April 29, 2005
All the Right Enemies (and Friends!)
Victor Davis Hanson says that that United States is hated by all the right people:
At the U.N. it is said that a ruling hierarchy mistrusts the United States and that a culture of anti-Americanism has become endemic within the organization. No wonder — the Americans alone push for more facts about the Oil-for-Food scandal, question Kofi Annan's breaches of ethics, and want investigations about U.N. crimes in Africa. If we are mistrusted for caring about those thousands who are inhumanely treated by a supposedly humane organization, then why in the world should we wish to be liked by such a group?Ok but what about the Europeans? Shouldn't we want them to like us?
In short, who exactly does not like the United States and why? First, almost all the 20 or so illiberal Arab governments that used to count on American realpolitik's giving them a pass on accounting for their crimes. They fear not the realist Europeans, nor the resource-mad Chinese, nor the old brutal Russians, but the Americans, who alone are prodding them to open their economies and democratize their corrupt political cultures. We must learn to expect, not lament, their hostility, and begin to worry that things would be indeed wrong if such unelected dictators praised the United States.
The EU is well past being merely silly, as its vast complex of bureaucrats tries to control what 400 million speak, eat, and think. Its biggest concerns are three: figuring out how its nations are to keep paying billions of euros to retirees, unemployed, and assorted other entitlement recipients; how to continue to ankle-bite the United States without antagonizing it to the degree that these utopians might have to pay for their own security; and how not to depopulate itself out of existence. Europeans sold Saddam terrible arms for oil well after the first Gulf War. Democratic Israel or Taiwan means nothing to them; indeed, democracy is increasingly becoming the barometer by which to judge European hostility.Who, then, likes us?
Perhaps one billion Indians, who appreciated that at a time of recession we kept our economy open, and exported jobs and expertise there that helped evolve its economy.In short, we are hated by all the right people, and liked by all the right people. We should be disturbed if it was any different
Millions of Japanese trust America as well. Unlike the Chinese, who on script vandalized Japanese interests abroad in anguish over right-wing Japanese textbooks, Americans — who at great cost once freed China — without such violence urge the Japanese to deal honestly with the past. After all, the Tokyo government that started the war is gone and replaced by a democracy; in contrast, the Communist dictatorship that killed 50 million of its own and many of its neighbors is still in place in China. At a time when no one in Europe seems to care that Japan is squeezed between a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear China, the United States alone proves a reliable friend. The French, on spec, conduct maneuvers with the ascendant Communist Chinese navy.
Eastern Europeans do not find the larger families, religiosity, or commitment to individualism and freedom in America disturbing. Apparently, millions in South America don't either — if their eagerness to emigrate here is any indication.
April 28, 2005
Nostalgia for a Dictator?
One of the things that most perplexes Americans is the tendancy of some of those who once lived under totalitarian rule, and now live under at least some freedom, to express nostalgia for the ancien regime.
Consider two stories that were in the news recently. The first one is in today's Washington Times:
"Life has changed for the worse," said Bushra Mahmoud, 40, a mother of three who was sitting in the waiting area. "There is a creeping zealousness among men and women that is really frightening. You sit on the bus and have abuse heaped on you by the fanatics because you are not wearing the hijab [Islamic head covering]. These things never used to happen."They go on to point out that the situation for women is better in Afghanistan, where women can take off their burkas without fear. Too many religious conservatives were elected to the new legislative body in Iraq, however. While many women ran for office, only those with conservative values were elected.
Intimidation of women for religious reasons has become more common in the past year, and those who do not cover themselves are often the targets of kidnappers. Salons have been bombed and the Princess Salon's chief stylist, Nazar Zadayan, says he has been threatened several times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the nation Monday that the collapse of the Soviet empire "was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century" and had fostered separatist movements inside Russia.Such words are shocking to the majority of westerners. No matter the situation in Russia, how could anyone long for the Soviet Union? Does he not remember Stalin's terror?
In his annual state of the nation address to parliament and the country's top political leaders, Putin said the Soviet collapse was "a genuine tragedy" for Russians.
"First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century," Putin said. "As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.
I do not doubt that the fears expressed by the Iraqi women are well founded. When a country has been kept under the heal of a dictator for so long, all sorts of tensions are kept underground. Ancient hatreds and prejudices do not go away, they are simply put on hold. And when the dictatorship is removed, they spring to the surface.
It has been said by many that democracy is about more than holding elections. That has never been better illustrated by the stories above.
The German Experience
Perhaps the most famous example of a people longing for a authoritarian past and rejecting democracy occurred in Germany during the 1920's. To the modern mind, it would seem obvious that the Weimar Republic was better than Prussian militarism. Yet consider the hyperinflation that struck Germany during the early days of the Weimar Republic
(Nazi Germany: A New History, by Klaus Fischer):
Germans were caught in a vortex from which there seemed no escape. the world was upside-down: a simple penny postage stamp cost 5 million marks, an egg 80 million, a pound of meat 3.2 biullion, a pound of butter 6 billion, a pound of potatoes 50 million, a glass of beer 150 million. Prices changed from day to day, prompting people to rush to the stores armed with satchels of worthless money to buy simple necessities.It's not a wonder why people became Nazis.
To many Germans this period seemed like an economic apocalypse....We might also add that it also seemed like the end of faith in government, its good word, and its assurance that the savings of ordinary citizens would be protected.....The savings of thrifty middle-class Germans was wiped out. It was not uncommom for German savers to receive polite letters from bank managers informing them that "the bank deeply regrets that it can on longer administer your deposit of sixty-eight thousand marks, since the costs are all out of proportion to the capital. We are therefore taking the liberty of returning your capital. Since we have no bank-notes of small enough denominations at our disposal, we have rounded out the sum to one million marks. Enclusure: one 1,000,000 mark bill." To add insult to injury, the envelope was adorned by a canceled five million mark postage stamp.
The government literally was forced to take back small denomination bills and print extra zeroes on them, and them reissue them.
A Sailor's Story
When I was in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1993, one of the sights we visited was the cruiser Aurora. After paying our fee and going onboard the ship, we were met by an old man who, in passable English, offered to take us on a tour of the vessle. Knowledgeable by now as to the ways of Russia, we realized that he was not an official tourguide but just someone who wanted to make a few extra dollars by taking westerners on tours. We agreed and he did a fine job.
As always, we made it a habit to ask the people we met about their backgrounds and their opinions of various matters. We found out that this man had been a captain in the Soviet Navy but had retired several years ago, when the country was still the Soviet Union. His pension had been wiped out by inflation, and he depended on tips from westerners to make his living. He apparently talked the officials into letting him on board to do this, probably in return for a percentage of his tips. We had encountered this situation several times before and, given the man's knowledge of naval matters, had no reason to doubt his story. We gave him something like a ten dollar tip, which was an enormous sum of money in their economy.
Given this and other stories we've all heard about Russia, is it a wonder some people say that they long for the days of Stalin? There is something in us that longs for stability and predictability. And when it seems like the world is falling apart,
Nostalgia for a Dictator?
So do the people in the stories above truely long to be ruled by a dictator? I don't think so. I think it's more a desperation that comes from living in difficult and uncertain times. The Iraqi women do have good reasons to be afraid. The Russians do have cause to bemoan their reduced status in the world. The Germans of eighty years ago did have reason to think their world had turned upside down.
It's all too easy for us in the West to talk highly of freedom and democracy, when even our Great Depression was fairly mild compared to the situations described above. Success in Iraq and Afghanistan depends as much on security and the economy as it does on elections and establishment of a representative government.
Democracy is about a way of thinking, a means of peacefully resolving conflict within society. It is the establishment of common law, of civil society, of all those things that we take for granted but which takes centuries to get right, if ever at all.
So we mustn't be overly upset when we read about a people longing for days when they were ruled by a tyrant. We should take it as a warning, as a message that we have a lot of work to do. But I'm not really worried that we don't take this seriously in Iraq or Afghanistan. One of the hallmarks of American liberation, from the Marshall Plan in Europe, to MacArthur's administration of Japan after World War II, to our liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, has been our willingness to spend billions on reconstruction. That some on the left do not seem to recognize the importance of this investment must not disuade us from our task. We can only lose this War on Terror if we want to.
Saudi Deal with the Devil
"If someone knows that he is capable of entering Iraq in order to join the fight, and if his intention is to raise up the word of God, then he is free to do so," says Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan in Arabic on the October audiotape from a government mosque, obtained by NBC News.
While Luhaidan warns Iraq is risky because "evil satellites and drone aircraft" watch the borders, he stresses making the trip to fight Americans is religiously permissible.
"The lawfulness of his action is in fighting an enemy who is fighting Muslims and came for war," says Luhaidan.
"This statement shows the real face of the Saudi government," Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed of the Washington-based Saudi Institute told NBC, noting Saudi officials, including Luhaidan, publicly oppose holy war in Iraq, but send a different message in private.
"He is telling Saudis it's OK to go to Iraq and kill Americans and Iraqis and they won't be punished for doing that," says Al-Ahmed.
When a Saudi spokesman denied the authenticity of the tape, the network contacted Luhaidan himself in Saudi Arabia to play the tape.
"Yes, this is my voice," the sheik confirmed in Arabic.
But Luhaidan said he meant to convey the message that it's "not worth it for young Saudis to go to Iraq and that the Iraqis are capable of fighting on their own," according to NBC.
This is the result of the deal with the devil that the ruling Saudi family has made. When the kingdom was founded in the early 20th century, the Saudis essentially told the radical Wahhibist clerics "leave us alone and we'll keep you funded."
This "worked" for some time. But eventually the radicals grew bold enough to bite the hand that fed them. The defining moment was probably the presence of American troops on Saudi Arabia during and after the Gulf War. This was what caused Osama bin Laden to decide that America and the Saudi government would be his main targets.
As a result, the Saudis have suffered a spate of terrorist attacks over the past ten years or so. The situation appeared to be getting out of hand last year, but fortunately the Saudi government took action and appear to have the terrorists on the run now.
But even so, this does not correct the essential wrong within their country; that it is ruled by a corrupt dictatorship that is resistant to reform. And as I've said many times on this blog, it is to our detriment that we supported them for so long. It is high time that we call them to the carpet and demand basic reform. Sometimes Bush appears to be doing this, but othertimes he backtracks. As of now Bush is playing nicey-nice with them trying to get them to increast production to reduce oil prices, but his efforts have been in vain. It is high time we ended this short-term policy in return for one demanding basic reform.
April 27, 2005
The Near Capture of Zarqawi
It has been reported in several places that we almost caught Zarqawi in February.
On Feb. 20, the alleged terror mastermind was heading to a secret meeting in Ramadi, just west of Fallujah, where he used to base his operations, the official said.
Task Force 626 — the covert American military unit charged with finding Zarqawi — had troops in place to grab the fugitive, and mobile vehicle checkpoints had been established around the city's perimeter. Another U.S. official said predator drones were also in flight, tracking movements in and around the city.
A source who had been inside the Zarqawi network alerted the task force to the meeting. Officials deem the source "extremely credible."
Several points stand out.
First, the revelation that we have an agent or source "inside the Zarqawi" network is significant. Al-Qaeda is notoriously hard to penetrate. Second, sooner or later his luck will run out. His capture or death will be a tremendous psychological blow to the terrorists. Third, as a Fox News story says, we captured his laptop, which "contained valuable intelligence, including numerous photos — apparently some of which were recent pictures of Zarqawi."
Oh yes we are.
The Naysayers have had their day. While much could still go wrong, we turned the corner some time ago and are on the way to wrapping this up. The terrorists will create trouble for awhile, but the prospect of their taking control of the Iraqi government is now remote.
And I'm not just talking about the success of the elections and formation of a new government. I'm talking about defeating the insurgency, killing the terrorists and/or chasing them out of Iraq.
Rich Lowry sums it up
If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war. Our counterinsurgency has gone through the same stages as that of the Brits five decades ago: confusion in the initial reaction to the insurgency, followed by a long period of adjustment, and finally the slow but steady erosion of the insurgency's military and political base. Even as there has been a steady diet of bad news about Iraq in the media over the last year, even as some hawks have bailed on the war in despair, even as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has become everyone's whipping boy, the U.S. military has been regaining the strategic upper hand.
Last October Lowry wrote about "What Went Wrong". His current article in National Review (subscription required to view the full article) is "What Went Right". And despite what you may hear from the msm, much has gone right.
No doubt much went wrong at first. In retrospect, it almost seems obvious that this should have been the case. When one thinks back on most American wars, from the Revolution to the Civil War (from the North's perspective) to World War II, they all follow the same pattern; initial mishaps if not diasasters, incorrect assuptions, American rethinking, and finally we get our act together and utterly defeat our enemy.
The Strategy of Public Works
We had to change our strategy:
The U.S. strategy became to use every instrument of power at our disposal (military, political, economic, etc.) to drive a wedge between the Sunni fence-sitters and the irredeemable elements of the insurgency — the criminals, the various Islamists, and the FREs. Attempts would be made to engage the Sunnis, while the other forces would be captured or killed. The strategy involved four main lines of operation — security, governance, basic services, and the economy — all of which complemented each other and had the goal of creating a legitimate Iraqi government that could look after its own security.
It was a blending of carrot and stick. There are two ways to try to keep someone from taking $200 to attack Americans: “You can raise the cost to someone of planting an IED [an Improvised Explosive Device] by making it more likely you will kill him, but also by providing alternatives that make him less likely to want to take the risk in the first place,” says an administration official. Or as an officer in Iraq puts it, “You can’t kill or capture everybody.”
That’s why infrastructure projects and other economic-development measures are so important. Our troops became the equivalent to FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps, employing Iraqis in thousands of public works projects.
The most important thing we did was to move from "occupation" to "liberation". No matter how we saw it, many Iraqis saw us as an occupation force. Many around the world shared this view, no matter what the reality. The result was that we faced a propaganda nightmare of lies and misinformation. But whatever the truth, people act on their perceptions.
Thus we had to disband the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and hand real power over to an Iraqi government. Elections had to be held as soon as possible no matter the danger. The Pentagon, to it's credit, had wanted to do this all along. It had been held back mainly by State.
It was handing power to Allawi, then, that was the turning point. It allowed Iraqis to fight for something that was their own. The elections consolidated and confirmed this transfer.
Training New Iraqi Forces
In addition, we needed to put more effort into training Iraqi police and military forces.
The police needed more military-style preparation. “We had built it on a Western, police-force-in-a-democracy model,” says a top officer in Iraq. The training now emphasizes survival skills, force protection, IED-detection, and the use of AK-47s. More emphasis has been placed on the training of units. “Individual police are important, but they can’t stand up to insurgents,” says the officer, who invokes as a model the special carabinieri units that took down the mafia in Sicily.
The End of Sanctuaries
During the Vietnam War the enemy had many sanctuaries; Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam itself. We had allowed Fallujah to become such a sanctuary in Iraq. This had to change.
We learned that you can't fight a war on a "start and stop" basis. If you're going to go in, you have to finish the job. Start-and-stop simply gives the enemy confidence that you don't have the will to win.
This time, Iraqi forces did much better. We used them to take down sensitive targets, such as Mosques and hospitals.
Our forces performed brilliantly
The performance of the U.S. forces was spectacular. Marines got shot and kept on fighting. When the battle ended, there was a rash of reports of previously ignored wounds. “Headquarters asked, ‘Why are you reporting 35 wounded so late?’” says Natonski. “We were reporting them so late because these kids didn’t report it when they were wounded. The Corpsmen bandaged themselves up and stayed in the fight. The Marines at Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, and Vietnam set the bar pretty high, and they lived up to the standard.”
All of the indicators, Lowry says, are now moving in our direction:
If the infrastructure and economy leave much to be desired, they have improved over the immediate post-invasion conditions. Iraqi security forces are better. More intelligence is available, both from tips and because Iraqi forces — more attuned to local conditions — are in the fight. Sanctuaries for insurgents have been denied in Iraq’s cities and a little progress has even been made with regard to Syria. (“The resources aren’t flowing as freely from Syria anymore,” an administration official explains. “The people who lead the insurgency are not as comfortable. They are not sleeping in the same places at night.”) Finally, the political process is on track, even if stumbling blocks remain, and it’s not clear whether the balance of Sunni fence-sitters will participate in it
All of this is encouraging, especially if you have realistic expectations.
The latest from StrategyPage (April 25 post)
The terrorists have been losing popular support, as well as angering Iraqis to the point where many Iraqis are no longer afraid to resist the gangs that control many villages and neighborhoods by fear. The terrorists are usually Sunni Arabs who either supported Saddam, or are violently opposed to the idea of the Shia majority running the country. Most Sunni Arabs don't really care who runs the place, as long as it is done with less violence and corruption than Saddam used.
The suspects arrested in the downing of the Bulgarian helicoper a few days ago were turned in by fellow Iraqis, a trend that has been increasing as of late. It may not be that people have allegiance to the new government so much as they are just fed up with violence that is increasingly directed against them.
Thus the terrorists are caught in a quandary; if they attack American or coalition forces they are slaughtered, if they attack Iraqis they lose the support of the population. Revolutionary leaders from Mao to Castro depended on popular support for their success. Some, like the Viet Cong, were able to at least terrorize a politically apathetic population into acquiesence.
Faced with this difficult choice, they are attacking the target of least resistance; unarmed civilians. Unfortunately for them, these attacks are not
...encouraging Iraqis to support the terrorists, or reduce popular support for the government. The Americans are no longer blamed for the bombings, although it's still popular to blame the attacks on Islamic "foreigners."
Good enough for me.
You may be under the impression that the war in Iraq is all a case of U.S. forces sitting around waiting for a bomb to go off (punctuated by the occasional Iraqi raid), rest assured that while
Attacks are still staged, but often they are situations where it amounts to the attackers being ambushed. Such is the case in western Iraq, where American troops set up small bases in areas known to be full of anti-government forces. Soon, the local terrorists will stage attacks, which inevitably fail, with heavy terrorist casualties. The terrorists never seem to catch on to how many disadvantages they have. The Americans have extensive intelligence resources (especially electronic eavesdropping), night vision equipment and disciplined troops manning camp defenses.
April 26, 2005
Terror in the Skies Update
and The James Woods Encounter
Last July (here, here here and here I wrote about Annie Jacobson, who's experience on Northwest flight 327 was the subject of her much-talked about "Terror in the Skies" article in the Women's Wall Street Journal.
At the time some say that she overreacted. I wondered, but thought it credible. Michelle Malkin, who has done great work keeping air safety in the forefront of her reporting, thinks so also. Joe Scarbough took it seriously enough to report on it on his MSNBC television show.
Jacobson's latest installment on the incident appeared a few days ago in the Women's Wall Street Journal. This one details a visit she got from the Department of Homeland Security, which took the incident a lot more seriously than did Transportation.
Here's what I find fascinating: while one arm of the government (the Federal Air Marshal Service) has vehemently maintained all along that "nothing happened on flight 327," the other, more muscular arm (the Department of Homeland Security) has been conducting a rather large investigation about it. Based on my 4 ½ hour meeting with the agents, I can tell you that not only have they been investigating what did happen during the flight, but they've also been investigating who botched the subsequent investigation as well as how it got botched.(Hat tip Michelle Malkin).
Thank you, Tom Ridge.
The Homeland Security agents had called her to request an interview (they called her on her cell phone, which is of course an unlisted number. Interesting...) Anyway, four agents flew from their office in Los Angeles to her house in Chicago even though Jacobson had warned them that she was about to give birth so might not be available.
The first thing I clarified for the agents was that, prior to my experience on flight 327, I had never heard of a "probe" or a "dry run." For the record, I explained, I had never heard of the James Woods incident either. [In case you're not aware, the actor James Woods flew on an American Airlines flight from Boston to Los Angeles one month prior to 9/11. Alarmed by the behavior of a group of four Middle Eastern men, Woods summoned the pilot and told him that he was "concerned the men were going to hijack the plane." A report was filed with the FAA on Woods' behalf but, tragically, no one followed up with Woods or the men. A few days after 9/11, several federal agents showed up in Woods' kitchen. Woods can't talk about what was said -- he believes his testimony will be used in the trial of the supposed 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui-- but, in an interview with Bill O'Reilly, Woods revealed that his flight "was a rehearsal [for 9/11] with four men."]You have got to read the whole thing.
Standing in my kitchen, one of the agents said, "What I can tell you is this: Mohammed Attawas one of the passengers on that flight with James Woods." (Apparently, this information has never been made public.) With that, the agent pulled out his chair, opened his notebook and started in with his questions for me (at which point the other three agents opened up their notepads almost simultaneously).
The New Yorker also wrote a story on the James Woods incident by Seymore Hersh. Since I don't generally trust Hersh you'll have to take it for what it's worth.
This is also another reason why I don't trust Snopes, a so-called "rumor investigating" website. Their bias on the matter shows plainly in their "investigation." Over the past few months I've seen lefties quote them in attempts to say that something or another "has been debunked by snopes". But even a cursory reading of many snopes articles reveals shoddy research and an obvious bias.
Far from being an "urban legend", as snopes would have us believe, the case is not at all closed:
The agents who sat with me all morning going over the events of flight 327 seemed sincerely committed to getting to the bottom of what happened on that flight. It seemed obvious that they believe something happened. Was it a probe? A dry run? A training exercise or an intelligence gathering mission? My sense is that the jury's still out on a hard and fast answer. But flight 327 was far from a situation involving 13 hapless Syrian musicians and a case of bad behavior.
Don't let your guard down.
Prayers for Laura
Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham has announced that she has breast cancer. From her website:
You know I hate Drama Kings or Queens, but I am asking for your prayers today and for the forseeable future. On Friday afternoon, I learned that I have joined the ever-growing group of American women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. As so many breast cancer patients will tell you, it all came as a total shock. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who love me--my family, a wonderful fiance (if he thinks he's going to get out of marrying me because of this little blib, he's sadly mistaken!), my friends, and my church. I am absolutely blown away by how helpful and kind everyone has been--including total strangers who have experienced the same rollercoaster of emotions. The sisterhood of breast cancer survivors is inspiring. I am truly blessed. On Tuesday I will have an operation and within a few days will know more about the future. I am hopeful for a bright future and a "normal" life (well, scratch the "normal" part). Anyway, people have gone through much worse, and I know I'll obliterate this. I am thanking you in advance for your prayers. You are my family. And remember, I'll be back sooner than you thinkMy prayers and thoughts are with her for a speedy recovery.
April 25, 2005
Iran Liberty Walk
Iran is going to get the bomb unless the United States takes drastic action, action that we know we are not going to take.
Some Iranian expatriates want freedom for their homeland and want to warn us of the consequences of letting Iran get the bomb. The Iran Freedom Foundation is one of those organizations. They are " made up of American and Iranian scholars, professionals, philanthropists and human rights advocates who have joined together to support the rights of the Iranian people."
Iran Liberty Walk
Dr Jerone Corsi, author of Atomic Iran: How the Terrorist Regime Bought the Bomb and American Politicians, is organizing a march from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Washington DC beginning May 16.
Designed to help bring peaceful change in Iran, "The Iran Liberty Walk" will begin at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The walk will be broadcast into Iran via radio, television, and the Internet, featuring live coverage and interviews with those participating in the event. It is estimated that some 40 million Iranians will follow the coverage of "The Iran Liberty Walk."
Corsi, age 58, says the route from Philadelphia to DC is approximately 128 miles and will take two weeks to complete. "I am 58 years old and yet determined to walk the distance. I invite all who share our purpose to join me for as much of the walk as you can."
That "40 million will follow the coverage" seems a bit optimistic to me. Nevertheless, all freedom-loving people should wish him and his followers well. While I do not know much about the group (other than a personal reference, see below), and thus cannot vouch for them, I have read their website through and they appear to be a genuine freedom group.
On a Personal Level
One of the guys I work with is an Iranian expatriot. He and his family escaped just before Khomeini's takeover in 1979. He was kind enough to introduce me to the Iran Freedom Foundation. Over the past year I've had many discussions with him about his country and American policy. He is, as you may imagine, a supporter of President Bush's policy of spreading democracy, and was quite excited by the Inaugural address and State of the Union Speech.
I'll track the march and provide updates in future. In the meantime, check out their website and sign their petition.
April 23, 2005
Not One Dime
It's now about 50/50 as to whether John Bolton will be confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations. If he is confirmed, it's a step forward for reform. If he is not confirmed, the ramifications go far beyond the UN.
At this point I have to think that the GOP base is becoming upset at their Senators. As a whole they are simply not standing up for John Bolton. Even worse, they are not forcing the issue on judicial nominations like we hoped they would. "Not one Dime" - no money for the GOP - is a theme I've heard around the Internet. I don't know if contributions have fallen off or not, but I can tell you that I'm a lot more hesitant to respond to GOP fund-raising letters than I was a few months ago. And if we lose on this nomination and on judicial nominations in general, it's going to be a while before the national party gets any money from me.
And now we have Colin Powell coming out against Bolton. From what I read, it's the usual "strategic leak" campaign we've come to expect from him. Sad to say, my opinion of Powell has sunk these past few years. He was a great general, a not-so-good secretary of state, and and now is it going too far to call him a back-stabber? Ugh.
The Democrats, of course, have it all wrong on the United Nations. Their sentimentality for the institution in the face of all of it's scandals is disgusting. Bolton, however, is clear-headed about it and the role of the Secretary General
"... One should not invest excessive hope in any secretary-general. The U.N. Charter describes the secretary-general as the U.N.'s 'chief administrative officer.' He is not the president of the world. He is not a diplomat for all seasons. He is not Mr. Friend of the Earth. And most definitely of all, he is not commander in chief of the World Federalist Army. He is the chief administrative officer. Nothing less than that, to be sure, but, with even greater certainty, nothing more."This is common sense to me. But, as Mona Charen points out,
Bolton's approach to the United Nations, which was also the approach of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, is anathema to U.S. liberals. During the confirmation hearing, Sen. Barbara Boxer played a tape of Bolton's frank description of the United Nations' top-heavy bureaucracy. "There are 38 floors to the U.N. building in New York. If you lost 10 of them, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," Bolton is heard to say.
Triumphant in her belief that she had caught Bolton out, Boxer declared: "You have nothing but disdain for the United Nations. You can dance around it, you can run away from it, you can put perfume on it, but the bottom line is the bottom line." Sen. Joseph Biden wondered aloud why Bolton even wanted the job.
They just don't get it. At this point any decent person can only but have distain for most of the United Nations. I'm not even going to recite all of the scandals and misdeeds of that institution, as I don't have time. That the left still wants to play nicey-nice shows how blinded by ideology they have become.
As for my side, I'm disappointed in them, and the next week will be telling. We'll see what our money has gotten us. If they don't perform, a google search for "not one dime" is going to bring even more returns than it does now.
Should the Senate proceed and vote to confirm John Bolton? [2494 votes total]
Yes, right away (2354): 94%
No (92): 4%
Yes, after a little more debate (48): 2%
April 22, 2005
Apologies for the light blogging this week. Personal matters have intervened and may keep me away from the computer next week also.
If you don't see much new hear please go to my other blog site, Conserva-Puppies, where there's always a lively discussion.
I've read several articles about why the Democrats don't want to confirm him as ambassador to the UN and it all pretty much seems to come down to "he wasn't nice to some of his employees a few times"
It's all last-minute character assassination and we shouldn't stand for it. That RINOs like Voinovich fall for this stuff is deplorable. We need someone like Bolton to whack the scoundrels at the UN over the head and hard. Jeanne Kirkpatrick did it in the early 80's and the left hated her for it. They remember how successful she was and don't want another person like her as ambassador, which is reason enough for me that he should be confirmed.
So what exactly is it that he has done wrong? The allegations against him as so "inside the beltway" that you have to think that people around the country have no idea as to what it's all about. In fact, I can't recite them now. I'd have to look them up, which I have neither the time nor inclination to do.
The bottom line is that the Democrats are going after DeLay because he has proven to be an effective leader. They want a head to hand on their wall to go along with Bob Livingston and Newt Gingrich. It's become a tit for tat over the past ten years; first we got their Tom Foley, then they got our Newt Gingrich. We got their Tom Daschle, now they're going after our leader. Well, at least our side has real ideas and an agenda to go along with our headhunting. The Democrats are all "no, no, no" these days.
Pope Benedict XVI
Andrew Sullivan has his panties in a wad over the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger as pope. In fact, liberals in general are apopolectic. This tells me that he was an excellent choice.
I am not a Roman Catholic, so won't comment on theological matters directly. But I have seen what the adoption of leftist politics can do to church membership. As a one-time Presbyterian (PCUSA) I've seen their membership decline by 40% over the past thirty years.
Winner of the Chutzpah of the Week award, Annan claims that the Volker Commission's report exonerates him. Thankfully the Bush admistration is saying that Annan's future "is not certain", which is diplospeak for "we're mad as hell at him but can't say it directly." Too bad the Democrats seem to be missing the boat on the UN.
Is Condolezza Rice the greatest Secretary of State we've had for a long time or what? Check out these interviews (here and here) with her that Bill Rice posted on his blog over at Dawn's Early Light. Every time I learn more about her I'm the more impressed.
April 18, 2005
It's not too late...
...to sign up for the next GOPUSA Issues and Action Conference
Where: Woodbridge Sheraton
When: Saturday May 14
Contact: New Jersey GOP-USA | 212-592-4176 | email@example.com
Long-time readers of this blog will recall that I attended one of these conferences last year when it was held in Washington DC and had a great time. If you're anywhere near the New Jersey area, please consider signing up.
Leftist Assaults on Free Speech
As anyone who's followed the blogosphere recently knows, there's been a spate of incidents recently in which leftist protesters have thrown pies and other food at conservative speakers.
Is it a big deal? Michelle Malkin thinks so:
I've caught a few of her campus lectures on C-SPAN, and can tell you that the left hates her with a vengence. At the ones I've seen the campus police kept the rabble-rousers out of the lecture hall, but you could hear their chants in the background.
Drudge linked last night to a story and video of Pat Buchanan getting attacked by a deranged college student while giving a speech. The assailant doused Buchanan's face completely with salad dressing. He screamed, "Stop the bigotry!"before charging within inches of Buchanan and nearly hitting him in the head with the bottle as well.
If you think this is funny, you are sick. This is madness and it is chilling. Where are all the free-speech defenders when you need them? Too busy defending loons like you-know-who and trying to suppress the free-speech rights of law-abiding citizens.
These physical attacks targeting conservatives on campus and in the public square are getting more frequent. (See Kristol, Coulter, Perle, Harris, and the conservative kid who got kicked by a left-wing nut professor, for starters.) The Left continues to snicker about it. The MSM makes light of it (CBS: "A Dressing-Down For Pat Buchanan"; NPR: "What's a little pie in the face?"). And for the most part, college administrators let the thugs get away with it.These unhinged moonbats have more thoroughly exposed the great myth of liberal tolerance than any conservative critic could. For that, I suppose we should be grateful.
Some will say that this is no big deal. What, after all, are a few pies? And if that was all conservatives could point too, I'd agree. But it is really just part of a larger attempt by leftists to prevent conservatives from speaking at all.
This is not something new. In the 1980s conservative speakers were regularly shouted down on college campuses by well-organized leftist mobs.
Two friends, Barbara and Lyn La Cava got to see leftist mobs up close recently at the University of Texas when they went to hear David Horowitz speak. As is the standard practice, Horowitz would make some remarks, after which there would be a question and answer period.
The event was sponsored by the University of Texas Federalist Society. Barbara, a member of the "Middle-aged Moms" provides this description of what she saw on her blog, Quid Nimis:
The group that was apparently organized to disrupt the lecture used three main tactics: holding up aforementioned cheesy signs, shouting and interrupting verbally, and using cell phones and air horns to create noise. At various times some were hustled out by campus security, some left noisily of their own accord ("Some people can't handle the truth") and some put up a fuss so that they had to be handcuffed, which is the pseudo-revolutionary's martyrdom. You get extra points if you manage to wrest your arm away from the cop long enough to hold your fist high and scream, "Power to the peopllllle!!" Such courage, such passion, such fervor. One could almost hear the the plaintive chorus of babushka-ed garment workers singing "Bread and Roses." Having been to several Horowitz lectures in the past, and this time her and her fellow conservatives were prepared to meet the leftists head on. Lyn La Cava tells us what happened:
There were the usual tedious, hostile rampages posing as questions during the Q & A, but no threat of shutting down the lecture. This time they almost succeeded, as Horowitz rightly refused to talk over persistent cell phone ringing, air horns, shouting and signs. Aggression from the Left is intensifying. This time I wondered if I had erred by sitting front row center, in the line of fire of a pie - or worse. Yet once the rabble attacked, our group stood up against them, adrenaline and outrage trumping anxiety. It was gratifying to toss decorum aside and shout back at these thugs to shut up, go home and grow up. When they shook their fists, we shook ours back. When one charged down the aisle sputtering and shouting, we rose against him yelling “Let Horowitz speak!” among other suggestions. When some acted victimized at being cuffed and led out by police we cried, “Whaa, baby, go home!” At one point the room erupted into a cacophony of yelling from both sides about rights, fascism and free speech.Apparently she's made enough of an impact on her blog that a few leftists have discovered it and, dispute their description of events in the comments section. I wasn't there, so I can't authoritatively say one way or the other, but I can tell you that over the years I've read so much about situations like these that Barbara and La Cava's descriptions fit perfectly.
And, indeed, a story in the Daily Texan about the lecture backs them up:
Opposition groups were holding signs and speaking out during Horowitz's speech on Wednesday, but when they were told to stop speaking, some took out noisemakers to mark their disapproval of the speaker. Three females and three males were arrested and then jailed under charges of disrupting a meeting or procession - a Class B misdemeanor. The subjects were not UT students.People who can not or will not control themselves deserve to be arrested. The invited speaker deserves to have his or her say. Occasional cheering or booing is fine, but it should not go on long enough to prevent the speaker from continuing. There is always a Q & A period, and this is the time during which dissent should be expressed. Tough and pointed questions are fine, no one has any objections to them.
According to the Daily Texan, two of the students were arrested for using an air horn, and the other four for "verbal utterances" , described as "yelling and arguing with a speaker". Again, this to me is unacceptable behavior and they deserved arrest.
But this is not all the leftists did. Again, the Daily Texan:
Melissa Hotze, assistant vice president of events, was sitting in the last row of the auditorium and said she was frustrated that the protesters would not sit down until the question and answer period to voice their opinions.In other words, they refused to follow the rules and decided that they would act like spoiled brats. That's the nicest thing I can say. The worst is that they're really a bunch of fascists but are too ignorant of history to know it.
Predictably, the left views all this as "an assault on free speech"
No, Dana, you do not have the right to shout down speakers. You do not have the right to disrupt a lecture. If you want to make a fool of yourself go outside and march around with the stupid signs you leftists usually carry. But when you disrupt speakers, I'm going to cheer when you get arrested.
I have made a few minor corrections in the above text that was brought to my attention by Lyn La Cava.
We also have some commentary on the article in the Daily Texan, provided by Quid Nimis:
The Daily Texan article was apparently written by someone who wasn't there. There is no mention of the VIGOROUS anti-protest group shouting back at the Socialists/Anarchists/Totalitarian-Welcome-Wagon Leftist Frat Boys 'n Girls. Its primary source is a Leftist professor of Communications, Dana Cloud, whom the article quotes at the beginning and end, and, secondarily, the police blotter.
[Note to self : add "Communications" to list of joke majors, along with Education and Sociology.]
Turns out there were a total of six "cuffed martyrs" who got to spend about 18 hours as guests of the police department. None of them were actually students at UT (Surprise!).
Apparently the left imports professional agitators. As I said above, these people use fascist tactics whether they know it or not.
April 15, 2005
"Discover the Network" works
As I mentioned in an earlier post, David Horowitz has created a new website called "Discover the Network" which is a database of left-wing groups and people. It is the best single research tool for this that I have found so far.
I used it yesterday in a debate with a leftist on Dr. Sanity's website. The leftist challenged us to name "anti-America, anti-Democracy" academics. I used "Discover the Network" to list several in my reply. He (or she) was taken aback. It was, I admit, quite satisfying.
Horowitz has a new post on his Frontpagemag site in which he debates a leftist professor, who "has concerns" about Discover the Network:
FP: Prof. Timothy Burke and David Horowitz, welcome to the third and final part of our series on DiscoverTheNetwork.org. Prof. Burke, let me begin with you. What is your assessment of DiscoverTheNetwork? And can you kindly also tell us where you personally stand on members of the left who ally themselves with the enemy in our terror war?
Read the whole thing.
Professor) Burke: On DiscoverTheNetwork, some of my objections have already been ably described by my colleagues. Let me mention a few of my greatest concerns.
First, I think the entire project has an almost non-existent sense of what represents a “linkage” between two separate individuals. This is the bread and butter art of intellectual or political history, the major question in the study of social networks. What is minimally needed to claim a serious or substantial connection between two people in terms of ideas they share, institutional projects they are both contributing to, influences they exert on one another? Whether you’re talking about a connection across time (some individual in the past influencing some individual at a later time) or space (some individual in one society or community influencing another), you have to define what you regard as a meaningful connection, stick to that definition, and provide evidence of it. ...
Horowitz: Professor Burke begins with a series of insults – as seems to be the norm for leftists, particularly when discussing issues with conservatives whose work they have not read. But underneath the unearned scorn poured forth in Professor Burke’s first two paragraphs lies an interesting point, in fact the only interesting point that has surfaced in the three conversations so far.
If I could rephrase this point for Professor Burke, it would be that DiscoverTheNetwork doesn’t articulate the rationale for the linkages it makes on the site in a fashion explicit enough to make clear to him and leftists like him what the rationale might be for its construction. (I notice I have received no such critiques of the linkages on DiscoverTheNetwork from conservatives of whatever persuasion. Nor have any liberals for that matter found the categories in the site suspect let alone risible.) In Professor Burke’s view – respectfully rephrased -- DiscoverTheNetwork identifies networks but doesn’t explain why anyone who shares the assumptions and prejudices of the left should take them seriously
Best Non-Council Post
Interestingly, the other post that won was also about China; "China's Time Bomb's" over at The Glittering Eye. Check it out.
Thank you to everyone who read my post and thought it worthy.
Thank you especially to Marvin Hutchins, who submitted my post.
April 14, 2005
One Year Blogging Anniversary (almost, anyway), and
Thoughts on Blogging
How has blogging affected your life?
By an accident of timing this question comes almost exactly one year after I started blogging. My first post was April 28, 2004. I started out hoping I would be able to stick with it, which in retrospect should have been the least of my concerns. I've been planning a one-year anniversary post anyway, so I may as well use patterico's question as my lead.
The short answer to patterico's question is that I have become almost completely addicted to it. So much so, in fact, that I am now in the process of moving off of Blogger, a free service to a paid service.
A bit of background
I started blogging with a few objectives in mind:
- To help me organize and consolidate my thoughts on the issues of the day
- To make me a better writer. For years I've read books by the cartload, and had innumerable discussions with people. But it's one thing to toss an idea around in your head, and quite another to put it down on paper.
- I wanted to receive feedback and critique, which in turn would give me an opportunity to reevaluate my ideas.
- It forces me to think things through and, hopefully, make sure that my arguments are logical.
- Writing makes me a better debater. By that I don't necessarily mean "argue", although sometimes it comes down to that. Rather I've noticed that when engaged in discussion I can explain an idea better now that I've written about it.
If you're like me then you don't go around talking politics to everyone you meet. Certainly at work, where it seems we spend so much of our lives, I don't talk politics except perhaps with a - very - few trusted associates. And in daily life it's not something that get's discussed much, and when I do it's not in depth. Politics being as divisive as it is, and myself being so passionate about it, the last thing I want to do is to create unnecessary divisions and hard feelings.
Oh sure, there is always the occasional exception. But in general my intellectual experience has been confined to reading books and talking about them only occasionally with a few people.
With my family it's an entirely different matter. We talk politics almost everytime we meet. Everyone is a conservative, so any disagreement is usually over things like "how great a danger is Hillary?" or something like that. We're a pretty loud bunch, with everyone talking at once, kids running around, the whole bit. But we don't get together but once every month or so.
I've Found Them
So I don't talk politics or history with most people, but intellectually I know they're out there. After all, someone else must subscribe to National Review. Someone else must be buying Tom Sowell's books.
Sure, I read the Internet magazines like National Review Online and Frontpagemag. But when you can't really interact with the authors, it's all...distant. I don't want to say it's not real, but it's certainly not personal.
Blogging has allowed this interaction in a way I did not forsee when I started this project. The only blog I read when I started this was Andrew Sullivan and National Review's The Corner. Neither of these post comments, although you can send the author email. The level of interaction between bloggers and other people who simply comment was something that I did not anticipate at all and is the most rewarding part of the entire experience.
Finally, I've been able to meet people who share my beliefs - or most of them anyway - and interact with them in a way that I've long hoped for but was never able to realize. I've "met" some very interesting and smart people, and am much the better for it. I won't list names for fear of exclusion, but you know who you are.
My biggest problem now is finding time to do everything on the Internet that I want to do. I even co-blog on another site, Warm 'n Fuzzy Conserva-Puppies. I've accepted an invitation from Marvin Hutchens to co-author a "Threat Assessment" index in which we rank, track, and provide information about threats to our country.
I'd also be dishonest if I didn't just come right out and say that I'm darn proud of the work that I have done on my site. This thing has grown and changed in ways that I hoped it would and in ways I did not ancipate, but all of it has been good. I know it's not the best writing or analysis out there, but it's more than I've ever done before, and if I may say, some of it is pretty good. So there.
Lastly, I want to thank all of you who are reading this now, and those of you who are regular readers. Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you again.
April 13, 2005
The Israeli Settlements
In the news on a periodic basis is the issue of Israeli settlements on two pieces of territory; the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Last week Israeli Prime Minister Sharon met with President Bush on the latter's ranch in Texas, where they discussed these and other issues. Sharon wants to "evacuate" settlers from Gaza, while expanding settlements on the West Bank.
Like everyting else in the Middle East, the technical, social, and historical details are unbelievably complex, but the moral issues are fairly straightforward.
Here is a map of Israel for those folks not completely familiar with the geography. One thing to keep in mind is how small the area concerned is. Look at the scale; one could drive the entire length of Isreal in two or three hours. You can stand on some hills on the West Bank and see the Mediterranian Ocean.
The (very) short version of the history of Israel as regards the settlements is that after the 1948 War of Independence Israel formed borders now known as the "pre-1967 borders". This is the light colored area in the map above.
While the reasons for the 1967, or "Six Day War", are, like everything else in that region of the world, complex, but essentially repeated provocations, including blockade of sea routes by Egypt and Syria convinced Israel that it had no choice but to "pre-empt" the Arabs by attacking first. On the morning of June 5 the Israeli Air Force wiped out first the Egyptian Air Force, then the Syrian Air Force, while they sat on the ground in a "Pearl Harbor" type raid. With the Arab air forces decimated, Israeli ground troops quickly destroyed their enemies.
During this war Israel captured four territories:
1) The West Bank (west bank of the Jordan river) captured from Jordan
2) The Golan Heights (a plateau in south-western Syria bordering Israel) captured from Syria
3) The Gaza Strip (now in west south-western Israel) captured from Egypt
4) The Sinai Desert (marked simply "Egypt" on the map above) captured from Egypt
Of these territorie, Sinai was returned to Egypt as part of the Sadat-Begin peace accords of 1979.
Shortly after occupying the territories the Israelis began to occupy them with civilians.
Again, the short version is that Israel captured these terrorities because their original borders were militarily indefensibe, and two, because some religious Jews cite historical and religious claims to the land. However, some Israelis have moved to the settlements for more mundane and practical reasons, such as tax incentives, cheap housing, etc.
The Settlements are Not the Issue
Today we hear from the Arabs that the settlements are the major obstacle to peace. And, if you read the papers, you can be forgiven for thinking that if only the Israelis would give up their settlements a peace could be quickly worked out. The solution, it is said, is to give the Palestinians a country on the West Bank, and to let (demand, really) that Israel live within it's pre-1967 borders.
This is not true for a number of reasons.
- If the settlements are the problem today, then what was the problem before 1967? Terrorism against Israel did not begin with the end of the Six Day War. The PLO, for example was formed in 1964.
- If the West Bank is such a perfect home for the Palestinians, why didn't Jordan give them this land as their country when they had the chance (i.e. before 1967)?
- The fact is that Israel is willing to negotiate with the Arab countries but with the exception of Egypt and Jordan the Arab countries still refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist.
- The Palestinian "right of return" must be abandoned. This is not something that you read about often (if at all) in your daily newspaper but it is one of the most important things that must be resolved. In short, during the 1948 War of Independence, some 800,000 Arabs fled the area (for reasons that are disputed). Today their ancestors demand the right to return to Israel and claim the land they left, or at least to take up Israeli citizenship. One need not be a demographer to see that these ancestors (and anyone could claim to be one as documentation would be impossible to verify) would now number in the tens of millions. They would simply flood Israel with Arabs, and, in the next election, vote the state of Israel out of existance.
- In short, if the Arabs had not opposed Israel's right to exist from the beginning, had negotiated a peace, had given the Palestinians a homeland on the West Bank, stopped their terrorism, formed democratic (or at least representative) governments, the present situation could have been entirely avoided.
- Further, the Security Fence that Israel is building is not preventing peace as some alledge. It is stopping terrorism, and that is a good thing. My only question is why didn't the Israelis think of it earlier. And I don't care what any "world court" has to say about it.
The Real Issues
The main issues preventing peace are the following
- Lack of Moral Clarity. I've written on this before here. Here are two of the essential elements of moral clarity lacking in some people:
- Israel is an imperfect democracy, but it is a democracy. No Arab state is a democracy. This does not mean that Israel may do anything it wishes, but it does mean that we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Israeli forces practice discrimination in warfare. That is, they only attack military targets. Civilians are sometimes killed as a byproduct, but the civilians are not the target themselves. Arab/Muslim terrorists deliberately target civilians. Why this is hard for some people to understand is beyond me.
- Lack of Democracy among the Arab States. Natan Scharansky wrote about this in his excellent book "The Case for Democracy". Simply put, democracies do not fight each other. We in the west are partly responsible for the current state of affairs, since in the past we did not pressure Arab governments to reform.
- Palestinian terrorism - until the Arab states and/or the PA put and end to terrorism by organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the others there will be no peace.
- The expansion of the settlements should stop. Ok, I know I said earlier that "the settlements per se" are not the problem. And that is true. But it is also true that in my opinion Israel does not need new settlements, and by expanding them they give Palestinian extremists a propaganda message that is useful in recruiting terrorists.
That's my take on the whole issue, or at least all I have time to write for now. I may add to this post later.
April 12, 2005
If you think a living will will take care of you in a Terri Schaivo-type situation think again:
In a post a few weeks ago I wrote how James Q Wilson's research led him to conclude much the same thing.
For decades, we have deluded ourselves into believing that living wills would solve our caregiving problems; that healthy individuals could provide advance instructions for what to do if they became incompetent; that such a system would ensure that no one is mistreated and that everyone defines the meaning of life
for himself until the very end. But it is now clear that living wills have failed, both practically and morally.
In the March-April 2004 issue of the Hastings Center Report, Angela Fagerlin and Carl E. Schneider survey the social science data, and their conclusions are pretty bad: Most people do not have living wills, despite a very active campaign to promote them; those who do usually provide vague and conflicting instructions; people's opinions often change from experience to experience; and people's instructions are easily influenced by how a given scenario is described. These are not problems that any reform can fix. A person simply can't grasp in the present every medical and moral nuance of his own future case.
But scholars have shown that we have greatly exaggerated the benefits of living wills. Studies by University of Michigan Professor Carl Schneider and others have shown that living wills rarely make any difference. People with them are likely to get exactly the same treatment as people without them, possibly because doctors and family members ignore the wills. And ignoring them is often the right thing to do because it is virtually impossible to write a living will that anticipates and makes decisions about all of the many, complicated, and hard to foresee illnesses you may face.
Wilson goes on to say that a living will should be backed up with a durable power of attorney. But a durable power of attorney simply transfers responsibility to another person, and it's not clear to me thatthis is a completely satisfactory solution.
The Democrats have now decided that supporting the United Nations is an issue that will lead them back to majority status. As such, John Bolton is anethema and must be opposed at all costs.
This may sound rather curious. After all, aren't we talking about the same UN that is corrupt, anti-democratic, and anti-semetic? Consider this partial list of scandals and misdeeds that I posted last month:
- Oil-for-Food ('nuf said there)
- Sex Abuse - Peacekeepers in Congo, Somalia, Kosovo, and elsewhere raping and otherwise sexually abusing the very people they are supposed to be protecting
- Tsunami Relief - Failure to provide relief to the victims of the recent tsunami, and then attackin the United States for forming a coalition of nations who were successful in bringing aid
- Sudan - Failure to stop what is just about genocide in Sudan
- A Security Council that will not enforce its own resolutions
- A Security Council that passes an ever-increasing number of resolutions to little or no effect on the world scene
- Human Rights Commission- They put the worst human rights violators on the planet in on the UN Human Rights commission
- UN Committee on Disarmament - Iraq under Saddam was voted chair of the UN Committee on Disarmament
- A General Assembly that, in general, is virulently anti-Semitic and shows it in their actions and speech
- The World Conference on Racism, held in Durban South Africa 2001, turned into an anti-Semitic and anti-American hate-fest
- Kyoto - They promote fatally flawed treaties such as the Kyoto protocol on "global warming", which would have the effect of crippling the US economy
- World Court - The promotion of the World Court, whose purpose would be to prosecute Americans and Israelis, while largely ignoring third-world kleptocrats
The situation today is even worse than it was in the 1970's when the excreable Andrew Young was our ambassador to the UN and spent much of his time there apologizing for the United States. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan's appointee, had to clean up his mess. If anything, the next ambassador faces an even bigger task than the one Kirkpatrick had to deal with.
At this point a reasonable person might say that the UN needs a good hard kick in the rear. No more nicey-nice, go-along-get-along, let's-not-say-bad-things-about-each-other.
So what are the Democrats doing? Opposing John Bolton tooth and nail. As Rich Lowry put's it, they're essentially saying "Don't be mean to the United Nations."
And as Lowry further points out, Bolton has been anything but unilateral in his past diplomacy. It's just that he actually looks out for US interests first, something that seems to enrage the left.
Because the Democrats can't find any factual evidence against Bolton, they've taken to decrying his "style". Their entire argument seems to come down to saying that he has not been "respectful" of the UN. Bill Kristol:
...the assault on Bolton has been pathetic. What does it amount to? He's a longtime U.N. skeptic--appropriate, one would think, given the U.N.'s "Zionism is Racism" history during the Cold War, and its ineffectiveness (to be kind) in Rwanda in the '90s and in Sudan in this decade. But he's worse than a skeptic, the critics say: He has been disrespectful of the august body in which he will represent us. Why, he once joked, "The Secretariat Building in New York has 38But it's precisely a new style that is needed. Unless the UN kleptocrats are hit over the head they'll never get the message.
stories. If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." Well, truer words were never spoken.
If the Democrats want to propose a policy for reforming the UN that is different than the administrations, fine. I would welcome it. But as Kristol says, this is pathetic. John Bolton may or may not be confirmed (although he probably will be), but if the Democrats want to be taken seriously they need to grow up.
In case you haven't gotten your fill of UN corruption, read this piece in today's Washington Post. It's a column by a legal aid worker who went to Sierra Leone in 2003, shortly after Kofi Annan released his "zero tolerance" policy on sexual harassment.
I found abuse of a sexual nature almost every day -- zero compliance with zero tolerance, as one investigator was to write. U.N. leaders had simply not expended any effort beyond lip service to carry out this zero tolerance policy.
In fact, abuse at these camps went beyond sexual violations: Injustices of one sort or another were perpetrated by U.N. missions or their affiliated nongovernmental organizations every day in the camps I visited. Corruption was the norm, in particular the embezzlement of food and funds by NGO officials, which often left camp resources dangerously inadequate. Utterly arbitrary judicial systems in the camps subjected refugees to violent physical punishment or months in prison for trivial offenses -- all at the whim of officials and in the absence of any sort of hearing.
Read the whole thing.
April 11, 2005
War with China: 2008 - 2010?
In an earlier post called "The Looming Threat", I wrote that China would likely attack Taiwan sometime "before 2015". In light of better information, I am revising my estimate to say that if there is a war it will occur sometime between 2008 and 2010.
I've changed my time estimate because of two factors; first, additional research has let me to conclude that the military "window of opportunity" for the Chinese will start to close in 2008, and second I have given more thought to the meaning of the 2008 Olympic Games, which will be held in the Chinese capital of Beijing.
I. Why a Chinese Attack?
Many would dismiss a Chinese attack as improbable. The point out that from a logical standpoint, China has no need to occupy or control Taiwan. By attacking China risks throwing their economy into chaos, being isolated on the world stage if not becoming an outright pariah, risking a nuclear escallation, and even if the succeded they would lose the ability to use the issue of Taiwan to whip up popular sentiment at home. And, as the outcome of war is never certain, if they lost it might spark a revolution at home that could topple the leadership. Certainly this is enough to give the pause.
At the same time that we take these objections seriously, we must remember the fallacy of "mirror image" thinking. If we have learned nothing else since 9-11 is should be that others do not share our way of thinking. What we consider logical others see as illogical. Facts we consider important are not even in other people's mental universe. Not everyone else works off of our set of assumptions.
Let us therefore consider reasons why, in light of the above objections, China might still make a move against Taiwan:
The Oriental concept of "face" is very important and something that we often underestimate. The simple fact is that rightly or wrongly the Chinese feel that they were embarrassed by the West in the 18th, 19th, and first half of the 20th century and that they must recover. This is no place to recite Chinese history, but suffice it to say that during this time China was colonialized by foreign powers and her people often treated quite shabbily. The Chinese also believe that they lost several territories during this time and to regain face need to reacquire them.
The "lost territories" are Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The Chinese reacquired Tibet by force in the 1950s and Hong Kong by diplomacy in 1997. Only Taiwan remains, and by all accounts that I have come across they are bound and determined to get it back. For example, I recall an article several years ago by John Derbyshire, writing in National Review, in which he said that the one thing that struck him during a visit to China is that despite disagreement on a variety of issues, all of the Chinese people he spoke with were unanimous in their attitude toward Taiwan: "We want it back."
Isn't it the Economics, Stupid?
The biggest objection that I can find is that a military move on China, even if successful, would result in boycotts and embargoes (and maybe even a blockade) that would cripple their economy. And in normal circumstances this would keep them from attacking. However, as I will show below, there may come a time in which the leadership ignores the danger and starts to believe their own propaganda. In short, they may become overconfident.
II. Why Defend Taiwan?
It is reasonable to ask why we should defend Taiwan in the face of Chinese aggression. Some, like the libertarian Cato Institute, say that we ought to let Taiwan defend itself. This is not the place for a full treatment of Taiwan's own actions and drift towards declaring independence, so suffice it to say that I believe that we ought to defend Taiwan for the following reasons:
We have obligated ourselves to help defend the island democracy with the Taiwan Relations Act (1979). American presidents, including President Bush, have given their word that we would help to defend Taiwan. We must be good to our word or need to abrogate the treaty and speak clearly that we will not come to Taiwan's aid.
The government of Taiwan ("Republic of China") is now a democracy. We should defend democracies against tyrannies. Even when Taiwan was ruled by the authoritarian Kuomintang, it was still better than the Communists on the mainland, thus worth defending under the concept of comparative justice.
Defense of Taiwan easily meets the requirements of Just War Theory.
Taiwan will not sit still and let us do all of the fighting. They will, in fact, end up doing most of the fighting and dying. It is often forgotten, for example, that during the Korean War the South Koreans suffered more casualties than did Americans.
III. The Preparation
We are currently seeing signs that the Chinese are preparing to make a move. The preparation falls into three categories; the legal, the military, and the morale
Last month China's rubber-stamp "National People's Congress" passed an "anti-secession law" authorizing the use of "non-peaceful means" against Taiwan. It was assumed by many analysts that China is setting the legal grounds for action against Taiwan, military or otherwise.
Under Deng Xiaoping China embarked on a modernization program. One of the "four modernizations" was the military. During the Cold War, the bulk of China's military was oriented towards the Soviet threat. When the USSR dissolved, the military threat went away also. As such, China has been free to move her forces to face new challenges. One of those is retaking Taiwan.
The Chinese are engaged in a crash program to build up their navy, the branch that would have the biggest role in an attack.
Nevertheless, as this Navy War College paper makes clear, the Chinese will not have the ability to stage a "D-Day" style amphibious invasion of Taiwan:
The most dramatic but least feasible PRC threat is an amphibious attack with hundreds of thousands of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops supported by ballistic missile barrages, aircraft, naval forces, and all manner of modified merchant ships. A host of analysts and government reports have poured cold water on this frequently discussed scenario, revealing China’s sea and airlift shortcomings, the numerous force-concentration problems associated with Formosa beach landings, and, not the least, Taiwan’s super-hardened land defenses. Piers Wood and Charles Ferguson, for example, persuasively argue that China lacks not only the amphibious assault ships to bridge the strait with enough firepower and men but also the port capacity to employ hundreds of potentially useful civilian craft.12 Their conclusion was shared by Admiral Dennis Blair, former commander of the U.S. Pacific forces, who not long ago reported that “the PLA is still years away from the capability to take and hold Taiwan.”13
By comparison, a naval blockade could bring Taiwan to its knees with relative ease and minimal international protest. A sustained interruption of key sea lines of communications would be economically disastrous for the Taiwanese economy, which relies heavily on shipping for its lifeblood trade and energy needs, some two-thirds of which are fulfilled by fossil fuel imports.14 Even a temporary closure would likely prove debilitating for the import/export-dependent economy. Shortly prior to Taiwan’s 1996 election, for example, all merchant marine traffic to Taiwan was halted for days after China fired several unarmed DF-15 short-range missiles toward the island’s two largest ports, the closest of them falling approximately twelve miles from land. Traffic into Taiwan’s northern port was similarly blocked the previous year after China lobbed six DF-15s into the strait some eighty-five miles north of the island.1
Most likely, therefore, the Chinese would force Taiwan to negotiate "at missile point" and would come away with favorable terms if not outright annexation. Amphibious invasion or airborne attack is extremely unlikely.
Another Naval War College Paper puts it in starker terms still:
Given the many weaknesses of the PLA Navy, the U.S. Navy will remain superior to the Chinese fleet for many years to come. That is not the issue. The danger, rather, is the possibility of an expansive, even bellicose, Chinese foreign policy provoking open conflict with a weaker neighboring state. Arms races and exacerbated regional tensions, on the one hand, and an entangling of American armed forces, on the other, are opposite evils to be avoided. However, the Chinese navy has markedly improved in capabilities and is clearly aiming for a blue-water capacity. It has already developed an "active defense and inshore warfare" strategy commensurate with its improving ability to deal with limited wars and regional conflicts, at the same time as the U.S. Navy is concentrating on the world's littorals in support of its own new maritime strategy. The U.S. Navy's recent white papers ". . . From the Sea" and "Forward . . . from the Sea" have changed its focus to operations near land. There is irony in the fact that while the U.S. Navy is slowly shifting away from its sea control mission, the PLA Navy is actively pursuing command of the regional waters.
Window of Opportunity
According to the authors of the first Naval War College paper cited above, the Chinese will have a "window of opportunity" that will begin to close in or around 2010:
PRC - People's Republic of China. The official name of Communist China. Typically called just "China"
PLA - People's Liberation Army. All branches of the military are referred to as the "PRC" as in "PLA Navy" or "PLA Air Force"
ROC - Republic of China. The official name for the government of Taiwan, on the island of Formosa.
...China’s military power will peak relative to that of Taiwan and the regional forces of the United States sometime between 2005 and 2008. In this window, improved naval and air capabilities—including ballistic and cruise missiles—will give China its best chance to effect Taiwan’s acquiescence. After 2008, Taiwan’s expected defensive gains and the seemingly exponential military advances of the United States will preclude a successful attack on the island.For a full discussion of the military details see the two papers cited above.
Barring a major technological surprise, espionage action, or plain bad luck on our part, the US Navy will be able to successfully defeat the PLA Navy and Air Force, even during the "window of opportunity." We will suffer losses, perhaps serious.
But as the author of the NWC paper above stated, the question is speed; can the United States get enough forces into the area fast enough, and defeat the Chinese fast enough, before Taiwan is forced to capitulate?
The Nuclear Wildcard
One cannot discuss war between the United States and China without discussing nuclear weapons. Indeed, some have used the threat of escalation as a reason why China would not attack. This may well be so. But it also may be an example of the "mirror image" thinking that we need to avoid.
During the Cold War we adopted the theory of MAD, or Mutual Assured Destruction. MAD said that neither side would dare to attack the other because both would end up destroyed. But while the Soviets gave lip service to this theory, a review of their internal literature showed that they did not necessarily buy into it. They conducted war games with the express intent of finding a way to fight and win a nuclear war.
So it may be with China. Not that they would want to fight such a war, but they may well believe that they can "absorb" losses better than we could. During the 1950s, when the Soviets and Chinese were still on somewhat friendly terms, the former "...professed not to fear nuclear war because they did understand the force of nuclear weapons, but the believed they could afford to lose a few hundred million of their people, people being the one thing they had in abundance." (Operation Solo, p 94). Although the days of Mao's rule are long gone, his government is still in place.
Lastly, there is the October 2000 testimony by Senator Jon Kyle that in 1995 "...General Xiong Guangkai warned a visiting U.S. official that China could use military force to prevent Taiwan's gaining independence without fear of U.S. intervention because American leaders `care more about Los Angeles than they do about Taiwan.' An editorial in a military-owned newspaper this March was more blunt, warning that, `The United States will not sacrifice 200 million Americans for 20 million Taiwanese.'"
IV. The Olympics
The 2008 Olympics will be held in Beijing. Although it is a matter of national pride for any country to host the Olympic games, it assumes special importance for totalitarian regimes. One will recall that the Soviets felt more hurt by our boycott of the 1980 games than we did by their boycott of the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Likewise, the Chinese will place great importance on putting forth the best front during the games. The entire thing is a chance for them to showcase their "national greatness" and to show the world that they are not "backward".
If China makes a military move against Taiwan before the games they risk a boycott by large numbers of countries, regardless of how the war turns out. The US would certainly boycott, and would put great pressure on other countries to do likewise. Even if most countries attended despite US pressure, the games would be forever marred. Given the importance the Chinese put on "face", I cannot believe that they would allow this to happen.
I therefore do not believe that China would attack Taiwan before the 2008 games. Given the military "window of opportunity" cited above, I do not think that they can wait much after 2008 either. This leads me to the conclusion that if they move it will be between 2008 and 2010.
Discussion of the Olympics leads to another observation, one about the importance of setting the stage for an attack; the importance of propaganda. China will not only use the Olympics to make themselves look good, they will use the occasion to remind us of how Taiwan should be part of the PRC. Unfortunately, there will be all too many Western journalists who will lay their critical faculties aside during the games.
The Hitler Analogy
The 1936 Olympic games were held in Berlin, Germany. Hitler saw them as an occasion to showcase his regime, which is exactly what he did. Although many Americans believe that runner Jesse Owens spoiled Hitler's plans, the fact is that is not so. Although the story of Owens winning a gold medal and Hitler refusing to shake hands with him is literally true, it was not seen as important at the time. The story did not gain prominence until the 1950s, when the civil rights movement picked up in the United States. Rather, the Olympics were seen at the time as a huge propaganda victory for Nazi Germany.
The benefit to Germany of a successful Olympics was that it raised their "self esteem" and made them feel that they could, in fact, conquer the world, or at least the European part of it. This, of course, is precisely what they set out to do.
V. The Allies
The United States had two allies in the region, Japan and South Korea. We can most likely count on the former to help us, but assistance from the latter will probably not be forthcoming.
The Japanese have shown great interest in recent years in missile defense. They are extremely worried about both China and North Korea. Their military is larger than I think is commonly believed, a fact well-known by the Chinese. Politically, they have shown the will to "step out" beyond their traditional post-World War II military isolation, sending troops to Iraq, for example.
South Korea has moved in the opposite direction. With the ageing of the Korean War generation, the youth do not feel beholden by past American sacrifices. Anti-American demonstrations have become more and more common in recent years. The South Korean government's "Sunshine Policy" towards the North is often at odds with US goals. They will likely not risk antagonizing China by aiding the US during a war.
VI. Summary and Conclusion
Here are the main points made in this paper:
- The Chinese want to incorporate Taiwan into their country, and will do so by force if they believe they can be successful.
- The United States should come to the aid of Taiwan in the event of a crisis
- Chinese military action, if it occurs, will come by way of blockade and threat of missile attack, not by traditional amphibious or airborne attack.
- The United States will be able to defeat the PLA forces, but perhaps not in time to prevent Taiwanese capitulation.
- If the Chinese decide to take military action, it will occur sometime shortly after the 2008 Olympics.
- The United States will have the assistance of Japan but not South Korea
- State clearly and unambiguously that we will defend Taiwan if the Chinese attack.
- Maintain a high level of military preparedness in the western Pacific region.
- Conduct regular military exercises in the western Pacific region.
- Sell Taiwan advanced weaponry, but with an eye towards not unnecessarily provoking the Chinese.
- Encourage, even demand, that the Taiwanese not declare their independence. To do so would be unnecessary and might provoke Chinese military action.
Be sure to check out By Dawn's Early Light's most recent post on a possible war with Taiwan. While you're there, check out his past articles on the subject too (listed in the sidebar at right). Bill takes on several issues that I have not, including "why the US will create strong alliances with India and continue to strengthen its Japanese and Australian security arrangements to avert a war over Taiwan and wait out for a democratic China."
In my post I argued that China would use the 2008 Olympics to showcase their regime and demoralize Taiwan. In the comments section to a post of his last week I asked Bill about this and he responded:
I think it is more likely that Taiwan will use the Olympics than China. What if Taiwan declares independence a month prior to the Olympics? That makes much more sense than China invading immediately before or after.I hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense to me too.
As per Bill Rice's comment, the Taiwanese angle was actually made by Dan.
April 7, 2005
"Non-Fake, but Inaccurate"
It turns out that the Schiavo "talking points" memo was not a fake, but was in fact drafted by a GOP staffer. However, it was not the "GOP talking points memo" that so many in the media told us it was.
In the words of Mickey Kaus, it is "Non-Fake, but Inaccurate"; this in Slate, not exactly a bastion of right-wing opinion:
WaPo's Mike Allen reports that the now-famous Schiavo "talking points" memo came from freshman GOP senator Mel Martinez's office. So that mystery is cleared up. The memo wasn't a fake. But Allen doesn't come off looking too good in this latest account. a) The memo was apparently not "distributed to Republican Senators by party leaders," as Allen's initial story, sent out through the Post news service to other papers, reported. It was--at least judging from today's account--handed to one Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, by one freshman Republican senator (who isn't in the party leadership); b) Allen doesn't explain why he told Howie Kurtz he "did not call them talking points or a Republican memo" when he had in fact done just that in the news service draft; c) Even the later, more "carefully worded" account Allen published in the Post itself was apparently wrong. Allen wroteThe whole thing was suspicious from the beginning. You had the fact that the memo wasn't on official letterhead and was rife with spelling errors. It was "unsourced". Yet many seemed to take it for granted that it was an official memo distributed to all Republican Senators. In fact, as the Washington Times has reported, not a single GOP Senator had seen the memo.
In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as "a great political issue" ...
This is almost the reverse of what Allen now reports. We know the memo was distributed to at least one Democratic senator. We don't know whether it was distributed to any Republican senator other then the senator whose staffer wrote it (although it's hard to believe it wasn't given to at least some other GOP lawmakers). Allen's story left the now-unsupported impression that Republican senators were conspiratorially reading the memo amongst themselves; d) The whole "memo" fuss, as played up by WaPo and ABC's Linda Douglass, was wildly overdone even if the memo was a GOP leadership document--as if senators never consider what is a good political issue, as if that's a no-no in a democracy.
Did these people learn nothing from Rathergate? "Trust us" is not acceptable from major news organizations.
And, once again, it took bloggers to set the MSM straight. As Mick Wright puts it
As I said during Rathergate, what stories over the past thirty or forty years do we "know" to be true that aren't?
I should note that we would know nothing more about this if not for the blogs. As we find in today’s WaPo story, the Senate investigation had turned up nothing. The media was stonewalling. Little came of individual calls to Senate offices and emails to reporters.
If not for a handful of blogs, a few rightwing pundits and some media watchdogs, the Washington Times probably would not have published their article, in turn putting the pressure back on the Senators and the reporters who first reported on this.
If not for the blogs, we would still be under the impression that GOP party leaders drafted that ridiculous memo and that all the Republican Senators received, read and approved of it.
Pray for Peter Jennings
Peter Jennings, anchor of ABC News "World News Tonight", has been diagnosed with lung cancer . My prayers are with him and his family.
April 6, 2005
Are we winning the war in Iraq? StrategyPage seems to think so (from a Feb 5 post):
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and allies have been hunting down the leadership of al-Qaeda. Among the big fish (the "Board of Directors"), seven are dead and ten are in custody. Four members of the "inner circle" are also in custody. This is 53 percent of the senior leadership for al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is still at large, along with Ayman al-Zawahiri (the deputy commander of al-Qaeda) and Abu Mohammed al-Masri (the planner of the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania). However, five out of the eight training camp commanders are dead or in custody.Read the whole thing.
Other statistics of note: Eighteen al-Qaeda financiers are dead or in custody. Among those still at large, though, are two of bin Laden�'s sisters, two of his brothers-in-law, and a Swiss banker by the name of Ahmed Huber. Huber also has extensive connections with neo-Nazis in Europe. The real financial resource for al-Qaeda remains untouched: the dozen or so Saudis who are called the "Golden Chain." All are at large, and all can still provide enough resources for bin Laden to regroup and strike again.
Al-Qaeda's military committee has also been decimated. One is dead (killed by a CIA Predator firing Hellfire missiles), fourteen, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, have been captured. These include the commanders in Singapore, Java, Southern Europe, and Japan. Several are at large, including the operations chiefs in Kosovo, Tunisia, and Somalia.
Short version, al-Qaeda is on the run throughout most of the globe. Even Abu Musab Zarqawi, in charge of all al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, is on the run, as elements of his infrastructure are taken apart. Eight of Zarqawi's top aides are dead. Twenty others have been captured. Zarqawi was unable to disrupt the elections on January 30, a serious loss for the terrorists. Al-Qaeda is still potent, as the attacks in Madrid proved, but they are clearly reacting to the multi-pronged offensive in the United States.
Another Liberal Myth Destroyed
The left can't make up their mind about President Bush. On the one hand he's a moron, on the other an evil genius. It doesn't make sense, but that never seems to matter.
One of their favorite myths is that Bush is controlled by the evil neo-cons, primary among them Vice-President Cheney. People who are in the know, like General Tommy Franks, have said otherwise, but myths die hard.
The Wall Street Journal describes how this myth has been totally destroyed;
The Robb-Silberman panel does the enormous service of exposing all of this as both false regarding Iraq, and dangerous if it colors the future. The problem in Iraq wasn't some rogue Pentagon intelligence operation that ran roughshod over the CIA and DIA. Far from it, the problem was a "climate of conformity" across the entire intelligence community that firmly believed that Saddam still had WMD. Instead of disagreement, there was almost no internal intelligence debate at all. Everybody believed Saddam had WMD.Including, of course, Secretary of State Colin Powell. Before he made his famous presentation to the UN in February of 2003 he demanded that the CIA "scrub" it's intelligence findings so that he could be absolutely sure that what he was telling the world was the unvarnished truth. Unfortunately, doubts about that intelligence never made it to the secretary.
This and other errors "stem from poor tradecraft and poor management" within the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community, the report adds. But "the Commission found no evidence of political pressure" to alter intelligence findings. "Analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter their analytical judgments," the panelists unanimously say.
These conclusions are all terribly inconvenient to those antiwar critics who are still promoting the Dick-Cheney-as-Rasputin fable of Iraq. And, incredibly, their response has been to imply that the Robb-Silberman panel is also in on this Big Con. A few open-minded liberals are even suggesting that no one should bother to read the report, which we suppose makes it easier to keep believing in the Grassy Knoll.
Chuck Robb is a former United States Senator from Virginia, and the left will have a hard time portraying him as a dupe. Those who insist on seeing the panel's report as a con simply expose themselves as farther and farther divorced from reality.
How did we get the intelligence so wrong?
One reason it overestimated Saddam's WMD capability in 2002-03 is because its analysts recalled how they had underestimated how far along his nuclear-weapons program had been in 1991. The agency was also surprised to discover, after the fall of the Taliban, how much progress al Qaeda had made toward gaining biological weapons in Afghanistan. Regarding both Iran and North Korea, it still knows disturbingly little.From what I understand, the reason why our intelligence is so poor in these areas is that for the past thirty or forty years we have stressed technical methods of gathering information over human means. There were several reasons for this.
One is simply that we are very good at technology. Putting our resources into technology plays to our strength. One of the tenants of warfare is that you don't hit the enemy where they are strong (preventing infiltration) but where they are weak (technology). Asymetrical warfare works both ways.
A second reason is that much of what we needed to know during the Cold War years could be gathered more easily by technical means than with human means. We needed to count "things" like missiles, ships, tanks, and the like, and keep track of where they were. The Soviets used the same type of communications systems we did (radio and cable) so in a sense we were intercepting what we did ourselves.
A third reason is that the CIA abused their trust during the 1950s and 60s. They engaged in many practices that were questionable at best, seeming to think they were a law unto themselves. During 1975 and 1976 Senator Frank Church led the investigations that exposed wrongdoing by the CIA and FBI. Unfortunately, his recommendations went too far, and the agency ended up hobbled in it's ability to collect needed information. It was a classic case of the pendulum swinging too far in either direction.
The fourth reason is that no administration since has had the fortitude or foresight to challenge our reliance on technology and to insist that better human intelligence was needed. Hindsight is 20/20, and one can easily understand that for a president to try and change things would have led to a great outcry from the left.
The WSJ editorial sums up by saying that "The lesson of the Robb-Silberman report is that, in a world of terrorists eager to acquire WMD, political leaders have a duty to second-guess intellitgence". True enough, but they don't go far enough. We need to change our attitudes toward intelligence gathering, and emphasise human means. This has been the recommendation of other reports and investigations, and needs to be given priority.
April 5, 2005
Expanded and Recategorized "Best of"
I reorganized the "Best of" section at right this morning. It's not quite finished yet but I'm getting there. The link is in the right hand column, check it out.
April 4, 2005
Book Review - "Commies", by Ronald Radosh
Some of the most revealing insights into the minds of true communists can be had by reading the testimonials of those who once believed but have had "second thoughts." "Witness", Whittaker Chambers autobiography, is perhaps the best-known of this genre. It set the standard by which all others are measured. Although not at that level, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left, and the Leftover Left" (2001), by Ronald Radosh, makes a valuable addition to our knowledge of the communist mindset and is well worth purchasing.
Born a "red diaper baby" in 1937, he grew up surrounded by communists. He went to "commie camp", where he saw guests such as Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger perform. Among campers were the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. It was a matter of faith that the Rosenbergs were innocent victims of American fascist repression.
Radosh adopted the communist viewpoint on all political matters and became an activist at a young age. In college he helped found and write for several far-left publications. He pursued graduate studies, eventually obtaining his PhD and becomming a professor at the Queensborough Community College, part of the City College of New York.
Radosh was a member of the "New Left", which formed during the 1960's. They used this term to distinguish themselves from what they then called the "Old Left", who were the communists of the 1920's and 30's and who's primary allegiance was to the Soviet Union. The New Left had no love for the Soviets, but saw the future of the revolution embodied in states such as Castro's Cuba or North Vietnam. However, like the Old Left, and in keeping with good communist tradition, they saw their main enemies as being those who we today would call "liberals". The problem with liberals is that they wanted to reform the system, not overthrow it.
Radosh was quite active in his opposition to the Vietnam war, joining a group that advocated unilateral American withdrawal. But despite their pacifist rhetoric, their true purposes were quite different: "Our intention was never so much to end the war as to use antiwar sentiment to create a new revolutionary socialist movement at home. David Horowitz, a contemporary of Radosh and today the conservative editor of FrontPageMag.com, wrote much the same thing in his autobiography, "Radical Son".
Three events led to Radosh's break with the left. The first was his wife's experience as a professor in her women's studies department where she was a professor. Allis, his wife, believed like any good liberal that women needed their own studies department. However, while she argued that a conservative as well as a liberal or leftist could be a feminist, her collegues vociferously disagreed. Black lesbian left-wing feminists claimed to be the most oppressed, and demanded that everyone else go along. Those who did not were made to feel guilty.
The second event was a trip to Cuba he took with fellow leftists. They took the standard-government organized sight-seeing tours to hospitals and factories, all designed to make Castro's "workers paradise" look as good as possible. Many or most on the trip accepted what their guide told them, but several others, including Radosh, began to have doubts. As he relates, "over and over on the junket we saw workers accepting dreadful working conditions without any precepible complaints." They went to a psychiatric hospital where homosexuals were kept (imprisoned, really) alongside insane patients. And they could not help but to notice that their trip leader, Sandy Levinson, received extra-special treatment in her hotel room, even to the point of getting daily shipments of otherwise illegal marijuana.
The last straw was the demolishing of the myth that the Rosenbergs were innocent of espionage. This had been an article of faith among leftists. Radosh had bought into the myth, and by his own account it had preoccupied him for most of his life. When Radosh started to reseach the case himself, it was with the avowed intent to prove that they were the victims of a government frame-up. What he found shocked him to the core: that far from being innocent political victims, they were in fact spies for the Soviet Union.
Eventually he published his findings in a book co-authored with Joyce Milton called "The Rosenberg File" (1983). In the book they lay out their findings, which are essentially that although the government did act badly, their trial was not entirely fair, and their lawyer missed many opportunities, their was no doubt as to their actual guilt.
The book provoked a backlash among the left, and Radosh was essentially drummed out of the movement. He held onto some leftist beliefs for several years, initially supporting the Sandinista communists in Nicaragua, for example. Eventually, however, he came to see the truth about them and ended up supporting their overthrow.
Radosh does not make his current political beliefs clear. Unlike David Horowitz, he may not had become a conservative, although he is listed as a columnist for Horowitz' frontpagemag.com
All in all, while not a book of earthshattering insight, it makes a valuable addition to my collection and is recommended reading.
Mark Steyn on Terri Schiavo
In some of my earlier posts on the issues raised by Terri Schiavo's death, I commented on the trend toward dehumanizing descriptions of those who some want to kill. Michelle Malkin has posted part of a must-read column by Mark Steyn about the case of Robert Wendland. If you found what happened to Terri Schiavo scary, you'll find this one to be an absolute horror story:
Do you remember a fellow called Robert Wendland? No reason why you should. I wrote about him in this space in 1998, and had intended to return to the subject but something else always intervened — usually Bill Clinton’s penis, which loomed large, at least metaphorically, over the entire era. Mr Wendland lived in Stockton, California. He was injured in an automobile accident in 1993 and went into a coma. Under state law, he could have been starved to death at any time had his wife requested the removal of his feeding tube. But Rose Wendland was busy with this and that, as one is, and assumed there was no particular urgency.Ouch. Later Steyn discusses the dehumanizing terminology that helped make her death possible:
Then one day, a year later, Robert woke up. He wasn’t exactly his old self, but he could catch and throw a ball and wheel his chair up and down the hospital corridors, and both activities gave him pleasure. Nevertheless Mrs Wendland decided that she now wished to exercise her right to have him dehydrated to death. Her justification was that, while the actual living Robert — the Robert of the mid-1990s — might enjoy a simple life of ball-catching and chair-rolling, the old Robert — the pre-1993 Robert — would have considered it a crashing bore and would have wanted no part of it.
She nearly got her way. But someone at the hospital tipped off Mr Wendland’s mother and set off a protracted legal struggle in which — despite all the obstacles the California system could throw in her path — the elderly Florence Wendland was eventually successful in preventing her son being put down. He has since died of pneumonia, which is sad: the disabled often fall victim to some opportunist illness they’d have shrugged off in earlier times, as Christopher Reeve did. But that’s still a better fate than to be starved to death by order of the state.
Many people seem to be unusually anxious to pretend that this judicial murder (Terri Schiavo) is merely a very belated equivalent of a discreet doctor putting a hopeless case out of her misery, or to take refuge in the idea that some magisterial disinterested ‘due process’ is being played out — or as a reader wrote to me the other day: ‘Why are you fundamentalists so clueless? It’s the law, dickbrain. Michael Schiavo isn’t acting for himself; he’s been legally recognised as the person qualified to act for Terri in expressing her wishes based on her own oral declarations.’
Which sounds fine and dandy, until you uncover your ears and a lot of the genteel euphemisms and legalisms and medicalisms — ‘right to die’, ‘guardian ad litem’, ‘PVS’ — start to sound downright Orwellian. PVS means ‘persistent vegetative state’, and because it’s a grand official-sounding term it’s been accepted mostly without question by the mainstream media, even though the probate judge declared Mrs Schiavo in a persistent vegetative state without troubling to visit her and without requiring any of the routine tests, such as an MRI scan. Indeed, her husband hasn’t permitted her to be tested for anything since 1993. Think about that: this woman is being put to death without any serious medical evaluation more recent than 12 years ago.
How did we get to this point, and where are we going?
One consequence of abortion is that, in designating new life as a matter of ‘choice’, it created a culture where it’s now routine to make judgments about which lives are worth it and which aren’t. Down’s Syndrome? Abort. Cleft palate? Abort. Chinese girl? Abort. It’s foolish to think you can raise entire populations — not to mention generations of doctors — to make self-interested judgments about who lives and who doesn’t and expect them to remain confined to three trimesters. The ‘right to choose’ is now being extended beyond the womb: the step from convenience euthanasia to compulsory euthanasia is a short one.Follow the link from Michelle's site to the Spectator and read the whole thing.
... the Schiavo debate provides a glimpse of the Western world the day after tomorrow — a world of nonagenarian baby boomers who’ve conquered most of the common-or-garden diseases and instead get stricken by freaky protracted colossally expensive chronic illnesses; a world of more and more dependants, with fewer and fewer people to depend on. In Europe, where demographic reality means that in a generation or so all the dependants will be elderly European Christians and most of the fellows they’re dependent on will be young North African or Arab Muslims, the social consensus for government health care is unlikely to survive. Terri Schiavo failed to demonstrate conclusively why she should be permitted by the state to continue living. As Western nations evolve rapidly into the oldest societies in human history, many more of us will be found similarly wanting.
Lined up to Support John Bolton
Last week some 59 ex-diplomats sent a letter to Senator Lugar opposing John Bolton's appointment as UN ambassador. Among other things, Bolton was criticized for saying that the UN was valuable only when it directly serves the United States.
This week some 64 retired diplomats and government officials sent a letter to Senator Lugar supporting Bolton.
Former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, ex-CIA Director James Woolsey and 64 other retired arms-control specialists and diplomats are lined up in support of John R. Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.Last week's letter was usually described as "bipartisan" according to the Weekly Standard's Scrapbook column (as quoted in the Washington Times). Yet that was hardly the case.
In a letter scheduled to be delivered today to Sen. Richard G. Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, other committee members and congressional leaders, they said the attack on Mr. Bolton is really an attack on President Bush's policies, the Associated Press reports.
Bolton supporters said his stance "reflects a clear-eyed necessity of the real limits" of accords with other nations that demand one-sided terms from the United States. They included Max Kampelman and Edward Rowny, arms-control negotiators in the Reagan administration
Much of the news coverage of the letter inanely treated the group as 'bipartisan,' noting that the former diplomats had 'served in both Democratic and Republican administrations' -- as is true of any Foreign Service officer with a career of normal duration. Which is to say, this fact tells you nothing special about the political views of the diplomats. As it happens, their politics run the gamut from left to farther left, and their letter is thus an ordinary partisan swipe at the nominee of a president they dislike.
April 1, 2005
Pope John Paul II - an Appreciation
He is perhaps the last of the giants of the twentieth century. His was an era of greatness, or at least of men and women who achieved great things. With his passing, which appears imminent, we will have lost someone who helped make the world a better place.
Who can not fail but to remember as he took the world by storm twenty-six years ago? We were shocked by the untimely death of his predicessor. When it was announced that Karol Wojtyla, a Pole, would be the next Pope... well, the audacity, the courage, of the Catholics to so directly challenge the Soviets took one's breath away.
Along with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and to a lesser extent Helmut Kohl, he defined an era. We in the United States were coming out of the tragedy of Vietnam and the scandal of Watergate. Carter's "malaise" seemed in full swing. The Soviets were advancing around the globe. Moreover, spirituality was at a low, the radicalism of the '60s having taken their toll. The world was ready for a breath of fresh air.
John Paul II quickly set a new tone. He immediately set out to directly minister to his flock, traveling thousands of miles all over the globe. His message was that he so truely cared about people and their spiritual health. And the people reciprocated, coming to his appearances in droves. He took the world by storm in a manner that even the most popular rock stars could not hope to duplicate.
For several years now we've seen him old and frail, and one's memory stretches to recall how dynamic, how full of energy he was in those early days. He used to go skiing. He made it cool to be Catholic.
Even though I was and am not a Roman Catholic, and even though at the time I did not really know God, I could not help but to be impressed. His message rang true with anyone who was not totally lost.
Stalin once sneered "and how many divisions does the Pope have?" Tyrannies with huge armies and secret police will have their moments on earth. They will wreck their havoc, sometimes far and wide. But in the end it is moral authority that wins men's hearts. And no tyranny, no matter how many divisions it's generals command, could stand up to the moral authority of Pope John Paul II.
Between him, Reagan, Thatcher, and Kohl, they brought down the mightiest empire on earth. It was an age of giants, and we are forever in their debt.
If there were any failings in his papacy, it was that he did not adequately address the sex scandals that have plagued the church in the United States. Biographers will have to grapple with this and admonish him as they will. It would take a small mind indeed, however, to condemn him over this one issue. All great people have their moments when they fall down, and in this John Paul is no different. He is, after all, only human.
I mourn his his passing, as it appears imminent, but I celebrate his life.
Terri Schiavo Roundup
John Leo has a disturbing column on the new field of "bioethics", something that most of us probably didn't even know existed until Terri Schaivo became news.
Instead of the traditional emphasis on the sanctity of life, bioethics began to stress the quality of life, meaning that many damaged humans, young and old, don't qualify for personhood because their lives have lost value. The nonpersons should be allowed to die and in some cases be killed. This explains why so few bioethicists have protested what the state and her husband planned for Terri Schiavo, who is severely damaged, but not in pain or dying, not brain dead, and in no position to protest her own execution on grounds that other people consider it best for her.I'm going to write more about this in the future, and will try to find out how accurate Leo's description is. If he's even halfway right then we've got a lot of work ahead of us.
Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, is described as a "ghoul" by Michelle Malkin. From what I read about him, I'd have to agree. He claims close to telepathic powers in determining if someone is "telling" him that they want to die. From his book "Litigation as Spiritual Practice":
Such a deep, dark, silent blue. I stared as far into her eyes as I could, hoping to sense some glimmer of understanding, some hint of awareness. The deeper I dove, the darker became the blue, until the blue became the black of some bottomless lake. "Mrs. Browning, do you want to die ... do you want to die?" I nearly shouted as I continued to peer into her pools of strikingly beautiful but incognizant blue. It felt so eerie. Her eyes were wide open and crystal clear, but instead of the warmth of lucidity, they burned with the ice of expressionlessnessOookay
James Taranto wonders why so many liberals, who are always talking about how "the strong have a duty to protect the weak" are not as compassionate as they claim to be. Much of it, he says, has to do with abortion politics.
The Editors of National Review write about how the language of death was manipulated by those who, frankly, wanted to see her killed:
And for that to happen, the use of words like "starvation" and "dehydration" would have to be discouraged. Those words might, after all, have reminded us that what was done to Schiavo would be criminal if done to an animal and provoke cries of "torture" and "cruel and unusual punishment" if done to a convicted capital murderer. And "killed," of course, was totally verboten. Schiavo was being "removed from life support," not denied basic sustenance. The phrase "persistent vegetative state" had to be repeated constantly — never mind that basic tests were never performed to establish this diagnosis, and such diagnoses have a very high error rate — and treated as though it meant "brain death."Like me, they also worry that we've stepped onto a slippery slope;
Next time it will be easier. It always is. The tolerance of early-term abortion made it possible to tolerate partial-birth abortion, and to give advanced thinkers a hearing when they advocate outright infanticide.Wesley Pruden predicts that before all this is over Terri will seem a footnote.
Morton Kondacke has a balanced, sensitive view. He experienced a similar situation with his wife Millie only last summer.
Linda Chavez intites the medical profession
So, why did the court give so much more deference to Medellin's claims than to Mrs. Schiavo's parents? It's hard to escape the conclusion it is because many people, including the judges who have considered her case, believe Terry Schiavo's disabilities render her no longer fully human. And in this judgment the medical establishment is fully complicit.The issues raised by Terri's death aren't going to go away. In an earlier post I wondered if perhaps the pro-life side hadn't overplayed our hand. Perhaps some have. But at this point thoughts are that those who have tried to dehumanize us as we near our end have a lot to answer for, and we are beginnning to expose them.
The very term used to describe Mrs. Schiavo's condition -- persistent vegetative state -- conjures up images of a subhuman, subanimal life form.
Just War Series - Proportionality II
Just War Theory - Introduction
Recourse To War - jus ad bellum
- Just Cause
- Competent Authority
- Comparative Justice
- Right Intention
- Last Resort
- Probability of Success
This marks the last formal segment of my Just War Series. As it has given me much food for thought, however, I will do at least one more post on whether Just War Theory is adequate for our present day.
"The principle of proportionality with regards to conduct in war "deals not with a whole war but with a single military action in that war. The criterion requires that the good to be achieved by the action be proportionate to the damage done. Again, this means values preserved compared with values sacrificed, not a single cost-accounting of lives and dollars." (all quotes, and much material, Martino, unless otherwise noted).
We assume, of course, that all other criteria of a Just War are met. If one is violated, the entire war becomes unjust.
In Discrimination we said that one may not licitly make attacks in which noncombatants are directly intended to be killed". The question with regards to Proportion is how many civilians may be killed, even accidentally, before the action become illegitimate.
All this may seem macabre and unseemly. "How many we may kill" does make one wince, and properly so. As Herman Kahn said, however, we must not flinch from these issues, for they will arise, whether we like it or not. If we think them through before the war actually begins, at least we will have a dispassionate tool for evaluating our actions in the heat of battle. Unfortunately for me, the War on Terror is well underway, but that is something that cannot be helped. Better late than never.
Our enemies, not being stupid, know full well our moral qualms. Even since Vietnam they have taken advantage of our desire to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.
The North Vietnamese "deliberately located supply dumps in the middle of populate areas, in some cases simply stacking supplies in the mains streets of villages, confident that under the ground rules imposed on our bombing missions, those sites would not be attacked." And right they were.
As everyone knows, we have a similar situation in Iraq. The terrorists routinely hide in Mosques, and use women and children as shields. They play dead, or pretend to surrender, and then at the last moment reveal weapons and fire at us. Much of the world media advance their cause, deliberately or no, by playing up each and every alleged American violation, however small, while ignoring the blatant violations of the terrorists.
All this raises the question of whether we can or should grant our enemy a sanctuary. As Martino asks, "how many casualties are those supply dumps going to cause our side? Are we obliged to protect enemy civilians to the extent of completely avoiding attacks on enemy weapons, particularly when many of those weapons will be deliberately used in indiscriminate attacks that will kill civilians on our side?" Although written in 1988, Martino's words questions are relevant today.
Giving our enemy a sanctuary is unacceptable. Yet we must not be callous and "hardcore" and simply state that any and all accidental civilian casualties are acceptable. Martino answers his own questions by pointing out that
..providing the enemy with a sanctuary violates the rights of those who will be innocent victims of whatever the enemy places in the sanctuary. At the very least, we must weigh the values lost on our own side by permitting the sanctuary with the values destroyed on the enemy side by denying the sanctuary. Beyond this, however, we must include the values threatened or destroyed on the enemy side by the installation they have placed in the sanctuary. The continued reign of injustice on the enemy side destroys values among the victims of that injustice. Shortened or weakening that reign may well preserve more values than the attack destroys.To this we may add lessons learned from our recent experience from Afghanistan and Iraq
We can summarize the sanctuary issue by saying that the enemy need not be allowed to protect his weapons and other legitimate military targett with innocent shields. It may well be proportionate to attack an important target that the enemy has located in a densly populated area.
- Enemy civilians may become our civilians very shortly. In Vietnam, which was at the center of what Martino wrote above, there was little or no possibility that we would occupy North Vietnam. In the War on Terror, the objective is just the opposite with regard to occupy certain enemy nations; we wish to occupy them and reform their nation and government.
- Allowing one sanctuary will only lead to the development by the enemy of more and more sanctuaries. We must remember that "the enemy is an animate object that reacts" (Clausewitz, I think).
Budget of Values
On the one hand, a "...we have to reject the view that simply concentrating the deaths in one location makes the total disproportionate when the same total would be proportionate if it were distributed widely." In other words, concentration or dispersal of civilian deaths is irrelevant.
On the other hand, "...the total values to be preserved by going to war, the values forming the basis for the jus ad bellum proportion, amount to a budget of values." This is not to imply a precision such as one has in financial accounting. Rather, we must keep in mind that there is a "total budget" available in a war, and we exceed it we risk making the entire war disproportionate.
In other words, "...we may not attack anything and everything of some military value in the enemy nation, simply 'because it's there'". Some people, of course, would have us do just that. We must reject that extreme view.
But there will be individual instances, such as with high value targets, when we may exceed our "budget" for any one operation. For example, in Fallujah, we destroyed a terrorist base, but at great cost to the surrounding infrastructure. American policy-makers reckoned that in this case the cost was worth it. Earlier in the war, we decided not to attack Mullah Sadr as we thought the cost too high. It is important to note that there is not an exact formula, and reasonable people can disagree about individual cases, but we must try to adhere to the general concept.
As I have said throughout this series, there is no precise formula to Just War Theory. Reasonable people can and will disagree on interpretations. But the point is to agree on a general framework for discussion.
Proportion Before and During the War
In summary, then, the jus ad bellum criterion of proportion says one mustn't go to war unless the values to be preserved by the war exceeded the values to be sacrificed. Within the war, the jus in bello criterion of proportion says that when one takes action against enemy military units or installations, the values sacrificed in the attack must not exceeded the values that would be threatened by the continued existence of the target.
United States and coalition actions in Afghanistan met the test of proportionality.
Proportion is not simply revenge, so talk of "they killed 3,000 of our people, we're justified in killing 3,000 of theirs" is out of place. We did not invade Afghanistan to take revenge for September 11. We did it to prevent another one. As such, we were justified in denying our enemy a sanctuary.
In Iraq we have adopted a "budget of values" approach. In Fallujah we "spent" a lot when we staged a full-scale attack on the terrorist army. In other places, such as earlier in Sadr City with Mullah Sadr, we held back our forces, believing that a full-scale attack would cost us more than we would gain. Clearly, if we had wanted to simply subdue Iraq, we could level a lot most of the country. All of the intense criticism directed at US commanders for their alleged failure to deal severely with thorns like Mullah Sadr demonstrate the restraint that we have practiced.
While it has taken some time, the full benefits of our actions in both countries are now beginning to be seen. With the success of the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are seeing an "Arab Spring" throughout that region of the world. While of course it is too early to draw ultimate conclusions, or to say with certainty as to what the final result will be, one cannot escape the conclusion that the benefits to our invasions have been much greater than we had originally hoped.
That we did not find the WMD that we expected to find changes none of this. Contrary to left-wing conspiracy theorists, all reports indicate that the administration acted in good faith. Given the intelligence reports that they had to work with, the President and his advisors had good reason to believe that Saddam had stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions.
Next up: Summary and Reevaluation of Just War Theory