October 27, 2005

Democracy and Perpetual Peace

As a fair weather supporter of the idea that democratic peace theory, it is with some interest that I read Eric's own (fair weather?) critique of the concept and in the interest of articulating my own views on the subject I will be quoting his own extensively.

In fact, the overwhelming heft of the evidence indicates that terrorism can thrive in liberal democracies - even mature ones - and in nascent democracies terrorism can operate at the highest levels of freedom of movement and impunity.

While I agree with a lot of this, one of the things that I think is frequently missed in these types of formulations is where the types of terrorist groups that are active in liberal democracies originate from. In the case of the Islamic terrorist groups that are able to operate with impunity in the West (with the UK's "Londonistan," a term coined by French counter-terrorism experts during the 1990s, being probably the most infamous example), I am not aware of a single Islamic terrorist group that has sprung up fully-formed inside a Western-style democracy. The various Islamic terrorist groups active in London are more or less extensions of their Middle Eastern counterparts and their existence and strength in the West should be seen more in the context of an attempt to export the political culture of the Middle East into Europe and the authorities apathy or hesistance towards the situation than an institutional fault of the democratic system in and of itself. The United States and Australia, to use two examples of countries that have successfully dismantled terrorist infrastructure within their own borders post-9/11, remain Western democracies but are far less hospitable to terrorism than say Norway, where Ansar al-Islam founder Mullah Krekar appears to be able to operate with more or less impunity.

The counter-example that is usually cited to all of this are the homegrown terrorist groups that have been active in Europe and North America since the era of modern terrorism began in the 1960s. All the same, if you take a look at these groups on a case-by-case basis, I think you'll find that in many cases they were either fringe organizations with little if any popular following (instead favoring small but extremely disciplined and well-organized cadres, which also fit with the Marxist ideology of many European terrorist groups) or in many cases were dependent on fairly sizeable external support and state sponsorship networks in order to wreak the damage that they did. If we are ever reduced to a point where bin Laden and his acolytes are reduced to the kind of support in the Middle East that say, enjoyed Neo-Nazi groups like the Order in the United States I'll be able to sleep a lot sounder at night. While you are always going to have cranks and meglomaniacs with delusions of grandeur who are willing to kill to achieve political ends, I would much rather be dealing with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols whose co-conspirators and supporters number in the dozens to someone like Zarqawi whose followers are in the thousands and who is admired by Salafist radicals that very conservatively number in the hundreds of thousands.

Although this second rationale, the peaceful democracies justification, might have been one of the lesser stated goals for invading Iraq, I find it ultimately less than compelling. For one, it ignores, or only tangentially addresses, the terrorist threat that we have been encountering for the past decade-plus. Our adversaries, al-Qaeda and similar Salafist jihadist groups, are not state actors and thus the peaceful characteristics of democratic states are less crucial to the defeat or containment of the Salafists. The state actor paradigm is better suited for Cold War calculations.

Again, I'm not sure if I agree with this paradigm because while al-Qaeda is certainly not an atypical state sponsored terrorist group, I think it would be a definite mistake to downplay the role that state sponsors, de facto state sponsors, or elements with states have been as far as their development is concerned. Former CIA director Jim Woolsey, for instance, has argued that we need to stop thinking in terms of state sponsors of terrorism and start talking about terrorist sponsored states, with a particular emphasis on how terrorist groups prop up de facto governments in places like Somalia, Afghanistan, or Bangladesh. Whether or not all of these can or should be replaced with democracies is another issue altogether, but I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that one of the key doctrines of counter-insurgency, and former CIA bin Laden unit head Michael Scheuer has argued that al-Qaeda is more properly classified as a terrorist group than an insurgency, is to deprive the enemy of potential sanctuaries and allies whenever possible. If supporting democracy or democratic reforms gets us further in that direction, then by all means that's the weapon to use.

Especially because, as noted above, terrorists can operate, generate support and find motivations while living in democracies. Thus, even if we create democratic states that are less bellicose, our terrorist threat will remain ever-present.

Again, I'm not entirely certain that this is true. The radicalized European Muslim immigrants seem to be joining existing terrorist groups and networks, not forming new ones on their own, which would seem to fit with the idea that the entire phenomenon of Islamic terrorism in Europe is an external rather than internal phenomenon. As far as building up support in Western democracies is concerned, in order to so terrorists have had to at least pretend to moderate their agenda to accommodate the society they now live in. Hence, Saad al-Faqih has to at least pretend that his real concerns as far as Saudi Arabia mirror those of Westerners (or at least some Westerners) in order to continue to operate in the UK rather than going public with his real agenda, although the more intelligent observers and governments seem to be more or less able to see him for what he is, which is how he happened to get blacklisted by the UN nearly a year ago.

As to the issue of whether or not democracies start wars, I would note that Matthew White appears to have anticipated this line of argument and the subsequent debate as far back as 1998. While I by no means cite it as infallible, it does make for some interesting reading, particularly when the discussion is raised on the issue of how you define what a democracy is to begin with. This is an extremely important part of this debate and is actually a lot more complicated than it sounds, but it is also an especially thorny issue given our own history in certain areas.

One thing I will take note of is this:

As admirable as the exercise has been, the occurence of elections and referendums have vastly outpaced the establishment of the institutional checks and balances that the authors suggest are needed to restrain the urge to use war as a means of garnering and/or maintaining electoral dominance. Majoritarianism is more appreciated by certain factions than other necessary components such as dissent, minority rights and sharing of power. In present day Iraq, the temptation to use war as a unifying force may be even greater given the internal divisions that need to be broached.

With all due respect to Eric, Mansfield, and Snyder, there are a number of people within our own country who would argue that the institutional checks and balances of our own system have been insufficient to prevent the temptation of using warfare as a means of achieving electoral dominance, crushing dissent, minority rights, and power-sharing within current and past US governments, and we've had an unbroken democratic system (as variously defined) in place for more than 200 years. While I myself tend to think that such claims are twaddle, my point in bringing up that some people would make just the same arguments for our own government as Mansfield and Snyder would for emerging democracies is that if you can argue it here in a 200 year-old democracy you can argue it anywhere.

As bellicose and reckless as Saddam's regime was, there remains the possibility that subsequent incarnations of the Iraq state will do no better in terms of providing peace and stability to the region - if not by its internal implosion, then by its excursions targeting neighbors, territory and/or perceived threats. There has already been an uncomfortable level of cross-border sniping between the various factions and their perceived backers or enemies - from Iran and Syria to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

If we're going from projections of an inevitable civil war and the subsequent implosion and Balkanization of the country to a fear of Iraqi expansion redux, methinks that we're going to be doing quite well. As it now stands, Iraq isn't in a position to defend its own borders without US assistance, let alone threaten any of its neighbors. Even once the army and security forces are up and running again in terms of defending the nation's territorial integrity, there is still the issue that Iraq lacks an existing the air force, etc.

I also think it's a definite mistake to conflate Iraqi sniping at Iran and Syria (often mirrored by similar allegations from US and UK officials) as well as Saudi Arabia with the kinds of visions of empire that Saddam seemed to favor. Iraq wanting to fight Iran or Syria (which, as noted above, they can't for the immediate future) because they believe that either nation is complicit in killing their nationals is a very different thing from seeking a war of conquest with designs of regional domination - I imagine we'd be equally pissed if Mexico or Canada was doing the same to us.

No doubt Israel is no more popular now than it had been prior to the invasion.

If Seymour Hersh and other journalists are to be believed, Israel is now actively assisting in training the peshmerga, which is now part of the new Iraqi military. I very much doubt that anyone could have imagined such an environment going on during the era of the Saddam Fedayeen. The anti-Israel groups that Saddam Hussein sponsored have all been dismantled in way or another and Iraqi government support for suicide bombing is currently no more. The Iraqis can think whatever they want to about Israel, just many people in Europe and the United States do. As long as they aren't actively sponsoring terrorism against it, I think it's fair to call the situation a net improvement.

As to the issue of Iraq fighting a conventional war with Israel at some point in the future, if we're projecting out things out far enough to the point where Iraq will have the logistical capacity to do so on the scale that Saddam did we're now knee-deep into some extremely uncertain speculation as far as what Iraq will look like by the time it could even hope to do so, let alone the rest of the Middle East.

But this thesis has broader implications as well. It should be considered by those that favor the promotion of democratic reform, such as myself, in terms of informing the ideal mixture of methods, means and priorities associated with such endeavors. Sometimes, there is a great value in allowing and encouraging gradual change from the inside-out, grassroots-up.

This would seem, at least on the surface, to be a partial reaffirmation of the Kirkpatrick Doctrine that attempted to justify US support for authoritarian governments, particularly in Latin America, on the grounds that they were going to make far easier transition to democracy than their totalitarian communist counterparts in the Soviet Bloc. I have no desire to re-fight the arguments of the Cold War on this one, but I thought I would note this.

One further point would be that while I think you can justify support for authoritarian governments while pressing for internal reforms, most Western powers usually haven't as far as the Middle East is concerned, particularly those Middle Eastern governments that are closest to us either economically or strategically. The problem that we (along with the British, French, et al.) have cared too much about the stability of various Middle Eastern governments to press for any kind of change whatsoever in the status quo is one that I think a lot of us have become more and more aware of since 9/11 and continues to be one of the major factors responsible for bin Laden's support in the Middle East - he is seen as being the only one willing to stand up and confront the region's governments and their Western allies through force of arms. Until some kind of alternate outlets are established through which political views, even totalitarian ones like Qutb or Madudi's vision of Salafism (which I am rather skeptical as far as the chances of it sweeping the region in the event it is allowed to compete politically - in those states where Salafist parties have run, they usually garner about the same percentage as far-right parties in Europe), can be expressed openly, I do foresee this support waning for the immediate future, which has direct implications for US national security.

Posted by at 01:57 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

Let's Re-Adopt the Failed Clinton North Korea Policy!

Suzanne Nossel, guest-blogging chez Dan, is talking NoKo and heaping scorn on the hapless Bushies:

So here's the question? Will an Administration that has been loath to even privately concede failure or make mid-course policy corrections have the initiative and the flexibility to innovate on its North Korea policy now that it has to?

This has the potential to be an important test of what the consequences are of the kind of rigidity and unwillingness to concede error that has been a unique hallmark of this Administration.

All the more so because it isn't obvious what would work better than the Administration's steadfast refusal to deal bilaterally with the North Koreans, its attempt to outsource leadership over the negotiations to China, and its position that the North Koreans need to commit to dismantling their program before any incentives are put on the table.

But when a policy on something as vital as North Korea is clearly, it is incumbent on an Administration to pursue other options.

In this case, one of the few routes conceivably open is to try to build an international consensus, probably in the form of a UN Security Council resolution, that North Korean proliferation is intolerable. That would allow us to mount an internationally credible effort to verify exactly what the North Koreans are up to.

But the consensus isn't there right now. Too many countries believe, rightly or wrongly, that the U.S.'s unyielding policy bears some of the blame for escalation, and that if we approached things differently crisis could be averted.

So to get to international consensus it looks as though the U.S. will first have to agree to try bilateral talks, if only to convince likely UN Security Council hold-outs in Moscow and Beijing that every alternative to UNSC action has been exhausted. This doesn't mean abandoning the six party framework (which has largely been abandoned already) but it does require augmenting it. [emphasis added]

So let me get this straight. Suzanne wants the U.S. side to make a major concession (in return for what, pray tell?) by entering into direct bilateral negotiations with the North Koreans. But for what purpose would we go down a road that all but begs further American concessions (bilateral negotations usually force horse-trading right out of the gates)? To go the extra mile to persuade China and Russia that we've exhausted every diplomatic alternative so as to get a UNSC resolution teed up! So sayeth Suzanne. But, er, what's the point of all this?

Cue a succinct Anthony Cordesman:

"What's the U.N. going to do? Pass a Security Council resolution saying that it's a bad idea for North Korea to proliferate? I don't want to say, 'So what?' but it's pretty close."

Indeed. Put differently, why would Kim Jong II listen to the policy pronunciamentos emiting from Turtle Bay if he's, all this long time, been giving short shrift to major regional players like Russia and China? There are other problems with Suzanne's post (aside from her use of Kerryesque soundbites about 'outsourcing' NoKo policy to Afghan warlords..wait, sorry, to China...). Suzanne, rather conveniently, doesn't deign to mention how the Clinton Administration was bamboozled by the North Koreans with the '94 Framework Agreement. Kim was only too happy to pretend to play ball, and many naifs in Democrat national security circles got all excited that progress and compliance was in the air. Diplomacy works! Such giddy cheer was premature in the extreme, of course, and you'd think that Democrats would be careful to not carp from the sidelines too breezily (see Suzanne: "what's missing from the Administration's non-proliferation strategy[?]...in short, a strategy")) on North Korea policy given the rank fiasco they so recently presided over.

Incidentally, it's quite possible that Kim Jong Il is bluffing with regard to the latest prospective test going-ons:

North Korea has been known for its elaborate bluffs, and the activity at Kilju could merely be a ruse. The United States gave North Korea hundreds of millions of dollars worth of food aid in 1999 in exchange for permission to inspect an underground site at Kumchang-ri suspected of being a nuclear facility. The tunnels were found to be empty.

Also, note some South Koreans have expressed some skepticism (and isn't the bit about the reviewing stand a tad rich?):

The official cited "construction activity" and "flows of supplies" to a tunnel that could be used in an underground detonation. He emphasized, however, that data from overhead imagery is inconclusive and that the purpose of the construction could be shoring up or extending the tunnel for other purposes.

The New York Times reported Friday that the North Koreans appeared to have built a reviewing stand, prompting fears of an imminent test.

South Koreans have been more cautious in their assessments. They note that Kilju is a heavily populated area, making it a poor choice for a nuclear test. The Defense Ministry told reporters this week that Kilju had been under scrutiny since the late '90s for signs of unusual activity. Other South Koreans have said it is one of several sites in North Korea that could be used to test atomic weapons.

What might the North Koreans be up to? Hoping that, with alarm bells ringing around the Beltway, Bush will decide to do something to keep the apocalpytic nuclear test at bay. Suzanne and the Democracy Arsenal types would have us jump--pretty much at Kim Jong's bidding--into bilateral negotiations to break the impasse. This has failed as a strategy before; and I'd be very hesitant to go down that road again. B.D's thoughts? Consider trilateral break-out sessions during the next six-party talks among China, the U.S. and North Korea. Such a forum would allow for exploration of potential areas of compromise and perhaps allow for some headway (assuming the Chinese are not secretly signaling, wink-wink, to Pyongyang that they don't mind the rough status quo). Regardless, at least such an informal, trilateral break-out wouldn't reward the North Koreans with the major concession they have been hankering for for years (bilateral negotiations) just because the New York Times banners a lede about a possible reviewing stand going up around Kilju and the Brookings gang gets atwitter that something be done. Frankly, Suzanne's handwringing that we must be seen to have turned over every rock so as to get Beijing and Moscow ready to play tough at the UNSC strikes me rather a waste of time and a pretty futile exercise all told. Is all this but an "ABC" diatribe (Anything But Clinton?) from the right? No, not really, though I will say Clinton's North Korean policy was really quite sad indeed.

Note too, the Carnegie Report that Derek Cholett approvingly points to here doesn't really move the North Korea policy debate forward much. Oh yes, go ahead and develop an "international consensus" at the UNSC. Yes too, throw in a special envoy while you're at it who is "empowered" (and what of poor Chris Hill?). "Further enhance" our relations with Seoul and Tokyo too! And so on. Nothing really new here, folks. And the Carnegie etude ducks the Big Question of whether talks need be bilateral. Bottom line: Bush is handling an immensely complex North Korean situation about as well as could be. The sniping from Suzanne notwithstanding. Oh, ok, I'll concede there's been a scent of drift in the air of late. But at least Bush hasn't been proferring carrots, willy-nilly, while the recipient of all the largesse cheats and makes a mockery of all the agreed-frameworking in the air...that, of course, was the record of the Administration Suzanne served.

UPDATE: Rotating trilaterals. Now that's the ticket!. Meanwhile, Prak is sticking up for bilaterals. Now we know why....! Heh.

Posted by Gregory at 04:50 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

More on Kennan

Much more on Kennan from the indispensable Foreign Affairs here. Go check it out.

Posted by Gregory at 12:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 24, 2005

More on the Inaugural Speech

To be sure, on the right, and critics like Peggy Noonan aside, there have been quite a few breathless paeans to Bush inaugural speech of late. Here's one classic in the genre:

There is no concession in this to the complaints of his critics, no defensiveness about the course of events, no reference to the counsels of sophisticated nuance. He set out a breathtakingly ambitious goal: to bring democracy to the entire world. One would like to know the reaction of Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar. Or the Iranian mullahs. Or Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Or China's rulers.

Sorry, and maybe it's just me, but I don't think Bandar was quaking in his boots as he took in the speech--perhaps from the ski slopes of Aspen. Such hyper-cheerleady treatments of the inaugural aside, however, there have been more, er, nuanced analyses of the inaugural speech on the center-right to right too. The best I've seen so far are by Bob Kagan, Bill Kristol and Fareed Zakaria.

First, Zakaria. His point is simply that, per Freedom House rankings and such, the world is already freer than its ever been. The goal of democratization remains important and noble, to be sure--but, Zakaria argues, let's not necessarily get too caught up with exporting democracy to Cuba and Belarus at the expense of other mega issues like "civil strife, extreme poverty and disease." This, to an extent, is a fair point--and needs to be kept in mind--particularly given the role of failed states in fostering conditions that provide fecund conditions for terrorist bases, recruitment, and so on. Put differently, in our lust for exporting freedom hither dither, let's not forget the basic need for order either.

Next, Bob Kagan sees U.S. foreign policy as having moved through three phases since Bush assumed the presidency. First, pre-9/11, a "realist retrenchment" (ie, no more kindergarten building). All this changed on the "day of fire," 9/11--when the war on terror became the dominant paradigm, of course. Now, pace Kagan, we are entering a third phase:

[Bush] has grounded American foreign policy in universal principles, in the Declaration of Independence and what Lincoln called its "abstract truth, applicable to all men at all times." The goal of American foreign policy is now to spread democracy, for its own sake, for reasons that transcend specific threats. In short, Bush has unmoored his foreign policy from the war on terrorism.

And, yes, while Kagan allows that we can be cynical (Karimov! Musharraf! Abdullah!) he neverthless points out:

I believe Bush understands the implications of his universalist rhetoric. In Ukraine, Bush chose democracy over his relationship with Putin -- a first example of a paradigm beyond the war on terrorism. In Asia, too, we may be on the threshold of a strategic reevaluation that places democratic allies, not China, at the core of American strategy.

Kagan doesn't mention it, but, with Ukraine, Bush also chose to support a leader who was likelier to pull troops out of Iraq--displaying a non-Ahab like obsession with the war in Mesopotamia. This aside, Kagan believes what he calls this new "higher realism," while discomforting to some in the realist community, will nevertheless likely appeal to a greater world audience as it moves U.S. objectives away from the sole prism of the war on terror--thereby better appealing to universalist aspirations.

I think Kagan and Zakaria both make very good points. Zakaria, in paticular, is right that we must think of issues beyond exportation of freedom and the war against terror (development, poverty, disease etc.) The tsunami certainly reminded us of that. And Kagan is right that appealing to publics by going beyond the war on terror is likelier than not good strategy.

But, of all the articles I've seen, it's Bill Kristol who got closest to interpreting this speech per B.D.'s initial take:

Expansive does not mean reckless. Bush avoids John Kennedy's impressive but overly grand, "pay any price, bear any burden" formulation. Bush states that military force will of course be used to "protect this nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats," and that "we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary." But he explains that the task of ending tyranny around the world is not "primarily the task of arms." The goal of ending tyranny will be pursued through many avenues, and is the "work of generations."

And Bush makes careful distinctions among the nations of the world. There are democratic allies, to whom he reaches out for help. There are "governments with long habits of control"--Russia, or China, or the Arab dictators--whose leaders Bush urges to start on the "journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side." But he also makes clear to these leaders that we will pressure them and hold them accountable for oppression, and that we will support dissidents and democratic reformers in their countries.

Then there are the "outlaw regimes." It is their rulers who call to mind Lincoln's statement: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it." So for those nations we intend to promote regime change--primarily through peaceful means, but not ruling out military force in the case of threats to us.
If the critics of the speech who have denounced it as simple-minded were to read it, they would find it sophisticated. They might even find it nuanced.

Still, sophisticated and nuanced as it is, it does proclaim the goal of ending tyranny. And just as Truman's speech shaped policy, so Bush's will. As he implicitly acknowledges, his presidency will be judged not by this speech but by his achievements. The speech, by laying out a clear and compelling path for U.S. foreign policy, will make substantial achievements easier. There will be vigorous debates over how to secure these achievements--debates over defense spending and diplomacy, over particular tactics and operational choices. We will at times differ with the president on some of these matters, as we have at times in the past. But on the fundamental American goal, President Bush has it right--profoundly right.

I'll have more on this in the days ahead. But the point is that Bush is marrying realism with universalist, neo-Wilsonian (though, unlike Wilson, it's America and not international organizations that would appear to have the lead role in all this) idealism in pragmatic (if grandiose sounding) fashion. Realism is still alive and well. As Andrew Sullivan puts it:

Critics of the president's inaugural speech are, I think, misunderstanding it. It's not a program; it's not a New Year's Resolution that will revolutionize America's relationship with every major country. It was a thematic speech. That's all. It's an attempt to provide the president's own melody to the chorus of his administration. A brief look at the Bush administration's first four years does not reveal naive utopianism with regard to unfree countries. Fareed Zakaria usefully points this out:

The president said in his speech to the world’s democrats, 'When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.' But when democratic Taiwan stood up to communist China last year, Bush publicly admonished it, siding with Beijing. When brave dissidents in Saudi Arabia were jailed for proposing the possibility of a constitutional monarchy in that country, the administration barely mentioned it. Crown Prince Abdullah, who rules one of the eight most repressive countries in the world (according to Freedom House), is one of a handful of leaders to have been invited to the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. (The elected leaders of, say, India, France, Turkey and Indonesia have never been accorded this courtesy.) The president has met with and given aid to Islam Karimov, the dictator of Uzbekistan, who presides over one of the nastiest regimes in the world today, far more repressive than Iran's, to take just one example.

And grown-ups - even idealistic grown-ups - know this is inevitable. The problem with Bush is not his ideals. It's his ability to put those ideals into practice. In the series of screw-ups that was the Iraq war, Bush would have done better to think less about the idea of liberty and more about the nuts and bolts of how to build a nation. Just one.

Put differently, Rice and Zoellick have to implant more Fukuyama, more Gaddis--less Krauthammer, Barone. The nuts and bolts, the hard work of forging democracy, none of it is easy. The aspirational narrative Bush delivered to the nation in his inaugural was noble and essentially right. But it must be married to pragmatic tactics and methods, the revolutionary fervor will have to be calibrated, and trade-offs between pursuing democratization with maximum alacrity and the pursuit of national security interests will often still need to be made.

Posted by Gregory at 04:59 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

November 21, 2004

B.D's Condi-Rama Continues

A telling little snippet from a 'Week in Review' Dave Sanger piece in today's NYT:

A lot has happened since, not least a terror attack on American soil that profoundly changed the President's world view, and with it Ms. Rice's.

Note the assumption undergirding this breezy assertion. 9/11 changed Bush's world view--and so inexorably (and dutifully) Condi followed suit. Permit me to throw out a perhaps radical notion. What if, just maybe, 9/11 changed Condi too--independent of whatever impact it had on Bush? Might it be possible, Mr. Sanger? (That's a rhetorical question).

But over at the New York Times, of course, she is but a "servant" of Bush's. If so, she will be quite a powerful one. This earlier post linking to a Newsweek piece explains how Condi might well prove to be one of our most powerful Secretary of State's since Henry Kissinger. This may or may not be how things play out. But Condi's a big girl--and portraying her as a mindless servant of Bush's is insulting in the extreme (if woefully predictable--as it fits the latest MSM meme that Bush is solely casting about for a mindless kitchen cabinet stock-full of hyper-servile loyalists).

Look, B.D. has had some beefs with Condeleeza Rice in the past. Mostly, as regular readers know, a good dose of dissatisfaction re: the flawed interagency process. Mark Danner, for whom I have nothing but the utmost respect (based on his riveting and important NYRB series on the former Yugoslavia), appears to think she should have never gotten promoted because of her shortcomings at the NSC:

This job falls, by statute and custom, to the national security adviser. And it is directly to that office that "the major interagency coordination problems between State and Defense and the striking ineffectiveness of the National Security Council" can be traced, in the words of Anthony Cordesman. Mr. Cordesman, a nonpartisan military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is one of many professionals who trace the disasters in Iraq back to failure to resolve conflicts between major government departments, as well as to debilitating "ideological efforts to shape the nation-building effort and personnel deployed to Iraq."

After Condoleezza Rice's elevation as Mr. Powell's successor, so much of the commentary seemed focused on her "closeness" to the president that it might have seemed the height of indiscretion to point out that she has been something of a disaster in her present job - a fact widely acknowledged among foreign policy professionals.

"(S)omething of a disaster"? That's pretty harsh. Remember, the trench warfare between Rumsfeld and Powell was particularly brutal--much more than the normal institutional tensions between State and the Pentagon. So, no, Condi's stewardship of the NSC wasn't a bravura performance. But a "disaster"? That's quite an aggressive verdict. And, whatever happened to the notion of a honeymoon? Let's at least give her a shot, OK...?

Posted by Gregory at 05:35 PM | Comments (15)

The Thermidor Cometh

So now, in one convulsive move, State has gone from a marginalized agency to a central one. Rice's deputy national-security adviser, Steve Hadley, wasn't even asked to stand when he was named her replacement at her announcement ceremony last week (Bush gave Hadley a smile and a nod as he sat quietly in the front row). Some observers believe that Rice, if she can manage to wrestle the giant bureaucracy down, could prove to be the most powerful secretary of State since Henry Kissinger, who also managed to install a deputy, Brent Scowcroft (later to become Rice's mentor), in the White House spot. There were other signals that Rice's State Department will soon be the new center of gravity in U.S. foreign policy. Rumsfeld's Defense Department, once a powerful player, is bogged down in Iraq and may have lost some standing with the White House (Rice has occasionally expressed irritation at Rumsfeld's abrasive manner). There is also some rethinking of basic premises. In the first term, Bush officials tended to talk about alliances as if they were a barter system: you give us aid and troops, we'll make you a partner. Now some of these officials lament the loss of "a whole atmosphere of cooperation," as one put it. They note that China has been aggressively filling the global leader-ship vacuum they believe was left by Bush's approach and the rampant anti-Americanism that resulted. Beijing has prodded the European Union to consider lifting its arms embargo. It is also integrating its space programs with Europe and cutting commercial deals with Iran. All this has sent tremors through the U.S. defense and intelligence community, which before 9/11 had been largely focused on Beijing as a future threat. So the answer is to launch a counterdiplomatic offensive. One sign that Bush was taking diplomacy seriously was the rebuff that Rice delivered last week to John Bolton, a fierce hard-liner and libertarian (he's often misidentified as a neocon) who bears an almost ideological hostility to multilateral talks. The under secretary of State is the leading arms-control official in the administration, but Bolton's unwillingness to compromise has earned him numerous enemies abroad, including even close allies like Britain. Bolton's conservative allies have campaigned aggressively to land him the deputy secretary's job being vacated by Powell's friend and ally, Richard Armitage. But a White House official said that Rice, who was out for minor surgery last week, has decided little about her future staff other than that "John Bolton would not be her deputy." Bolton, who may yet be appointed to some other senior post in the administration, has refused to comment on his future.

More here.

Eric, why the "gloat"?

Posted by Gregory at 05:13 PM | Comments (14)

November 20, 2004

Deconstructing Condi

Rice joined Bush after a period of apprenticeship with Brent Scowcroft, the cautious national security adviser under George Bush, Sr. In the past, she has mentioned how she was influenced by the book by Hans Morgenthau, "Politics Among Nations," one of the pillars of "realistic" thought, which maintains that relations among nations have to be based on interests rather than on ideology. The "realists" refrained from calling the Soviet Union an "empire of evil," for fear of damaging "stability."

And this is the same stability in which Colin Powell believed, when he explained his opposition to continuing the first Gulf War in 1991. He was afraid that changing the regime there would cause fragmentation in the country and would therefore "not contribute to the stability we want in the Middle East."

Because what is surprising about Powell and Rice is the degree of similarity between them in terms of the station at which they joined the Bush administration - that of narrow, cautious realism, which began with Henry Kissinger and continued with George Bush, Sr. - as compared to the considerable distance between them today.

Powell seems to have remained where he was: moderate, afraid of ambitious undertakings, adhering to the famous "Powell Doctrine," which he formulated as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and which is reluctant to use force and defines goals cautiously. Rice, on the other hand, has undergone a transformation. In the adviser who issued the revolutionary document spelling out the updated security concept of the George W. Bush administration, it is difficult to recognize the expert on Russia, whom Scowcroft liked because she was, as he put it, someone who knew how to say where we could cooperate with the Russians, rather than, God forbid, an ideologically motivated fighter against them.

The Rice of recent years presents an updated position. More hawkish, like Vice President Richard Cheney's "hardheaded" realism, and sometimes even"neo-conservative," in favor of promoting democratic values all over the world, in the style of U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Her admirers say that 9/11 changed her. Her opponents say it's all personal. Her closeness to Bush has distorted her judgment.

Whatever the case, in her new position she will face an interesting test. Further from the eyes of Bush, and closer to the cautious State Department establishment, the question is which path she will choose. In an administration that did not achieve consensus on a single foreign policy issue from the time of the decision to attack in Afghanistan, the assumption is that the new Rice will guarantee harmony and unanimity that were not achieved with the old Powell. [emphasis added]

Shmuel Rosner writing in Haaretz.

Condi will be, imho, something of a hybrid as among: a) traditional realist (particularly as her policy views become tempered by the career foreign service at Foggy Bottom) b) occasional aggressive "nationalist" (a la Cheney and Rumsfeld...see: "forgive Russia, ignore Germany, punish France"), and c) neo-con, ie. Wolfy-esque democratization emphases.

I think both her position and world events will see her tethered more towards "A" over the next four years--but with decent doses of "B" and "C" thrown in. That's not a bad mixture, all told, for the challenges facing us at this juncture. A full-blown realist in the old, musty mold doesn't fully get the ramifications of 9/11. And a hard-core neo-con (the f*&k Fukuyama and Kagan kind) doesn't get the realities we face on the ground in places like Iraq--too intoxicated by ideology and ignoring cold, hard facts. Finally, in the midst of lots of disingenuous whining from parts Old Europe--a bit of the (let's perhaps call it Jacksonian) nationalist strain (think Rummy) doesn't hurt either.

And, of course, as she's a tad closer to the Rumsfeld-Cheney (and Wolfowitz wings) than Powell (and, of course, much closer to Bush)--we may well see a more "unitary" policy emerge for Bush II. That might not be a bad thing--given all the crippling trench warfare between State and Defense the past four years. Ironic, isn't it? Condi, the very person who presided over the flawed inter-agency process, might end up helping bring the protracted policy drift (NoKo, Iran, Arab-Israeli peace process) to an end via her promotion to SecState.

The big question is, will she carve out some independent space apart from the Cheney-Rumsfeld wing? I think she very well might--particularly as she has Hadley at NSC and Bush's ear and full confidence. But none of us really know, finally. As so often, Cheney is likely the biggest wild card in all this (will Bolton get DepSec and spy for him? Will Hadley end up serving Cheney, perhaps via a Libby channel, more than Condi? etc etc). Oh, worth noting lefties, Cheney is not a raving lunatic. He's made me uncomfortable during the past four years at cetain junctures, yes. For instance, he had to be put back in the box by Bush on going to the U.N. for approval on Iraq and he exagerrated the WMD intel, taking a judicious view of the data available, in my view. But that doesn't make him maniacal and jingoistic in the extreme. Put differently, Cheney's influence in the policy-making process is not always a negative for those of us more on the center (rather than hard) right. As long as the "fever," that is, doesn't hot up in Bush II.

Posted by Gregory at 12:11 AM | Comments (8)

November 16, 2004

More on the Tucker/Hendrickson F.A. Piece...

I got too distracted by the Powell/Condi show to update this post but thankfully, Yevgeny Vilensky picked up some of the slack and is on the case.

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

Our National Interest Will Be the World's (Again)!

Power matters, both the exercise of power by the United States and the ability of others to exercise it. Yet many in the United States are (and have always been) uncomfortable with the notions of power politics, great powers, and power balances. In an extreme form, this discomfort leads to a reflexive appeal instead to notions of international law and norms, and the belief that the support of many states -- or even better, of institutions like the United Nations -- is essential to the legitimate exercise of power. The "national interest" is replaced with "humanitarian interests" or the interests of "the international community." The belief that the United States is exercising power legitimately only when it is doing so on behalf of someone or something else was deeply rooted in Wilsonian thought, and there are strong echoes of it in the Clinton administration. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with doing something that benefits all humanity, but that is, in a sense, a second-order effect. America's pursuit of the national interest will create conditions that promote freedom, markets, and peace. Its pursuit of national interests after World War II led to a more prosperous and democratic world. This can happen again.

Condoleeza Rice, back in 2000, writing in the august pages of Foreign Affairs.

By the by, don't let my facetious tone fool you. I think Condi, then and now, is spot on re: her deep skepticism of wooly-headed multilateralist cheerleaders who too often appear to insist "that the United States is exercising power legitimately only when it is doing so on behalf of someone or something else..."

But it's dangerous, of course, to assume our national interest is always destined to be the world's. When Condi wrote, back in 2000, that "this could happen again," none of us knew that one Manhattan morning would force upon the U.S. the critical mission of spearheading a massive decades long campaign against international terror. But we must be careful to not too breezily assume that our new banner is the world's writ large. It may, to a fashion, be Russia's (Chechnya), China's (Xinjiang), Israel's (Hamas, Jihad Islami), India's (Kashmir), among others.

But others still see our prosecution of the war on terror as a somewhat indiscriminate war against Islam. We might intuitively smell out the hyperbole in that contention sitting down in Kalorama, Belgravia, and the Upper East Side. But the world looks different on the streets of Cairo, Fallujah, or Riyadh. And not everyone in the whole region, it bears mentioning, is some horrific jihadist hell-bent on destroying us. We need to work to win hearts and minds there, people. This means, yes, more "nuance", here and there. For instance, believe it or not, Iran is not the single source of all evil in the world today (Michael Leeden notwithstanding). So let's keep some of the Danton-like excesses to a minimum, I say. Surtout pas the zele. To "faster, please"; I say "smarter, please."

And, er, allegedly killing unarmed Iraqis in mosques ain't smart. Not that Rummy will give a damn, of course. Cuz, you know, "stuff happens". It happens at Abu Ghraib. It happens when an insurgency is advantaged by having too few troops in theater. It happens when you don't secure weapons sites. And on and on. But this is a boring list by now, no? There simply is no accountability for Don Rumsfeld, is there? I'll shut up with my sour grapes, promise!

UPDATE: I'm toying with disabling comments (or opening them up less often). Why? Oh, maybe it is the moonbats that emerge whenever you talk about the Arab-Israeli peace process. Or the sometimes obscene comments that need to be deleted. Or that someone, fresh from 3 weeks in Albania, is kind enough to dispense lessons about the Balkans to me (where I lived for some two years). And so on. Status quo, for now. But I'm tired enough between a demanding day job and nocturnal blogging to have to consider dispensing with comments to eliminate the hassle. That said, I often feel I have some of the smartest commenters in the blogosphere--indeed the the comments are sometimes worth reading more than the original posts. What to do? (No time for some "registration' scheme," at the moment, I'm afraid).

Posted by Gregory at 05:02 AM | Comments (18)

November 13, 2004

Weekend Reading

Don't miss this Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson piece over at Foreign Affairs. Tucker and Hendrickson argue that the legitimacy of U.S. power has always rested on "four pillars": 1) pledging the use of U.S. power to international law; 2) Washington's commitment to "consensual modes of decision-making"; 3) America's "reputation...for moderation in policy"; and 4) Washington's "success in preserving peace and prosperity within the community of advanced industrialized democracies."

Not suprisingly, the authors believe the Bush doctrine has run afoul of all four of these pillars of legitimacy. They quote Edmund Burke, speaking of the French revolutionaries, to the effect that Bush's policy has been "military in its principle, in its maxims, in its spirits, and in all its movements." Tucker and Hendrickson even charge that the U.S. has "assumed many of the very features of the rogue nations against which it has rhetorically--and sometimes literally--done battle with over the years." In this vein, the authors' argue that world public opinion has reached something of a "tipping point," with Washington defined more "by the ease with which it justified illegal actions as by its commitment to legality."

These academics are not wild-eyed Chomskyites and Tucker, in particular, is an eminent diplomatic historian I respect much. But, like so much of our public discourse today, I believe their piece unfortunately spills into hyperbole. I'll comment on the piece in detail when time allows (likely Monday night)--but do take the time to read it and provide comment, if any, before then.

Oh, and if you haven't read this post over at the Belmont Club--well, go do so soonest. It touches on themes of maximum import to our collective futures--and is well worth your time. I hope Wretchard will return to this theme more often in the coming days. I certainly hope to and have been negligent in not addressing these issues full-square before. Regardless, here are some key portions of Wretchard's post worth cogitating over:

When that underlying civilizational consensus has been destroyed or diluted, as is the case in Western Europe and to a lesser extent the United States, what intrinsic ends does a value-neutral democratic mechanism serve? The answer possibly, is whatever it can be put to, like a Turing Machine which adopts whichever persona the loaded instruction set demands. Then Dutch democracy becomes the Muslim right to chuck a hand grenade out the door at policemen come to arrest them for plotting to blow up a public landmark. Democracy becomes a vehicle waiting to be hijacked; a metaphor for the old saw that someone who believes in nothing will believe in anything.

But of course the process of secularization -- or 'value emptying' as Pell might put it -- has not been entirely uniform. In actuality, while whole chunks of the West have thrown out their traditional value systems, other chunks have been busy proseletyzing theirs. As Episcopalian churches have emptied the fundamentalist Islamic mosques have filled. That uneven development, if left unchecked, may eventually mean that the magnificent mechanism of secular democracy, which serves no value of itself, will be arbitrarily assigned a goal by the majority most willing to hijack it.

I often think of this issue (the perils of a lack of spirituality in the West) in relation to Solzhenitsyn's fascinating Harvard commencement address in 1979. Go read that too. Recall, everyone was expecting a grateful Solzhenitsyn, recently exiled to Vermont, to beat up on the big, bad Soviet bear. He did so, of course, but he also addressed significant moral/spiritual shortcomings in the West. His speech engendered much controversy and was attacked by most quarters of the U.S. intelligentsia--but it's important and worth revisiting in relation to Wretchard's post. More soon.

Posted by Gregory at 02:40 PM | Comments (21)

June 18, 2004

Diplomats for Change

More disgruntled former diplomats!

Read their manifesto. Here's the link to their main site.

Look, anyone who describes this bunch as merely consisting of the serried ranks of lily-bellied, cocktail-sipping, pin-striped appeasement aficionados (you know, those cowardly Foggy Bottom folks out there serving in places like Riyadh, Amman and Jakarta day in, day out) hasn't a clue of what they speak.

This is mostly a very estimable bunch of former diplomats who have affixed their names to this letter.

Chas Freeman, for instance, is generally considered one of the top-notch intellects to have served at State for decades.

Jack Matlock, Princeton Lyman, William Crowe, Stansfield Turner, Robert Oakley--these are seasoned, non-partisan folks (indeed many of them, I suspect, veer towards the Republican side of the ledger).

Does that mean that I agree with their contention that:

Never in the two and a quarter centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted.

Oh, I don't know.

We certainly haven't always been loved by legions of gratitude-infused folks throwing garlands at the benevolent altar of the rosy, post-war Achesonian order.

And the death of the Soviet Union sure makes (risk-free) America-bashing lots easier to indulge in in all the predictable quarters, to be sure.

Note the "Diplomats for Change" group actually made public this letter a couple days back in Washington. So I'm a little late to the party.

I checked out the video of their public roll-out of the initiative at the National Press Club late last night off an Internet feed.

A couple people made comments that were, shall we say, a tad too emotive (it happens!).

But there were a lot of serious points.

Here are four takeaways of note:

1) The former diplomats and military officials were asked whether they thought U.S. policy had been hijacked (you know, the neo-con cabal that was steering hapless Georgie around so Sharon could annex the West Bank and such)?

Nope, they responded. That wasn't their take.

Dubya is a strong leader, they said. He knows what's he's doing.

He knows what policy direction he wants to move towards.

He's listening to the advisors he wants to hear from, on the issues he cares about, per his priorities, per his worldview, per his desired outcomes.

I think that's about right--though Cheney did often loom large, doubtless.

Another way to look at this, of course, is to ask whether Rummy/Cheney (and so Libby, Wolfy, Feith) ran circles around Powell/Armitage/Grossman.

I don't think so--but would note the Veep likely influenced Bush heavily where close calls needed to be mediated and Condi didn't step into the breach.

And that, per Woodward's book, Powell never really bonded with POTUS like he wanted to--which likely impacted at least some of the bureaucratic battling on NoKo, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel-Palestine, how pissed to be at Chirac (ok, everyone was pissed at Chirac) etc. etc.

Well, we'll know more about all this a few years hence, doubtless (Powell's memoirs will not be, er, uninteresting).

2) Robert Oakley made the point that, over the past six weeks or so, realism is creeping back into Iraq policymaking (see Fallujah, Najaf, Brahimi, Chalabi, and so on).

So why did they all sign this letter, given such positive trends?

It appears they believe that a full-blown newbie team is required--even with such 7th inning corrections as have been occuring of late.

Too little, too late, I guess, is how the Jack Matlocks and Phylis Oakley's are taking stock of the situation.

I'm not so sure they should be quite so disconsolate--particularly given the aforementioned mid-stream policy corrections.

But, of course, I'd be surer if Dubya had, for instance, sacked Rummy post Abu-Ghraib (or hinted he needed to fall on his sword) and put John McCain in to replace him (ed. note: boring and predictable recommendation, you sigh...Yeah, but it would make a real difference and signal a corrective course, wouldn't it?)

3) Former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill McPeak made the (screamingly obvious for so long) point that we needed to double (at least) the troop head count in Iraq.

Remember, security is the "critical enabler" for everything else we wish to achieve in Iraq. Sure, Fallujah and Najaf have quieted down (at what price is yet to be determined).

But car bombs going off willy-nilly slaying scores week in, week out--it certainly doesn't gain us too much by way of gratitude by beleaguered Iraqis, does it?

Of course, more troops are and were never going to be a panacea. Not by a long shot.

But it was likely smarter to have about 275,000 boots on the ground while not disbanding the entire Iraqi Army--than having 130,000 troops coupled with all the Jacobean fervosity surrounding de-Baathification efforts.

Would all have been rosy with more troops? No, of course not. But would things have been materially better? Yeah, I'm pretty confident they would have.

4) Chas Freeman, at the press club rollout, had some fun dissing Cheney. He quipped that yeah there was a nexus between int'l terror/al-Q and Saddam and the Baathists.

Because of the war, he went on, Hamas was helping the Sunni, Hezbollah the Shia, al-Q/jihadists helping the Baathists. Perhaps that was what Cheney was referencing, went the crowd-pleaser (judging from the chuckles among the assembled press corps)!

Still, of course, the 9/11 commission does state, as Lee Hamilton has pointed out, that "connections" between Saddam and al-Q had occurred in the past.

9/11 related contacts no (it's time for Cheney to drop Atta/Prague); but general contacts yes (so Cheney is right to scold the NYT re: their skewed coverage of this nuanced issue).

And, in a post 9/11 world, the fewer states with any links to al-Q, the better. (Note: Adesnik is less impressed).

More on related topics over the weekend.

Note: Katrina vanden Heuvel has the view from the Nation.

Posted by Gregory at 11:11 AM

May 06, 2004

On The Road

Limited to no blogging through Monday.

UPDATE: At an airport lounge in Heathrow (with a delayed flight) so a few quick thoughts on the Damascus attacks that I hadn't previously had time to blog before I get on a flight.

Here's today's NYT story on the attacks in Syria:

"Western and Arab analysts said they were puzzled over what could have been a motive for a terrorist attack on Syria, which fiercely opposed the American-led war in Iraq and has praised the violent insurgency there as legitimate resistance to an occupying force.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood clashed violently with the government in the past, but it has been quiescent since the early 1980's. The shooting appeared ill prepared, the analysts said, compared to recent attacks in Saudi Arabia and Iraq."

Quiescent since the early 1980's?

That's a good one.

Might the Times, in passing, have mentioned that wee bit little event back in 1982 when the Muslim Brotherhood was ruthlessly quashed in Syria with around 20,000 fatalities in Hama? (Indeed a phrase, "Hama Rules"--courtesy of Tom Friedman--entered the Middle East watchers' lexicon as a result of the crackdown--code for, basically, taking a, er, harsh line vis-a-vis domestic troublemakers).

  • Let's make a list so I can see how it looks
  • Let's make a list so I can see how it looks
  • Let's make a list so I can see how it looks
  • Let's make a list so I can see how it looks
  • Let's make a list so I can see how it looks

Hafez Asad had then made the strategic decision to, once and for all, ensure secularism reigned in Syria rather than Sunni-led Islamism a la Muslim Brotherhood (Asad is from a minority religious sect, the Alawites, who aren't held in particularly high regard by many Sunnis in Syria--religious ones because they view Alawites as belonging to a somewhat unorthodox sect; more prosperous and/or secular Sunnis simply resentful Alawites run the country rather than Sunni elites).

So what happened in Damascus will be very worrisome to Bashar Asad.
Nothing ever happened in Syria, since 1982, without the secret police (the much feared mukhabarat) knowing about it.
Until a couple days ago, that is.

Now it could be an al-Qaeda operation, of course (good to know they might target former U.N. and Canadian installations these days too, huh? Guess said entities weren't part of the European peace proffer or such...)
But I think smart money is on restless Muslim Brotherhood types, smelling weakness in the Bashar fils regime, having mounted the operation.
He's got 135,000 U.S. soldiers to his east (with Rummy periodically making noises about Syrian troublemaking in Iraq). He's got Arik Sharon probably near assassinating Hamas figures in downtown Damascus. Needless to say, the Turkish-Syrian bilateral relationship isn't all roses.

Put differently, and with all the U.S. congressional Syrian sanctions bluster and such, it's not an easy time for boxed-in young Bashar.
And, when domestic malcontents (angered too by U.S. forces next door and probably wanting Asad to take a harder pro-Iraqi insurgent stance) smell weakness--they tend to start causing trouble.

Which makes it likely the final description in this time line of Muslim Brotherhood activity in Syria is now no longer accurate.
This is not the time either, btw, to hope for violent Kurdish rebellion in the north of Syria.
It's not currently in the U.S. national interest for Syria to start teetering out of control.
For avoidance of doubt--let's be more clear.
An emboldened Muslim Brotherhood in Syria is, very obviously, not in America's national interest.
Nor is Kurdish irredentism with Iraqi and Syrian Kurds moving towards a united Kurdistan across that border.
That will make the (already) edgy Turks--much, much edgier.
And the last thing we want right now is trouble in the third Iraq sector, right?
All this to say--perhaps it's time to tone down some of the Bashar-bashing a bit here and there.
Condoleeza Rice should make sure the Secretary of Defense is, er, on board.

Posted by Gregory at 11:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Tipping Point

I'm still on the road and rushing to catch a flight but write briefly to suggest that I fear we are at something of a tipping point in the Middle East right now.

I'd begin by stating my profound revulsion at the pictures we have all seen of Iraqi detainees sexually humiliated and hooded, Klan-style, whilst subjected to mock electrocutions and the like.

I've been travelling in the U.S. and have been frankly stunned by the level of press coverage the story got. Andrew is right about this being another episode of trans-atlantic disconect. But this time, the Europeans have it right. U.S. press outlets aren't giving the story nearly the play it deserves (and, when they do, the coverage is predictably parochial)

I don't think Osama bin Laden himself could have conjured up better images to spur up al-Qaeda recruitment campaigns than those of a U.S. female soldier, cigarrette alight, laughing as Arab, Muslim men are sexually humiliated in her presence.

It's deeply revolting. Of course, I understand how young men and women, in a war zone and suddenly provided with absolute power (and rationalizing the need to extract information from detainees) could engage in such madness.

But where is the damn leadership? Who is minding the store?

This story, along with Likud's defeat of Sharon's de minimis concessions, 10 dead G.Is on Sunday alone, dissaray over whether an (Saddam look-alike) Iraqi general will or will not take control of Fallujah, stirrings of unrest in Syria, increased defiance of Saudi security forces with what are becoming routinized terror attacks in the Kingdom--all contribute to a sense that we are getting near a tipping point in the region.

And shouldn't the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense (that this blog has defended in the past) know how many soldiers we have lost in Iraq to the nearest hundred (at least)?

I'll be addressing all this in more detail as soon as time allows.

Posted by Gregory at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 05, 2004


MT is installed.
The future home of Belgravia Dispatch is in the works...

Posted by Gregory at 05:10 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack