aside from new figures in the post-war Iraq scene antagonistic to American interests, the coalition now needs to focus like a laser on Saddam. Once he is apprehended or killed we will likely hear less about the dwindling morale of U.S. troops and more about the slackening of morale among Baathists loyalists. And, assuming we can then start winning hearts and minds in the "Sunni Triangle" and reach accords with moderate Shi'a that marginalize Sadr and the like, autumn in Iraq could prove a significantly better season for coalition efforts than the difficult summer we have confronted so far.

Worth noting too--any segments of the Iraqi population that mythologize such reprehensible personages like Uday or Qusay won't find much fellow-feeling or succor in the population at large--given the brutalities they visited on the Iraqis for so many long years. Thus the celebratory gunfire that broke out in Baghdad upon news of the death of these two loathsome figures.

UPDATE: The WaPo on shifting intelligence tactics being employed to capture or kill Iraqi fugitives and the "gang of 9,000".

Also take a look at the competing WaPo and NYT mastheads. The former is titled "A Good Day in Iraq" and describes how the death of Saddam's sons could represent a turning point for coalition efforts in Iraq. The latter dampens any cheer and speaks of unanswered questions in the wake of their deaths related to what role, if any, the sons had in the guerilla-style activities of the past months.

The WaPo better understands the current state of play when it writes:

"An opportunity exists for the United States to make this a turning point for the postwar administration. As it happened, the successful operation by troops of the 101st Airborne Division coincided with the first appearance of the new Iraqi Governing Council before the United Nations Security Council, another step by that body in establishing its authority and credibility. The occupation authority under L. Paul Bremer showed flexibility in agreeing to grant the Iraqi council more powers than originally intended. The Pentagon has also embraced one of the Iraqis' ideas in forming militia units that can take over some of the patrol and guard duty now done by Americans. This process of replacing American with Iraqi faces and modifying U.S. plans to accommodate Iraqi initiatives should be accelerated in the coming weeks."

UPDATE: Gosh, maybe I've got a NYT issue. Even Andrew Sullivan is giving them a pass on this masthead!

Posted by Gregory at 01:51 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2003

Cracks at the Beeb Dissension

Cracks at the Beeb

Dissension at the party line begins. Meanwhile, here's an early look into the Beeb's likely damage control strategy with respect to the Hutton inquiry.

Posted by Gregory at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

NoKo Watch So do we

NoKo Watch

So do we have a N. Korea policy or don't we? If you read Dave Sanger's piece over at the NYT you come away thinking we are basically rudderless and asleep at the switch on NoKo policy:

"President Bush appeared today to shrug off evidence that North Korea may have begun producing plutonium at a second, hidden nuclear facility, and avoided any hint of confrontation with the country as it races to expand its nuclear arsenal."

But then there is a WaPo piece that seems to have dug deeper:

"In extensive talks last week with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, administration officials asked him to inform the North Koreans that the United States would agree to meet again with Chinese and North Korean officials in Beijing, provided the session was followed almost immediately by multilateral talks that include South Korea, Japan and possibly Russia, U.S. officials said yesterday.

Administration officials said that at this broader multilateral meeting, they would formally unveil a U.S. plan for ending the crisis, which has prompted intense discussion within senior levels of the administration about the form of the proposal and how it would be presented."

Appears the Post might have scooped the NYT here. More interestingly, the WaPo piece casts doubt on an earlier NYT scoop from a few days back:

"Senior U.S. officials, meanwhile, yesterday cast doubt on a report over the weekend that the United States had evidence that North Korea might have a second, secret facility to reprocess spent fuel rods. U.S. officials have long speculated North Korea might have built a second facility underground, but they said no new evidence of such a project had emerged.

Two officials said the report, which was first published in the New York Times, appears to have started with information South Korea received from North Korean agents, and officials viewed it as part of a series of North Korean provocations. There are indications of activity having started at the Yongbyon reprocessing plant 55 miles north of the North Korean capital, but so far there is "no indication that anything of significance has emerged at the other end," according to a senior administration official familiar with the intelligence."

So the question is, are we doing an Iraq in reverse, ie. are we downplaying rather than aggressively analyzing intelligence? Or did the S. Koreans get fed misinformation by the North and then, in turn, feed it to Dave Sanger and the NYT?

Posted by Gregory at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Larry Eagleburger: It Is Five

Larry Eagleburger: It Is Five Minutes to Midnight

Check out this interview with Larry Eagleburger.

On why the French and Germans were so difficult on the Iraq issue:

"The condemnation was the result more of a concern on their part that we were going off on our own, and that we were demonstrating an unfettered use of our strength, than on any objective judgment about the Iraq policy.

The French and the Germans took the lead in this in part because of jealousy, and in part because of legitimate concerns that they cannot influence American policies much in this new era. Some of this is obviously because, purely and simply, we are the only superpower now; whatever we do will result in a tendency to object. In the case of the French, there is not only the normal French attitude toward the United States at work, but also a real concern that it may be virtually impossible for them to put together a Europe that can counterbalance our strength."

On NoKo:

"The North Koreans are just the beginning of it. If we don't deal with the North Korean issue, [the spread of nuclear weapons] will not be containable, because other states will march along the same path. Sooner or later, this stuff will be handed over to terrorist groups. The North Koreans have already made it clear publicly that they are ready to transfer these weapons. That is unacceptable rhetoric, no matter what.

On the nuclear issue, it is five minutes to midnight. One of the reasons I would defend the Iraq invasion under any circumstances is that I have no doubt that, left to his own devices, sooner or later Saddam would have been on to nuclear weapons. The nuclear issue to me is so important that this country, if it has to act alone when we have to, has an obligation to do so. I would hope that this would not require us to act alone very often, but the world [must] face up to the fact that the nuclear question is a Pandora's box that, if it isn't opened yet, is damn near close to it, and [that] this nation and the world are not paying enough attention to it."

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Gregory at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

The Observer on Bill Keller

The Observer on Bill Keller

A preliminary take on Bill Keller's nascent stewardship of the NYT. Including this gem:

"What I underestimated at that point," Mr. Keller continued, "was that quality that Maureen Dowd refers to as the Lord of the Flies quality, where on top of all the legitimate grievances, a lot of extraneous baggage and frustrations exploded up. It was clear that people at the paper were not going to let it go. There was a small part of me that thought of it as poetic justice. But there was a much bigger part that thought it was excruciating to watch, because I’m devoted to this place and a lot of these people. And I don’t know if you can really have friends when you’re the executive editor, but a lot of these people have been my friends until now. And it hurt to watch them."

This "Lord of the Flies" quality MaDo explicates would go a long way towards explaining her column-writing style, wouldn't it?

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

July 21, 2003

The Kelly Affair from France

The Kelly Affair from France

How are the folks at Le Monde editorializing about Dr. Kelly's tragic suicide and parsing the relative culpability as between the Beeb and various British governmental actors?

"LA GRAVE CRISE politique qu'affronte le premier ministre britannique ne trouve pas son origine dans la mort de David Kelly, l'expert britannique en désarmement, mais dans le mensonge de son gouvernement sur les armes de destruction massive de l'Irak."

Translation: "The grave political crisis confronting the British Prime Minister didn't originate with the death of David Kelly...but in the lie of his government on Iraqi WMD."

What lie we are not told. The Niger/uranium story that British intelligence authorities have stood by and which is said to have come from French sources. Note: Paris is now vehemently denying this.

Or other unspecified lies?

Later, le Monde turns to the U.S. scene:

"Bill Clinton a fait l'objet du harassement des républicains pour avoir menti sur le sexe. Serait-il, aux Etats-Unis, moins important de mentir sur les mobiles d'une guerre ?"

No translation needed, right? The Bill Clinton reference should tip you off, ie. Le Monde is suggesting that, in the U.S., it would be considered less important to lie about the motivations for going to war than lying about sex.

UPDATE: I slightly tweaked my informal translation of the essence of Le Monde's commentary per reader JP's input.

Pretty polemical fare. One wishes Le Monde would try to be more empirical and serious in its editorials on matters of such import.

Listen, this Niger/uranium story should have never been included in the SOTU and has been a major embarrasment. But the Brits still stand by the intelligence.

And, more important in the context of this Le Monde editorial, can't they at least tell us what lies are behind the "grave political crisis" facing Blair? Unlike many of their readers perhaps, I don't just assume some mother-of-all-lies has been engineered in Goebbels-like fashion by Dubya and poodle Tony.

Posted by Gregory at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

Sadr Watch Don't get too

Sadr Watch

Don't get too spooked by the specter of an Iranian style theocracy sprouting up in Iraq courtesy of Moktada al-Sadr.

See this article (previously linked a few weeks back but worth another look) that elaborates on the complex influences vying for attention among Iraq's Shi'a.

Some key grafs:

"Nevertheless, the large majority of Iraqi Shi'ites probably have no desire to mimic the Islamic Republic of Iran. They are aware of the situation there and do not want to move from a secular totalitarian system to an overbearing theocracy. Iraq's political culture and social makeup, moreover, are very different from those of Iran. Quite apart from the existence of Sunnis, Kurds, Chaldeans, and Turkmen in the country, the Iraqi Shi'ite community is itself diverse. There are secularists (including liberals and communists) and various religious groups, urban and rural dwellers, rich and poor, Shi'ites who have never left Iraq and those who have spent decades in exile. There is no single leader who can speak for all Iraqi Shi'ites, let alone oversee the transformation of postwar Iraq into an Iranian-style Islamic republic.

That said, defining the relationship between religion and politics in Iraq will be a major challenge facing Shi'ite religious groups. Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who in the past advocated an Islamic government, has more recently adopted a different tone. Hakim returned to Najaf this past May after 23 years in exile, and he is positioning himself as a contender for Shi'ite religious leadership in Iraq. It remains to be seen what course he will choose, given the complex social reality in Iraq and the U.S. presence there. If he adopts a pragmatic course, Hakim will be following in the footsteps of the Lebanese cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who acknowledged that the conditions for an Islamic state did not exist in Lebanon."

Posted by Gregory at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

Beeb Watch Compare and contrast.

Beeb Watch

Compare and contrast.

Warren Hoge's NYT piece:

"For the BBC, the publicly financed network that sees itself as the world leader in balanced broadcast reporting and analysis, the highly charged case comes at an awkward time. The corporation was already under attack from critics who said it had not been impartial in its coverage of the war in Iraq and the conflict in the Middle East.

In addition to its continuing fight with the government at home, it is derided by right-wing commentators in the United States as "the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation," and in Israel its correspondents have been officially shunned by the government of Ariel Sharon.

In an appearance before a committee of Parliament last week to discuss the network's annual report, BBC chiefs faced charges of partiality. One Labor member of the panel, Rosemary McKenna, said the network had ceased to "differentiate between straightforward news and editorial comment."

A Beeb "analysis" on their website:

"And if your source talked to you under conditions of anonymity, would you do everything in your power to protect him - including maintaining silence even after he'd identified himself to his bosses and talked, not entirely frankly, to the foreign affairs select committee?" [my emphasis]

Not entirely frankly? Says who? Andrew Gilligan to Peter Preston? And isn't such a contention, given Kelly's tragic death, rather ill timed? Preston, after all, is basically charging that Kelly had been less than thoroughly honest during his commitee testimony.

As the Beeb at least reports elsewhere, the fundamental question now facing that network is whether:

"the two journalists accurately report what Dr Kelly said - even if Dr Kelly himself later denied saying it to the foreign affairs select committee?" Put differently, who did the "sexing up" in this macabre affair?

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

July 20, 2003

The View from Walter Reed

The View from Walter Reed Hospital

We often hear about U.S. fatalities in Iraq but less often about the status and number of wounded servicemen and women. The WaPo has a piece here that reminds us of the steep human costs for those, while lucky enough to have not had their lives brought to an early end, are nevertheless facing very challenging times recovering from injuries.

UPDATE: A second installment to above piece here.

Posted by Gregory at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2003

Pyongyang: Preempting a Preemptive Strike?

Pyongyang: Preempting a Preemptive Strike?

The latest intelligence emerging from NoKo. Key grafs:

"What concerns American, South Korean and Japanese analysts, however, is not simply the presence of the hard-to-detect gas but its source. While American satellites have been focused for years on North Korea's main nuclear plant, at Yongbyon, the computer analyses that track the gases as they are blown across the Korean Peninsula appeared to rule out the Yongbyon reprocessing plant as their origin. Instead, the analysis strongly suggests that the gas originated from a second, secret plant, perhaps buried in the mountains.

American officials have long suspected that North Korea would try to build a second plant to protect itself against a pre-emptive strike by the United States. The United States even demanded an inspection of one underground site five years ago, only to find it empty, but this is the first time evidence has emerged that a second plant may be in operation.

"This takes a very hard problem and makes it infinitely more complicated," said one Asian official who has been briefed on the American intelligence. "How can you verify that they have stopped a program like this if you don't know where everything is?"

Another aspect worth noting with regard to the NoKo story. On Iraq, the story goes, the CIA was being pressured by folks at Defense (and maybe the White House) to aggressively analyze intelligence related to that country's WMD capacity. On NoKo, on the other hand, there appears to be a reversal of sorts. The CIA appears increasingly concerned that NoKo is moving towards production of nukes. But the White House, for a while now, refuses to utter the "C" word, ie. that events on the Korean Peninsula may well constitute a crisis. People at Langley seem more worked up regarding NoKo developments than those at the White House.

If true, there could be several reasons for this. One is that a bit of policy paralysis has set in as between the Foggy Bottom types pushing negotiations and those at Defense looking at more punitive measures. And, by not treating the situation as a full-fledged crisis, the Adminstration avoids have to make any real decisions on which way to go.

Meanwhile Kim Jong II is, of course, looking at events in Iraq and calculating that the U.S. doesn't have the appetite for another significant military action at this juncture. And a more limited punitive strike could be of limited effectiveness if ancillary secret plants exist.

Put simply, I'm beginning to think he's not bluffing merely to corral the U.S. into negotiations. And that therefore the Admin really has to start figuring out where they are going on this issue. A hybrid approach? A multinational naval blockade to stem potential nuke smuggling while pursuing trilateral negotiations with the Chinese?

Another issue in all of this? Intelligence emanating from the CIA right now is going to be scrutinized with particular attention given the raging controversy on Iraq WMD intelligence. The bar will be higher to persuade people, for instance, that a second plant in NoKo were potentially detected going forward. Still, Sanger's article goes too far here:

"American intelligence officials say they are wary about making any final judgments about the new evidence. They are keenly aware that C.I.A. assessments of Iraq's nuclear program have touched off a national debate over whether intelligence was exaggerated, and have made all the agency's findings suspect." [my emphasis]

All CIA findings are suspect right now? That's a breathtakingly broad statement.

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

Vidal Award What's on tap

Vidal Award

What's on tap for brainy enarque-types who might be perusing the July Monde Diplomatique? Some Gore Vidal-style rampant anti-americanism divorced from any sober, factual analysis.

Some representative grafs:

"The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, was manipulated and his political future is now at stake. He was reported to have resisted White House and Pentagon pressures to distribute the most dubious briefings. In his UN Security Council speech of 5 February 2003 Powell was obliged to read a draft prepared by Lewis Libby, chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney. It contained such tenuous information that Powell was said to have become angry, thrown the sheets in the air and refused to read it. Finally Powell asked to have the head of the CIA, George Tenet, sit in view behind him to share responsibility for what was being read.

In an interview in the June issue of Vanity Fair, Wolfowitz admitted that governmental lies had been told. He said that the decision to put forward the threat of WMD to justify a preventive war against Iraq had been adopted "for reasons that have a lot to do with US government bureaucracy . . . We settled on the one issue which everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction"

So Bush had lied. Searching for a casus belli to appeal to the United Nations and recruit a few accomplices (United Kingdom and Spain) to his project for conquering Iraq, Bush did not hesitate to fabricate a massive governmental lie."

Powell's "future at stake"? With whom? Says who? An absurd contention--and not even the slightest corroboration of such a wild claim attempted.

And how did Wolfowitz's interview with Sam Tannenhaus in Vanity Fair constitute an admission that "governmental lies had been told"? See here an earlier analysis I had up on that interview with the relevant language. And take a look how the French press was spinning the interview earlier.

But in no way can one conclude, from a judicious examination of the interview, that Wolfowitz admitted "government lies." He simply stated that--among four factors he lists for going to war in Iraq--Administration cohesion was most easily achieved on the WMD factor.

And notice the word used to describe countries like the U.K. and Spain--"accomplices." I guess "vassal", trotted out so often in the past, had become a bit worn and hackneyed. And it doesn't quite evoke a sense of state criminality per the title of Ramet's intemperate essay.

Another whopper, of course, is the contention that Bush "did not hesitate to fabricate a massive governmental lie." Intelligence may have been hyped, politicized, interpreted aggressively with an aim towards more forcefully establishing a casus belli.

But there were genuine, honest debates about much of the intelligence with people, as with the aluminum tubes and whether they could be used for uranium enrichment, simply coming to different conclusions. A fabrication of a "massive governmental lie" is an egregiously hyperbolic statement that shouldn't pass muster in an ostensibly top-flight French foreign policy journal.

But it gets worse. A last quote from Ramet's quasi-hysterical piece:

"To justify a preventive war that the United Nations and global public opinion did not want, a machine for propaganda and mystification (organised by the doctrinaire sect around George Bush) produced state-sponsored lies for more than six months, with a determination characteristic of the worst regimes of the 20th century." [my emphasis]

Dubya--as determined a liar as Hitler or Stalin. For more Dubya as Hitler analogies check this out.

Posted by Gregory at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

The State of Syrian-U.S. Relations

The State of Syrian-U.S. Relations

Sy Hersh writing in the New Yorker. His basic thesis: U.S.-Syrian relations were improving post 9/11 as Syria provided Washington with high quality intelligence related to al-Qaeda. Such intelligence, in some cases, helped scuttle terrorist operations that would have cost American lives. Then, the story goes, Iraq loomed and Washington shifted gears viewing Damascus through a prism more focused on Syria's relative lack of cooperation regarding Iraq rather than her collaboration on al-Qaeda. Heavy-handedness from Rumsfeld helped sour the mood. The bilateral relationship was significantly wounded.

And remember the border incursion where some Syrian military personnel were detained by U.S. forces in Iraq before being repatriated to Syria? Hersh claims as follows in an account that I haven't seen before:

"In fact, according to current and former American military and diplomatic officials, the operation was a fiasco in which as many as eighty people—occupants of the cars and trucks as well as civilians living nearby—were killed. The vehicles, it turned out, were being used to smuggle gasoline. The Syrian government said little publicly about the violation of its sovereignty, even when the Pentagon delayed the repatriation of the injured Syrian border guards—reporters were told that the guards had not been fully interrogated—for ten days.

Weeks later, questions about the raid remained: Why had American forces crossed the border? And why had the Syrian response been so muted? An American consultant who recently returned from Iraq said, “I don’t mind so much what we did, but it’s the incompetence with which we did it.” A senior adviser to the Pentagon noted that the people who were killed had “put themselves into the gray area” by smuggling fuel across the border. “The troops were trying to work with actionable intelligence,” the official said. “You might make the same mistake.” This month, two retired veterans of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, Vincent Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi, who now consult on intelligence issues, noted in a newsletter for their private clients that the attacks had been based on “fragmentary and ambiguous” information and had led to increased tension between Rumsfeld and the C.I.A. director, George Tenet."

If true, obviously a military miscalculation of significant proportions. As for why the Syrian response was "muted," doubtless Bashar may well have calculated that publically broaching the incident would have led to significant anger on the Syrian street and forced a more dramatic detioriation in U.S.-Syrian ties. .

I think Hersh is, to some extent, exagerrating the extent to which Washington, in the advent of war in Iraq and thereafter, completely changed its focus regarding Syria purely to how Damascus was handling the Iraq issue to the detriment of continued cooperation between the nation's two intelligence services on matters like al-Qaeda. Here's a recent example of how U.S.-Syrian relations are more complex than Hersh paints.

Meanwhile, it is also of interest to note some comments from long time Israeli Syria-watcher Itamar Rabinovich:

"Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli Ambassador to Washington, who headed the Israeli delegation during the ill-fated peace talks with Hafez Assad in the mid-nineties, acknowledged that he was aware of the key Syrian intelligence role in the war against Al Qaeda, but he made it clear that Israel’s distrust of Syria remains acute. Rabinovich wondered aloud whether, given the quality of their sources, the Syrians had had advance information about the September 11th plot—and failed to warn the United States. He said that under the elder Assad the Syrians had been “masters of straddling the line.” He added, “Hafez negotiated with us, and he supported Hezbollah. The son is not as adept as the father, who could keep five balls in the air at the same time. Bashar can only handle three—if that. He has good intentions, but he’s not in control. He can’t deliver.” For that reason, Rabinovich believed, Israel has urged Washington not to open the back channel to Assad. For the Syrians, he added, “the best channel is a back channel—it’s ideal. They are then not embarrassed in public and they buy themselves some time.”

I wonder if Sy Hersh is playing up any Rabinovich comments on whether Syria had some foreknowledge of 9/11. That's quite a charge indeed and Rabinovich is a professional diplomat and chooses his words carefully. Meanwhile, Rabinovich's comments about Bashar barely being able to keep three balls in the air are not too surprising. Few Middle East watchers doubt that if Bashar's father were still in power the Syrian role through much of the events sweeping the region in the past year or so would have been handled with greater skill better buttressing Syria's regional role and relationships with key actors like the U.S.

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

July 18, 2003

The WMD Maelstrom from London:

The WMD Maelstrom from London: Now, A Body

This is spooky. MPs react. More soon.

UPDATE: Here we go. The conspiracy-mongering begins:

"Tory MP Richard Ottaway, a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which took evidence from Dr David Kelly, the missing MoD adviser, said "This brings now into question this whole regime of spin and manipulation ... by the Government and its advisers.

"This really does bring it home. For this to happen is a ghastly, ghastly tragedy.

He said that if the body found was that of Dr Kelly, "then it is a tragedy, a personal tragedy and I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for his family and friends."

Mr Ottaway said it would be a "tragedy of ghastly proportions" if "political machinations" had resulted in the death of Dr Kelly."

UPDATE: Hyperventilation at the Guardian:

"The government, however, cannot be let off the hook. It has demonstrated a profound contempt for the most basic conventions governing relationships between press and politicians. It is possible that, as a result, a man has died."

Come again? Dr. Kelly's death is a tragedy--but can't be fairly pinned on the Blair government in any manner. If he committed suicide because of pressures related to his testimony, we can all deeply regret that, but not blame Labour MPs who weren't even questioning him that aggressively. Here's likely what amounted to the most contentious exchange. Hardly brutal stuff, no?

Meanwhile BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan is entering hyperbolic whine stage:

"Mr Gilligan accused the committee of carrying out "a planned ambush by a hanging jury". He said: "The committee was absolutely determined to find fault with my story. They did not do so. I defended my journalism with vigour. I am very shocked at the way this inquiry has now been turned and perverted into part of the Alastair Campbell witch-hunt against me."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Warren's Hoge's NYT version on Kelly's death. More sober than the Independent's or Guardian's coverage but still ends thus:

"The campaign to discredit Mr. Gilligan — and by extension the BBC's reporting of the war in Iraq and the accusations that intelligence might have been doctored — drew a characteristically combative performance by Mr. Campbell, a man with a bullying reputation and a fierce loyalty to Mr. Blair.

Attention will now focus on whether his handling of Dr. Kelly played a role in the scientist's fate."

C'mon folks. Alistair Campbell isn't responsible for this tragic death.

READER FEEDBACK: Some readers have written in suggesting my take on the Kelly suicide is a bit on the callous side. Let me say this. Like all reasonable observers--I'm deeply saddened by the suicide of this public servant and my thoughts are with his wife and his daughters.

But I'm disturbed by the media's knee-jerk reaction that seems to pin responsibility on Blair, the Ministry of Defense, or Alistair Campbell. We need to hit the pause button and await the results of Hutton's inquiry. But there is no reason to use this unfortunate suicide as a reason to have a full-blown inquiry per IDS's request.

Meanwhile, while I await the results of the inquiry, my take on this is close to what Stephen Pollard has written. Which is why I'm disturbed that the media is mostly beating up on the government while less often talking about the Beeb's role in this tragic affair.

Posted by Gregory at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

History Will Forgive Us, Says

History Will Forgive Us, Says Blair

That subject header is the banner headline in today's Times (UK). Here's the article.

The tone of the article is quite anti-Blair starting right with the banner headline.

The headline pretty much blares (no pun intended): We were wrong about the WMD; but in the long march of history we will be vindicated because we liberated Iraq by freeing its people from a ruthless tyrant.

Here's the full transcript of Blair's speech.

The crucial grafs:

"The risk is that terrorism and states developing weapons of mass destruction come together. And when people say, "That risk is fanciful," I say we know the Taliban supported Al Qaida. We know Iraq under Saddam gave haven to and supported terrorists. We know there are states in the Middle East now actively funding and helping people, who regard it as God's will in the act of suicide to take as many innocent lives with them on their way to God's judgment.

Some of these states are desperately trying to acquire nuclear weapons. We know that companies and individuals with expertise sell it to the highest bidder, and we know that at least one state, North Korea, lets its people starve while spending billions of dollars on developing nuclear weapons and exporting the technology abroad.

This isn't fantasy, it is 21st-century reality, and it confronts us now.

Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together? Let us say one thing: If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive.

But if our critics are wrong, if we are right, as I believe with every fiber of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive." [my emphasis].

True, Blair subtly attempts to shift the debate from "where's-the-WMD" to, in his words, asking: "(c)an we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together?"

But that's really the critical question, isn't it? Whether significant WMD is turned up or not--a message has been issued throughout the world because of the decision to unseat Saddam. States that pose a high risk of transferring WMD to terrorists will be brought to task, and if necessary, confronted with their leaders deposed.

Who decides what states pose such a risk, doubters will ask? No, not just Sherrif Bush and his poodle Tony.

The international community per U.N. resolutions like 1441 decides. All the states who voted for that resolution believed that Saddam was in material breach of preexisting agreements related to his weapons programs. But only some states, in the face of more obfuscation from Baghdad, had the courage of their convictions and fully grasped the implications of the post 9/11 global security environment. And so acted.

So Blair wasn't asking to be forgiven by history in his eloquent speech to the U.S. Congress yesterday. He was clearly outlining the critical nature of the threats we face in the 21st Century and the urgency and steadfastness required in effectively combatting these perils. Perils he believes exists with "every fiber of instinct and conviction" he has.

So why does the Times portray the speech as a Blairite mea culpa--a request for forgiveness? You will have to ask them--but they might take a peek at the FT's treatment of the story--which really gets and better highlights the real message Blair was intent on delivering to his U.S. audience.

Posted by Gregory at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

Coalition of the Rational Katrina

Coalition of the Rational

Katrina vanden Heuvel wants to set up a "Coalition of the Rational" to "take back our country from this radical rightwing Administration."

Some suggested charter members? Our good friends at Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. For more on these estimable folks go here or here.

Ms. vanden Heuvel must have been hard-pressed to find charter members of the "Coalition of the Rational" as she lists VIPS and then, separately, one of its founding members the (aptly named) Ray McGovern.

McGovern is steamed about the Niger/uranium story. Fair enough. But is it fair for him to write as follows:

"But where was the evidence? It is now clear that the only thing available at that time was the so-called argument about aluminum tubes. There had been reports of Iraq's trying to procure them from abroad, and those eager to please the White House offered instant analysis that the tubes were for Iraqs nuclear program. Thus, Rice on Sept. 8, 2002, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "Saddam Hussein is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments into Iraq of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to nuclear weapons programs."

But when the engineers and scientists at U.S. nuclear labs were consulted, their conclusion was that the tubes were not suitable for a nuclear application. So that line of argument turned out to be as weak as the chemical and biological weapons evidence about which DIA analysts were so suspicious."

O.K, Condi Rice should have phrased her sentence differently on Wolf Blitzer's show. The aluminum rods, per various Administration analyses, were certainly not judged to be solely for nuclear weapons program use. But McGovern merely compounds the error from the other side of the fence by stating that the "conclusion was that the tubes were not suitable for a nuclear application."

Let's look at that old Spence Ackerman article (from TNR) that is favorable to McGovern's view on this matter:

"These judgments were tested in the spring of 2002, when intelligence reports began to indicate that Iraq was trying to procure a kind of high-strength aluminum tube. Some analysts from the CIA and DIA quickly came to the conclusion that the tubes were intended to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon through the kind of gas-centrifuge project Iraq had built before the first Gulf war. This interpretation seemed plausible enough at first, but over time analysts at the State Department's INR and the Department of Energy (DOE) grew troubled. The tubes' thick walls and particular diameter made them a poor fit for uranium enrichment, even after modification.That determination, according to the INR's Thielmann, came from weeks of interviews with "the nation's experts on the subject, ... they're the ones that have the labs, like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where people really know the science and technology of enriching uranium." Such careful study led the INR and the DOE to an alternative analysis: that the specifications of the tubes made them far better suited for artillery rockets. British intelligence experts studying the issue concurred, as did some CIA analysts. But top officials at the CIA and DIA did not." [my emphasis]

As I've blogged about before, there were differing analyses in the government about the prospects that these tubes could be used for centrifuges. Ackerman writes that the particular diameter of the tubes, even after modification, made them a "poor fit for uranium enrichment." But some folks at Defense and CIA believed, for reasons that no one has definitively shown to be injudicious or purposefully deceptive, that the tubes might be "cut down" or "reamed out" in a manner that would allow them to be used as centrifuges. The CIA, the lead agency on these matters, ultimately judged that the rods could be used to enrich uranium.

McGovern and VIPS might not like this assessment, they might feel the intel was politicized, they might be pissed off about it--but they are not in a position to definitively state that the rods could not be used for uranium enrichment full stop. Relatedly, as Andrew Sullivan has repeatedly pointed out, most recently here, the burden of proof on such matters:

"must be on those who counsel inaction rather than on those who urge an offensive, proactive battle. Does it matter one iota, for example, if we find merely an apparatus and extensive program for building WMDs in Iraq rather than actual weapons? Or rather: given the uncertain nature of even the best intelligence, should we castigate our leaders for over-reacting to a threat or minimizing it? Since 9/11, my answer is pretty categorical. Blair and Bush passed the test. They still do."


Ms. vanden Heuvel also writes as follows:

"And there are scores of others inside and outside the Administration; in Establishment circles; in military and business organizations, who are alarmed by the White House's radical extremism. At off-the-record meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations, for example, prominent figures regularly express shock (and no awe) at how this Administration is undermining America's security--and reputation in the world."

Hmmm. Surely she wasn't talking about this CFR meeting. But this one was on the record. Shock at this Administration's woeful irrationality is doubtless being aired regularly and vociferously at the Harold Pratt House off-the-record.

Doubtful. Look, our reputation has taken a hit in large swaths of the globe. But why? For reasons, ultimately, that are mostly related simply to the unparallelled hard and soft power America wields. A massive hyperpower is often destined to be resented, feared and distrusted in various locales around the globe. A passing acquaintance with great power politics over the centuries goes a long way towards showcasing this reality.

Of course, we should and can do better in terms of our reputational stock by doing our best to show humility and a "listening" posture with other nations as best we can. We need to show less disdain for certain international treaties like Kyoto by at least anteing up alternatives when we appear to dismiss treaties out of hand.

Nor should we gallivant about issuing diktats to a Turkey or Germany on having them support our policy goals just because we judge them to be in our interests. We need to persuade people on the merits. But we often do just that. Thus Bush's September 12, 2002 speech to the U.N or the later unanimous UNSC council resolution on Iraq that Powell achieved.

So don't believe that assorted CFR heavies are regularly expressing shock at how the Bushies are "undermining America's security--and reputation in the world."

Regarding U.S. security, vanden Heuvel's dig is even more unfair. 9/11 was just shy of two full years ago. No subsequent attack has occurred on U.S. soil to date. Al-Qaeda's operational capacity has taken some major blows. The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, KSM, has been apprehended.

Sure al-Qaeda remains a pressing threat. But note they haven't pulled off a mega-terror attack on the scale of a 9/11 since that horrible day. This is surely partly a result of aggressive prosecution by the Bush Adminisration of the war on terror.

So John Kerry might try to pull a Reaganesque turn of phrase and substitute "are you better off than you were four years ago" with are you "safer than you were three years ago."

But voters aren't dumb. They see the transparent politiking behind such a comment. And, unlike Reagan's interrogatory, most Americans answer the question with a stolid yes. And most CFR members, for what it's worth, I wager, answer the interrogatory in the affirmative as well.

Posted by Gregory at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2003

Poll Watch Dave Adesnik calls

Poll Watch

Dave Adesnik calls the WaPo to task on its use of polling data in an excellent post--meanwhile check out this quite interesting poll (suprisingly being reported in the Guardian).

Posted by Gregory at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2003

The Independent: Cheney Under Pressure

The Independent: Cheney Under Pressure to Quit!

More tabloid-style journalism devoid of any serious fact-based reporting at supposed quality newspapers. Check out this absurd headline from the Independent.

What is this mega-hyped story based on?

A group of allegedly "senior former intelligence officials" sent "an open letter to President George Bush" asking that Bush demand Cheney's resignation over the various WMD flaps.

Well folks, here it is via Counterpunch. A group calling itself the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity penned the letter (proudly noting it was published on Bastille Day!) and it is signed by three individuals who don't even bother to state their affiliations or any relevant professional experience:

Ray Close, Princeton, NJ
David MacMichael, Linden, VA
Raymond McGovern, Arlington, VA

For a representative sampler of what might one typically find over at Counterpunch check this story out.

Cheney must be very worried right now, feeling very Spiro Agnewish.

Can you believe the Independent is headlining this story at this hour at their Internet site? (See more on how this might have gotten to the Independent via the NYT at the second "update" below)

UPDATE: MacMichael and McGovern have teamed up before on WMD-related musings over at Counterpunch. But I guess they had never gotten around to sending a letter to the President before--thus ostensibly making this letter newsworthy over at Robert Fisk/Independent land. Here's how the duo state their bona fides at the end of this piece:

"Ray McGovern worked as a CIA analyst for 27 years. He co-authored this article with David MacMichael. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is a coast-to-coast enterprise; mostly intelligence officers from analysis side of CIA."

A "coast-to-coast enterprise"? From Cambridge to Berkeley doubtless. Sounds like a serious entity, huh? I think even the Guardian would steer clear of this story...

FURTHER UPDATE: Yesterday, Atlantic Blog blogged about VIPS in relation to a Nick Kristof column that mentioned the outfit. Sjostrom has more info on the group well worth reading.

I have to wager that Nick Kristof didn't realize how fringe these retired spooks were. He should have done more research on the matter before prominently mentioning their letter to Bush in the op-ed pages of the NYT.

The result? Outlets like the Independent pick it up, headline it, and tens of thousands of Brits will likely think Cheney might be on his way out (which, in turn, heightens pressure on Blair in the already highly contested climate). Talk about poor, politically-motivated journalism.

HERE'S ANOTHER UPDATE: The Independent no longer headlines this story (though hasn't retracted or modified it im any way and it's still available at the original link above) but now leads with this anti-american screed:

The opening graf sets the tone:

"Only three months ago, they were the smiling masters of the universe, liberators who had watched their armies roll up a supposedly formidable Middle Eastern foe as easily as a child swats away a fly. How different it will be when George Bush and Tony Blair meet in Washington today."

Later in the article we have a whole range of modifiers thrown at the reader: 1) "meekly" (describing Tony Blair, of course, playing poodle); 2) "oh-so-reasonable" (Powell); 3) "willing fall-guy" (DCI Tenet, but only "so far" we are ominously clued in); 4) bullying (Rummy); 5) "tenacious" (Condi Rice fighting off all the critics circling the White House!); and, the kicker, 6) a "limp and stumbling" President Bush.

Wow, and this is the Indepenent's Washington Bureau Chief writing in. His Beltway ouevre must be judicious indeed! Check out too how he shamelessly lifts a Groucho Marx quote at the end of his piece: "Who are you going to believe - me, or your own two eyes?"

How witty--except that Mike Kinsley used it in an oped just yesterday in the WaPo--that the Independent Washington bureau chief surely read, no?

Meanwhile, the risible Cheney under pressure to resign story is alive and well on the Independent's site.


Far from resigning, Cheney, according to Matt Drudge, is getting ready to hit back at Administration critics:

"Vice President Cheney telling House GOP leaders: Bush admin getting ready to go on a public relations offensive, attempt to recast debate on Niger, WMDs, including bringing back Mary Matalin for spin control... Developing... "

Posted by Gregory at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

WaPo Tries to Expand Yellowcake-Gate

WaPo Tries to Expand Yellowcake-Gate

The WaPo is going at the whole yellowcake maelstrom pretty heavy today. You've got Hoagland versus Kinsley. And then a piece on the Democrats increasingly on the offensive with normally sober Bob Graham sounding like John (or Howard?) Dean.

And this Walter Pincus piece trying to move beyond the yellowcake frenzy to make the case that the Bushies needed yellowcake in the SOTU because most of the other intel had been discredited.

Pincus puts it this way:

"But a review of speeches and reports, plus interviews with present and former administration officials and intelligence analysts, suggests that between Oct. 7, when President Bush made a speech laying out the case for military action against Hussein, and Jan. 28, when he gave his State of the Union address, almost all the other evidence had either been undercut or disproved by U.N. inspectors in Iraq.

By Jan. 28, in fact, the intelligence report concerning Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa -- although now almost entirely disproved -- was the only publicly unchallenged element of the administration's case that Iraq had restarted its nuclear program. That may explain why the administration strived to keep the information in the speech and attribute it to the British, even though the CIA had challenged it earlier."

But wait a second. Has the yellowcake angle really now been "almost entirely disproved"? Not according to the Brits. Or the Aussies for that matter.

Pincus then details three examples of evidence that Saddam was attempting to reconstitute his nuclear program that were allegedly undercut and/or disproved pre-SOTU:

"For example, in his Oct. 7 speech, Bush said that "satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at [past nuclear] sites." He also cited Hussein's "numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists" as further evidence that the program was being reconstituted, along with Iraq's attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes "needed" for centrifuges used to enrich uranium."

Let's take each of these in turn. On the satellite images, Pincus refutes the Bush contention by merely relying on IAEA reports that two months of inspections had not turned up prohibited activity at former nuclear sites.

This is the same IAEA that failed to turn up evidence of Saddam's active nuclear program pre-Desert Storm. Hardly builds major confidence in their investigative verve or abilities, does it?

How about the contention that Saddam was meeting with his nuclear scientists? Pincus, again:

"As for Iraqi nuclear scientists, Mohamed ElBaradei told the Security Council, U.N. inspectors had "useful" interviews with some of them, though not in private."

Well, hot damn! Some "useful," albeit monitored by Saddam's thuggish handlers, IAEA meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists.

Is that the best Pincus can provide WaPo readers to evidence his claim that U.N. inspectors "disproved" or "undercut" Bush administration claims that Saddam had had numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists? Pincus hasn't done that at all here.

Then there are those famous aluminum tubes and whether they could be used for furtherance of a nuclear program.

Bottom line: There was a dispute between the Departments of Energy and State, on the one hand, and the CIA and Defense, on the other, about whether the rods could be used as centrifuges. Langley and the Pentagon thought the rods could be "cut down and reamed out" in a manner allowing them to be used as centrifuges.

Well that's certainly a credible possibility. And so not definitively "disproved" (this is why Pincus left in the "undercut" verbiage, ie. State and Energy "undercut" the aluminum rod intel somewhat) pace Pincus.

And keep in mind too that the entire Pincus piece solely concentrates on Iraq's nuclear capability without even touching at all on chemical or biological stockpiles--the key reason many of us supported the war--as such arms could have been easily transferred to operatives or terror groups looking to pull off an unconventional mega-terror attack in a major metropolis.

Sure we haven't turned up any bio or chem WMD stockpiles yet. But it's still relatively early going. And a cautious (and credible, to my mind) Colin Powell is backing up the Administration on aspects of the pre-war intelligence including bio-weapon labs.

So don't believe the hype. We haven't all been grotesquely hoodwinked by pathological liars at 1600 Pennsylvania. We do need to examine our intelligence gathering going forward as I've said before. This is crucial as some of the intelligence in the advent of war in Iraq was perhaps politicized and aggressively interpreted at times. But not, to my mind (at least at the present juncture), purposefully deceptive. And that's a crucial distinction.

Posted by Gregory at 10:55 AM | Comments (3)

July 15, 2003

From State Policy Planning Bureau

From State Policy Planning Bureau to 68th and Park

Richard Haas, incoming President of the CFR, in a wide-ranging interview worth reading in its entirety.

On the Sunni fear stemming from the perceived possibility of a "crude majoritarianism":

Q: "When the British took control of Mesopotamia after World War I, which later became Iraq, a popular uprising killed thousands of Iraqis and British troops. Does that kind of Iraqi nationalism persist?"

RH: "For all the divisions within Iraqi society, it is a mistake to underestimate Iraqi nationalism. We are also seeing strong signs of Sunni resistance. It is understandable why. Sunnis have enjoyed a special place in Iraqi society that is far greater than a narrow calculation of their numbers would suggest. So when Sunnis see all this political activity involving the Shiites, and look up north and see the Kurds, we get a lot of Sunni resistance. This suggests the need politically to think about an Iraqi society that doesn't degenerate into almost a crude majoritarianism. There have got to be checks and balances to safeguard individual as well as group minority rights."

On the Iranian student protests:

Q: "The regime change theory is based on a supposition that protesting students and others will overthrow the government?"

RH: "Maybe those who believe that are right. At some point, Iran will have, I believe, a very dramatic regime change. I'm just not willing to base all of our policy upon that. It seems to me more of a wish than a strategy. I think, though, that we could have very hard-headed conversations with [senior Iranian leaders], in which we could get on the table [Iran's] nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism. And we could potentially enter into a deal with them, particularly if we had the Russians and the Europeans with us. I am encouraged by signs that Russia and the Europeans now are interested in such a structured conversation.

There are [other] things we could continue doing that would promote the so-called winds of change within Iranian society. That's, in a sense, what we did during the Cold War. We engaged the Soviets on [matters] like arms control where it was in our interest to do so. At the same time, we did things through broadcasts and Helsinki Accords [on East-West cooperation in the 1970s] and so forth to try to foment internal change. The two need not be mutually exclusive."

On NoKo:

Q: "Should the United States talk to North Korea?"

RH: "Again, I'd say yes. If one goes back to the last meaningful conversation, which was held this past autumn when Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly went there, the North Koreans clearly put a lot on the table. Now what they put on the table was flawed, unacceptable, inadequate--choose your adjective. But again, the message I took from that is that at least certain things were potentially in play. My view is to test them. It is a long shot. It is just possible we could negotiate a deal with them that would meet our requirements in the nuclear area and the missile area. If not, the mere fact that we gave that a good-faith effort helps us manage the multilateral politics with China, the South Koreans, the Japanese, and others about ratcheting up the pressure on the North. I think the diplomatic exploration is a no-cost undertaking."

I disagree that diplomacy w/ NoKo is a no-cost undertaking if done in a bilateral setting. Washington has refused such a negotiating format for so long now that it will appear a concession to Pyongyang even before any discussion occurs. And we have been massaging the Chinese, South Koreans, Japanese, and Russians on helping us apply pressure on NoKo so that I don't think we really need to do much cleanup in terms of the multilateral politics in the neighborhood.

I've got a feeling the sweet-spot is going to be more productive trilateral negotiations among China, NoKo and the U.S. For one, the Chinese appear to be finally waking up to the gravity of the situation. Another possibility supposedly on offer from Beijing and being mulled over in D.C. and Pyongyang? A multilateral format with "sideline" bilaterals. If the sidelines are de minimis but can be pitched in amorphous fashion to Pyongyang so they bite I've got no beef with that.

For more on NoKo (particularly some interesting comments from Bill Perry), scroll down a few entries.

UDPATE: As predicted above, it appears the trilateral framework may indeed prove the compromise solution. The U.S., while still preferring the S. Koreans, Japanese and (perhaps) Russians to take part--might well accept this formula. Such a trilateral compromise might well have occurred a while ago if the Chinese had pursued the option with more alacrity earlier. It appears that have finally woken up to the gravity of the situation w/r/t NoKo's nuclear capabilities.

This isn't an ideal solution for the U.S. as we are not around the table with "friends" like Japan, S. Korea and Russia. But, all things considered, I think we might go with this with, potentially, a request for S. Korean and/ or Japanese "observers" to join the talks. Developing.

Posted by Gregory at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

That Overstretch Thing Paul Kennedy

That Overstretch Thing

Paul Kennedy (sorry Niall Ferguson) in the FT.

Posted by Gregory at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

Anatol Lieven: Iraq Isn't Afghanistan

Anatol Lieven: Iraq Isn't Afghanistan

The let's compare Afghanistan and Iraq meme grows:

David Rhode in the Times detailing occupation lite (Afghanistan) and occupation heavy (Iraq). He thinks a hybrid approach is where policymakers may well end up.

Anatol Lieven digs deeper in the LRB:

"Even if most Americans and a majority of the Administration want to move to indirect control over Iraq, the US may well find that it has no choice but to exercise direct rule. Indeed, even those who hated the war may find themselves morally trapped into supporting direct rule if the alternative appears to be a collapse into anarchy, immiseration and ethnic conflict. There is a tremendous difference in this regard between Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the mass of the population has been accustomed to fend for itself with very little help from the state, very little modern infrastructure and for that matter very little formal employment. In these circumstances, it was possible for the US to install a ramshackle pretence of a coalition government in Kabul, with a tenuous truce between its elements held in place by an international peacekeeping force backed by US firepower. The rest of the country could be left in the hands of warlords, clans and ethnic militias, as long as they made their territories open hunting ranges for US troops in their search for al-Qaida. The US forces launch these raids from airbases and heavily fortified, isolated camps in which most soldiers are kept rigidly separated from Afghans.

Doubtless many US planners would be delighted to dominate Iraq in the same semi-detached way, but Iraq is a far more modern society than Afghanistan, and much more heavily urbanised: without elements of modern infrastructure and services and a state to guarantee them, living standards there will not recover. Iraq needs a state; but for a whole set of reasons, it will find the creation of a workable democratic state extremely difficult. The destruction of the Baath regime has involved the destruction of the Sunni Arab military dominance on which the Iraqi state has depended since its creation by the British."

Posted by Gregory at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

The State of U.S. Military

The State of U.S. Military Efforts in Iraq

One of the most judicious assessments I've seen to date from Tom Donnelly of AEI.

Posted by Gregory at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

Marxist Muslims of the World

Marxist Muslims of the World Unite!

Check out this weird Beeb story. And what the hell is "private terrorism" (and why does the Beeb cite a comment disavowing said "private" terrorism as constituting a "disapproval of terror"?

Posted by Gregory at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

Beeb Watch--Sack Gilligan! MPs are

Beeb Watch--Sack Gilligan!

MPs are turning up the heat on the BBC.

Money quote: "Just as you sacked Rod Liddle [the Guardian columnist and former editor of BBC Radio 4's Today] you ought to give Mr Gilligan a choice between writing controversial polemical articles and continuing to work for the BBC. There's no doubt he should have been told long ago to stop writing these articles," said Mr Kaufman."

Indeed. Maybe Bill Keller will send the same message to his troops?

Meanwhile, are the Beeb's finances as bad off as Enron's were?

Well, not really. But this is humorous.

Posted by Gregory at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)

The "Vanishing" WMD TNR (subscription

The "Vanishing" WMD

TNR (subscription required) details why (maybe) we won't find WMD in Iraq:

"The idea that Saddam did not secretly continue building chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons directly contradicts White House claims. But the Iraqi scientists I met insist that the combination of U.S. bombing, U.N. inspections, disarmament efforts, unilateral destruction by Iraqi officials, and stiff U.N. sanctions had indeed eliminated Saddam's illicit weapons by the mid-'90s. At the same time, however, Saddam's efforts to hide or destroy documents hindered efforts to ultimately resolve scores of questions about the disposition of missing materials and equipment. In addition, fear of Saddam kept many scientists from telling the dictator the truth about their WMD programs. Ultimately, the scientists and others say, Saddam may have feared that admitting his WMD were gone would have shown a weakness that could have threatened his hold on power. These overlapping theories may not fully explain why American forces have not found WMD in Iraq. But, for now, they're the best we have."


"But, if the WMD were gone, why didn't Saddam cooperate in the '90s, if only to get the United Nations off his back so he could resume building his weapons? Why didn't he cooperate last year in order to appease the White House and avoid a war that would topple his regime? The prevailing theory among former U.N. inspectors and current American, British, and Australian weapons-hunters interviewed for this story is that Saddam was too proud to concede that he no longer possessed WMD. To admit this point would have meant bowing to the West. He would have appeared weak, and weakness would have threatened his hold on power at home and his vainglorious self-image as a leader of the Arab world. Instead, Saddam thought he could bully his way through this crisis, as he had in previous standoffs with the United States and its allies. The inspectors say Saddam believed that uncertainty about WMD could again serve as a deterrent to American forces. After all, in the wake of the 1991 war, U.N. inspectors learned Saddam had told aides that coalition ground forces had not pressed on to Baghdad because they were afraid of his chemical and biological weapons."

But note:

"Of course, the possibility that Saddam no longer possessed WMD does not mean that he no longer wanted to possess them. The former senior intelligence officer, a barrel-chested brigadier general who still wears a large watch with Saddam's portrait etched in gold on the face, insists that no chemical or biological weapons were produced in Iraq after the mid-'90s. But he does not pretend Saddam suddenly went legit. Indeed, the officer says he helped manage a maze of overseas trading companies run by Iraqi intelligence operatives and designed to support Iraq's sanctions-busting procurement schemes. He made seven overseas trips after the mid-'90s to help buy and ship spare parts, raw materials, and other supplies for Saddam's conventional weapons programs. On his last trip, in April 2001, he went to Jordan, Cyprus, Morocco, South Africa, and Argentina, using phony passports from neighboring Arab nations, to help arrange the secret purchase of $57 million worth of cannons, artillery fuses, calibrating instruments, and other weapons parts. As on previous trips, he also helped buy and smuggle "dual-use" items, such as medical laboratory equipment, which might someday be used to build chemical and biological weapons if the United Nations declared Iraq WMD-free and lifted sanctions. Indeed, he says that, in 1996, Saddam ordered his intelligence services to create a series of secret cells of Iraqi scientists and technicians. The groups--each with about four or five members--met regularly in Baghdad basements and did small experiments in underground laboratories. Their goal was not to build weapons. It was to formulate plans on how to build them when the United Nations lifted sanctions. "We could start again anytime," the intelligence officer says. "It's very easy. Especially biological."

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

U.S. and NoKo Drifting Towards

U.S. and NoKo Drifting Towards War?

So says former Clinton Secretary of Defense Bill Perry. Meanwhile Dave Sanger has the latest from Pyongyang:

"Some see last week's declaration as a negotiating ploy. They believe that North Korea has been frustrated by Mr. Bush's refusal to engage in one-on-one negotiations, insisting instead that China, Japan and South Korea act as partners in finding a regional solution. Mr. Bush's real motivation for resisting bilateral talks, his aides say, is that he fears that Asian nations will press the United States to reach some kind of deal similar to the one the Clinton administration signed — a "freeze" on nuclear activity in return for aid.

Other officials believe that Mr. Kim's government has simply decided that it can make both Washington and its Asian neighbors accept North Korea as a new nuclear power."

Perry wants the U.S. to start negotiating, apparently even in a bilateral framework, per his recommendation to employ "coervice diplomacy." But bilateral negotiations are a format that practically beg U.S. concessions--rewarding NoKo for its nuclear brinksmanship. That's the major reason bilateral negotiations, I think, aren't being pursued and are considered a bad idea contra Perry's contention that:

"From his discussions, Perry has concluded the president simply won't enter into genuine talks with Pyongyang's Stalinist government. "My theory is the reason we don't have a policy on this, and we aren't negotiating, is the president himself," Perry said. "I think he has come to the conclusion that Kim Jong Il is evil and loathsome and it is immoral to negotiate with him."

And to what extent has North Korean policy been hobbled by divisions between differing approaches at State and Defense?

"There is an ongoing search for consensus within the administration itself," said Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. "The lack of a consensus to a significant extent has prevented U.S. policy from unfolding."

But why did the very same Nicholas Eberstadt say the policy was working to Larry Kaplan a short while ago in TNR?

Meanwhile the blockade idea is poo-pooed by Perry too: "Perry argued that an interdiction strategy "would be provocative, but it would not be effective" in preventing the sale of nuclear material. "You don't need a ship to transport a core of plutonium that is smaller than a basketball," he said."


Posted by Gregory at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

Syria Watch A pretty gloomy

Syria Watch

A pretty gloomy Dexter Filikins dispatch from the Syrian-Iraq border. Villagers showing videos of an alleged U.S. G.I. beheaded in Iraq, calls for jihad, hatred of America running amok.

But aside from unfortunate apparent violations of Syrian airspace I suspect Syrian grievances in this border area are more often typically centered on the fact that individuals can't smuggle across the Syrian-Iraqi frontier as easily as they used to. Such revenue typically provides a significant portion of income for villagers in border areas in the region.

Like many journalists (remember Nick Kristof admitting he was off to find someone brutally tortured by Saddam who still hated the Americans?) I think Filkins focused on the most aggrieved individuals (those with relatives killed by U.S. forces) in his piece and thus paints a picture materially worse than the reality.

Speaking of Nick Kristof, his op-ed today has some Syria related material as well:

"Intelligence isn't just being dumbed down, but is also being manipulated — and it's continuing. Experts say the recent firefight on the Syrian-Iraq border involved not Saddam Hussein or a family member, as we were led to believe, but just some Iraqi petroleum smugglers. Moreover, Patrick Lang, a former senior D.I.A. official, says that many in the government believe that incursion was an effort by ideologues to disrupt cooperation between the U.S. and Syria."

"Many in the government." Who exactly? Folks at State's INR or NEA bureaus? Or elsewhere? We aren't told.

"Ideologues"? Code for Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz? Straussians writ large? Who exactly? Left unsaid.

What's clear is some individuals in the Beltway are leaking to Nick Kristof and they probably believe we are being too aggressive with the Syrians and need to cool it regarding firefights near (or just over?) the border and with regard to potential violations of Syrian airspace.

But from such concerns to charge that there is a purposeful "effort" by some in the government to disrupt U.S.-Syrian cooperation is quite a leap. And it's pretty much just hanging there with no corroboration whatsoever in our most prestigious paper's opinion pages. I'll be poking around on Pat Lang's statement shortly to find out, if possible, if there is any substance there.

UDPATE: Langley to John Bolton-- chill out dude--or something like that. TPM's got more on this too.

Posted by Gregory at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2003

Like Father Like Son? There

Like Father Like Son?

There will doubtless be many Dubya doomsayers, during the coming presidential election season, drawing an analogy to Bush pere's inglorious '92 defeat. Interestingly enough, former Reagan aide Clyde Prestowitz provides an early example of this genre in the conservative Spectator:

"The first signs of Bush’s potential vulnerability are becoming apparent. If the situation in Iraq continues, with a steady stream of US casualties, no apparent end in sight and no good explanation of why we are there, and if the US economy remains sluggish with rising unemployment, Bush could be in deep trouble. Indeed, the parallels with his father’s situation in 1992 are striking. Then the senior Bush appeared unbeatable, so much so that the major Democratic candidates stayed out of the race. But a little known Arkansas governor sensed the feet of clay and went for the gold. This time a little-known Vermont governor, Howard Dean, also sees possible feet of clay and is running for the gold. He has charisma on the stump and a powerful fundraising machine. More importantly, unlike the other Democratic candidates who have supported Bush on the war or kept silent, he has clearly defined himself as the anti-unilateralist and the anti-pre-emptive war candidate. Few give him a chance at the moment. But then, no one thought Bill Clinton could win either."

Missing in this analysis is the 800-pound guerrilla of 9/11. What matters most to voters, barring some economic calamity, is stemming attacks on the American homeland and continuing to aggressively prosecute the war on terror. Bush is earning high marks on both despite the yellowcake imbroglio.

UPDATE: David Broder gives the economy bigger billing as a detrimental factor to Dubya's reelection prospects.

Posted by Gregory at 11:05 PM | Comments (4)

How Dumb is Colonel Gaddafi?

How Dumb is Colonel Gaddafi?

Real, real dumb.

UPDATE: Link fixed.

Posted by Gregory at 05:34 PM | Comments (4)

Bloggers Storming the House of

Bloggers Storming the House of Commons!

Read about it here.

Posted by Gregory at 05:14 PM | Comments (3)

Iraq Troop Contribution Watch Bad

Iraq Troop Contribution Watch

Bad news from New Delhi--but ultimately not overly surprising.

UPDATE: Note the significantly more negative NYT treatment of the story.

Posted by Gregory at 05:11 PM | Comments (4)

Embryonic Eurocorp March? Mais oui:

Embryonic Eurocorp March?

Mais oui:

"In a gesture of European unity, a German general headed France's Bastille Day military parade Monday for the first time...Gen. Holger Kammerhoff opened the march by leading 120 troops from the five-nation Eurocorps down the famed avenue to the Place de la Concorde, underscoring the close ties between France and Germany and the goal of closer European unity. Germany fought two wars with France in the last century."

Posted by Gregory at 05:06 PM | Comments (4)

Lelyveld Interregnum Ends And so

Lelyveld Interregnum Ends

And so begins the Keller watch.

Posted by Gregory at 03:55 PM | Comments (3)

Uranium Intelligence Check out this

Uranium Intelligence

Check out this piece on the provenance of the information regarding potential uranium procurement efforts by Baghdad. Elsewhere in the FT Douglas Hurd has some thoughts on Iraq.

Meanwhile, Blair and Straw continue to defend British intelligence reports on the uranium/Africa information.

Posted by Gregory at 03:38 PM | Comments (3)

July 13, 2003

Don't Kill Saddam! The Week

Don't Kill Saddam!

The Week in Review section of the Sunday Times is opened up for such moronic musings:

"But the final argument against assassination, often noted by American intelligence officers, was the most practical--you might get rid of public enemy No. 1, but who would take his place? Mr. Bremer has cited the survival of Mr. Hussein as a kind of psychological barrier, scaring off some Iraqis who might be willing to work with the Americans, and inspiring others to go on fighting.

But how can Washington be sure that killing Mr. Hussein will be a change for the better? Success might only clear the path for another Iraqi leader, just as intransigent but free of Mr. Hussein's terrible burden of decades of crime against his own people."

Note too the offensive title of the piece: "When Frontier Justice Becomes Foreign Policy." We really do have an amazingly idiotic cowboy simpleton at the helm, don't we?

There are other goodies on offer from the Times today, bien sur.

Here's some good old fashioned MaDo:

"Their [the Bush crowd's] defensive crouch and obsession with secrecy are positively Nixonian. (But instead of John Dean and an aggressive media, they have Howard Dean and a cowed media.)"

The Watergate comparisons are really an outrage. Here's one guy who should know not taking the bait. For the record, lest we forget, British intelligence still stands by the report on the Niger/uranium story. I think it's bogus, and it shouldn't have been in the speech, but inclusion of the one sentence in the SOTU simply is so far removed from Nixon's actions during Watergate that comparisons are absurd.

A Commander in Chief needs to rely on his intelligence agencies for procurement of information related to furtherance of national security interests. Intelligence gathering is an imperfect art. Taken in its totality, the Niger/uranium story relied on pretty shaky intelligence and should not have been included in a Presidential speech. But Watergate this ain't. Not by a long shot.

And I say this even after reading TPM's voluminous wall-to-wall coverage on the issue!

Note: That said, we are getting months into having concluded conventional, major hostilities in Iraq and have yet to unearth any WMD. It is time to investigate, perhaps internally or via a blue-ribbon commission rather than full-blown public hearings (that will inexorably become a circus as we approach the election year) what intelligence was good and what intelligence was bunk. Findings should be shared with the public.

U.S. credibility on such matters, going forward, must be maintained and such an exercise would be helpful towards achieving continued credibility. Given the need for possible preemptive action(s) in the future--intelligence we provide to the court of international public opinion going forward must not be discounted out of hand (even if unfairly) because of some possible failures related to Iraq intelligence.

Posted by Gregory at 07:39 PM | Comments (3)

July 11, 2003

The Howard Dean School of

The Howard Dean School of Foreign Policy

First, check out this must read from Charles Krauthammer.

Money grafs:

"They all had a claim on the American conscience. What then was the real difference between, say, Haiti and Gulf War I, and between Liberia and Gulf War II? The Persian Gulf has deep strategic significance for the United States; Haiti and Liberia do not. In both gulf wars, critical American national interests were being defended and advanced. Yet it is precisely these interventions that liberals opposed.

The only conclusion one can draw is that for liberal Democrats, America's strategic interests are not just an irrelevance, but also a deterrent to intervention. This is a perversity born of moral vanity. For liberals, foreign policy is social work. National interest -- i.e., national selfishness -- is a taint. The only justified interventions, therefore, are those that are morally pristine, namely, those that are uncorrupted by any suggestion of national interest."

Speaking of liberal democrats, you will likely be hearing much from them in the coming months about how Dubya has taken the wrecking ball to the multilateral order with his gruff, Crawford-style unilateralism.

Yet the reality as prominent, non-neo-cons like Richard Haas point out is much more complex.

"The unilateral critique of American foreign policy is overstated. The most interesting debates are not the debates between unilateralism and multilateralism, but what kind of multilateralism? Is it multilateralism that is formal, in the sense of the United Nations? Is it multilateralism that is still formal, but regional? For example, using NATO, as we did in Kosovo? When do you have to turn to coalitions of the willing? When you do turn to a coalition of the willing, how do you give it a dimension of legitimacy? How do you make it acceptable? Those are the real foreign policy questions, not whether there is a unilateral option, because, quite honestly, there isn't one."

For some recommendations on 'what kind of multilateralism' the U.S. should strive for post 9/11 check out this roundtable study I helped author. This report ultimately sides less with an overly formalistic multilateralism (which Dean appears to unfortunately espouse, see below).

And be careful accepting the proposition that Howard Dean would prove a "credible alternative" on national security issues:

"All, including Dean, support some variant of liberal institutionalism--i.e., working closely with democratic allies, strengthening multilateral institutions, opposing preventive wars, and investing more in homeland defense. And Dean, like the rest of the candidates, extols Harry S Truman and John F. Kennedy as his guiding stars on foreign policy matters. In his speeches, he emphasizes the combination of their hawkishness in the face of illiberal threats and multilateralism as the preferred method for combating such threats. Dean's emphasis on Kennedy's prudence during the Cuban missile crisis was a constant refrain of leading Democrats in late 2002.

Furthermore, Dean's opposition on Iraq does not mean he is opposed to the overseas deployment of U.S. forces. He has been refreshingly candid in advocating a more active nation-building role for the United States, and has advocated sending more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan for that purpose. This week he strongly supported the deployment of U.S. peacekeeping forces to Liberia as part of a multilateral intervention."

First, it's easy to pile on regarding how we should be sending more troops into Iraq and Afghanistan for nation-building. But Dean has yet to provide us with credible, serious details on what he would be doing differently in Iraq today.

Perhaps he would throw more money at it? But given Dean's significant ambitions in the domestic sphere--he will have to explain how a greater than $3.9 billion/month price tag will fit into his expansive domestic programs. And Krauthammer well explains the limitations of Dean's worldview that has him cheerleading a Liberia troop deployment but hyper-reticent with regard to a Persian Gulf operation.

As for the Truman and Kennedy analogies--I disagree with Drezner that Dean mentions them in his speeches to emphasize their "combination of hawkishness in the face of illiberal threats and multilateralism as the preferred method for combating such threats."

This is really more about Democrat iconography. Of course Truman and Kennedy will be trotted out as models--would Dean instead point to a Carter or Clinton? He wouldn't not only because of said prospective predecessors often bungled handling of national security but also because mentioning a Carter or Clinton would also serve to remind voters about the perils of promoting former Democrat statehouse dwellers, largely devoid of foreign policy experience, to the White House.

Am I taking unfair potshots? Let's take a closer look at Dean's CFR speech and what it reveals about his foreign policy views:

"He [Harry Truman] believed that if America reached out to others in friendship and with respect, our strength would be multiplied and that more and more countries would support our policies not because we told them to, but because they wanted to.

Harry Truman believed that a world in which even the poorest and most desperate had grounds for hope would be a world in which our own children could grow up in security and peace not because evil would then be absent from the globe, but because the forces of right would be united and strong.

Harry Truman had faith as I have faith, and as I believe the American people have faith, that if we are wise enough and determined enough in our opposition to hate and our promotion of tolerance; in our opposition to aggression and our fidelity to law; we will have allies not only among governments but among people everywhere."

This is largely prattle devoid of any real meaning and could just as easily have been written by someone in the Bush Administration. What candidate will not pontificate from the stump about wanting to reach out to other nations in "in friendship"? Or the importance of our children growing up in "security and peace." And what exactly are the "forces of right"? Those forces arrayed against the "axis of evil"?

What here evokes a sense that Dean extols Truman because of his "combination of hawkishness in the face of illiberal threats and multilateralism as the preferred method for combating such threats"? Really, nothing.

But what about this portion of Dean's speech?

"Presidents such as Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy built and strengthened international institutions, rather than dismissing and disparaging the concerns of allies. They inspired and mobilized other countries because they believed there was no more powerful force on earth than that of free people working together.

They helped build global platforms such as the UN, NATO, and the World Bank on which free people everywhere could stand. Our greatest leaders built America's reputation as the world's leading democracy by never resting until they had given life to American ideals."

More boiler-plate campaign rhetoric and Truman/Kennedy hagiography. Dean needs to explain how Bush has disparaged or dismissed the international fora that Truman constructed. But he can't do so convincingly regarding major security issues that Bush has dealt with during his term (in fairness, Dean does rightly suggest that, with treaties like Kyoto, we should at least propose alternatives rather than just dismiss them out of hand).

Again, however, we have an ultimately ineffective critique as Dubya has pursued multilateral avenues in places like Iraq. Iraq was representative of a form of multilateralism, a "coalition of the willing," that comprised nations like the U.K., Australia and Poland. And Iraq didn't destroy the U.N.

More importantly, Dean never delineates how his proposed strengthening of various international institutions would be specifically pursued and how that would improve America's position in the world or the U.S. national interest. They are merely goals we are to assume are good in and of themselves. But his overly formalistic approach to multilateralism is contra the alleged hawkish tendencies a Truman would take in the face of "illiberal threats." (see more on this below)

Here's the real state of play on Dean's likely foreign policy-related critiques of Dubya. Dean, who is prematurely calling for Bush administration resignations in melodramatic tones ("they know who they are") on hyped-up uranium gate--will hammer on two foreign policy themes as the election draws nearer and the campaigining gets nastier.

One, that he was the only Democrat (with a real shot at the nomination who is not an overly pre-packaged Beltway insider like Kerry or Lieberman) to have had the courage to oppose going to war in Iraq because there was no real, immediate WMD threat. And hey, looks like I was right, he hopes to be able to claim, assuming no WMD programs, products or other capability found in Iraq between now and the election.

Second, Bush has, through a combination of arrogance, recklessness and ineptitude split organizations like the U.N. and NATO showing he cares little for international organizations. He will argue that the U.S. is therefore loathed in many parts of the world because it is seen as an arrogant hegemon. Vote for me, and I'll put these various multilateral fora back into working order, make sure no one breathes the words "empire" and "America" in the same sentence, and generally make us loved again from Jakarta to Paris. This is the supposed Kennedy/Truman multilateral good-guy angle.

There are two main problems with all this (leaving aside the WMD and resignations angle). First, as already mentioned, it is not accurate to portray Bush as having pursued a predominately unilateral policy. Related to this contention, and in terms of allegedly splitting NATO or the UN, recall that, regarding the former, it was solely the French who held out on voting for NATO support to Turkey per the U.S. request. On the U.N., Bush delivered a widely applauded speech on September 12, 2002 spelling out U.S. demands to a somewhat receptive international community in measured, methodical fashion. His Secretary of State followed the speech up with securing an unanimous UNSC vote demanding that Iraq provide unfettered access and full disclosure on its WMD programs.

Neither were forthcoming. No reason to revisit all the Quai D'Orsay perfidy or the recycled Iraqi document drop on their WMD programs here now--but the diplomacy at the U.N. and Bush Administration conduct generally was not about Dubya trying to destroy Acheson's "Present at the Creation" postwar system (as Dean would have you believe).

A second problem is Dean's overly formal approach to multilateralism alluded to above which renders his attempted linkage to Truman's foreign policy disingenuous. What would allegedly hawkish, humanitarian-minded (and fervent international law stalwart too) Howard Dean do in the face of a Kosovo, for instance? Kosovars are being massacred by Milosevic's forces. Population transfers are underway. The Russians and Chinese are going to veto any credible UNSC resolution calling Milosevic to task.

Would he go in regardless to protect civilian lives? Of course he would, his defenders would argue. Look at his stance in Liberia. Folks, don't be fooled.

Going into Liberia is a no-brainer for any Democrat on the campaign trail for electoral reasons (among other factors, because it helps with the African-American vote) and it presents no real controversy on the international stage. Virtually everyone wants Americans in Monrovia. I mean, the French are urging us to go into Liberia.

Back to the Kosovo hypothetical. All told, I would predict that the likely amateurish foreign policy team he would assemble would back away from the brink. It would be a Clinton (pre-Holbrooke) redux. Lot's of hang-wringing. Lot's of late-night Yale Law style bull sessions with Dominos deliveries keeping the pow-wow going into the wee hours. And little action. Partly because of concerns the integrity of UNSC decision-making would be violated if Moscow wouldn't grant us an abstention, for instance.

Check out this PBS Gwen Ifill interview of Dean for a sampler of the likely impotence a Dean would bring to U.S. foreign policy related to this point:

GWEN IFILL: Governor, by my count, you just used some version of the word "unilateral" six times in that response. If... the president would argue he is not favoring a unilateral attack, that he has support from Britain and other nations and is now going to the United Nations for a second resolution. Under what circumstances could you imagine a multilateral attack?

FMR. GOV. HOWARD DEAN: Well, I think that the United Nations makes it clear that Saddam has to disarm, and if he doesn't, then they will disarm him militarily. I have no problem with supporting a United Nations attack on Iraq, but I want it to be supported by the United Nations. That's a well-constituted body. The problem with the so-called multilateral attack that the president is talking about is an awful lot of countries, for example, like Turkey-- we gave them $20 billion in loan guarantees and outright grants in order to secure their permission to attack. I don't think that's the right way to put together a coalition. I think this really has to be a world matter. Saddam must be disarmed. He is as evil as everybody says he is. But we need to respect the legal rights that are involved here. Unless they are an imminent threat, we do not have a legal right, in my view, to attack them. [my emphasis]

Hostile planes might well have to be in Manhattan airspace before a Dean Administration judged a threat sufficiently "imminent." And respecting the "legal rights that are involved here" means, in practice, kowtowing to a Moscow, Beijing or Paris to the detriment of vital American interests or in the face of gross violations of human rights.

Of course it's always better to act with UNSC cohesion on war and peace issues. But we cannot become entrapped by a UNSC unwilling to assume its responsibilities in the face of genocidal horrors and/or where vital American interests are at stake. We need to pursue more flexible multilateral strategies, for example, occasionally employing ad hoc coalitions of the willing and the like.

Bottom line: if you want to vote Democrat and care about national security--look perhaps to a Bob Graham or Joe Lieberman. But not to Howard Dean. You won't get a top-flight foreign policy in a Dean Administration. And U.S. national interests will therefore suffer on the global stage.

UPDATE: Joe Klein in Time has Dean supporting the interventions in Kosovo and Bosnia. That would evidently weaken some of my arguments above. I'm going to have to do some digging around on this. Part of me thinks he's gotten a pass by stating he supports NATO-style peacekeeping efforts like Bosnia/Kosovo rather than having confronted directly the question of how he would have intervened without an UNSC resolution. More soon when time allows.

Posted by Gregory at 11:51 AM | Comments (3)

July 10, 2003

Hudna Watch The specter of

Hudna Watch

The specter of irredentist splinter groups:

"In effect, most of the rejectionist groups, including the Islamic organizations, were established because of disappointment and dissatisfaction with a parent organization. Hamas split from the Muslim Brotherhood because the Palestinian issue was not at the top of the
brotherhood's agenda. The Islamic Jihad quit Hamas over ideology and particularly military tactics, while Hezbollah broke away from Amal because of Amal's moderation vis-a-vis Israel. Secular rejectionist groups also broke away from parent organizations."

Skeptics will state these musings are being aired to provide deniability by the leadership of Hamas or Islamic Jihad if operatives carry out terror attacks. I think these groups exert pretty central control but nevertheless can't discount the occasional rogue operative or, perhaps, some splintering per the above. Regardless, should such splinter movements actually start a terror campaign, the PA will need to prove its stripes and crack down on them with real alacrity.

Meanwhile, Dahlan is requesting urgent action on prisoner releases and further IDF withdrawals. Likely because Dahlan needs deliverables to garner greater street cred given Arafat's machinations.

Posted by Gregory at 03:23 PM | Comments (1)

The Poodle Angle An IHT

The Poodle Angle

An IHT editorial that gets it all wrong on Tony Blair and Dubya:

"Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain is perhaps too popular to be felled by the relentless questioning about the flawed intelligence he cited to justify joining the United States in the war on Iraq. But it is one of several sad sequels to Operation Iraqi Freedom that America's closest political ally, and one of the most dynamic and popular leaders in Europe, is being dragged down by a war he embraced at Washington's behest." [my emphasis]

Behest typically means an authoritative command. Does the IHT really wish to opine that Dubya commanded Blair to join the Iraq war effort? How drearily simplistic and cliched.

Here is how Blair had handled such "MP from Texas" or "poodle" charges earlier during the advent to the war. Elsewhere, I recall too that Blair had said that if Dubya wasn't urging his government towards action on Iraq he would have been calling Washington to take a more vigorous role on the issue himself. So much for acting at "Washington's behest."

Meanwhile, the row between 10 Downing and the Beeb looks set to get worse. Far from a retraction--the Beeb is now pushing the WMD story more claiming senior Whitehall officials have told them they expect no WMD to turn up. Developing.

Posted by Gregory at 02:59 PM | Comments (3)

The Northern Sector Amidst the

The Northern Sector

Amidst the continuing loss of coalition forces mostly in majority Sunni areas of Iraq, as well as much speculation regarding whether the U.S. can find moderate Shi'as to cooperate with in the southern regions--less attention has been paid to the predominately Kurdish areas in northern Iraq.

Recently, however, there has been more activity than usual on this front. Most dramatically, there was the U.S. detention of some eleven Turkish special forces troops. The reaction in Turkey, as seen here and here, has been far from positive. Meanwhile, Tom Oliphant in today's IHT enunciates what might well be considered the current U.S. conventional wisdom surrounding the incident and its potential ramifications.

Elsewhere, Kurdish rivals Barzani and Talabani cooperate on a NYT/IHT op-ed that seeks to raise the Kurdish issue in the Beltway to a higher degree of attention. Parts of it looks like it was written by Washington PR types assisting the Kurds with some good Beltway spin:

"One simple way to improve the economy in our part of Iraq, Kurdistan, is to ensure that the Kurds receive the money allocated to them by the United Nations oil-for-food program. It is a scandal that $4 billion destined for the Kurds sits, unused, in a UN-controlled French bank account because of past obstruction by Saddam and the present incompetence of the UN bureaucracy."

Will those nefarious Frogs (conveniently so very unpopular these days in the Beltway) release our oil-for-food funds already?

Meanwhile, Talabani is commenting on the Turkish/U.S. dispute in what might charitably be described as a disingenuous manner.

The detention of a NATO member's forces by another NATO army is certainly not a routine event. And, as my links above show, the Turks are fuming over the incident. They are wondering if the decision to detain the soldiers was vetted at high levels in Washington or whether it was an action taken on the ground at lower levels. Either way, this is still very much a developing story as further details emerge and tempers cool.

But this much is clear. One of the Turk's major concerns is that, no longer forced to defend themselves against Saddam, Kurds are moving men (or at least materiel) across the border to their fellow Kurds in Turkey. There is, of course, concern that Kurdish guerrilla-style actions in majority Kurd areas of Turkey will now be on an uptick. Reports of heightened Kurdish militia activity are beginning to seep out.

Put differently, there is a feeling in Ankara that the Kurds are feeling pretty empowered these days. This view is supported by U.S. gratitude to the Kurds stemming from common Kurdish and U.S. interests during the Iraq campaign. This factor must be viewed alongside the significant residual animus towards Ankara that exists in Washington given the lack of significant support from Turkey during the Iraq war.

Throw in feelings of wounded national pride (likely somewhat exagerrated for dramatic effect) over the detention of the Turkish soldiers, deep-seated fears about the preservation of the territorial integrity of Turkey, and the attendant national security concerns given potential Kurdish troublemaking in Turkey proper--you have a pretty toxic brew as seen from Ankara.

But the U.S. has very important interests at play as well. As Oliphant puts it:

"In the current environment, the United States can hardly insist that Iran keep its political and subversive hands out of the delicate situation in the Shiite south. It can hardly insist that Syria not become a haven for cross-border guerrilla and terrorist activities and still tolerate Turkish misbehavior in the north simply because it has status as a NATO member. NATO membership is a responsibility, not a license."

The question is whether Turkish and American diplomats and senior military leaders can smooth over and foster some form of awkward cohabitation given significantly different national interests at work in the northern Iraq sector. I think it's a close call going forward. On the negative side of the ledger it's quite alarming to see Turkish establishment generals--a bulwark of stability buttressing the secular orientation of Turkey--issuing quite acrimonious rhetoric towards Washington. On the other hand, the Cheney-Erdogan chat may well have improved the situation somewhat. More on this soon.

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

July 09, 2003

Overheard on the Beeb Some

Overheard on the Beeb

Some real beauts on offer from the Beeb that I overheard late last night (and early this morning) from a hotel room in the CIS before dozing off. One report (no weblink available) has the BBC correspondent explaining why Iranians might not hit the streets today in protest in numbers as large as a month or so back. It seems that many Iranians have been disenchanted by the going-ons in both Afghanistan and Iraq. They have seen the U.S. engaged in "overturning one regime and providing (or was it provoking?) something worse" in its place. [my emphasis].

Hamid Karzai worse than a hyper-regressive theocratic regime that myriad Muslims worldwide denounced as too radical an interpretation of Islam? The Coalition Authority worse than a genocidal Saddam with the blood of tens of thousands of Shi'a and well over one hundred and fifty thousand Kurds on his hands?

I'd rather live without electricity in a sweltering city for a month or two than be gassed to death in what Samantha Power calls the "Kurdish Hiroshima." How 'bout you?

Next, the Beeb reports on Dubya's trip to Africa. We are told that, in "sharp contrast" to Clinton's visit a few years back, the reaction in Africa to Dubya's visit is distinctly chilly. We are then subjected to warmed-over "North-South" studies claptrap from the correspondent. The war in Iraq has led to a divide between many Africans and the Bush Administration. The division has become a rich/poor divide. Indeed, its become a black/white thing. Relations, it seems, between Africa and the Bush Administration are just shy of ghastly (though even the Beeb is reporting this.) And such events are doubtless going to contribute to worsening race relations, right?

Meanwhile, the Beeb seeks to "agree to disagree" with 10 Downing Street on differing interpretations regarding the information contained in the dossier in the run-up to the Iraq war. No retraction (let alone apology) as predicted (admitedly predictably) in this blog a few entries back.

But, without even a hint of chagrin or caution, the Beeb is already rushing about quoting unnamed intelligence officers on another story. I've already blogged about how the Administration should clear the air on the Niger/uranium story and perhaps disclipline individuals involved.

But the Beeb's strident anti-Americanism has them breathlessly hotting up the story thus:

"But the CIA official has said that a former US diplomat had already established the claim was false in March 2002 - and that the information had been passed on to government departments, including the White House, well before Mr Bush mentioned it in the speech."

Translation: If you believe the Beeb, the Beltway inter-agency zone was pretty much being flooded with memoranda and assorted communications comprehensively debunking the information that any attempts by Baghdad to procure uranium in Africa existed--many months pre-Dubya's SOTU where he made mention of the Iraq-uranium-Africa link.

Or so says another anonymous source! Hell, next thing you know Karen Hughes will be dragged out of quasi-retirement to play Alistair and rein in a Beeb that seems to make Howell's Times look like a paragon of journalistic accuracy.

Posted by Gregory at 06:13 AM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2003

Of "Carefully Hung" Flypaper I

Of "Carefully Hung" Flypaper

I was a bit surprised to see David Warren's essay "Flypaper" greeted with seeming accolades through copious swaths of the blogosphere (though Dan Drezner, whose permalinks are suffering like mine, mentions how Warren overstates how Iraq might be the first democracy in the "entire history of the Arabs").

Warren's essay basically argues that there are currently three main theaters of war (or something akin to war) in the Middle East. We've got the Israeli-Palestinian situation, Iraq, and Iran according to Warren. On the Israeli-Palestinian front, Warren issues the typical rightist Likudnik (ie, the center to right wing of Likud) security hawk line that the roadmap is doomed to failure and merely an opportunity for the various terror outfits to variously get a breather, regroup, and resume their killing sprees once the ceasefire fails.

Listen, all are entitled to their opinions. If Warren is this pessimistic I've got no beef with that. I'm not exactly dreaming about the rebirth of a new Middle East with a 12-laner linking Tel Aviv and Damascus in a few short weeks either. But I'm definitely willing to give Dubya and the roadmap more of a shot than Warren at resuscitating the moribund peace process. Rosy Oslo days these aren't--but without any optimism at all what's the point of making any diplomatic efforts at all? We might as well stick our collective heads in the sand and count the casualties. Remember, there is no morally viable military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum, for either side.

On Iran, Warren breezily informs us that: "(w)hat appeared to be student's versus ayatollah's, is now effectively the people versus the ayatollahs, with the biggest demonstrations yet planned for next week." I fullheartedly agree with Warren that the presence of U.S. troops on Iran's borders in Afghanistan and Iraq has emboldened the student protestors. And, with cautionary notes issued, I think that's great. But I am less bullish about the protests having spread to "the people," by which I surmise Warren means everyone from Teheran burghers to the disaffected lumpenproletariat languishing in provincial cities. We just haven't seen that in convincing fashion to date--like it or not.

And while I'm all for expediting the demise of corrupt (link via Sullivan), zealout-like Mullahs--I'm conscious that too much overt American meddling in Iran at this juncture could well backfire on two fronts. One, Iranian nationalism remains a powerful force that those in positions of authority can twist so as to portray the demonstrating students as American stooges (ie, traitors) bringing danger and dishonor to the country.

In turn, and this is my second fear, the regime could then crackdown more vigorously on the protestors whom would be left more or less defenseless if wider popular support had not been achieved. And, just in case you're ready to march into Teheran, remember our hands are very full in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we're on the cusp of an intervention in Liberia. Translation: Mike Leeden aside, no one serious in Washington is about to advocate sending boots on the ground to the Islamic Republic of Iran. And so if students start getting killed--we're not there to protect them.

But what really got me regarding Warren's piece was his "flypaper" analysis of the situation in Iraq. His spin here would make a Paul Begala blush. I'm not going to comment on the whole "bring 'em on" Dubya locution. That's a tangential matter.

What got me were Warren's musings that Dubya had, "quite consciously...created a new playground for the enemy, away from Israel, and even farther from the United States itself" thus leading to a draining of "terrorist resources" from various unspecified "swamps." First off, the "Sunni Triangle" in Iraq isn't a "playground." It's not a playground for the GIs being killed almost daily, or for Paul Bremer and various U.S. defense planners in the field and at the Pentagon, or for Dubya himself.

And the notion that the forces attacking U.S. forces in Iraq are therefore not attacking civilian buses and the like in Israel is risible. Hamas, Jihad Islami, Tanzim and Al-Aqsa are not attacking U.S. troops in Iraq. And they are not providing resources to do so. If the roadmap fails and/or the ceasefire breaks down; they will do their dirty terrorist deeds in Israel again.

The forces attacking U.S. troops are disparate and probably not overly organized through a centralized, top-down structure. As U.S. government sources have indicated, there are likely five groups engaged in attacks.

In order of importance, I'd wager they are as follows: 1) Ba'ath remnants, 2) Saddam Fedayeen, 3) Ansar-al-Islam; 4) foreign fighters (Syria and Iran) and 5) Iraqi criminals (with the order of numbers four and five a close call). The vast majority of the attacks against U.S. forces to date are likely stemming from #s 1 and 2 above. People like Warren will argue that #4 types (ie., legions of pan-Arab. Baathist, Bashar acolytes and pro-Iranian Hezbollah units) have poured into Iraq for the jihad in the new neighborhood "playground."

And so U.S. ally Israel is safer (as is the U.S. homeland, his thinking goes), for instance. Sorry, but that's just a bunch of bull. The reasons that Israelis are safer right now include the ceasefire and tenuous forward movement on the roadmap, the fact that Hezbollah hasn't been particularly busy lobbing Katyushas daily into northern Israel as Bashar Asad has been clamping down on Hezbollah activity (because he's increasingly worried about detiorating relations with the U.S.), and, before that, robust IDF action throughout the Occupied Territories. And, just in case you were wondering, the terror attacks that so often plague Israel aren't comandeered out of Damascus. That's done in Jenin, Gaza City, and Ramallah.

So much for the "good, solid American excuse" for wiping our terrorists that are normally operating in the Israeli theater. The Ba'ath and Fedayeen hardliners, dead-enders, jihadists (whatever you want to call them) weren't and aren't those plotting bombings in Haifa (aside from Saddam's morally corrupt renumeration to families of suicide bombers in the past). And regardless, Bush doesn't coordinate placing "carefully hung flypaper" so that Sharon can take down the Israeli "flypaper" per Warren. Such speculative linkage has no bearing in fact and breeds conspiracy-think. And last, remember that "flypaper" in this context can often mean dead U.S. soldiers. Whether it's "carefully hung" or not.

Posted by Gregory at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2003

Schadenfreude a la Francaise John

Schadenfreude a la Francaise

John Vinocur writing in the IHT:

"Still, perhaps the clearest marker of the hastiness of the rapprochement talk was the clammy undertone of rejoicing in French press and political commentary about the Americans' difficulty in establishing order in postwar Iraq. It was complemented by the equally clear but silent French distance from open satisfaction with American-generated progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A warning about the real attitudes in play in France came from an unexpected quarter. Jean Daniel, the 82-year-old editor of Le Nouvel Observateur, the leftist weekly, and a relentless critic of the United States' intervention in Iraq, wrote that the pleasure in the Americans' troubles that he currently saw served French interests only "if you're an old-fashioned anti-American" - no rarity, of course, within his readership or beyond.

Daniel said it was essential to stop the glee, take the measure of the spread of the "common enemy" of Islamic terrorism, and help the Americans. The unstated address for the unusual message was the French government and President Jacques Chirac.

The United States, in fact, is providing a test that carries a cold gauge of French helpfulness. When American generals said last week that they wanted to counter the threat of Islamic terrorism in North Africa by enhancing existing military relationships with Morocco and Tunisia, and getting long-term access to non-permanent bases in Algeria and Mali, they implicitly raised issues of French support in a traditional zone of French influence.

Sincerity is surely not the most essential of diplomatic attributes. But its presence or absence in light of the silly season's "absolutely exceptional" relations talk will be unmistakable when the issue for France becomes, as the U.S. generals have said, an American presence in the Sahara and U.S trainers working with troops from the four countries, all former French colonies or protectorates.

As for Villepin, the French official closest to Chirac, a review last week of his newest collection of verse by the poet Phillipe Beck called the foreign minister's massive use of quotations from other poets an "orgy of insincerity," a kind of failed attempt at "lyricism by association."

Posted by Gregory at 04:32 AM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2003

Patrick Tyler Watch Pat Tyler,

Patrick Tyler Watch

Pat Tyler, FOH (Friend-of-Howell), in the Week in Review section of today's NYT:

"Early sporadic violence has become more concerted every day. There may be no central command, but among the Sunni warrior class, no road map to resistance is needed."

A couple questions/comments. What, exactly, is the Sunni "warrior class"? We are not told.

Note too the loaded (and gratuitous) reference to the "roadmap." Translation from 43rd St. speak: We need to push and pull those Israelis and Palestinians every inch of the way on roadmap implementation but, here in Iraq--whether there is a top-down command structure organizing the resistance or not--the anti-American groundswell will continue unabated.

Sheerly speculative. Very Raines-y. Mr. Lelyveld has rendered the NYT less partisan here and there--but clearly continued sober supervision is needed.

Posted by Gregory at 12:13 PM | Comments (4)

Blair versus the Beeb Blair

Blair versus the Beeb

Blair is upping the ante in his dispute with the BBC regarding claims by that network that the UK government purposefully "sexed" up an intelligence dossier in the advent of war in Iraq. The Beeb say they continue to stand by their story.

Meanwhile, The Guardian is headlining a story that attempts to muddy the waters regarding the Blair/Beeb row. The story alleges the head of MI6 met with senior BBC executives before the Beeb's story on the dossier and stated that Iran and Syria were greater threats than Iraq. But this is really a distraction. Such an alleged meeting is not directly related to the Beeb's allegations that the U.K. government purposefully mucked about with intelligence in order to make the dossier more alarming so as to garner additional support for the war.

The Guardian also has an Andrew Rawnsley piece up that seems a transparent attempt to preemptively discount the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report, to be released tomorrow, that is likely to clear Blair communications honcho Alistair Campbell of the specific allegations the Beeb's report raised. That said, per the Times piece:

"Some MPs on the committee believe they have been given only a partial view of Campbell’s role in putting the government’s case for war. They point out that the BBC’s source for its claim that No 10 hardened intelligence reports was accurate on some points and cannot simply be dismissed. And a senior BBC source claimed last night that a key conclusion of the report clearing Campbell came about only because of the casting vote of the chairman of the committee, Labour MP Donald Anderson."

Expect the Beeb to concentrate on any "dissenting amendments" in its favor in the Committee Report. Also look for, despite the specific allegations against Campbell likely judged erroneous by the Committee, the Beeb pointing to any Committee speculations regarding Campbell's aggressivity in pitching the war more generally (see, for instance, the February briefing paper partly taken from a dubious decade-plus old PhD thesis). And there will doubtless be some hand-wringing that the Committee might have come to a more definitive conclusion if direct access had been granted to head of the Joint Intelligence Committee John Scarlett.

All this said, the Beeb will likely be shown to have been wrong in its central contention that Campbell sexed up the dossier with 11th hour insertions (such as the WMD being ready for use within 45 minutes). And yet, I don't expect an immediate retraction or correction (let alone a Beeb apology) to be in the offing. That's too bad, as I think the Beeb will, ultimately, be harmed even more by this episode by dragging it along. Particularly as its allegations appear increasingly suspect and to be the result of sloppy and/or potentially politicized journalism. Developing.

UPDATE: The FT has an excellent series of articles on the state of the Beeb (subscription required).

Posted by Gregory at 08:53 AM | Comments (2)

Dubya as De Gaulle? Jim

Dubya as De Gaulle?

Jim Hoagland sketches out the similarities.

Posted by Gregory at 08:10 AM | Comments (4)

July 04, 2003

Newt on State Foreign Policy

Newt on State

Foreign Policy now has Newt Gingrich's article "Rogue State Department" online (a "searing critique" they hype). I didn't find it quite so devastating to Foggy Bottom and doubt many Foreign Policy readers will either.

Newt opens up by creating a false dichotomy between "two worldviews" he claims are clashing in Washington. On the one hand, you have a view that "emphasizes facts, values and consequences." And on the other (State and its fellow travellers) "process, politeness, and accommodation." Does Newt evidence this speculative argument in any convincing fashion? Not in my view.

He starts by reminding us about the farsical episode with Libya chairing the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. From this admitedly absurd factoid from the topsy-turvy world of Turtle Bay--Gingrich argues:

"The values- and fact-based advocates note immediately that Libya is a dictatorship with a history of terrorism, and they thus conclude that Libya cannot chair the commission with any moral standing or credibility. By contrast, the accommodation worldview contends that Libya won the vote in the United Nations and that contesting Libya’s moral and legitimate claim to the chair would be impolite and a violation of proper process."

Hmmm. Here's what some allegedly feckless U.S. diplomats were saying at the time. Might Powell have been a bit more aggressive in countering Libya's chances of getting on board? Maybe.

But did State do "nothing" as Gingrich contends? Well, in a word, no. Instead, State pushed for a vote on whether Libya should assume the position of chair of the commission. As the linked report points out, calling a vote was an "unprecedented" move as such appointments are usually made by "acclamation."

Gingrich further argues that State's alleged passivity regarding Libya led to an "emboldened France" launching a campaign to "defeat U.S. foreign policy objectives articulated by Bush."

Come again? Where's the causation between Libya assuming a committee chair at the U.N. and Dominique gallivanting about Yaounde to lobby against approval of a second UNSC resolution on Iraq? How does Newt buttress this far-fetched claim? He doesn't even bother.

From the above thin reed of a State Department terminally ill because of its striped-pants impotence and accomodative tendencies--Newt informs us that State "needs to experience culture shock, a top-to-bottom transformation..."

Some shock and awe at 21st and C! So what are Newt's recommendations?

1) Provide a "decentralized leadership style" that will contribute to granting personnel the "time and incentive to focus on communicating with local people rather than filling out endless reports to Washington;" 2) a training program that would "highlight the strategies the U.S. government is following both to make the U.S. safer and to increase security, health, prosperity, and freedom worldwide (which, Gingrich argues, means expanding the Foreign Service by 40% so that "its personnel can take on career-enriching assigments outside of their traditional duties"); 3) provide for, in an era of mass communication and democratization, a 21st Century State Department that "must include a more aggressive and effective representation for the U.S. around the world" (FSOs must "master this doctrine [exactly what doctrine, again?] and should be measured against it"); and 4) diplomats should take a one year assigment outside of State after six years of service and a two year tour outside after their 14th year (creates "greater realism and sophistication", it seems).

Nothing hyper-objectionable here--though I think that it's more a stereotype than reality that legions of FSOs are hammering out unread memos to Foggy Bottom on old Wang computers from their various postings while hardly ever shaking the hand of a local and, when doing so, butchering the local language. And I'm not sure rotating FSOs out during their 6th and 14th years for "real world" style sabbaticals is really going to add value to the pursuit of our diplomatic goals overseas.

Gingrich does have one good point, on an era of "mass communication" necessitating better outreach, but that point has already been made, in less polemical and more intelligent fashion, in this excellent CFR task force chaired by Frank Carlucci (Gingrich only mentions the Hart-Rudman study in his piece).

Later in the article, Gingrich, perhaps a tad sheepishly, notes that people like Richard Armitage and Jack Kemp took him to task for an AEI talk he gave in which he stated that State was engaging in a "deliberate and systematic effort" to undermine Bush's foreign policy. Quite a charge, isn't it?

Here's how Newt backs up this startling accusation. First, Gingrich quotes portions of a Dubya speech: "I have confidence in the future of a free Iraq. The Iraqi people are fully capable of self-government." And: "You are living proof the Iraqi people love freedom and living proof the Iraqi people can flourish in democracy."

The reader is then asked to "contrast that vision" with an obscure report from State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research ("INR") which, via an LA Times story, Gingrich quotes as stating that "liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve in Iraq...Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements."

This report constitutes active scuttling of the President's agenda? Some cautionary notes issued about whether Iraq can forge an effective self-governing polity? The notion that such a report from INR constitutes a "deliberate and systematic effort" to undermine Dubya's foreign policy is probably part of what prompted Armitage's comment that Newt was "off his meds and out of therapy." It's, indeed, way over the top.

Gingrich then trots out a Richard Haas (former head of the Policy Planning Bureau and about to run the CFR) who is portrayed as hell-bent on loosening Iraq sanctions and (again from the L.A. Times) reports that U.S. diplomats are "profoundly worried about what they describe as the Administration's arrogance or indifference to world public opinion, which they fear has wiped out, in less than two years, decades of effort to build goodwill towards the United States."

Sound awfully like the one (or was it two?) FSO who resigned in protest from State from our Embassy in Greece. But does Newt in any way show us that such views are widespread at State? Nope.

Newt then asks: "Can anyone imagine a State Department more out of sync with Bush's views and objectives"? Well, I sure can. Readers, if you think I'm being too easy on State or too hard on Gingrich, please chime in.

But please keep this in mind. I'm not suggesting that State doesn't need to be systematically reformed. But polemical broadsides interspersed with half-baked recommendations isn't the way to pursue a viable consensus leading to effectuation of real reform at State. The key issue, aside from needing to provide State with greater resources so it can improve its "communications and information management infrastructure" and "facilities at home and abroad" is that "the department's professional culture is predisposed against public outreach and engagement, thus undercutting its effectiveness at public diplomacy." (see Carlucci task force report).

Newt touches on this in general fashion but doesn't really tell us where to go with it or analzye the problem in detail. For instance, he doesn't even mention the role of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) and how, even after its integration into State, it "remains far more focused on facilitating official communications between governments and gathering, analyzing, and protecting information than on engaging foreign societies and explaining to them America's positions and viewpoints," ie. its more in "information policing" mode than "information providing." (see again Carlucci's task force). He doesn't talk about the importance of diplomats actually exiting the Embassy compound and learning from (or sharing information with) their compatriots based overseas in the NGO and/or business communities. In short, he's long on rhetorical fusillades and short on concrete proposals.

That said, Gingrich does occasionally provides specific proposals. For instance, he suggests that an independent public affairs firm "report weekly on how U.S. messages are received in at least the world's 50 largest countries."

But this outsourcing to the private sector sounds unrealistic to me. A bit too much like some Dick Morris figures doing perma-polls with the SecState breathlessly awaiting the latest polling results from places like Riyadh, Paris and Jakarta. It's not terribly apparent whether this initiative would, in any real way, improve State's efficiency.

Or Newt suggest creating a new position, a "special assistant for global communication," whom would ostensibly report directly to the President and have "coordinating authority" over State, Defense and "other agencies engaged in international communications efforts" (gee, that's pretty much all U.S. cabinet departments, isn't it?).

But this type of thing has been tried before. Bringing in an ad exec from Madison Avenue to a high position at State (see Charlotte Beers) to peddle how wondrous life is for Muslims in America didn't exactly create groundswells of newfound support for the U.S. in Islamic countries.

Make no mistake--it's important to, with pride and conviction, have our diplomatic representatives describe to other countries how we cherish "constitutional liberty, the right to private property, free speech...free markets, free elections" and so on. But, often, we still have to actually work with governments and regimes and peoples that are dubious, for whatever reason, about our vision or the intentions behind our desire to foster that vision in their country. And so our involvement with such entities or individuals will need to go beyond P.R. campaigns of dubious merit. Put differently, diplomacy is more than P.R. ostensibly aimed at bashing people over the head with didactic recitations about the "core values" of the U.S.

Unfortunately, after reading Newt's piece, one is left with the feeling that Gingrich was more interested in pursuing a perhaps politically-motivated broadside against State than a truly sincere attempt to really get to the bottom of what ails State and how to solve it. There are many fine and patriotic Americans, day in and day out, promoting the President's vision in our Embassies overseas. And they often risk their lives doing so. We might all do well to remember that. And we owe them better recommendations by way of how to reform State than what Gingrich offers us in his hyperbolic Foreign Policy piece.

Posted by Gregory at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

Independence Day I was working

Independence Day

I was working over here in London but Happy Fourth to all. Check out this dispatch from New Freedom, Pennsylvania. And take a peek at this poll.

It appears that despite it all, the lingering effects on the American psyche of 9/11, the "jobless recovery," the myriad corporate scandals, continued coalition deaths in Iraq--the American people appear, by and large, to feel in pretty good stead. Here's one person's take in New Freedom:

"For Marge Goodfellow, who has been watching over New Freedom since moving here in 1947, change simply presents new challenges to be met. Worried that kids watch too much TV, she's been running a day camp for local children each summer. She also has planted gardens downtown around the old rail tracks, trying to beautify the town's public spaces. In recognition, the town named its park, where the carnival is held, after her.

"Life will never be like we lived it," she says. But like many here, she's intensely proud of the efforts of this community - and the nation as a whole - to adapt to new circumstances. "On the whole, I do believe this country's right on target," she says. "I think we're doing a pretty good job."

You know, she's probably got it about right. Happy Fourth of July. (And stay tuned for reaction to Newt Gingrich's broadside against State later today).

Posted by Gregory at 09:29 PM | Comments (3)

July 03, 2003

Why Liberia? Why would the

Why Liberia?

Why would the U.S. perhaps be sending troops to Liberia? We have no vital interests there. We didn't lift a finger during much worse carnage in Rwanda. And our troops are already operating in far-flung spots from the Philippines to Afghanistan, from Iraq to South Korea.

That said, we feel a historical connection to Liberia as it was founded by former U.S. slaves, we have legitimate humanitarian concerns about war crimes that have occurred under Charles Taylor's reign, and we have real concerns about the general stability of West Africa. And Spence Ackerman points out another reason Liberia is important:

"In short, the world is waiting to see if two things will happen: First, whether the United States will flex its muscle in the service of moral principle when U.S. economic and security interests are not directly at stake; and, second, whether concerted international outcries can spur the United States into multilateral action it would not otherwise take. If the Bush administration meets the test, it could find itself with something it doesn't have much of right now political capital to call upon the next time the United States seeks to address a security threat the world would rather ignore--say, in Iran or North Korea. Leaving aside the compelling human rights issues at stake, that would be quite a bargain for the 2,000 U.S. peacekeepers that ECOWAS is requesting."

Now I happen to think we met both these tests with out belated interventions in Bosnia in the 1990s. And making decisions about troop deployments based on amorphous suggestions that our "political capital" might be enhanced in places like the chanceries of Berlin or Paris isn't what I'd view as a touchstone variable by which to make policy. Still, however, it wouldn't hurt to show that the U.S. is still willing to "do" humanitarian interventions through multilateral fora at this current historical juncture. Needless to say, there is widespread skepticism, fear and resentment about U.S. intentions on the global stage these days. A peacekeeping foray in Liberia might indeed improve atmospherics a bit.

Another bonus? We wouldn't have to read these self-righteous (and breathtakingly hypocritical) dispatches in Le Monde.

UPDATE: A WaPo article on what might be awaiting U.S. troops in Liberia should they be deployed there.

Posted by Gregory at 08:56 PM | Comments (4)

Frustrated Pugilist Watch Norman Mailer

Frustrated Pugilist Watch

Norman Mailer is asking why we went to war in Iraq in the pages of the NYRB. One "significant" reason?

"...the ongoing malaise of the white American male. He had been taking a daily drubbing over the last thirty years. For better or worse, the women's movement has had its breakthrough successes and the old, easy white male ego has withered in the glare. Even the consolation of rooting for his team on TV had been skewed. For many, there was now measurably less reward in watching sports than there used to be, a clear and declarable loss. The great white stars of yesteryear were for the most part gone, gone in football, in basketball, in boxing, and half gone in baseball. Black genius now prevailed in all these sports (and the Hispanics were coming up fast; even the Asians were beginning to make their mark). We white men were now left with half of tennis (at least its male half), and might also point to ice hockey, skiing, soccer, golf (with the notable exception of the Tiger), as well as lacrosse, track, swimming, and the World Wrestling Federation—remnants of a once great and glorious white athletic centrality."

Is it just me, or are Mailer's musings really a function of him, deep down, having wanted to be Muhammed Ali ever since the 1974 Zaire bout with George Foreman?

Posted by Gregory at 08:31 PM | Comments (4)

That Bleak Thing How many

That Bleak Thing

How many times can the word "bleak" appear in a single NYT article that portends ill for Dubya on the unemployment data front? I stopped counting after the third reference...

Quick, someone get Mr. Gilpin a thesaurus.

Posted by Gregory at 04:55 PM | Comments (4)

It's The Electricity Stupid Article

It's The Electricity Stupid

Article in the WaPo on how electricity (or the lack thereof) might be the biggest factor hampering nascent Iraq reconstruction efforts.

Posted by Gregory at 04:47 PM | Comments (4)

Patrick Seale in the Nation

Patrick Seale in the Nation

Patrick Seale wrote an excellent, authoritative biography of former President Hafez Asad of Syria and is a long time observer of the Middle East scene. And I'm happy he's plugging Warren Bass' book which I've heard is a good read. But Seale's lengthy Nation piece trots out too many simplistic nostrums related to allegations that assorted neo-cons are running Washington on behalf of Israel. I think Seale knows better--that post 9/11 Washington is a much more complex place than he depicts. But the temptation to simplify the underlying factors driving U.S. Middle East policy are, it appears, just too great. Here's some sample language:

"War it had to be, the neocons said, to deal with the imminent threat from Saddam's fearsome weapons, which, as Tony Blair was rash enough to claim in his tragicomic role as Bush's "poodle," could be fired within forty-five minutes of a launch order. This flight of blood-curdling rhetoric has now come home to haunt him, earning him a headline (in The Economist, no less) of "Prime Minister Bliar."

Where did the information for his remarkable statement come from? How reliable was the prewar intelligence reaching Bush and Blair? The finger is increasingly being pointed at a special Pentagon intelligence cell, known as the Office of Special Plans, headed by Abram Shulsky. The office was created after 9/11 by two of the most fervent and determined neocons, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary, and Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, to probe into Saddam's WMD programs and his links with Al Qaeda because, it is alleged, they did not trust other intelligence agencies of the US government to come up with the goods. It has been suggested that this special Pentagon intelligence cell relied heavily on the shifty Ahmad Chalabi's network of exiled informants. If evidence was indeed fabricated, this may well have been where it was done."

Seale neglects to mention the Economist headline cover was framed as an interrogatory, ie. "Prime Minister Bliar?," which is rather different than the Economist flat out calling Blair a liar. Note too the use of the word "cell" to describe the Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans." Almost sounds like a description of al-Qaeda's organizational structure, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Reader MD writes in:

"Regarding Patrick Seale, you give him a bit too much credit when you say that "he knows better" than to perpetuate conspiratorial notions of a neo-con
(Jewish) cabal. Just for fun, you might have another look at his biography of Abu Nidal, A GUN FOR HIRE, which argues that Abu Nidal was an Israeli agent provocateur. Seale, by the way, grew up in Syria, and he often functions as a quasi-official representative of the Asad regime."

Fair point. I'd only note that I've heard that Seale does not have the same access to Bashar Asad that he did with Hafez Asad.

Posted by Gregory at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2003

Baghdad Blogger on the Road

Baghdad Blogger on the Road to Basra

Appears Salman Pax prefers how the Brits handle their "baby" tanks as compared to the more trigger-happy Yanks up north.

Posted by Gregory at 07:00 PM | Comments (0)

More Great Moments in Euro-Cohesion

More Great Moments in Euro-Cohesion

Silvio lets loose upon Italy's assumption of the rotating EU Presidency. And Stanley Hoffman thinks the U.S. is to blame for the lack of pan-Euro fellow-feeling!

UPDATE: Here's the Guardian's take on the story. So, did Silvio use the word "kapo" or "leader?" (NYT has "Kapo"; Guardian has "leader." If the former, the comment becomes even more offensive, doesn't it?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader AG, fluent Italian speaker, confirms via E-mail that Berlusconi indeed used the word Kapo. In addition, he writes in:

"....to be sure, Berlusconi will deserve whatever censure he'll receive from pundits at home and abroad. A more interesting question is why there was no similar uproar in the European Parliament or even, really, in the German media, when Schroeder's Minister of Justice juxtaposed Bush with Hitler. Are Americans fair game when it comes to European hyperbole?"


AND MORE: Schroder is requesting an apology. And here's the FT's take on some other oratorical highlights from Silvio.

Posted by Gregory at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

"Dodgy" Dossier "Sexed" Up? Probably

"Dodgy" Dossier "Sexed" Up?

Probably not according to this report.

Posted by Gregory at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

Journalistic Hyperbole Watch Regular readers

Journalistic Hyperbole Watch

Regular readers of this blog know that I haven't been white-washing the very real difficulties facing coalition troops in Iraq--whether continued combat, resentment in some quarters of the local populace, difficulties restoring basic services, and so on. But some journalists are getting carried away.

Here's Edmund Andrews in today's NYT discussing Iraq's "plague of violence." As pointed out here, plague often has a biblical connotation as per some kind of divine retribution. To be sure, every coalition (and innocent civilian) death is immensely regrettable. But resistance among some Iraqi and perhaps foreign fighters, even if organized (which I'm not sure it is), doesn't constitute a plague--whatever that might mean in this context.

Meanwhile, this Deb Reichmann AP story (prominently featured on both the NYT and WaPo Internet sites until this morning) has "public optimism about the war slipping" in the face of an "ever higher" U.S. death toll. But wait, I thought the war (or at least major combat operations) was over.

This primer gives a sense of the current levels of resistance. Significant, but surely not like full-fledged war. And yet, key Senator John Warner says the "war is still on."

I think the next month will be critical in determining whether we are facing significant, top-down coordinated guerrilla resistance or merely low-level, localized and sporadic resistance that will wane in the coming months. I'd bet on the latter at this stage.

UPDATE: See Andrew Sullivan on all this too.

Posted by Gregory at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2003

Jailhouse Diplomacy The Marwan Barghouti

Jailhouse Diplomacy

The Marwan Barghouti angle:

"The hudna came about on three planes: There were negotiations between Abu Mazen [Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas] and the Palestinian organizations; there were negotiations between Barghouti and these organizations; and there were talks between groups of prisoners in the jails," says Haaretz Arab Affairs Editor Danny Rubinstein.

"The prisoners are considered the avant-garde of the various Palestinian movements, and without their imprimatur, nothing can go forward. Thus it is that one of the central conditions of the hudna is the release of prisoners."

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

Grozny on the Tigris How

Grozny on the Tigris

How do you intimate that the U.S. is involved in a Chechnya-style, carpet-bombing, genocidal rampage through Iraq? If you're Matt Bivens writing in the Nation (after a long stint at the Moscow Times), it's easy.

Posted by Gregory at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

Rogue State Department So says

Rogue State Department

So says Newt Gingrich in the forthcoming issue of Foreign Policy magazine (full text not yet available). Dick Holbrooke takes Newt on in today's WaPo. Aside from a few gratuitous broadsides against the Bushies--I think Holbrooke makes some strong points. I'll have more on all this once I access Gingrich's full article. In the meantime, however, Beltway Foggy Bottom fans will ponder, as Richard Armitage has put it, whether Newt is "off his meds and out of therapy" on this issue. More soon.

Posted by Gregory at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)
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