Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Where is the WMD?
That’s the latest question posed by critics of the administration. We’ve been snookered, they say. The administration based its justification to go to war on the presence of WMD and it is nowhere to be found.
They are right, of course. So far, the search has come up empty. It is possible that the Saddam regime hid the weapons, destroyed them right before the war or shipped them elsewhere. It is also possible that American intelligence was wrong and the weapons were not there.
But given what we have seen of the Iraqi regime, does it matter? As Thomas Friedman put it:
As far as I'm concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war. That skull, and the thousands more that will be unearthed, are enough for me. Mr. Bush doesn't owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons (even if it turns out that the White House hyped this issue). It is clear that in ending Saddam's tyranny, a huge human engine for mass destruction has been broken. The thing about Saddam's reign is that when you look at that skull, you don't even know what period it came from - his suppression of the Kurds or the Shiites, his insane wars with Iran and Kuwait, or just his daily brutality.
Whether you were for or against this war, whether you preferred that the war be done with the U.N.'s approval or without it, you have to feel good that right has triumphed over wrong. America did the right thing here. It toppled one of the most evil regimes on the face of the earth, and I don't think we know even a fraction of how deep that evil went. Fair-minded people have to acknowledge that. Who cares if we now find some buried barrels of poison? Do they carry more moral weight than those buried skulls? No way.
Of course, there are those of us for whom the liberation of the Iraqi people has always been the primary reason for the war.
However, the new inquiries do tell us something about the questioners themselves. Namely, how much do these people really care about human rights if they are now complaining about being tricked into liberation? It appears that the questioners were unconvinced about the humanitarian argument for liberating Iraq. For them the procedural violation of UN resolutions was the only legitimate reason to invade. Even after liberation and discoveries of torture chambers, mass graves and children’s prisons these people are still unconvinced that humanitarian reasons alone justified the invasion. While this is a perfectly legitimate position to take, how can these people be taken seriously the next time they make an argument based on humanitarian reasons?
And do they ever! These guys are full of humanitarian appeals, but only when American society can be blamed. When someone else is the violator then procedures, debates and resolutions must comfort the victims. In those cases, violations of human rights, even the most severe cases like Iraq, are never enough to justify action.
This is culticidal
behavior. One set of morals applies to the US while a totally different applies to the anti-American totalitarian dictatorships. So the next time you hear one of these blowhards espouse on some perceived American human rights violation – understand that they care little about the violation itself and are only motivated by their hate of America.
Monday, April 28, 2003
Taking a break…
My job has a policy that if you don’t take your vacation days from the previous year by April 30, then you lose them forever. So I’m on vacation. I have tried to write something, I really did, but nothing has come out. Things are going well politically and I’m not motivated to write anything. I tried to write about the pro-Saddam celebrities, but they now sound like pathetic whiners. I tried to write something about the media coverage of the War, but many things have been said already. However, I think that the main culprit in my writer’s block is the good weather. After a long cold winter (a very curious phenomenon for a warming globe) the warmth has finally returned. I’ve had a great time just taking out my son for walks around the city.
That’s not to say that there is nothing to worry about. The ideological war against the culticidists must continue. We must strengthen our foreign policy despite our foreign policy establishment. But in the glow of victory and the first days of spring these things can wait a few days. I want to enjoy being daddy for a bit.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Foggy Bottom, 20520
Is it me, or are the American foreign policy establishment, academia and media elite all obsessed with popularity? Our popularity among other nations has become Topic One for the chattering classes. Who likes us? Who hates us? Why? And how can we get them to like us more? You would think that we were all back in high school and the most important thing in the world was getting elected Most Popular by the senior class.
Presumably, they will say, there is some sort of connection between being popular and being secure. But this connection is questionable. Does popularity really provide security? During the late 1990s, I traveled to France several times and felt very popular. Today, these feelings are gone and replaced with virulent anti-Americanism. This raises two interesting questions. One, is popularity worth pursuing if it’s as fickle as a Frenchman’s goodwill? Second, if the popularity in the 1990s was not genuine, as some now claim, how will we ever know that we are really popular? Delusions as to our popularity do not help our security.
High school is a fitting metaphor for our predicament. It is a social laboratory, where many lessons are learned about human nature. In this context we can begin to explore the reasons why we need the approval of others so much that we are willing to sacrifice our national security.
So, welcome to International Community High School. Ms. America is the school’s richest and prettiest girl. She gets straight A’s and is the captain of the school’s fencing team. Unfortunately, she is also painfully insecure and desperately wants to be popular. To improve her self-esteem she seeks to please others. Indeed, she did feel popular for a while, but who reached out when Ms America got in trouble? Almost no one wanted to be responsible. To be sure there were a few good hearts, especially the English chap, but the others were whispering that it’s all America’s fault – she got what she deserved.
America, the country, is no different. For fifty years, we have subsidized the rest of the world providing it with security so that they could focus their attentions elsewhere, asking nothing in return. The Europeans have built massive welfare states while the Arabs have used their excess oil wealth to spread their faith to our detriment. Now, those nations who needed us in their most vulnerable moments turn their backs on us.
Ms America is rightfully upset. “How did this happen? Didn’t everyone want to be with me just a short time ago? Why does everyone hate me now?” she asks. Maybe if she just gave more of herself, then everything would go back to “normal.” How would a parent or a caring friend deal with Ms America’s problems? What advice can they give her?
We can go through all the clichés that our parents told us. Popularity is not important. You can’t be popular with everyone. Pick your friends wisely – friends in need are friends indeed. Don’t let people take you for granted. Seek not popularity, but respect. These are helpful, but as every therapist will tell you, they won’t solve Ms America’s problems. You see, people who seek approval from outsiders do so because they don’t believe in themselves. If she wants to be respected by others, she must first learn to respect herself.
Imagine how the world sees America – a strong, successful nation whose influence is felt around the globe. Yet this reality is contrasted by the country’s lack of self-esteem. We deride our successes, our cultural habits and our political system. In short, we have the looks of Halle Berry, the mind of Einstein, the strength of Wonder Woman and the personality of Woody Allen. To those who are already jealous of us this is not humility – this is provocation. Our lack of belief in our success can sound scornful to those who have tried to compete with us, but have failed miserably. People like to believe that they were bested by worthy rivals and not by neurotics.
How can we hope export our ideals of democracy and our economic system when so many of us freely deride these very same institutions? How can we ask our allies not to be disloyal, when so many of us take our nation for granted? How can we ask others to respect us, when so many of us have so little national self-respect?
Foreign policy begins at home. To build a safer world we must discard our obsession with popularity and to find our self-esteem. We must build strong relationships with the few true friends we have and demand respect from others. Just like high school, at the 20 year reunion, no one will care how popular you were, just how successful.
UPDATE: Speaker Gingrich calls for reform of the State department. Amen!
ANOTHER UPDATE: State strikes back at its critics:
As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country. [Emphasis added]
Gee, that's a pretty defeatist statement by the administration! There is no hope there -- just defeat and political quagmire. If you had to guess who these unnamed "Bush administration officials" are, or what department they belonged to, what would be your call? This just proves that Newt is right -- State is no longer willing or able to carry out the will of the President. They have relegated themselves to taking potshots.
Friday, April 11, 2003
The revelation today, by CNN’s chief news executive Eason Jordan, is scandalous but not surprising if you are familiar with totalitarian regimes. Jordan stated that CNN has been regularly withholding News in order to maintain a presence in Iraq. They did not report the arrest and torture of one of it cameramen as well as the plot to assassinate Saddam’s sons-in-law. Because CNN could not possibly be the only organization to succumb to Iraqi pressures (and deserves some credit for coming clean) the entire Western journalism profession is implicated in this scandal.
I’m not overstating -- this is a scandal of giant proportions. It puts the entire function of news organizations into question. Follow me:
1. The raison d’être of journalists is to bring News to the public they serve.
2. News, at the very least, should be truthful and contain no material omissions.
Now read Jordan’s piece again – if he could not provide us with News by his presence in Iraq – why was he there? What could justify the presence of CNN, or the other news organizations, if they could not deliver the truth?
To understand the dynamic think back on the equity research scandal on Wall Street. Analysts, whose function was supposed to be to provide unbiased research, were anything but. During the hey day of the Nasdaq bubble they competed with one another on who can give the best “write-up” to a company.
As a result, analysts became mere spokesmen for the companies they “covered” just like these journalists became mouthpieces for the Saddam regime. Yes, they tried to pass on the truth in code, but so did the analysts. The crux of both scandals is that neither group fulfilled their function – analysts did not analyze and reporters did not report.
So, what’s the point of having them? If all the analysts did was to regurgitate the company line and all reporters do is summarize what the relevant Minister for Propaganda said – why bother with the middleman? Furthermore, how do we know in the future, that they are actually reporting the truth and not covering-up?
This scandal is not limited to Iraq. The reporting from the Palestinian Authority areas is just as tainted. In fact, we can assume that the news from any totalitarian regime in not News. That was certainly the case when the Soviet Union was around.
In many ways this is bigger than the research scandal and Enron. They were only about money – if we made the wrong choice we could only lose our money. But news organizations report on things that are far more important – in many cases if we make the wrong choice based on their reporting, people can lose their lives.
How can we solve this problem? Even the news organizations don’t want people to lose faith in them. The solution is not as easy – we cannot and should not regulate the news media by law. I don’t have any clever solutions, but there are three avenues of approach:
1. Improve journalist education, reinforce the notion that their client is the viewer/reader and not the client state.
2. Improve end user education. We as a society periodically seem to forget that news from a closed society is worthless. Time to relearn that fact.
3. Boycott – the market can regulate the news organizations. The profit motive gives and it can also take away. Disincentivize any organization from “reporting” lies.
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Here is a good example of culticidal attitudes. This article from the National Review Online talks about how many on the Left (not all) look at the issue of racism.
When it comes to America -- racism is a most heinous crime.
When it comes to America's enemies -- what's a little genocide, when its for a good cause?
The two attitudes on racism are not consistent. The most likely explanation for this paradox is that racism, for the pro-Saddam Left, is a convenient ideological weapon against the US and nothing else.