Monday, September 30, 2002
Well, not really. I'm actually off to the Bahamas for a conference. I have to go -- I'm speaking at two panels, and its a great networking and marketing opportunity. Yet, I'm ridden with guilt. I will be leaving my sweet Misha and my sweet wife to go to a beautiful resort where I can sleep for 8 hours straight without any interruptions (forget the sun -- I want mattress!). I do not have a laptop, so unless I find an internet cafe -- there will be no posts for a few days.
Please return this weekend, however.
We’ve been hearing many cries of “Oil War!” lately from the Left. However, it seems like the rationale used to justify charges are overly complex and nonsensical. Presumably, the diabolical “Oil War” scenario goes something like this: Greedy Oil Companies control the Ruthless Republican Administration, goading it into a War where Blood will be spilled. Hence, People will die so that the Greedy Oil Companies (GOCs for short) will have more Oil. It’s pretty diabolical, but stupid and unnecessarily expensive and complex.
Let’s assume for a moment that the GOCs really want to get their hands on the Iraqi oil. What would they do? Is war the simplest and the cheapest way to get that oil? Why wouldn’t the GOCs do what French and German oil companies did? (Note: these oil companies are not GOCs, because Greedy capitalists only come from America and maybe the UK) Namely, get the Ruthless Republican Administration (“RRA”) to cozy up to Saddam. Just think about it, the RRA sends a few choice signals to Baghdad saying we’ll drop everything if you just let our GOCs control the oil flow for the next 99 years. To save face, the RRA will insist on an “inspection team” led by that champion of truth, Scott Ritter. In six months, the team will report that they found nothing except a few Playboys and the RRA lifts sanctions. Baghdad immediately signs up the GOCs and they go on to make lots and lots of Money!
Wouldn’t that be simpler than a war? Less costly? Fewer deaths? Less political capital? And more importantly, for the profit minded GOCs, greater probability of success? Of course, and our allies in France and Germany have already shown us that the strategy works.
Some would even say that if those protesters really believed in democracy, human rights, and the environment they would be protesting in France and Germany. And their slogan would be “No Oil Peace!”
William M. Arkin, the Washington Post's military commentator and by no means a right wing hawk takes on the gullible media.
Twelve years later, we are again being subjected to another avalanche of propaganda, with similar visions of apocalyptic war.
Writing in the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristoff warns that an "invasion of Iraq may not be the cakewalk." American restraint will provide Iraq plenty of places to hide its army, he says. What is more, by hiding in the cities, the United States will be forced to fight the Iraqi way. "The Americans are good at bombing," an Iraqi official tells Kristoff, "but . . . they will have to come to the ground. And then we'll be waiting . . .let's see how the Americans do when they're fighting in our streets."
The Washington Post similarly reported from Baghdad last week (See "Baghdad Is Planning For Urban Warfare," by Rajiv Chandrasekaran) that Iraq will attempt to "lure American forces close to Baghdad and other large population centers."
"If they want to change the political system in Iraq," a senior Iraqi official warned, the United States will "have to come to Baghdad. We will be waiting for them here."
Why does anyone buy this nonsense? We have learned a great deal about U.S. military capabilities in the past decade. When U.S. intelligence finds a target worth attacking, the military can attack it with precision weaponry, pretty much regardless of location, and still minimize harm to surrounding civilians. What is more, if the target is indeed a weapon of mass destruction or Saddam himself, the law of war allows for attack even if there is danger to civilians, so long as the civilian harm is not disproportionate to the military gain. Does anyone doubt that President Bush is going to hold back this time?
Second, the Iraqis aren't prepared or capable to carry out their threats. Sure, the regime will hide behind the civilian population, but not the Iraqi military. Saddam's legions are not formed around Western military notions of leadership or decentralized decision-making. Such initiative and self-confidence is required for urban combat or guerilla warfare. There are special units and security organizations that are entrusted with survival of the regime, but most of the hundreds of thousands of normal Iraqi troops are conscripts assigned to regular army units intentionally formed into tightly controlled and widely dispersed organizations that are kept under close watch far away from Baghdad to ensure that they do not rise up against the central government. Military training in the sense of how we think about it, being able to maneuver on the ground, is non-existent.
What is more, it would be as much a disaster for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime as it would be for the United States if these forces were placed inside Baghdad and other cities. There, they would either have to be supported as coherent military units--which would make them into a potential threat to the government--or they would have to be split up and sent out guerilla-style to defend the regime, an act that would put thousands of armed young men back into Iraqi society outside of the Stalinist command of the regime. Regime preservation stands in the way of Iraq implementing any urban war strategy.
Saddam hasn't learned much from his own experience in 1991, or from U.S. wars in Yugoslavia in 1999 and even Afghanistan in 2001. This is no excuse though for commentators and journalists to continue to report on Iraq as if it is a formidable military foe or to believe that the U.S. military leaders are a bunch of ignoramuses champing at the bit to pursue a losing strategy[Emphasis mine]
The European Left
I have never seen a better visual aide to describe the European Left than this one from this weekend's "peace" march in Madrid.
Consider that the two women dressed as suicide bombers are holding a "No War" poster. To me, the message here is that violence by totalitarian regimes against Jews is legitimate and even glorious, while violence by a democracy, in her own defense, against a tyrant who is a danger to his own people is illegitimate and even immoral. The picture encapsulates the morality of the European (and American) Left: preference for totalitarianism, hatred of democracy, anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, glorification of violence where it suits their purpose and a complete disregard for the well-being of oppressed people everywhere (like the ones who live under Saddam's iron fist). Looks like nothing has changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Andrew Sullivan on the Left
Actually, the article is about Christopher Hitchens after 9/11. The author is leaving The Nation and, apparently, the modern Left. I really loved Andrew's description of the state of teh movement:
But as Hitchens looked around him, even in the days after the atrocity, he found something rather different. He found that a deep and lingering hatred of America over-powered some leftists' objection to mass murder. He found excuses for totalitarian hatred. He saw exactly what Orwell had seen in the leftist intelligentsia of his own time: not simply a passivity in the face of evil, but almost an admiration for it. And he was disgusted. Since those first days of shock, the hard Left has merely redoubled its assault on a free society's right to self-defense. The endless series of rationalizations, the opposition to any war to fight terror, now the sad and pathetic moral abdication of those who see president Bush as more of a threat to world order and peace than Saddam Hussein - all these responses, under-written by a simpering, barely concealed anti-Semitism, would be enough to turn anyone's stomach, let alone a good liberal's. At some point, when you look around and see that this is the quality of one's ideological allies, you have to break ranks, if only for the sake of personal moral hygiene.
But Hitch's shift is symptomatic of something far deeper than one individual's career. 9/11 presented the American left with an awful quandary. Its intellectual and literary leadership, long marinated in anti-Americanism, was simply unprepared for the stark moral choice in front of them. They couldn't afford the cheap and easy carping of the European and British Left: this was their country under attack, after all. Yet most, with a few honorable exceptions, couldn't make the leap toward support of the war either. So they engaged in a campaign of anti-anti-terrorism, the position of the coward and the sophist, encapsulated by Al Gore's bitter rant of last week. While not opposing war itself, they opposed every single decision that could make war possible, demanding conditions and timetables that would effectively gut any assault on, say, Iraq. A few even came perilously close to siding with terror, minimizing its threat, and all but regarding it as the lesser evil compared with Republican dominance on the domestic political scene. A decent but weak man like Senate Majority leader, Tom Daschle, was therefore under immense pressure in the last few months, knowing that any clear pro-war stance would alienate his ideological base, but that any clear anti-war stance could be electoral suicide. No wonder he exploded in frustration last week. And the Democrats still haven't escaped their predicament.
Sunday, September 29, 2002
The Sages on War
VDH and Bernard Lewis take on the skeptics. Among other theories, VDH addresses the possibility that Saddam will use WMD when cornered:
We are told that because Saddam Hussein knows that we are after his person, he will do ghastly things in his last hours on the planet. But oddly, that is not the usual way of mad dictators in their last hours on earth. A doomed Hitler barked to his lieutenants to consider using the gas arsenal, but then balked upon their wise advice that the Allied retaliation would be nightmarish. Doomed Japanese madmen promised kamikaze attacks against the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay before either being rounded up or sulking away. Milosevic talked of bombing nuclear-power plants and then was led off in handcuffs.
It is not an easy thing for a madman to pull down the world with him. Too many lackies are not willing to share a Fuhrer's fiery Götterdämerung when there is a slight chance of cutting a deal and leaving the bunker alive. We should not even assume that Saddam Hussein in the last seconds of his life will not still ponder some final ruse to save his skin — an eleventh-hour fancy that would be impossible should he use weapons of mass destruction. And his henchmen will want to live in this world rather than join him in the fiery next, and so may not push the button when ordered — especially given American antebellum instructions that life next year can be either OK or very, very bad for them, depending on what choice they make when the bombs fall.
I must admit that this possibility did concern me, but I find his argument persuasive.
, the sage of the Middle East, takes on the skeptics of regime change.
But why should we feel threatened by such a change? The overwhelming evidence is that the majority of our terrorist enemies come from purportedly friendly countries, and their main grievance against us is that, in their eyes, we are responsible for maintaining the tyrannical regimes that rule over them--an accusation that has, to say the very least, some plausibility. Apart from Turkey and Israel, the two countries in the region where the governments are elected and can be dismissed by the people, most of the countries of the Middle East can be divided into two groups: those with what we are pleased to call friendly governments, and therefore increasingly hostile people who hold us responsible for the oppression and depredations of those governments, and, on the other hand, those with bitterly hostile governments, whose people consequently look to us for help and liberation.
The most notable of these are Iraq and Iran. In countries under dictatorship, the political joke is often the only authentic and uncensored expression of political opinion. An Iranian joke, current during the campaign in Afghanistan, related that many Iranians put signs on top of their houses, in English, with the text:
"This way please!"
I hope that we can oblige them.
Michale Barone has an essay on the German elections entitled German Poison. In the middle there is a great gem of discussion on European anti-Americanism and their implications for the ICC.
This ingrained hatred of America and assumption that conservative Americans are equivalent to fascists will not be unfamiliar to those who have, as I have, had contact with the chattering classes of Europe. Däubler-Gmelin's remark tells you just about much about the culture and mind-set of the German and the European legal establishments. She is a graduate of one of Germany's best law schools, and her attitudes are common. The members of the European legal apparat and chattering classes are unhappy that the United States will not agree to be subject to the International Criminal Court they want to create, a court that will have a roving jurisdiction and will not be constrained by any existing body of law. It seems likely to act much like the much-praised Spanish judge who indicted former President Augusto Pinochet of Chile and demanded his extradition from Britain because of alleged violations of human rights against Spaniards in Chile many years before. It is inconceivable that such a judge would bring similar charges against Fidel Castro or Yasser Arafat or former Eastern European Communists, whose crimes have been far worse than Pinochet's: The impulse to prosecute is directed entirely at the right, and there are no enemies to the left. The European legal establishment's culture is left-wing, viscerally anti-American, convinced that American leaders are right-wingers verging on fascism: The same Spanish judge recently freed on bail al Qaeda suspects who shot videotapes of U.S. landmarks that were believed to have been used to prepare the September 11 attacks. An American president would be foolish indeed to subject its citizens and soldiers to an anti-American legal culture of which Herta Däubler-Gmelin is so shining an example; it is only a matter of time before some European judge indicts a traveling American governor for carrying out the death penalty.
Those argue that we should give the ICC a chance forget that the experience of current "international" law clearly shows that it is disproportionately used against the US and her allies.
Future Intelligence Failure
In Friday's WSJ, Daniel Henninger juxtaposes the current investigation of September 11th intelligence failures against the intelligence we know about Saddam Hussein.
Let's see if I understand this correctly. We all now think that we could have known that al Qaeda was going to drive civilian airliners into American buildings or some such, and we probably knew enough to prevent these deaths from happening. But the same people who say the danger was obvious also say and write that we don't yet know enough about Iraq's military capabilities or intentions to act pre-emptively against Saddam Hussein.
How many more times do we have to make the same catastrophic mistake that we made with al Qaeda? It appears that we may be willing to make it at least one more time.
If we don't take Saddam out and he attacks then the moral responsibility for the deaths will be on those who blocked any action against him. Too many time people escape moral responsibility for their actions by stating that they were working towards a noble goal, like peace. Unfortunately, too many times during history these people have aided and abetted the same people who would later go on to commit mass murder. Surely those British officials who actively talked down the threat of Hitler until it was too late to stop the murder of millions deserve some of the moral blame? (Note: I only say moral not legal.)
Saturday, September 28, 2002
News You Can Use
Turkish police seize weapons-grade uranium 150 miles from the Iraqi border.
Turkish paramilitary police have seized more than 33 pounds of weapons-grade uranium and detained two men accused of smuggling the material, the state-run Anatolian news agency said on Saturday.
Officers in the southern province of Sanliurfa, which borders Syria and is about 155 miles from the Iraqi border, were acting on a tip-off when they stopped a taxi cab and discovered the uranium in a lead container hidden beneath the vehicle's seat, the agency said.
Now let's put two and two together. The IISS report published a few month ago on Iraq, stated, "It could, however, assemble nuclear weapons within months if fissile material from foreign sources were obtained."
So, the old tyrant is trying. Did another shipment succeed in making it over the border? How many months ago?
Several readers have brought up the point that the term Military-Industrial Complex was originally coined by Ike in his farewell address. This is true of the first public and/or English use of the term. However, the Soviet Voenno-promyshlennaia komissiia (Military-Industrial Commision in English) has been in existance since the 1950s. According to the Federation of American Scientists:
The Military Industrial Commission (Komissiya Soveta Ministrov SSSR po voenno-promyshlennym voprosam, or Voenno-promyshlennaia komissiia, known as VPK) was formed in the 1950s to serve as an arbiter, coordinator and interface between the military production ministries and the political leadership. The Military Industrial Commission included representatives from the defense industry ministries, the Ministry of Defense, Gosplan, and probably the CPSU Secretariat. The VPK monitored and coordinated all military research and development and production. It reviewed new weapons proposals for their technical feasibility and for production requirements, approved research-to- production timetables submitted by lead organizations, and participated in planning and supervising major technological programs, apparently including those conducted by Academy of Sciences institutes.
Most military production came under the eighteen ministries of the machinebuilding and metal-working complex (MBMW), nine of which were primarily involved in making weapons or military matériel. Other "military-related" ministries sent a smaller percentage of their output to the military. Among their contributions were trucks (from the Ministry of Automotive and Agricultural Machine Building, under MBMW), tires and fuels (from the Ministry of Petroleum Refining and Petrochemical Industry, outside MBMW), and generators (from the Ministry of Power Machinery Building, under MBMW), plus any other items requested by the military.
As you can see the Soviet real military-industrial organization pre-dates the speech by a few years. Did Ike know about the existence of the VPK when he made the speech? I doubt it. In fact, very few people, here or there, knew about it during the Cold War.
I have no doubt that the irony of using the "military industrial complex" as a weapon against the US was not lost on the KGB. Having Ike mention it in a speech was probably one of the reasons it was chosen. It further increased the efficacy of the lie.
General Rule. I grew up in the Soviet Union and learned many things about the West. When I came here, I found out that none
of them were true. So, my general rule about anti-American or anti-Western statements is: if I heard it from TASS, then it must be a lie. Specifically, the concept of the American “military-industrial complex” was so popular in Soviet propaganda that I was familiar with it even though I was nine when I left the country.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Politics and the National Interest
The boy is doing much better – went to the doctor yesterday and she said we should come back in 2 weeks! We’ve been going every other day. So, he is feeling better and not coughing as much and not sneezing as much. However, he still does not like to sleep, unless being held. So, life’s getting back to normal.
Things are getting messed up again on the political front – there was the spat about “politicizing the war.” The Democrats are doing a nice job stalling the resolution – that’s my view of move. Let me explain. During the Cold War, a common Soviet, and Leftist, accusation of the United States was the military-industrial complex. This made great for great propaganda, except that it wasn’t true. There was not military-industrial complex in the US. To “find” the complex, its proponents claimed to see nefarious contacts between Government and industry in every meeting and phone call. Nevertheless this lie gained quite a bit of currency. The irony is that the Soviet Union, the accuser, had a real official military-industrial complex. As in factories reporting directly to the Ministry of Defense. Can’t get any “complex” than that.
Accusing America of having a non-existent military/industrial complex accomplished two goals. First, it made great propaganda in and of itself. Second, it made it impossible for us to make the (truthful) countercharge. The Soviets could then say that we are simply parroting them and therefore, the charge is meaningless.
Methinks that Comrade Daschle took a page out of the old Soviet book. He is accusing the Republicans of playing politics when he knows well enough that that’s what the Democrats have been trying to do for months. Except their game was defensive. The conventional wisdom is that war is bad for Democrats. So they have been trying to throw up roadblocks at every opportunity. Remember “the President must consult with Congress!” and “the President must make his case!” All designed to erase the perceived Republican advantage. The President did as he was asked and the Democrats cried foul. Why? Because they fervently believe that the President outfoxed them at a game that they’ve been playing for months. Nothing makes people angrier than that.
Without commentary – great reading:
David Pryce-Jones on the benefits of destabilization in the Middle East.
Jim Hoagland on Schroder.
David Brooks on the Fog of Peace
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Rice: Iraq Providing Shelter, Chemical Weapons Help to Al Qaeda
"We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of Al Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time," Rice said. "We know too that several of the [Al Qaeda] detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to Al Qaeda in chemical weapons development."....
"There clearly are contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq that can be documented; there clearly is testimony that some of the contacts have been important contacts and that there's a relationship here."
She suggested that details of the contacts will be released later.
Bush Gets Results
Can't help to think that Canada's reversal on the Iraq issue has something to do with Bush's cold shoulder towards Schröder. By making clear that anti-Americanism has costs, Bush changes the worldwide dynamic.
Gore pulls a Schröder
As many of you know I voted for this wonk in the last election. How glad I am that he lost! At a speech in San Francisco, Gore effectively used the Schröder technique of bashing the US to gain votes. The 180-degree turn by one Albert Gore Jr. is a pathetic attempt to capture the party's Left wing -- American national security be damned! Michael Kelly has more:
Gore's speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts -- bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.
A chill runs down my spine every time I think about "President" Gore.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Why Anti-Americanism is Rife
The lead editorial in the TAiSS (am I belaboring this name?) calls for the US to listen to Chancellor Schröder after his narrow victory.
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's narrow re-election in Germany, after a bitter campaign focusing on his opposition to a war with Iraq, has sent a thunderbolt across the Atlantic and into the White House. In a clear sign of American displeasure, President Bush offered only an icy acknowledgment of Mr. Schröder's victory. The chancellor has responded with the right gesture — immediate removal of a minister quoted as making an odious comparison between Mr. Bush's tactics and those of Hitler. There is more Mr. Schröder should do. For their part, Mr. Bush and his aides need to recognize the uneasiness of the Germans and many others over the prospect of a war.
This attitude is precisely the reason that we are the world's punching bag. Let's restate events: politician losing a race decides to win voters by bashing America. He wins. Now, we are supposed to forgive and forget? This is how we incentivise people all over the world to use us as a scapegoat -- there are no penalties. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and now Germany can ridicule us all they want for domestic political reasons, but afterwards America is supposed to kiss and make-up. In finance we call this a free option -- all benefit and no cost (except to us).
Well, I think that there should be costs to anti-Americanism. I don't think that we should be allies with countries whose leaders compare our president to Hitler or call us the Great Satan for domestic consumption. I think that princes and presidents for life and chancellors should think twice before blaming the world's ills on America.
Let's stop protecting Saudi Arabia, stop sending money to Egypt and let's learn a new slogan -- "US troops out of Germany!" (and into Iraq)
UPDATE: Ari Fleischer at todays press briefing
speaking about Germany:
And it is the right of anybody to do that in a democracy, and German leaders exercise those rights. And now the German people have exercised their right and they have spoken. And the United States government will work with whoever people elect around the world in free -- freedom of democracy. And that's what will happen here.
But nobody should be under any illusions or mistakes that, now that the election is over, that everything goes back to the way it was. [Emphasis mine] That's not the natural result of the manner in which that campaign was waged. And I think that's plain for everybody to know and see.
Monday, September 23, 2002
A Great Article I Missed
From the Weekly Standard, The Roots of European Appeasement.
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Sorry for the late posts, but with my boy sick -- its just too tough to post anything. There were a couple of interesting things yesterday and a few today.
The Washington Post endorses the liberation of Iraq (btw, I don't think that "liberation" is a euphemism).
Nevertheless, we believe that the president's decision to act is the right one, as is his challenge to the Security Council to support the enforcement of its resolutions. Though the timing and wording of a resolution are open to discussion, Mr. Bush deserves Congress's support.
They have some reservations about the plan, including the post-Saddam Iraq. I agree with their concerns, and support an American military occupation of Iraq. Since our relations with our German allies
have gone down hill, we can move the two divisions we have stationed there.
Even though finance is what I do for a living, I usually don't write about it -- not that interesting to me. But with Stephen Roach
, I make an exception. I have been a market bear since 1998. It was not easy to maintain my views or investment choices in 1999-2000, wit the market skyrocketing and everyone convinced that a new era was upon us. One of the few people (very few) who thought clearly during that time was Stephen Roach -- the chief economist at Morgan Stanley. I used to read his dispatches with the regularity I now check NRO
. You can get a free peek at his writings here
He was right then and he is right now. My professional opinion is that we still have a stock market bubble and a housing bubble as well. We are likely to languish much like Japan for the past 10 years. That's actually good news, I don't think that we will have a great depression like we did in the 1930s. Yeah, I'm that bearish, but we had a hell of a bubble and history shows that bubbles never pop benignly. (The reason we won't drop like a rock is securitization, but that is a long story to tell.)
Don't worry too much, a stock market is not what makes America great and we will bounce back eventually.
Saturday, September 21, 2002
Well, the boy is doing better -- hopefully he'll be 100% in a few days. I am also looking froward to some sleep. Two articles of note (among very many).
Victor Davis Hanson presents an Iraq liberation FAQ.
P.J. O'Rourke travels to Egypt. Very nice story.
Thursday, September 19, 2002
A Palestinian murderer killed 5 people on a bus in Tel Aviv today. My condolences go out to the families of the victims.
The reason for this attack was simple:
However, troops lifted the curfew in the town of Jenin for several hours on Tuesday for the first time in weeks, and there was some speculation that the recent days attackers may have come from the town, a hotbed of militants.
The Israelis are good hearted people and this is how kindness is repaid in the Arab world.
I hope that this not a beginning of a new wave, but with the US preparing to liberate Iraq, Israelis have to be extra cautious. As I've stated numerous times
, the attacks in Israel are what military types call a diversionary attack. It's meant to distract us from the real battle in Iraq. Notice that these attacks come just as the world again takes on the Iraqi issue.
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Morning Editorial Line-up
Here I am, up since 3am, trying to blog. Forgive any misspellings inconcsitencis and insanities. Misha seems like he's getting better, by the way.
Let's start with Thomas Friedman in the TAiSS. He says that the only reason to attack Iraq is to try to democratize the Arab world. He thinks that the American public is more concerned with Muslim terrorism than Saddam -- at least that's his evidence from numerous talk shows that he has been on. Frst, Tom -- take a elementary statistics course and research the term "self-selection". Second, I disagree that the only reason to take out Saddam is to provide a new "model" for teh Arab world. I am very concerned about the tyrant's weapons and who will inherit them if he dies or is replaced (violently, of course). I do agree with those who believe that a change of gevernment is not enough. Here, I agree with Mr. F -- as I state in Occupy Iraq! (September 6th, 2002), the rebuilding of Iraq into a free society is not the reason to go to war, but the war will not be complete without it.
George Will asks "What Makes the UN Legitimate?"
It is perverse, and profoundly dangerous, that the U.N. is being encouraged to place upon its own brow a garland of laurels it has woven for itself as the sole legitimizer of force in international affairs. Even NATO, an alliance of democracies, is said to be morally bound to defer. The U.N.'s overweening vanity is made possible by the acquiescence of formerly formidable European nations. They now are eager to disguise decadence as a moral gesture, that of sloughing off sovereignty - and with it, responsibilities.
In Iraq, the U.N. is meeting its Abyssinia. That is what Ethiopia was called in October 1935 when Mussolini's Italy invaded it and the U.N.'s predecessor, the League of Nations, proved to be impotent as an instrument of international order.
When the president told the U.N. that Iraq's race for weapons of mass destruction is a "grave and gathering danger," he echoed the title of the first volume of Churchill's history of the Second World War, "The Gathering Storm." The president's substitution of the phrase "grave and gathering danger" for the common phrase "clear and present danger" is freighted with significance.
To me the UN lost its legitimacy a long time ago. It's an organization that is now more harmful than its useful and should be reformed or disband. Even those who believe in international law and multilateralism should acknowledge that not every institution that claims to be "international" is by definition useful and neccesary (or at the very least harmless).
Finally, Robert J. Samuelson
, takes on the "we can't afford the war" crowd.
The last time the United States truly mobilized for conflict was World War II. Roughly 16 million Americans served in the military; that was two-thirds of all men from 18 to 34, reports historian James Patterson of Brown University. The costs were stupendous. In 1944, federal spending totaled 44 percent of GDP, with military spending at 38 percent of GDP. At home, Americans needed ration coupons to buy meat, gasoline and other staples.
There may be many reasons not to liberate Iraq -- money is not one of them.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Sorry about the light blogging, but Little Misha has a cold. We've been going to the doctor, staying up nights and generally being really worried! It's a virus, so that things should not get serious, hopefully.
Saturday, September 14, 2002
Shiri Negari is a 22 year old Israeli girl who was murdered when a Palestinian detonated an explosive device on a Jerusalem bus on June 18th 2002. Her family refuses for her to become just another statistic. They want her memory to stay alive. They created a web site where you can read about her life and family. Please visit.
I’m bringing up this commentary by Mattew Parris from the London Times for the simple reason that he is one of the few people I noticed who agrees with me on the nature and the results of the Euro-American (and specifically the Anglo American) relationship. However, while I’m quite happy with this outcome, Parris seems to be melancholy and fatalistic.
While I disagree with his views on Iraq or his concepts of American machismo, I like this article because it deals with the relationship honestly, without inventing complicated and disingenuous doctrines to mask simple human emotions like greed, envy and impotence. I really don’t believe in Transnational Progressivism or Fukuyama’s theories on different views on democracy. (He says, “Europeans, by contrast, tend to believe that democratic legitimacy flows from the will of an international community much larger than any individual nation-state.” – Does that even make sense? Top down democracy? Isn’t that an oxymoron?) As reference on my views please consult Hamilton’s Slip, August 11, 2002.
America needs nobody’s say-so to protect either her own interests or what she sees as civilization. She has the weapons, the armed forces and the will to do it on her own, anywhere in the world. No other nation does, and there is nobody to stop her. I am not sure that in Europe we have quite woken up to this yet. Pitched for half a century between two great, opposed Cold War equals, Europeans had become accustomed to influence beyond our weight. But now there is only one great power and we can have as many opinions as we like, we can bark until we are hoarse at the wheels of the onward-rolling American pantechnicon, but onward it rolls. There comes a point when you wonder whether barking is much use.
There it is – the cause of the Euro-American friction. During the Cold War years, the Europeans at first accepted the American power as a counterweight to the Soviet threat. As the Cold War progressed and the threat of direct Soviet attack receded, the Europeans began to play both sides against each other, the worst abuser being France. The fall of the Berlin Wall left the Europeans with two mutually unsustainable emotions. On the one hand they had expectations for power beyond their military or economic means. On the other hand, since the Soviets were gone, they came to openly resent American power and “hegemony”. This resentment is caused by the perception of being second to a nation that most Europeans think of as culturally and intellectually inferior.
Parris unhappily states what the consequences of American liberation of Iraq will be:
It could even prove a pushover. That is what I fear. Such a victory would reinforce worldwide an impression already growing: that no country inimical to American interests is safe from American attack.
The consequences of such a perception would be immense, perverse, and mostly peaceful. [Emphasis mine] Again my fellow doves are wrong to predict an unending series of US invasions; after one or two pushovers there would be peace because nations would stop standing up to the Americans.
His advice for Britain, again delivered in a fatalistic fashion:
Or one could join it of course. I suspect that is Britain’s destiny, mostly because of language. Working from 10pm until 3am on Thursday night, I kept BBC Radio 5 Live on in the background. In five hours of news, gossip and human interest, there was not a single item from or about the continent of Europe. Everything foreign to which successive programmes bent an ear came from over the Atlantic. If we cannot have Pax Britannica, then calling Pax Americana “Pax Atlantica” instead would be some kind of compensation. No longer emperors, we would at least be associated in our cousins’ empire.
What is the cause of Mr. Parris angst? I will attempt a guess. Before I do that, allow me to quote my own work:
The strength of [negative feeling towards the US are] a function of the other ideologies that complement or balance it out. For example, any group that already has a beef with the US, like the socialists, will succumb more easily. On the other hand, those who fear other threats more (Islamism or socialism) are less likely to believe that America is the main enemy. Citizens of states with imperial ambitions (France) are more likely than states without (Denmark) to look at America askew. Furthermore, many understand that the European alliance is itself fractured and believe that in an ascendant Europe only certain countries or institutions will be dominant. Britain is the most torn country in Europe. On the one hand, it has strong socialist leanings and an imperial past. On the other hand, it has social and political connections to America, and realizes that their old rivals the French or the Germans will lead a dominant Europe.
One of the running themes you get from Parris is his longing for what he calls Pax Britannica and his frequent references to Empire. He obviously has a great deal of pride in Britain and resents the rising influence of the “cousins”. This is not surprising coming from a former Tory MP. On the other hand, he seems to understand that a Pax Atlantica would be a better alternative to other possible regimes and greatly beneficial to Britain, specifically.
Friday, September 13, 2002
The Iraqi Missile Crisis?
The TAiSS went all out today in its efforts to forestall the liberation of Iraq. There was the lead editorial, which I will ignore except to compare it to the lead editorial in the Washington Post. 'Nuff said about those -- lets get to the meat. There were three opinion pieces in the paper, each emphasizing a different argument against liberation.
First, there was a piece by Madeline Albright, the woman who put impotence into American foreign policy. Maybe she was not the first, but she was good at it. Her main point seems to be that we should finish al-Queda before we go after the tyrant Saddam.
In the aftermath of tragedy a year ago, the chief executive told our nation that fighting terrorism would be "the focus of my presidency." That - not Iraq - remains the right focus.
Listen folks, I've got news for you -- we can walk and chew gum at the same time. What is the reason to wait to get Saddam? Is the war against terrorism sapping our resources? Are we running out of men of draft age to send into combat? Are we rationing butter and bread? There is absolutely no reason that we can't fight the unconventional war against terrorism and take out a tyrant in a conventional manner.
Then there is Krugman
. The formerly distinguished economist who morphed into a party hack says that there won't be a stock market bounce from the war. Frankly, I wouldn't care either way. This war is about our survival as a nation and that should be the first concern. However, if Krugman were an honest economist he would consider the costs of doing nothing. A single WMD attack on NYC, for example, would probably cost us upwards of a trillion dollars.
Finally, we come to the "urgency" argument as illustrated by Nick Kristof
. Specifically, Kristof compares the Bush preemption strategy to the Cuban Missile Crisis:
Yet it is the differences that are most telling. To begin with, Kennedy used the U.N. spotlight to offer specific, incontrovertible evidence of an urgent new threat - and then he opted not for an invasion of Cuba but for an internationally supported naval quarantine.
Kristof's ask a Kennedy historian about what Bush should do (does that even make sense?):
"The fundamental question is left unanswered: Why initiating war against Saddam is better than the next option, which is deterring and containing him," Professor Allison said. "You could agree that this is an evil guy - he is evil – who defied the U.N. resolutions - he did - and still ask why he is not susceptible to the same treatment that was used against Stalin, who was also evil and dangerous and cheated."
Finally, Nick gives us his 2 cents.
Before launching a war, Mr. Bush still needs to show two things: first, that the threat is so urgent that letting Iraq fester is even riskier than invading it and occupying it for many years to come; second, that deterrence will no longer be successful in containing Saddam.
How would J.F.K. have handled Iraq?
So, let us consider this. Let us do something that Kristof did not – consider the Cuban Missile Crisis in historical perspective.
What he misses is that it was not
our policy to let things get that close. That “urgency", that Kristof so admires came at a stiff price. The entire world was at risk of nuclear annihilation.
The only reason there was urgency to the situation is that we did not find out about the missiles earlier. Had the Kennedy Administration found out about the Soviet plans earlier, I don't think that they would have sat on their hands waiting for the situation to become urgent! They would have acted as soon as possible. Kennedy, after all, ran on the premise that Eisenhower was too soft on the Soviets -- remember the "bomber gap"?
By my reckoning, the Cuban situation militates towards pre-emptive action. During the Crisis we were inches away from a nuclear war. Is that Kristof's ideal situation? We can only act when the stakes are that high? Wouldn't it have been better if the Crisis was resolved much earlier, before the Soviet missiles actually threatened our shores?
Do we really want the situation with Iraq to develop into an Iraqi missile crisis? Do we want to go to sleep thinking that this was our last, like the people did during the Cuban Missile Crisis? That is why we have to deal with Iraq now, before its threats assume crisis-like proportions.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Three Cheers for Tony Blair
The Telegraph reports that up to 30,000 British troops will take part in an invasion of Iraq.
There are signs that this has begun with a 100-aircraft raid on the H3 air base in western Iraq. The aim was to clear a corridor allowing special forces into western Iraq to prevent Saddam moving Scud missiles to threaten Israel.
But it will take at least three months for the British tanks to get to Kuwait, ruling out any attack on Iraq this year. Government officials said the US was now determined to try pressure through the United Nations before any attack.
The MoD denied reports yesterday that two British armoured brigades would be in the desert within two weeks. But defence sources confirmed that plans were in place to deploy a "light" armoured division to Kuwait.
US war plans will require a five-division assault on Iraq's southern flank, including four of its own divisions.
In the north, US airborne troops, possibly supported by Britain's 16 Air Assault Brigade, would occupy Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and a Marine Expeditionary Force would most likely mount an amphibious attack from the northern Gulf. That could involve the Royal Marines' 3 Commando Brigade.
Great Editorial Cartoon
From The Telegraph. I'm going to try to get a picture here...
Finish the War; Liberate Iraq
When I was a Democrat, I thought that most Democrats felt the way that Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska, feels. In a WSJ opinion he forcefully sets out the case for action against Iraq. After listing our encounters with Saddam, he goes on:
From just this information we should take care not to forget that in a very real way the war against Iraq did not end in 1991. Following the Gulf War the U.N. authorized the use of a multilateral military intervention to enforce an embargo on Iraq. It has also allowed the U.S and Britain to intervene in Iraqi airspace in order to enforce a no-fly zone to protect Iraqi Kurds in the north and Iraqi Shiites in the south. Furthermore, Arab nations in the region -- most notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- have permitted the forward deployment of U.S. military personnel as a deterrent against Iraq's army.
As a consequence, the U.S. has spent more than $1 billion a year on a very real and very risky military intervention against Iraq for the past 11 years. That intervention cost us 19 airmen at Khobar towers in 1996. Although it is now believed that Iran was the culprit in that murderous assault, our troops' presence so close to Mecca and Medina has inflamed anti-American sentiment among radical Islamists including Osama bin Laden.
These two military deployments -- to enforce the no-fly zones and the embargo -- have put the U.S. in a dilemma that is faced by no other country except Britain. The dilemma is that we must continue these military efforts at considerable risk to us until Saddam Hussein is no longer a military risk to his own people and his neighbors. To be precise: He has stationed seven divisions of soldiers in northern Iraq and five in the south. He would kill a lot of Iraqi Kurds and Shiites if we were to stop our military intervention. [Emphasis mine]
We presume incorrectly that the choice is between an invasion or nothing when the truth is that our current multilateral military effort already qualifies as an invasion of Iraq. The real choice is between sustaining a military effort designed to contain Saddam Hussein and a military effort designed to replace him.
Senator Kerrey concludes:
At the end of all of the academic arguments is whether we are willing to pay the price to bring freedom to the people of Iraq. If we are, we will not regret it. If we aren't, we should tell the truth and go no further. As we are fond of saying: Freedom is not free.
Too bad he's no longer in Congress.
Initial Reaction to the UN Speech
I thought it was good speech. It outlined the tyrant's violations of the UN Security Council resolutions as well as his abuse of human rights. The only thing it lacked (at least I didn't hear it ) is a concrete deadline for action.
Also, did you notice that Bush said that the UN would be "irrelevant" if it failed to act. That is the same term used to refer to Arafat by the Israelis. I wonder if Bush meant in the same sense.
UPDATE: Early reactions form The Times (of London) and The Telegraph. Quote: "This was the speech we had been waiting for."
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
I added them. Please feel free to use them.
( I apoligize for the late post, but baby and work took precedence. This post is only meant to chronicle my experience on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Its meant to be a personal chronicle, not a political or moral message.)
One year ago.
I don’t remember how the morning started. My wife, who was teaching then, usually left the house about an hour ahead of me. I spent the time dithering about and watching CNN or CNBC. That morning was already different – I had plans to vote in the local mayoral primary. I was a registered Democrat back then and the choice for mayor was between a number of indistinguishable party-machine candidates. I don’t even remember whom I even voted for.
My first encounter with the tragedy that was about to happen occurred as I was walking away from the polling station. I was proceeding west, along East 19th Street, when I saw a plane flying low down the spine of Manhattan. It was close enough for me to recognize that it was an American Airlines commercial jet. I thought nothing of it then – just that it was strange for a plane to be flying so low.
My next encounter occurred when I reached my home on Third Avenue. Large trucks belonging to NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit sped down the avenue, siren blaring. In the time it took me to transverse a NYC avenue, the plane had already hit the North Tower and New York’s emergency services began to respond. To this day I wonder if any of those policemen are alive today. However, I knew none of this then – I walked back up the stairs of my old building so that I could leave my passport at home (I take it when vote for ID purposes). As the only proof of my US citizenship, it is one of my most prized possessions.
Being an information junkie, I turned on the TV, even though I was going to be home for a few seconds. It was then when I found out. CNBC was reporting that a plane had hit the North Tower of the WTC and was showing a live feed. My apartment, at the time was on the 29th floor and faced west. I had a clear view of both the Empire State Building and the WTC. Most every night, after logging off the computer, I would look at both structures, how they glowed in the night and be assured that everything was right with the world. But this time, when I looked out, the tower had a smoking hole in it.
Looking back, I can’t really explain why I didn’t put 2 and 2 together. It did not occur to me then that the plane I saw was the plane that hit the tower. I just assumed that it was a small private plane lost and out of control. I think that I just didn’t want to believe it. In fact, no cataclysmic scenarios occurred to me (which is unusual for me), so I set off for work. My office is in a building one block north of the WTC.
On my way from my home to the Union Square N and R subway station, I ran into an acquaintance and shared my reactions with him and a few complete strangers. Still no thoughts of terrorism. My train ride was not unusual until we reached Canal Street. It was there that the conductor announced that the Courtland Street Station (the WTC station) was closed for a “police action” and the train would be diverted to another track. The last stop in Manhattan would be Canal Street. “Police action” is a generic term meaning that the train will be stopped or diverted for non-mechanical reasons. If you are a frequent rider of the subway you hear this term at least a few times a year. Determined to get to work, I got off at Canal Street and set off south.
Masses of people, however, were walking in the opposite direction. Only now I began to sense that something was wrong. Yet, since I didn’t see the police closing down streets, I decided to try to get to work – to check in. I was also curious to find out what was going on. As I got closer, the crowds going north were getting larger and the situation more chaotic.
I never got to work, a few blocks before my office the streets were being closed. I asked an attractive and friendly EMS worker what was going on. As she told me of the second plane, I saw a part of a plane engine lying next to a payphone. The FBI was arriving in droves and was blocking off the area. I needed to call my wife to tell her that I was OK – now that I understood how serious the situation was. I don’t have a cell phone (I doubt it would have worked) and every payphone had a line next to it. I walked into a small bookshop and asked if I could use their phone. After hanging up, the proprietors told me that another plane had hit the Pentagon. If I had any doubts before, now I knew that this was an act of terrorism.
I decided to walk home – who knows what else is going to happen today? The enormity of what happened started to dawn on me. The mixture of anger and helplessness were taking turns raising my temperature. I was proceeding up West Broadway and almost reached Canal, when I heard the screams. I immediately turned around. I don’t remember any sound from the collapse – just the screams. I may have been screaming too, I don’t remember. The tower fell in slow motion. “Chips” of the building were coming off in places – it seemed to be as fragile as a champagne glass.
While most people saw the collapse on TV, it is difficult to explain the mixture of emotions one feels. When a massive building in which I had meetings, dinners and under which I lunched almost everyday falls to the ground. The massive structure that seemed indestructible only yesterday no longer existed. Muttering disbelief, I resumed my trek.
The journey home did not seem familiar. My city was not the same one I woke up in. I was not alone. Most my fellow trekkers were similarly bewildered. What happened? How many people are dead? What’s next? What is to become of our fine city? I’m sure that these questions were on everyone’s minds. Once in a while, I would encounter a group of people, listening to someone’s car radio (turned up loud) and all looking south – to where the towers were.
It is on the way home that I noticed the sky. It was perfect – perfectly blue and perfectly cloudless. I couldn’t help feel that it was mocking us. How much better would it have been to have a dark foreboding sky to match the weight that has now been placed on my heart. For the next several months, I detested these “perfect”, cloudless days.
I’ll never forget the sky. And I’ll never forget the plane chugging low across it. I’ll never forget the collapse and I’ll never forget the screams. Most of all, I’ll never forget the last day I could look at a plane in the sky without a chill running down my spine.
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
It's gettin' hot in here
FOX News reports that the US Central Commnad is moving to Qatar. This is a significant development in the liberation of Iraq. CENTCOM is responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia. Up to now, the command has been centered in Tampa, Florida. The movement of the command show's the Bush Administrations commitment to the (hopeful) liberation of the people of the Middle East, especially Iraq. We're getting close.
Just wanted to post this quote...
from a Daily Telegraph leader about 9/11. Speaking of America's new foreign policy protocols,
The European elites are right to intuit that these new doctrines subvert their approach to international affairs. Traditional concepts of interstate diplomacy and of the balance of power, and the devout cynicism that sees monsters such as Saddam as people to do business with, are under attack. So, too, is the modern European idea that the hard fact of power can be dissolved by the vaguer concept of influence. Nothing has made European leaders angrier than what they call American "unilateralism": they are confronted by the fact that the United States, having the money, the weapons and the will, is prepared to use them, whereas Europe has less of all three.
Bernard Lewis on 9/11
The truly eminent and incisive Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis has an opinion piece in the Washington Post. He talks about the hatred that has driven Muslims against the infidel. Its roots are not in poverty, but in envy and impotence. To indulge their hatered is to invite more:
Another aspect of this contempt is expressed again and again in the statements of bin Laden and others like him. The refrain is always the same. Because of their depraved and self-indulgent way of life, Americans have become soft and cannot take casualties. And then they repeat the same litany -- Vietnam, the Marines in Beirut, Somalia. Hit them and they will run. More recent attacks confirmed this judgment in their eyes -- the attack on the World Trade Center in New York in February 1993, with six killed and more than a thousand injured; the attack on the American liaison mission in Riyadh in November 1995, with seven Americans killed; the attack on the military living quarters in Khobar in Saudi Arabia in June 1996, with 19 American soldiers killed and many more wounded; the embassies in East Africa in 1998; the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000, with 17 sailors killed -- all those brought only angry but empty words and, at most, a few misdirected missiles. The conclusion bin Laden and others drew was that the United States had become feeble and frightened and incapable of responding. The crimes of Sept. 11 were the result of this perception and were intended to be the opening salvo of a large-scale campaign to force Americans and their allies out of Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world, to overthrow the corrupt tyrants America supports, and to prepare the ground for the final world struggle.
Do you need one more reason?
The immediate and effective response against their bases in Afghanistan must have come as a serious shock to the terrorist organizations and compelled some revision of their earlier assessment of American weakness and demoralization. We must make sure that they are not misled, by the unfamiliar processes of a democratic society, to return to that earlier misjudgment.
In a WSJ opinion piece that is not, unfortunately, available online, Zainab Al-Suwaij says that America owes the Iraqi people:
In 1991, the U.S. made a promise to the people of Iraq about Saddam Hussein. Over a decade later, America has yet to make good on its word.
After driving Saddam's army from Kuwait, President George H. W. Bush, encouraged by his national security advisers, called on the Iraqi people to rise up and liberate their country. I, along with millions of other Iraqis, heeded his call. We had been suffering under a police state for years, and were desperate to breathe free. The promise of U.S. support was all the encouragement we needed. Within days, a popular uprising had liberated 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces.
But as Saddam Hussein's remaining forces regrouped outside Iraq's newly free cities, President Bush broke his promise. No Black Hawk helicopters or F-16s swooped in to protect us from Republican Guard tanks. Thousands upon thousands of Iraqis who had just taken up arms for freedom suddenly found themselves executed in the street, tortured in actual human meat grinders, or, for the lucky few, driven into hiding.
Recalling the terror of growing up under Saddam Hussein also reminded me of how wonderful the first days of the uprising felt. Responding to the call of President Bush, Iraqis filled the streets and began to demonstrate. I was only 20 and a woman, but I rushed to join the crowd.
I saw in people's eyes that day a joy I had never seen before. Bullets from the army whizzed by, but it was like a wedding celebration. Everyone wanted to play a part in this first step toward freedom. We were risking death but enjoying every second.
It was the only time I saw Iraqis act with happiness and pride. Our lives at that moment meant being able to live as free human beings.
Little did we know that this was only a bloody dress rehearsal, that real liberation would have to wait. Little did I know that I would have
to flee and live in hiding for months.
The scars of betrayal have not healed. Last time, the Iraqis started the uprising and America promised to help finish it. Today, America will have to take the first step. But the good news is that I guarantee the Iraqis will make sure the job gets finished this time.
As an American citizen and a survivor of the Iraqi uprising, I call upon the American people to remember the promise our president once made. As we continue our national debate about Iraq, the real question is not whether to liberate Iraq, but why we have not done so already.
How can we say no?
Monday, September 09, 2002
Time's up for Hamas
Time Magazine reports that the West Bank Hamas has been virtually wiped out.
Israeli intelligence officials tell TIME that since the start last spring of the West Bank offensive known as Operation Defensive Shield, 98% of the members of Hamas' military wing who are known to them in the area have been killed or arrested — a total of 70 men.
The blows against Hamas have prompted a debate in its ranks. Many of its activists are urging a temporary halt to terror attacks, fearing the group could be wiped out as a political as well as a military force....Some Hamas chiefs are worried that the debate could turn into a full-blown power struggle if the health of spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin continues to decline. Top Hamas officials tell Time the quadriplegic Yassin, a unifying figure for moderates and hard-liners, was hospitalized last week with lung and bowel problems.
If this is true, who's going to be the first to eat their hat? The TAiSS, the Washington Post, the EU or State? Let's face it folks, force is the only thing that works against evil.
Is it really snowing in hell?
The French now support an attack on Iraq.
President Jacques Chirac shifted noticeably closer to the American position by proposing a two-step process by the United Nations Security Council that could lead to a formal authorisation for military force against Iraq.
M Chirac did not commit himself to supporting the use of force or sending troops, but French analysts believe that France would take part in a war if it were covered by a UN mandate.
What is motivating Chirac? If you agree with my assessment that:
The prospect of the world’s economic and military hegemon getting control of the Continent’s lifeblood sends chills down the spines of the European functionaries. As I described in my August 11th post, “Hamilton’s Slip”, the primary motivation for European foreign policy is the containment of American might.
--- from Occupy Iraq! September 11, 2002.
then the answer is clear. The first step was to prevent the hegemon from defending itself. Failing that, the Europeans will attempt to dilute the impact of the action. I predict that they will attempt the following (in any combination):
1. Get UN approval (already requested)
2. Insist that the US act under the NATO framework (i.e. include a French mess squad)
3. Prevent the US from occupying Iraq
4. Insist on selecting a "democratic" leader (oxymoron intended)
5. Insist that EU handle "nation building" (i.e. handing out the oil contracts to their own firms)
6. Insist that the oil contracts made with Saddam's regime (and paid for by political favors) remain in place
And so on, and so on.
The Glass is Always Half-full at the TAiSS
Compare these headlines:
London Group Says Iraq Lacks Nuclear Material for Bomb --- NY Times headline
Report Warns of Iraqi Nukes -- Washington Post headline
Saddam could soon build nuclear weapons, report says -- Times of London headline
Iraq 'could build nuclear weapon within months' --The Guardian headline (!)
That's what I love about the editor's at the TAiSS -- always lookig for a silver lining. Of course, that fact that they oppose the liberation of Iraq has nothing to do with it.
Speaking of the report. Allow me to summarize the summary:
-- The retention of WMD capacities by Iraq is self-evidently the core objective of the regime, for it has sacrificed all other domestic and foreign policy goals to this singular aim.
-- Sooner or later, it seems likely that the current Iraqi regime will eventually achieve its objectives.
What are we waiting for? Do I have to repeat all the nasty things that could happen? Again?
Besides the obvious threat to the West from direct attack, there is another strategic possibility that I had not thought o fpreviously. William Rees-Mogg writes in the Times:
The most plausible scenario, if Saddam Hussein is allowed to complete his nuclear weapons programme, is not Iraqi nuclear terrorism against Washington, New York, London or Tel Aviv, but a conventional invasion of Kuwait.
If Saddam Hussein had a nuclear rocket targeted on London, would a British Prime Minister go to war with Iraq in order to liberate Kuwait? And if Kuwait is at risk, so is Saudi Arabia, with all that implies for the world’s supply of oil. His own record suggests that Saddam Hussein sees himself as a conqueror, a Napoleon of the Middle East.
Translation -- he would have the West by the balls.
Sunday, September 08, 2002
Iraq for Dummies
Barbara Amiel takes on the usual suspects who demand more "proof" to liberate Iraq.
These voices never floundered before. They have never let information alone stand in the way of telling Prime Ministers and Presidents what to do about the Cold War, the Gulf war, the Panama invasion, the Falklands, Global Warming, Poverty, Hunger and Dirt.
One suspects that they really want to put their collective heads in the sand or, less generously, side with a coalition of anti-Americans, muddled Marxists and confused admirers of Islamism all intent on seeing capitalism, Israel and America crippled. But as this agenda is not quite respectable, so it must be masked by a feigned thirst for knowledge.
The New York TAiSS
The paper's Soviet tendencies are really showing this Sunday, and I haven't even reached the opinion page yet. A front page headline yells, Poll Finds Unease on Terror Fight and Concerns About War on Iraq. As always, it helps to take the propaganda sheet with a grain of salt. The poll numbers actually show that 68% of the populace supports a war to oust Saddam (the Washibgton Post has similar results). How can the TAiSS (which is a play on the Soviet propaganda agency -- TASS) claim that this shows "concerns"? Sure people always have concerns, but when a candidate gets 68% of the vote -- its typically called a landslide! Of course, if you think that real candidates run in one party elections and get 98% of the vote, then 68% could be a disappointment...
One of the "concerns" that the poll shows is the lack of allies in our fight. But if you were a TAiSS reader you would not even know that Tony Blair (merely the British prime minister) met with Bush at Camp David and endorsed the war against Iraq. The Washington Post thought it important enough to put it on its front page. Not the TAiSS, however. Although the web site lists such an article (in small print) I could not find it in the actual paper. Comrades, how is the proletariat supposed to know about our allied support if you won't print the truth?
Instead, the TAiSS shows it preference for the iron fisted opinion of bureaucrats over elected politians by placing an interview with Generalisimo Powell on the front page. Its a good article and Powell seems to indorse the President's view (when has there been more riding on what an appointee thinks?), but given a choice between the President speaking with another world leader and a bureaucrat, who do you pick?
Why I Write
The Daily Telegraph had an excellent leader yesterday, discussing the same paradox that motivates my writing. The nominal object of the leader was Martin Amis' new book, Koba the Dread. The book describes Stalin's murderous reign which killed 20 million (than number is according to the book, some scholars believe the number is closer to 40 million). The leader ponders about the significance of the book for our time:
Perhaps it takes this long for the liberal intelligentsia to examine its own tendency to excuse the evil deeds of revolutionaries. This tendency is not exclusive to Stalin's apologists, but stems from a deep strain of utopianism in the human heart. Once the revolutionaries gain power, the unscrupulous reveal themselves. And, at that moment, intellectuals should recognize that their idealism has been disappointed.
But among the clever and well educated, especially when young, the dream of imposing an almost aesthetic ideal of politics upon the rest of the world is so strong that it can override morality. The religious impulse is perverted into political fanaticism. The love of realising a utopian dream, if necessary by violence, can lead eminent men of letters, such as Bernard Shaw, to excuse a Stalin.
They go on to give example of the Left's fascination with tyrant's who have blood on their hands:
Such idealisation is still at work in the modern world. Why do many intellectuals still look on Fidel Castro as a benign figure, despite his well-documented crimes? Why is Che Guevara's image still chic among teenagers? Why does the West still turn a blind eye to the evils of China's one-child policy and the slave labour camps that make so many products on sale in Britain? Why do British student organisations excuse the Palestinian suicide bombers? Is it really medievalism that drives al-Qa'eda and other Islamist terrorist groups, or is it not rather another strain of modern political utopianism?
The explanation of this paradox is the reason for this blog. The CounterRevolutionary Inquiry (New! and Improved!) establishes a method by which we can distill a person's motivations, not from their words, but from their actions. You can read an introduction here
and an application of the method to explain the current transatlantic relations here
. However, if you'd like the executive summary: People cannot be taken at their word because of the ability of the human brain to rationalize is practically unlimited. Thus a person could truly believe that A leads to B, when all the historical evidence shows that it leads to C. Human beings, therefore, should be judged on C, the consequences of their actions, not on B, their purported goals.
Could someone enlighten me on the source of the spike in my readership? It does not appear to be any of the usual suspects. Thank you.
Friday, September 06, 2002
After we invade Iraq and defeat Saddam, we must occupy the country and rule it through a military governorship. The governor will rule until such time as he feels that local government can function as a democracy. Essentially, we should use the same playbook that we wrote in post-War Germany and Japan. Most importantly, we should take control of the nation’s oil production.
This settles the question of who will run the country once we take out Saddam. It also has a number of other concrete benefits:
1. Internal Politics
This is the most practical and, perhaps the most vital reason for occupation. History has shown that a culture is incapable of transforming overnight. It is impossible for a country to be a dictatorship one night, awake the next morning to become a thriving sustainable democracy. People who think that we can walk into Iraq, install a government and expect to become a mirror image of America are deluded.
This is just a mutation of revolutionary socialism, whose motto is “build it and they will act just like you want them to.” People who have lived all their lives under one regime can’t adjust overnight, no matter how much they want to or how much better the system is. Remember the chaos that followed the transformation of the Soviet Union to Russia – economic and political dislocation followed.
Countries that are forced to accept a political system as a condition of loss are a special case of this phenomenon. Not only is there dislocation, the new political system is seen as alien, enforced from the outside. Post-WWI Germany is a great example of victorious powers imposing their political system on the loser. The newly democratic Germany quickly collapsed under the weight of a poor economy and hurt pride. Compare that with post WWII Germany. The victorious Allies imposed a new political system on the losing Germany, but this time it was backed up by military presence. Today Germany has become a thriving democracy.
I have no doubt that the Iraqi people want to live in a democratic country, but desire is not enough to build a working system. Democracy, a system that depends on mutual trust and respect, has to be learned. People can learn by trial and error and arrive at a chaotic, but functioning system (post-Communist Russia) or can set the nation back (post-WWI Germany). It is far better to set up a responsible executive, familiar with democracy and respect for individual rights, a fair judicial system and slowly empower local legislatures.
Finally, an American military government will be the best means available to fight the forces of Ba’athism and militant Islamism that are sure to remain even after we invade. Our experience in Afghanistan shows that even a friendly government will make deals with our enemies for short term political expediency.
2. External Politics
The external political factor is more subtle and the most important for the long term. Control of Iraq gives us control of its oil, the second largest reserve in the world. Combined with our control of the demand for petroleum products and our relationships with other big producers, the Iraqi fields would give us power to control the price of oil.
The primary “beneficiary” of our newfound strength would be our Saudi “allies”. The kingdom’s primary method of survival for the past fifty years was to throw around its control of oil production and its petrodollars. Once the kingdom loses this ability, it will lose influence in Washington, it will lose influence in the Islamic world and it will lose influence at home. Between its mounting debts and growing unproductive population, the kingdom cannot afford $15 per barrel oil. This is why the Saudis will never support an invasion of Iraq and will fight with all their might the prospect of occupation – and that’s exactly why we should insist on it.
The secondary “beneficiary” of our control would be Europe. Europe gets much of its oil from the Gulf and relies much more on gas taxes for its revenue. The prospect of the world’s economic and military hegemon getting control of the Continent’s lifeblood sends chills down the spines of the European functionaries. As I described in my August 11th post, “Hamilton’s Slip”, the primary motivation for European foreign policy is the containment of American might.
For this reason they will never accept a military occupation of Iraq. Instead they will argue for “nation building”, a phrase that encapsulates the expenditure of American money, without the corresponding rise in American power. If they can’t stop us from occupying the country, they will insist that it be done by an international entity – either the UN or NATO. Of course, we would still have to provide the bulk of the troops and the money, without any ability to control the situation on the ground. This must be avoided at all costs – an international entity is likely dilute the potency of all the benefits described here.
However, there is great potential here – for the first time in 50 years the West has a chance to remove itself from the oppressive yoke of Middle Eastern despotic oil suppliers. How nice would it be not to have to kow-tow to the various desert princes and potentates?
The final reason for occupation is economics. The control of Iraqi oil will enable us to defray the costs of occupation, rebuild Iraq and to stimulate the American economy.
The cost of war and occupation has been brought up as a major issue in the prospect of liberating Iraq. Aside from the fact that the costs can be seen as insurance against a more expensive attack on the US (see “Bravo Bush!”, September 5th, 2002), we can use a part of oil revenues to defray the costs of occupation.
In addition we can change one occupation for another. Years after the end of the Cold War, American troops are still based in Germany. Two Army divisions (out of 10), the 1st Infantry and the 1st Armored are still pulling duty in Deutschland. Who are they defending against? You can argue that he troops in Japan and South Korea are still countering North Korea and China, respectively, but there is no excuse to keep GIs in Germany anymore. The costs of occupying Germany will be spent on Iraq instead.
We can help the Iraqi economy by setting up another Marshall plan for the country. Under Saddam oil revenue primarily built palaces and weapons facilities, but the American military governor can build roads, schools and hospitals. In time the Marshall Plan can be extended to the entire region.
Finally, American, and thus the world economy, can be stimulated by cheap oil. Even after paying for the occupation and the Marshall Plan, we could sell oil below what the Saudis are willing to sell it for.
American military occupation of Iraq will be resisted by every group whose entrenched interests it will hurt. We can expect to hear stiff resistance from the EU, the UN and the Arab League. Even American Leftists will scream bloody murder about “neo-colonialism”. Nevertheless, it is the right thing to do, and we must do it despite the criticism. We must ask ourselves, why is it that the Iraqi people don’t deserve the same attention we gave the Germans and the Japanese?
As Misha naps on my lap....
Having spent the first two hours this morning repeatedly changing Misha (its unbelievable how futile a diaper is against a newborn's urine), I realize that it will take some time for me to finish my next piece on occupying Iraq. I'm not sure I'll do any better when I return to work next week. So, here are a few must reads this morning:
George Shultz asks:
Are we to be the Hamlet of nations, debating endlessly over when and how to act? Saddam Hussein's performance as ruler of Iraq is a matter of grave concern not just for the United States but for the international community as a whole. The major debate going on in the media, in Congress and with our friends and allies is necessary. But it is also necessary to move beyond debate and create the clarity that is the basis for action.
In a quote that is sure to ring around the cable shows today, Shultz says:
If there is a rattlesnake in the yard, you don't wait for it to strike before you take action in self-defense.
I have just one question, given the NY Times recent practice of highlighting prominent Republicans with Iraq opinions, can we expect to see this on the front page? Of course not!
To highlight the danger that Iraq faces, read this story
about new construction at Iraq's nuclear sites. Let me guess more baby milk factories? Is this not proof enough? Do they have to test a nuclear weapon in Midtown Manhattan for us to react?
Finally, Thomas D. Grant
lists some of the advantages of a war of Iraqi liberation. I will have more as soon as Misha is out of diapers...
Thursday, September 05, 2002
Shocking, but having a newborn has lessened my ability to write. Really, shocking. Misha is doing well, up to 8 pounds now, and eating very well. He also get fussy fits and decided that he is not going to sleep for a few hours in the middle of the night. He still loves to scream bloody murder when he is being changed. I'm getting used to the screaming in my ear. So, I have several half written pieces wainting for the right moment and the right amount of energy to finish.
In the meanwhile, consider this hypothetical posed by Tim Hames of the London Times.
Let us suppose that the various US intelligence agencies had been more skilful (or more fortunate) in piecing together the few clues they had about al-Qaeda 12-15 months ago. Suppose then that George W. Bush had announced that he had reason to believe that at some point shortly (he did not know where, when or how) a major attack would be undertaken against American targets. He was convinced that the source of the potential outrage would be the al-Qaeda organisation and that it could conduct such an operation only because it was being actively assisted and sheltered by the Taleban in Afghanistan.
He wished therefore, to complete the scenario, to launch a huge missile assault on alQaeda and also planned to impose “regime change” in Kabul. He could not be sure whether his statement would prevent whatever was being plotted against the United States occurring but it would make any further outrages much more difficult.
What would have been the reaction of the Liberal Democrats, chattering class opinion, church leaders, most European nations, the Arab world or the members of the UN Security Council? Would they have said, as Mr Blair might have, that the President was acting reasonably or would they have demanded considerably more “proof” and a transnational “consensus” before action was taken? I think we know the answer. The same people, organisations and countries who now oppose taking on Iraq would also have opposed intervention against Afghanistan. And they would have been wrong, while Mr Bush would have been right.
What the question boils down to is how many more Americans need to die to get "proof"?
Bush finally made it official -- he wants a vote from Congress (and before the election mind you!). No more undercutting the plan, now our elected representatives have to take a stand. Please call your Senator and Congressman and tell them that you support the war to liberate Iraq.
While we are at it, let's take down an argument the critics of the war are using -- cost. You see, it will cost us X billion dollars to fight Saddam. Who will pay? A better question to ask is what is the cost of not attacking. For the purpose of these critics, who put money above human life, lets ignore the civilian casualties. For example, after the attacks on the USS Cole and the US embassies in Africa, we could have attacked al-Queda in Afghanistan. There would have been costs, but surely less than $95 billion that were lost just in New York City!
That’s the way to approach the current attack on Iraq – what would be the cost of a WMD going off in Midtown Manhattan? It would make the city uninhabitable, people and companies would be displaced. The costs of clean-up, excess medical costs, dislocated people and companies, rerouting transportation infrastructure (NYC is a huge hub) would surely run over a trillion dollars. Never mind that tens of thousands will die and even more will get sick. OK, I pulled that number out of my ass, but it's only ten times the September 11th figure, and a WMD attack would cause mass civilian dislocation.
So think of the $60 billion dollars that we will spend on Iraq as an insurance policy agaist such an eventuality....
SIDENOTE/UPDATE: At one point in my career, I briefly dealt with catastrophe bonds. These are bonds that act as a capital markets insurance device, insuring agaist earthquakes and hurricanes. What I've forgotten is the fee that the insurance companies charge for this kind of protection. I think it was typically in the high single digits per annum. So, if you want $100 million coverage for an earthquake in central Japan (a very common risk fond in "cat" bonds), it will cost you, say, $7 million per year. Similarly, we should approach the terrorism issue. If we are trying to avert a trillion dollars of damage -- we can easily spend $60 billion per year to prevent it. Again, for the purpose of this discussion, I'm ignoring the purely human costs.
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Just learned this morning about a site focused on a protest of the New York Times, nytimesprotest.org. They ran two full page ads in the New York Sun and the New York Post. The site looks good.
Unfortunately, the site focuses only onthe paper's Mideast coverage. While this issue is near and dear to my heart, the papers "coverage" (propaganda is more like it) of the potential liberation of Iraq and the War agaist Jihadism also deserves to be protested. As Andrew Sullivan noted, the Times now out-Left's the Democrats. As I noted much earlier, the Times editors are now catering to the French Communists, rather than anyone in America (August 19th post).
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
John O'Sullivan in the NRO compares Chamberlanian appeasement with the modern variety.
The British rearmament program, begun in 1934, had not yet restored the nation's armed forces to the strength levels that would have been needed to take on Nazi Germany with reasonable confidence of victory.
America may need to rearm if Mr. Bush wants to fight several wars at once. But we are perfectly capable of taking on Saddam Hussein with our present level of forces. That is not to deny that the U.S. might suffer serious casualties — nothing is certain in war. But a defeat at the hands of Iraq can be fairly plausibly ruled out. Hitler and Saddam may be moral equals, but Hitler in 1938 was a far greater threat to Britain than Saddam today is to the U.S., to Europe, or to his neighbors.
Sunday, September 01, 2002
NY Times and the Death Penalty
Judging from this story on the front page of the Times, For Arab Informers, Death; For the Executioners, Justice, the paper would support the death penalty in America if only it was carried out by armed mobs of "militants" with beatings and torture leading to confessions. You know, a good old fashioned lynching. Now, that would be "Justice" as the Times defines it!
Saddam and Hitler
Alan Judd makes relates the current political debate on Iraq with the debate, in the 1930's, about what to do with Hitler.
Tomorrow, however, is the 63rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, and it is worth recalling that even that war - justifications for which now seem unassailable, an almost permanent answer to pacifism - was at the time a deeply divisive issue. Just as the prospect of invading Iraq provokes clerical and secular hand-wringing now, so did the prospect of taking up arms against Nazism then.
Germany from the early 1920s and Iraq from the early 1990s did all they could to rearm and make secret preparations to continue the fight. Both ever more aggressively breached the restrictions the international community imposed on them, whether by secretly building submarines or playing games with UN weapons inspectors. Both could have been stopped earlier by more resolute action, the one by Britain and France, the other by Bill Clinton. Both Saddam and Hitler demonstrated a fondness for chemical weapons and saw Jews as part of the problem.
Tomorrow, however, we might try to view current concerns through the eyes of those who, 63 years ago, witnessed the first sparks of an almost unimaginable conflagration. Many of them had doubts, too, even after the sinking, on day one, without warning, by a German U-boat of the British liner Athena, with the loss of 112 men, women and children.
More Pentagon "Leaks"
Another Pentagon leak to the Washington Post about the supposed inability of the Armed Forces to fight the War against Iraq and the War against Terrorism. I apologize, but the reluctance of Pentagon to go to war pisses me off. It’s like a cop unwilling to stop a robbery because he’s too busy giving out parking tickets:
Although Pentagon officials are proceeding to refine plans for a war against Iraq, military officers warn that a major campaign in the Middle East would place a serious drain on intelligence gathering and Special Forces units, two central components of the military's efforts to hunt down al Qaeda and Taliban members in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There is absolutely something wrong at the Pentagon. If the world’s largest military can’t fight a conventional war and a guerilla war at the same time, what are they good for? Let’s be very clear, I’m a supporter of a strong military, but leaks like this make me ask – where do my tax dollars go?
, the US military has 10 active Army divisions and 3 separate brigades. The Marines have 3 active divisions. The Air Force has 906 fighter or attack aircraft in 45 squadrons, the Navy has 436 in 36 squadrons and the Marines have 280 in 21 squadrons. The Navy has 317 active combat ships including 12 carriers. These numbers do not even include the reserve elements of our Armed Forces. We must ask if this massive military machine is worth paying for, if it is incapable of fighting one weakened Arab state (considering Arab military successes over the past 50 years). What if they were asked to fight a major power like China?
There are two possible solutions:
1. The problem is with the peacetime generals. They must be forcefully retired and replaced with a few gung-ho colonels. There is precedent for this from WWII. People forget that Eisenhower was a colonel when the war began. George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, kept promoting Eisenhower because he did not believe that the peacetime generals had enough gumption to fight a war. The skills required to be promoted in peacetime are totally different from those required in war.
2. Failing that, we should downsize the military. I mean, really downsize the military and focus on homeland defense. Focus the Navy on coastal defense, the Army on border patrols and the Air Force on defending our skies. Maintain and increase our nuclear weapons and work expediently on Ballistic Missile Defense. In other words, abandon our current power projection policy and assume an isolationist role. I don’t like this option one bit, but if the our huge military is functionally useless, then why pay for it?