Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The next time somebody argues that America should only fight wars alongside large numbers of soldiers from its "traditional allies," ask them whether they are serious, or disingenuously demanding an impossible prerequisite to military action.
The core issue under scrutiny was Al Gore's impressive hypocrisy as it relates to his mansion and its energy consumption in comparison to his Inconvenient rhetoric. One of the lefties -- in my view, at least an intellectually honest lefty -- was prepared to call Gore out for the hypocrisy. The other, my famed debating partner Screwy, was more reluctant.
A similar problem has, as we know, clamped onto John Edwards ankle. That would be the Two Americas guy who has a shiny new 20,000 square foot castle. I wonder which one he longs to lead.
Both of these fellows are populist candidates with a ringing anti-corporate, anti-business, anti-executive shtick. And yet both live like corporate titans.
Personally, I have no problem with a successful person who rings the bell having a big house, plenty of cars, whatever. That's America. But the chutzpah to tell everybody how they should live -- when they don't even pretend to manage a conservative (or conservationist) lifestyle -- is beyond off-putting. It is a powerful reflection of a repugnant lack of integrity. And I'm not even getting -- yet -- to the Geffen indictment of the Clinton's lack of veracity. Is it possible that a majority of the American public will overlook or ignore these character flaws when they are so well known and documented? Perhaps. Or people will prioritize differently depending upon their individual politics and their taste for indiscretion (which type of hypocrisy do you prefer?).
Now, I think as politics and partisanship get more intense over the next 18 months, scrutiny will be applied to the other significant candidates in the field - Obama, McCain, Giuliani and Romney. And if character matters, as I think it does to most of the American public, the parties will find themselves in very different places as the primaries, and the general election, unfold.
Unless you live in a cave in Waziristan you know that the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined by more than 400 points yesterday, a drop of 3.29%. The S&P 500 fell by 3.86%. The breadth of the sell-off was arresting. According to an email I just received from Morgan Stanley, 99.6% of the stocks in the S&P 500 went down yesterday. If my complex calculations are correct, that means that only two stocks in the S&P 500 did not lose value. And 498 did.
This is by no means a new observation, but as somebody born and raised during the Cold War I still feel as though I'm in Bizarro World when I read things like this:
Bullish comments in China's state-controlled media appeared to reassure anxious domestic investors, who account for virtually all trading. China will focus on ensuring financial stability and security, the official Xinhua News Agency cited Premier Wen Jiabao as saying in an essay due to be published in Thursday's issue of the Communist Party magazine Qiushi.
Your modern Commie, who may actually be the same guy who in the 1960s imprisoned or shot intellectuals and dug up city parks because they were too bourgeois, is now all about being bullish. True, he's still going on about "financial stability and security" and that could be a bit ominous, but it probably only means that he respects the popular reaction to stock market volatility to roughly the same extent as, say, Senator Sarbanes. In the end, you have to agree that's a huge improvement.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
There righty sphere is in gut-grabbing chortle mode over the revelation that one of Al Gore's three luxurious houses uses more energy (via Glenn and everybody else) in a month than the average household does in a year. Gore, apparently, is a chickengreen, calling on others to make sacrifices he won't make.
The most interesting thing about this is that at least some leading conservatives go on quietly conserving without demanding that everybody else do the same. Bill Frist is the rich, retired Senator from Tennessee with the green house, and Wizbang compares the household efficiency and carbon loadiness of Al Gore and George W. Bush, respectively.
Americans -- at least those who do not suck up to the Hollywood nobility -- can smell a phony a mile away. They will only start listening to these guys about the sacrifices they should make when they walk past them in the first class sections of regularly scheduled commercial flights. Until then, they have less credibility than a carnival barker.
Pamela Anderson has finally realized that UGGs sheepskin boots are made of... sheep! From her "diary" entry of February 21, 2007 (photo at right for purely illustrative purposes):
I'm getting rid of our Uggs - I feel so guilty for that craze being started around Baywatch days - I used to wear them with my red swim suit to keep warm - never realizing that they were SKIN! I thought they were shaved kindly? People like to tell me all the time that I started that trend - yikes! Well lets start a new one - do NOT buy Uggs! Buy Stella McCartney or juicy boots - I'm looking for alternatives myself for my boys and the men in my life! I'm designing some right now for my family and will try and have some available on my website soon.
It's what I grab by my door in the mornings to bring my kids to school or walk my dog on the beach at 6am or anything early - I've definitely over used them - and that's it!!!!
Those things are leather? Say it ain't so!
Now I feel terribly about the UGGs I bought for my daughter when I was in Australia.
The Telegraph has an amusing photograph.
And, no, I don't go surfing around for Pamela Anderson stories. Jules Crittendon does, though!
If you have broadband and a few minutes to kill, watch Jonah Goldberg and Jonathan Chait duke it out on BloggingHeads.tv. Three minutes or so in, note the casual way that Jonah tosses off a reference to a post "on TigerHawk," as if everybody who is even remotely hip knows all about us.
Our influence is indeed vast.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Odds are, you or somebody you care about takes medicine for Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (you do, after all, stay up late reading blogs!). Well, the United States Food and Drug Administration is requiring the manufacturers of the leading ADHD drugs -- Adderall, Focalin, and the various formulations of methylphenidate hydrochloride (most popularly known as Ritalin) to supply new warnings and instructions to patients and physicians (draft "medication guides" for 15 well-known drugs and doseages are here). The accompanying press release warns patients against both cardiovascular and psychiatric adverse events:
ADHD is a condition that affects approximately 3 percent to 7 percent of school-aged children and approximately 4 percent of adults. The three main symptoms are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. People with ADHD may have difficulty in school, troubled relationships with family and peers, and low self-esteem.
An FDA review of reports of serious cardiovascular adverse events in patients taking usual doses of ADHD products revealed reports of sudden death in patients with underlying serious heart problems or defects, and reports of stroke and heart attack in adults with certain risk factors.
Another FDA review of ADHD medicines revealed a slight increased risk (about 1 per 1,000) for drug-related psychiatric adverse events, such as hearing voices, becoming suspicious for no reason, or becoming manic, even in patients who did not have previous psychiatric problems.
Notwithstanding the scariness, patients and their families who benefit from these drugs should absolutely not run from these medications, which are at least as often a godsend as they are overprescribed. However, do read the medication guide associated with the drug you are concerned about. You will then probably know as much about this as your family's doctor.
The new O'Quiz is up. Against virtually all precedent, I scored an 8. No, I would not lie about that.
Post your own girly-man scores in the comments below.
Just asking is all.
Yeah, they're winning. Right. Of course, those digs are cozy compared to Saddam's box. And Slobo's...which means maybe Qaddafi and the Prince of Norkness win the IQ test.
I love America.
Regular commenter and TigerHawk cousin GreenmanTim made it to the front page of the Wall Street Journal today!
"For me, it's much more about the simple joys of discovery. I appreciate what technology can do, but I don't want the distraction, and I don't want a barrier," says Tim Abbott, a 38-year-old birder in North Canaan, Conn., who confines himself to binoculars. "I don't want to spend all my time wishing I could recharge my computer so I could get the bird atlas going."
If you don't know it already, be sure to check out GreenmanTim's excellent blog, Walking the Berkshires.
The WaPo reports that, once again, federal employees have beaten back an attempt to link pay to performance. Washington is such a strange place, and people say such bizarre things with no apparent recognition that they are completely alien to the rest of the country. Consider this bit:
The unions and some employees are skeptical about revamping pay practices, in part because they believe giving managers greater discretion over raises will let them play favorites or use pay decisions to single out employees for punitive actions.
Former New York Times reporter Cliff May:
I give Gore credit for keeping his speech short and to the point. But the idea, articulated by his worshipful Hollywood supporters, that it somehow takes courage for a member of the political class to ask Americans to cede more power to the political class so they can deal with “the crisis of climate change” is ludicrous.
Joe Lieberman has a nice essay in this morning's Wall Street Journal. You should read it all, but if you don't consider at least this point:
But we must not make another terrible mistake now. Many of the worst errors in Iraq arose precisely because the Bush administration best-cased what would happen after Saddam was overthrown. Now many opponents of the war are making the very same best-case mistake--assuming we can pull back in the midst of a critical battle with impunity, even arguing that our retreat will reduce the terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq.
Indeed. It is now obvious that large parts of the executive branch -- particularly in the administration but elsewhere as well -- did not plan for the worst after the fall of Saddam's government. It is astonishing that nobody in the White House seemed to understand that we could be "greeted with flowers" by 80% of the population and still have an enormous problem on our hands. The opposition now seems to be making exactly the same mistake concerning withdrawal, assuming that it is our presence that fuels the conflict, and that it will remain confined inside Iraq. What if it isn't, and what if it won't?
Sunday, February 25, 2007
We took the kids to see Amazing Grace (trailer) this afternoon. It was the first film to move me to tears -- admittedly, not such a difficult thing -- in quite some time.
It is the story of the campaign to abolish slavery in the British empire in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, led by William Wilberforce, a young MP from Yorkshire. Wilberforce has a conversion experience -- in today's terminology, he is born again -- and has to choose between a life of service to God or a career in politics. Various people, including the leaders of the then-radical abolitionist movement and his college friend, the future prime minister William Pitt the Younger, persuade him that he can do both.
The title of the movie comes from the greatest of all Christian hymns, "Amazing Grace." Its author, John Newton, was a British slaver who eventually repented, joined the ministry and himself preached against slavery. In the movie Newton becomes something of a monkish mentor to Wilberforce and eventually becomes one of the witnesses against slavery in the political battle for its abolition.
The film does depart from history on minor matters. The House of Commons seems to be full of peers, and Wilberforce's political mentor, Charles James Fox, lives to see the passage of the Slave Trade Act (in fact, he died about five months before its enactment). I'm sure there are other quibbles.
In the end, imperfect fidelity to history notwithstanding, Amazing Grace is a well-executed movie about an extremely inspiring political and social campaign to change the world. Most remarkably, the hero of the movie is a devoutly Christian English gentleman and his circle of aristocratic friends and allies, and the story centers on their triumph. The brutality of slavery lurks in the background, but the movie makes no common attempt to stoke the audience's emotions with long scenes that depict slavery graphically. This is smart, for that has been done many times, now to the point of tedium. Instead, the movie allows us to see slavery only as Wilberforce's upper class audience would have seen it -- abstractly, through his oration, with only a glimpse or a fleeting smell to remind them that it really is there. Amazing Grace is ultimately therefore a movie about a male, wealthy upperclass Englishman heroically changing the world through the power of argument and Christian faith without either gratuitous barbarity or post-modern cynicism. Go see it.
I was fascinated to learn that Al Sharpton's ancestors were chattel slaves of the family of the late Senator from South Carolina and erstwhile segregationist, Strom Thurmond. Sharpton, never at a loss for words, was virtually speechless at the news:
"I have always wondered what was the background of my family," the newspaper quoted Sharpton as saying. "But nothing — nothing — could prepare me for this."
"It's chilling. It's amazing."
Sharpton's office said Sunday morning that he would not comment until a news conference planned for later in the day.
I always imagine the worst, so naturally I wonder this: Are Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond cousins?
Before you cry foul, tell me with a straight face that you don't believe Sharpton isn't wondering the same thing.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Niall Ferguson, who is a very smart guy, examines the roots of anti-Americanism. His theory also explains why so many people hate the New York Yankees.
Patrick Ruffini thinks that the surge is succeeding. There is evidence of that, he says, in both the facts, and that you haven't heard of them.
A gloomy haze has settled over the nation's prosecution of the War on Terror as of late. It seems like we can only watch helplessly as Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha size up new angles of attack for undermining the war effort. The media is chomping at the bit the tell the story of an America, bruised and humbled and exhausted, heading for the exits in Iraq.
But something interesting is happening on the way to the "new direction." Early indications are that the troop surge into Baghdad is working. It hasn't been reported on widely, but murders in Baghdad are down 70%, attacks are down 80%, Mahdi Army chief Moqtada al-Sadr has reportedly made off for Iran, and many Baghdadis who had fled the violence now feel it's safe enough to return. The strategy that Congress is busy denouncing is proving to be our best hope for victory.
In Iraq, there's a sense that change is in the air -- literally. Omar of Iraq the Model spots a B-1 Bomber in the skies of Baghdad for the first time since the end of the major combat. On the ground, Omar writes that the signs that Iraqis are getting serious about security are more palbable. With the help of Compstat-like technology, security forces are cracking down at checkpoints (even ambulances are getting stopped) and getting nimbler about locating them strategically so the terrorists don't know what to expect.
This turnaround in Baghdad is confirmed at home by the media's near-deafening silence. If it seems like you've heard less about how Iraq is spiraling into civil war in the weeks since the surge was announced, this is why. Even some discordant voices in the media are starting to wonder what's happening. Time magazine worries that it's "Quiet in Baghdad. Too quiet." That's right -- a dramatic reduction in violence is actually bad news....
When things don't go well in Iraq, we see the endless B-roll of chaos and carnage. When things are on the upswing, we tend to hear more about Anna Nicole Smith. The media will never acknowledge victories in Iraq, so we'll have to settle for an absence of bad coverage. But even in this relative lull in Iraq, it's important to understand and appreciate the short-term victories so we can create more of them. And finish the job.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if he were right?
It being recently politically correct to deplore supermodels who are "too thin," I am wondering what standard to apply. Help me out here.
Is Venezuelan model Carolina Tejada, pictured above, too thin or not too thin? Vote in the poll below:
Yes, I have had a couple of beers and will undoubtedly regret this in the morning.
It has been said that during the Cold War the principal adversaries would occasionally open the doors of their silos so rival satellites could verify that there were, in fact, missiles inside. The point, presumably, was to disabuse the adversary of any fantasy that there weren't thousands of ICBMs poised to retaliate.
One can't help but wonder whether Israel isn't doing essentially the same thing. Israel does not have ICBM silos and Iran does not have reliable spy satellite coverage, so Israel needs to leak its way to credibility:
Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran's nuclear programme, Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission from the Pentagon.
A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an "air corridor" in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.
"We are planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues such as these are crucially important," said the official, who asked not to be named.
"The only way to do this is to fly through US-controlled air space. If we don't sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other."
Of course, it is impossible to believe that these discussions, if they are happening at all, were leaked by a rogue in the Israeli government or military. The leak had a purpose, which was to improve the credibility of Israel's threat that it will neutralize Iran's nuclear capability if negotiations fail. Since the United States cannot admit to such discussions, Israel also must deny that they are taking place, and it has done so.
A leak such as this also reinforces the position of the Western countries, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom (with the United States lurking in the background), which are pressuring Iran to return to the negotiating table. If economic sanctions are not adequate to the task, then what stiffer measures are available? The Europeans are not in a political or military position to threaten Iran with military action, but they are happy to let Israel at least appear to light the fuse, especially since it plays into Iran's dark view of the Jewish state. From this perspective, Israeli sabre-rattling improves the chances of a negotiated settlement, a result that even Israel would much prefer.
There is a small blogocentric angle, and that is the different reactions of lefty and righty bloggers to this news. Righty bloggers view the leaking of this news, if it is news, as improving the chances for a peaceful settlement. The few lefty blogs that have linked the story seem to think that it is evidence, in and of itself, that an attack is in the offing. This seems silly to me -- surely the Israelis have good enough operational security that we would not be hearing about it in the Telegraph if they really were about to put planes in the air. The micro-question is, what is it about the psychology of left and right that they interpret the idiom of confrontation so differently?
UPDATE: The lefty Booman Tribune does, indeed, get it.
Mark Steyn's latest essay in The Australian reminds us that America is alone even when its "allies" support the mission.
For the less enthusiastically obstructive NATO members, "ally" means "wealthy country with no military capability that requires years of diplomatic wooing and black-tie banquets in order to agree to a token contribution of 23.08 troops." Incidentally, that 23.08 isn't artistic licence on my part. The 2004 NATO summit in Turkey was presented as a triumph of multilateral co-operation because the 26 members agreed to contribute between them an additional 600 troops and three helicopters to the Afghan mission. That's 23.08 troops and a ninth of a helicopter per ally. In fairness, Turkey chipped in the three helicopters single-handed, though the deal required them to return to Ankara after three months.
And these days troops is something of an elastic term, too. In Norwegian, it means "fighting men who are prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans, as long as they don't have to do any fighting and there are at least two provinces between their shoulders and the American ones". That's to say, Norway is "participating" in Afghanistan, but, because its troops are "not sufficiently trained to take part in combat", they've been mainly back at the barracks manning the photocopier or staging amateur performances of Peer Gynt for the amusement of US special forces who like nothing better than to unwind with five acts of Ibsen after a hard day hunting the Taliban.
Alas, even being in the general vicinity of regions where fighting is taking place got a little too much so the Norwegians demanded a modification of their rules of non-engagement and insisted their "soldiers" be moved to parts of Afghanistan where there's no fighting whatsoever by anyone at all. Good luck finding any....
...The Americans accept (a little too easily, I'd say) the political reality that these days a military coalition will be 95 per cent US, 4 per cent Britain and 1 per cent everybody else, with the detachment of Royal Marines from Tonga ranking as a greater per capita contribution than any NATO member. But, given the relatively small numbers, they should at least be doing something when they get there.
The ugly truth is that George H.W. Bush's "new world order," in which the wealthy countries of the world would police rogue states with collective containment, was doomed to failure as soon as Europe decided that it no longer needed to defend itself. And maybe Europe doesn't. There are no obvious proximate threats to Europe, and the United States will keep the distant threats at bay at no meaningful cost to most of Europe. One wonders what Europe will do, though, when a new military threat does emerge, whether from a Russia gone bad or a resurgent Islam or a source we cannot today anticipate. What if we decide to sit that one out?
Friday, February 23, 2007
Who among you is not extraordinarily entertained by the accusations flying between the mullahs and the Russians over who owes whom for the heavy-water reactor that the erstwhile Commies are building in Tehran?
Tehran said Thursday it is ready to resolve any problems over its purported failure to pay Russia for the construction of a nuclear power plant in southern Iran within 10 days.
The Russian nuclear equipment and services monopoly said Wednesday it has sent its Iranian partners a timeframe for settling an outstanding debt for the construction of the Bushehr NPP.
Atomstroyexport, the contractor for the NPP project, said Tuesday that Tehran has not made payments for the $1 billion NPP project in over a month.
"Iran transferred all the necessary payments to the Russian company Atomstroyexport for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant on time, in conformity with the current contract," said Mohammad Saidi, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency.
There is also this bit, which is fascinating to us non-experts:
Atomstroyexport said the lack of funding could slow the work on the project, adding that third countries are involved in equipment deliveries.
Which other countries? Anybody out there want to figure out the answer while I'm flying home from Chicago tonight?
Candidly, I'm not entirely comfortable linking to my little sister's post about sex. However, it includes the words "danglers," "glim-jacks" and "sumptuaries," so I didn't want you to miss out.
Today, the issue is NOT the economy. Five years of economic growth, a bull market and 4.5% unemployment is not going to help the Democratic Party regain the White House. At least the Democrats don't seem to think so. That's why Obama, Hillary and their supporters are fighting about 1 thing -- the war.
When Democratic billionaire funding sources are ripping the Clintons, they are doing so for one reason -- and by the way, it's fun to observe. Soros and Geffen (and there are many others like them) are universalists, billionaires who long for the death of the nation state, utopians, philosopher kings all. And they hate the Iraq War. They view the war against Islamic fanatics as a law enforcement problem; they view the Iraq War as a reflection of American imperialistic arrogance. They are aligned with the Kos camp, which wants Hillary to do what Edwards did -- repudiate her Iraq War vote.
And, good for her, she will not do it. The entire 2008 general election will turn on the future conduct of the war on Islamic fanatics (including Iranian mullahs) and the ongoing management of the Iraq War -- which the majority of the American public is prepared to see through to a victorious conclusion. If she repudiates that vote, she cannot win the general election. But can she survive the Democratic primaries? I think she can. Obama and Edwards have no chance -- no chance -- to win the general election. But will the Democrats go McGovern on us? Or Humphrey? If they go Clinton (the Humphrey analogy,) they have a shot. McGovernish (anti-war)? They get clobbered.
Personally, I think they lose either way. McCain, Giuliani and Romney are all superior candidates.
It's all about the war. Keep your eye on the ball.
Have you seen the judge presiding over the Anna Nicole Smith hearings?
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I'm about 36 hours late in the rumble over what John Edwards might have said about Israel at a Hollywood fundraiser:
There are other emerging fissures, as well. The aggressively photogenic John Edwards was cruising along, detailing his litany of liberal causes last week until, during question time, he invoked the "I" word — Israel. Perhaps the greatest short-term threat to world peace, Edwards remarked, was the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. As a chill descended on the gathering, the Edwards event was brought to a polite close.
The Edwards campaign has denied that he said this (link via Glenn), claiming instead that he meant to say that Iran's development of a nuclear weapon was the greatest threat to world peace.
This back-and-forth has touched off the usual storm between lefty and righty blogs. If you were wondering what a "kerfuffle" is, well, this is a kerfuffle.
Now here's the fun part. Apart from its domestic political implications -- which are probably ephemeral -- Edwards' gaff has geopolitical value for the United States. First, the most dovish of the leading American presidential candidates conveyed the strong impression that he actually is worried that Israel will strike Iran's nuclear facilities. That has to concern the mullahs. Sure, you and I might think that Edwards is a fool, but to the government of Iran he is an extremely prestigious American political figure, just a few votes short of the Vice Presidency and very possibly the next President. To the extent that Israel's implicit threat to bomb Iran is not credible in Tehran, it is a bit more so after Edwards' gaff. The greater the credibility of Israel's implicit threat, the better our leverage.
Second, Edwards immediately backpedaled under pressure. He is facing a primary campaign that will turn on his appeal to the activist left of the Democratic party, and still he groveled when called to account for a heresay remark about Israel that, in the end, was pretty tame (even if also lame). If you were an enemy of Israel and you were biding your time in the hope that America's support for the Jewish state would diminish with a Democratic victory in 2008, that hope died a little this week.
There you have it. John Edwards is an accidental geopolitical genius.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
For those few of you who haven't seen it elsewhere, behold "A World Without America," a short "advertisement" from 18 Doughty Street.
The Russians, it seems, are not delighting the mullahs with the total quality experience they seem to expect:
Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said that any delay by Moscow in the completion of Bushehr Power Plant will leave a bad impact in the minds of the Iranian people about cooperation with Russia.
Speaking to reporters during a press conference here in Tehran on Wednesday, he expressed surprise at the recent remarks made by a Russian official that a delayed payments by Iran will result in the delayed completion of Bushehr power plant by Moscow.
"During my meeting with the head of the National Security Commission of the Russian national Security yesterday, I told him that we view the power plant in Bushehr as a symbol of the two countries' cooperation, that the facility must be handed over to Iran on time and that there should not be an excuse or justification for delaying the delivery. And they endorsed my views," he said.
Haddad Adel continued, "The other party also said that they do not view such statements as a serious impediment to the prompt completion and delivery of the power plant."
"Yet, I warn Russians that any prolongation in the delivery of Bushehr power plant will leave a bad effect in the minds of the Iranian people," he stated, adding that Russians seem to be experiencing financial disorder among themselves.
The interesting question is whether this dispute is purely a result of the hilarious intersection of Russian and Iranian incompetence. Is there a chance that the Russians, for all their recent nettlesome tweaking of the United States, really don't want the Iranians to make plutonium in their heavy-water reactor?
The Arms Control Wonk considers the strange word "disablement," its application in the Six Party Talks over North Korea's nuclear program, and whether or not it translates into Chinese. Interesting stuff. I note, however, that his snarky suggestion that "disablement" is not a "real" word in English is a cheap shot. "Disablement" is real enough to appear in several descriptive dictionaries -- which I agree is proof of nothing -- and the Fourth Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. For those of you without a librarian in the family, that is strong evidence that "disablement" is, in fact, a "real" word. The American Heritage Dictionary is prescriptive, meaning that it includes only words that have been vetted as "accepted" or "standard" by a panel of very snooty experts. Lacking an Acadamie Anglais, the American Heritage Dictionary is as close to a gold standard for determining whether a word is or is not "real" as we Americans have. So, whether or not "disablement" obfuscates more than it clarifies in a diplomatic statement that will be translated into five languages, it is certainly a "real" American English word and Condoleezza Rice need not apologize for having used it.
James Laney, United States Ambassador to South Korea during the Clinton years, on the recent deal with North Korea:
Last week's agreement on North Korea's nuclear program has many critics. Those on the right have assailed the Bush administration for abandoning its core principles and setting a bad example for other states that misbehave (read: Iran) by rewarding North Korea's blackmail. They also maintain that the agreement is so vague agreement and full of loopholes that North Korea will never adhere to it. Those on the Left, meanwhile, claim that the deal came too late and at too great a cost. They argue that the administration, blinded by its own ideology, scuttled the 1994 Agreed Framework only to sign a very similar deal six years later, after Pyongyang had restarted its nuclear program, quintupled its plutonium stockpile, increased its number of nuclear bombs from two to perhaps eight, and conducted a nuclear test.
There are elements of truth in both critiques, but there is no denying that the accord reached in Beijing marks a watershed moment for the Korean peninsula and, more broadly, for Northeast Asia.
Some of the reasons for this are clearer than others. For North Korea, the agreement represents its last and best shot at avoiding absolute isolation. If Pyongyang fails to adhere to the deal, it will infuriate Beijing, which served as host for the negotiations and whose prestige is now on the line. More important, China wants the nuclear issue resolved before the 2008 Olympics, especially after North Korea's nuclear test in October demonstrated how willing Kim Jong Il's regime is to jeopardize regional stability for its own benefit. If North Korea walks away now from a deal it signed with China, it will risk losing critical Chinese aid and prove to all parties, including South Korea, that it can never be trusted as a negotiating partner.
Frankly, I think Ambassador Laney is correct, even if I also think he is (forgiveably) soft-peddling the weaknesses in the 1994 Agreed Framework.
Regardless of what one thinks of the 1994 Agreed Framework and the significance of the subsequent years of neglect (under Clinton) and sabre-rattling (under Bush), the problem for the United States is that our influence in northeast Asia has waned, even since 1994. However much the Democrats and the New York Times demanded it, there was no room for a bilateral deal. China has emerged as a much more powerful force in the region and Pyongyang's primary, even if reluctant, benefactor. Japan and South Korea are both shaking off their dependencies on the United States, and will no longer reflexively do everything we ask them to do. Even Russia is more assertive. Whether or not the Agreed Framework was a reasonable deal at the time, 13 years have passed during which time it has become much easier for the North Koreans to play the various regional actors against each other. Pyongyang desperately wanted to deal with the United States bilaterally because it knew that the United States could not easily enforce any agreement without the cooperation of China and South Korea. China especially was unlikely to cooperate in enforcement if it was not a party to the agreement in the first place. That is why the first requirement for dealing with North Korea today was careful multilateral diplomacy to build a united front. That is exactly what the Bush administration did.
And, no, much as I like the guy I don't hang on John Bolton's every opinion. He is opposed to the Six Party deal because it "crosses the line" into "rewarding" North Korea for its bad behavior. I have three objections to Ambassador Bolton's position.
First, he offers no alternative for dealing with North Korea's weapons program other than intransigence. While intransigence in foreign affairs is far more useful than transnational progressives and international bureaucrats dare to admit, one wonders what its purpose is here. Ambassador Bolton, I'm sure, hopes that North Korea's economy will eventually collapse and with it the disgusting regime in Pyongyang. Not only is there no sign of that happening, but China and South Korea, which are essential to any strategy of intransigence, want to avoid chaos in North Korea even more than they want Kim to give up his nuclear weapons. The best end-game of intransigence is revolution, but that is a highly problematic result for the four powers that border North Korea or are in range of its weapons and refugees.
Second, the policy of intransigence effectively cedes the geopolitical initiative to Pyongyang. North Korea, in its desperation for economic assistance, will continue to provoke its neighbors until it gets attention of some sort. In this case, intransigence is tantamount to begging North Korea to "show us what ya got". I think it is understandable that the South Koreans and Japanese do not want to see everything North Korea has got.
Third, intransigence assumes that our bargaining power will never be lower than it is today. That is a dangerous and probably incorrect assumption in northeast Asia, where our leverage has been steadily declining for quite some time with the rising affluence and psychological independence of China, Japan and South Korea. Also, China's obsessive interest in a peaceful 2008 Olympics -- which would present a perfect opportunity for Pyongyang to provoke the United States -- may have created a near-term peak in American bargaining power. A policy of inflexible intransigence would cause us to miss that window of opportunity.
Of course, John Bolton's dark predictions for this deal may yet come to pass. It is far from obvious, though, that he has any alternative strategy that is any less risky than the Six Party talks. As regular readers know, I am not a diplomacy fetishist, thought John Bolton was a great Ambassador to the United Nations, and strongly believe that intransigence has its useful applications. However, it is a tactic, not a strategy. I won't agree that it is the best tactic in this case until somebody explains to me how it results in a deal that China and South Korea will endorse and enforce.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
An informed source said here in Tehran on Tuesday that after terrorists' hideout in Iran's southeastern city of Zahedan was conquered, Iranian police discovered several US-made remote controlled detonators there.
Speaking to FNA, the source expressed deep concern about the US intentions and plots for sowing discord between Shiite and Sunnite Muslims, specially inside Iran.
On the one hand, it delights me to think that we have finally figured out how to wage a proxy war against Iran, the prevailing master of the genre. On the other hand, my delight is tempered -- indeed, virtually extinguished -- by the very high probability that the story is as fraudulent as the evidence adduced in its support.
The new O'Quiz is up and I, at least, think it is a toughie (5 correct out of 10, barely above the boobery's average of 4.80). Compound my humiliation by posting your massive scores in the comments.
Christopher Hitchens drills into the divisions within Islam, and the manner by which the West should, and should not, respect those divisions.
I have met a few very hard-line right-wingers who say: So what? If one lot of Islamists wants to slaughter another, who cares? It's very important to repudiate this kind of "thinking." Religious warfare is the worst thing that can happen to any society, and it now has the potential to spread to societies that are not directly involved. For the most part, official U.S. policy in Iraq has been sound in this respect, always working for a compromise and recently losing American lives to rescue the moderate Shiite leadership from a murder plot hatched by a messianic Shiite militia. Even where this policy fell short—as in the appalling execution of Saddam Hussein—the American Embassy urged the Maliki government not to conduct the hanging on the day of the Eid ul-Adha holiday that would most humiliate the Sunnis. We cannot flirt, either morally or politically, with divide and rule.
However, the self-generated Islamic civil war does have significance in the wider cultural struggle. All over the non-Muslim world, we hear incessant demands that those who believe in the literal truth of the Quran be granted "respect." We are supposed to watch what we say about Islam, lest by any chance we be considered "offensive." A fair number of authors and academics in the West now have to live under police protection or endure prosecution in the courts for not observing this taboo with sufficient care. A stupid term—Islamophobia—has been put into circulation to try and suggest that a foul prejudice lurks behind any misgivings about Islam's infallible "message."
Well, this idiotic masochism has to be dropped. There may have been a handful of ugly incidents, provoked by lumpen elements, after certain episodes of Muslim terrorism. But no true secularist or even Christian has been involved in anything like the torching of a mosque. (The last time that such a thing did happen on any scale—in Bosnia—the United States and Britain intervened militarily to put a stop to it. We also overthrew the Taliban, which was slaughtering the Hazara Shiite minority in Afghanistan.) But where are the denunciations from centers of Sunni and Shiite authority of the daily murder and torture of Islamic co-religionists? Of the regular desecration of holy sites and holy books? Of the paranoid insults thrown so carelessly and callously by one Muslim group at another? This mounting ghastliness is a bit more worthy of condemnation, surely, than a few Danish cartoons or a false rumor about a profaned copy of the Quran in Guantanamo. The civilized world—yes I do mean to say that—should find its own voice and state firmly to Muslim leaders and citizens that respect is something to be earned and not demanded with menace. A short way of phrasing this would be to say, "See how the Muslims respect each other!"
The Wall Street Journal is running a couple of articles this morning that highlight Iran's growing energy crunch. Consumption of electricity and gasoline are rising and the country's production is stagnant to falling because of insufficient capital investment. If present trends continue (always a huge "if" when talking about the supply of and demand for a commodity), within five years Iran's export capacity will fall from around 2.3 million barrels of oil per day to about 1.0 million. The only way to avert that decline is a huge cut in domestic consumption by rationing or the elimination of subsidies for gasoline (which might irritate the public) or a massive infusion of investment capital (which is unlikely without reaching an accomodation with the United States). If you have access to the Journal, both articles are well worth your time.
Avoiding an export squeeze is one reason Iran argues it needs to consider nuclear energy. But that ambition has contributed to a diplomatic impasse with the West. Bush administration officials describe Iran's nuclear program as little more than a ruse to conceal what they say is a hidden effort to build nuclear weapons. Iranian officials deny that, arguing that nuclear plants could handle some of the soaring domestic energy demand, leaving more oil and gas to export and avoiding difficult domestic choices.
Indeed, several other Middle East countries -- including Egypt and the world's largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia -- also are investigating nuclear energy programs, citing similar reasons.
This passage, which goes without elaboration elsewhere in the story, is exceedingly misleading. The world is not worried about Iran's nuclear program per se. The world -- including but certainly not limited to the United States -- believes that Iran's program is a ruse for a weapons program for two very good reasons.
First, Iran has chosen to develop its "power" program using "dual use" technologies that also can produce the raw material necessary for both uranium and plutonium bombs, even though it had less destabilizing alternatives.
The mullahs are building two separate methods for getting to a bomb. Iran is enriching uranium in a centrifuge cascade, and has built a facility large enough to produce sufficient weapons-grade uranium for several bombs per year. It is also building a 40 megawatt "heavy-water" reactor for "research" that will produce plutonium. In both cases, Iran had alternatives that would also produce power but would not put it in a position to build a bomb. Other countries -- including Russia -- have offered to sell Iran enriched uranium nuclear fuel (which is insufficiently enriched for a weapon). Iran could buy a ten-year supply if it were worried about depending on another country (or it could develop multiple sources of enriched uranium from geopolitical rivals). It has refused to consider any of these alternatives, and instead bleats on about "mastering" the nuclear fuel cycle.
Instead of the big "heavy water" plant, Iran could have built a "light-water" reactor that would have been equally valuable for Iran's stated research purposes but which produced only 2% of the plutonium of the heavy-water plant.
Iran could credibly reassure the entire world that it was not trying to build a bomb by rejecting dual-use formats in favor of less threatening nuclear technologies, but it doesn't. There is more background here.
Second, Iran has concealed its nuclear program, both by limiting the access of UN inspectors and through a campaign of misleading public statements about the program. It almost certainly feels that deception is to its geopolitical advantage in its confrontation with the West, but the increased uncertainty makes it impossible for responsible people to accept at face value claims that its nuclear program is "peaceful."
So, when we -- meaning any responsible newspaper or commentator -- explain that Iran may have a legitimate economic need for nuclear technology, let us also explain that there are means to generate atomic power that do not produce the components for weapons, and that Iran has rejected those means and chosen to conceal the development of its dual use technology.
Monday, February 19, 2007
The Iranians arrest, investigate and execute an alleged terrorist in under four days flat. I, for one, eagerly await the howls of outrage from Human Rights Watch, and the reproduction thereof by every major media organization in the world.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times not only swallows manifestly fraudulent Iranian propaganda hook, link, sinker, rod, reel, and boat, but it vastly amplifies the audience for that propaganda.
Unleash the hounds.
Our company has a robust program of online compliance training, and in the main it is excellent. Every now and then, though, one stumbles across a statement or a question that reveals something about the mentality of the people who develop these things. In our "diversity" module there is this interesting idea:
Values allow us to differentiate right from wrong. They're formed early in life from the messages we receive from sources such as heroes, the media, religion, and others.
In my experience, heroes and the media are never a source of "values." Unless the definition of "heroes" is expanded to include any obscure individual that I happen to respect, I can safely say that I have not gotten any of my values from heroes, the media or religion. My values come primarily from my family, both nuclear and extended, secondarily from friends that I have come to admire and want to emulate, and tertiarily from book learning and reflection thereon. I can't think of a single moment when I have differentiated right from wrong based on something I learned from a hero, the media, or even my religion.
It is both interesting and frightening that the people who crafted this corporate training tool believe that values -- the rules we use to differentiate right from wrong -- derive principally from heroes, the media, and religion. If this is a widely held idea, it explains why social engineers of the left and right are so concerned about the "values" portrayed in the media and rush to condemn every "hero" who reveals his or her clay feet by committing some pecadillo. It also explains the popularity of Hillary Rodham Clinton's troubling idea that "it takes a village" to raise a child. In that regard, I have always identified much more closely with Bob Dole's response:
And after the virtual devastation of the American family, the rock upon which this country was founded, we are told that it takes a village, that is collective, and thus the state, to raise a child.
The state is now more involved than it ever has been in the raising of children. And children are now more neglected, more abused and more mistreated than they have been in our time.
This is not a coincidence. This is not a coincidence. And with all due respect, I am here to tell you it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.
There it is. Do you believe that it is the purpose of the state to protect people from the shortcomings or depredations of their families, or do you believe that the family is the foundation of our civil society and therefore the principal defense against the intrusive power of the state? Isn't this the great division in American political life?
The New York Times decides, 18 months after Katrina, that the military should not be used for law enforcement
The New York Times is editorializing this morning against changes to the Insurrection Act and posse comitatus that apparently make it easier to use the United States military for domestic law enforcement. This appears to put the editorial board of the Times at odds with Paul Krugman, who excoriated the Bush administration on September 2, 2005 (Times Select) for not using the military for, er, law enforcment:
Even military resources in the right place weren't ordered into action. ''On Wednesday,'' said an editorial in The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss., ''reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics. Playing basketball and performing calisthenics!'' [Note that nobody actually died at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter -- the claim is literally that 'reporters listened to horrific stories' at the Biloxi shelter, which is another thing entirely. - ed.]
Maybe administration officials believed that the local National Guard could keep order and deliver relief. But many members of the National Guard and much of its equipment -- including high-water vehicles -- are in Iraq. ''The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,'' a Louisiana Guard officer told reporters several weeks ago.
I don't know enough about the subject to know whether I agree with the Times or not, but I am relieved to know -- finally -- that the Times agrees that the Bush administration was right not to use the military to police New Orleans after Katrina.
If John Edwards' blog-reading wife Elizabeth was actually behind the decision to hire Amanda Marcotte (as William Beutler thoughtfully speculated yesterday), what do you suppose went through her mind when she clicked on Pandagon Sunday afternoon?
Keep it clean, no matter how difficult that may be.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I am not sure why, but among the "neocons" who so influenced foreign policy in the first term of George W. Bush, the chattering classes seem to dislike Doug Feith particularly. Not only have I heard much more connected friends of mine go bananas at the mere mention of his name, but journalists and academics seem to go out of their way to write unflattering things about him. Almost three years ago I stumbled across this passage from Philip H. Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro's Allies At War: America, Europe, and the Crisis Over Iraq:
French visitors to Washington were berated by their counterparts, especially in the Pentagon, where officials like Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith accused them of defending Saddam Hussein. To a French defense ministry visitor who had come to the Pentagon in December 2002 to discuss possible French participation in a war, Feith said "We don't want you involved! You think you can be Saddam's lawyer for two months without consequences!" Instead of discussing the possible French support, Feith made the derisory proposal that if France wanted to help, it could provide medical units to the Sinai and fighter planes for Iceland to free up the four planes that the United States had deployed there.
OK. That last bit is funny, but these guys were supposed to be Vulcans, not comedians. Both logic and mere politesse dictate that it rarely pays to insult people who cannot change the policies of their government and might be in a position to help you down the road.
Be that as it may, Mr. Feith really seems to have stepped in it last week. He rather brazenly asserted on Fox that "Nobody in our office said there was an operational relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. It’s not correct. Words matter." Tragically for Feith, Chris Wallace knows how to use Google. Feith did, in fact, assert quite plainly that there was an operational relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda back in 2003, all according to -- *cough* -- The Weekly Standard. The transcript and the video of Wallace's humiliating deconstruction of Feith's memory are here.
Now, I believe -- purely as a matter of religious conviction, mind you -- that we will one day learn that there indeed was a pre-war operational relationship between the Ba'athists and al Qaeda, just as newly available Communist histories have shown that Ho was a bad-to-the-bone Commie and that the strategic hamlets program was working smashingly no matter what David Halberstam wrote in The New York Times. If my faith is right, then Feith will be right, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't keep his story straight. Indeed, I would have preferred it if Feith had stuck to his guns and simply said, "As yet, the evidence of the links between Iraq and al Qaeda is insufficient to prove an operational relationship, but the circumstantial evidence is such that after September 11 we would have been foolish to act if there wasn't." History may yet reveal that position to have been the wise one. Unfortunately, Doug Feith will no longer deserve the credit even if it does.
UPDATE: A commenter says I (and the lefty blogs covering the story) am being unfair to Feith. The commenter's argument is that Feith's original statement that nobody in his office "said there was an operational relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda" related to the ex ante case for the war, and that the memo cited in The Weekly Standard -- which Wallace used to impeach Feith -- was written in October 2003, after the start of the war. Wallace, the commenter charges, conflated these two periods to score points against Feith.
There is some merit to this defense of Feith, but it doesn't save the day for him. The transcript of the original interview supports the commenter's argument as far as it goes, but the interview focused on briefings that Feith gave in the summer of 2002 in which he (apparently) made substantially the same arguments that he then repeated in the October 2003 classified memo leaked to The Weekly Standard (one is forced to wonder, by the way, who leaked it). Wallace quotes from Feith's Power Point slides to box Feith into making the "nobody in my office" claim.
I therefore repeat my wish that Feith had stuck to his guns rather than defend a position that, at best, looks like the splitting of hairs. Having read Stephen Hayes book a couple of years back and a lot of the press coverage around this issue, my best guess is that something happened along the lines of the following: The CIA was producing analysis of known or believed facts that depended heavily on the widely-argued conventional wisdom that al Qaeda's jihadis would not work with the secular Ba'athists for ideological reasons. That conventional wisdom struck many of the hawks as asinine for any number of reasons, including that the same rationale would clearly apply to al Qaeda and Iran, and we knew that there was an "operational relationship" there. The hawks, outraged that the CIA would (in their view) structure their analysis around an assumption that they considered to be implausible, fought back bureaucratically by arguing that we should not ignore the evidence of contacts between al Qaeda and the Ba'athists because they do not fit into the CIA's conception of which of our enemies will work together and which will not. Doug Feith, being a lawyer and therefore a trained advocate, was in the middle of that bureaucratic fight.
My own opinion is that Feith was right to make those arguments even if they are now politically disadvantageous or even prove, in the full revelation of the historical record, to be wrong. This idea that the pronouncements of the CIA are of totemic significance and should go unquestioned is a new one, particularly on the left, and one that the press will surely abandon once Democrats control the White House. I just wish that Feith had stuck to his guns with Wallace instead of parsing words in his own defense.
Iran, aroused by American claims that it is arming anybody and everybody in Iraq, has now taken to forging "evidence" against the United States. Once again, the awesome distributed analytical power of the blogosphere detects the lies of our enemies.
Whenever I see a story like this, it makes me wonder whether the Communists would have been able to sustain their credibility among the soft lefties of the world if the blogosphere had been standing a post during the Cold War.
I'm flying home today after eleven days on the road. I'm looking forward to seeing my kids, who have undoubtedly grown in my absence. Regular blogging will resume this evening.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is in Africa on a charitable mission, donating his services as a surgeon to help people in desperate conditions. He is also blogging the trip. It is fascinating and heart-wrenching stuff regardless of your political views. Here is one example among several recent posts, obviously written by the Senator:
On arrival we were told by another surgeon, “Change of plans … we have an emergency life-or-death case.” A 22 year old Kipsigis tribesman had come in having been shot in the head with an arrow. The arrow, still present but firmly lodged deeply in the man’s skull, entered posteriorly at the base of the neck and penetrated about 7 inches toward his nose. It would prove to be a full and fulfilling day....
Well … I’ve removed knives from the heart, treated on more occasions than I’d like gun shot wounds to the chest, but I have NEVER seen a patient shot in the head with an arrow (Apparently there was a tribal dispute over some land. Until today. (It’s a long way from the floor of the U.S. Senate.)
I have included some pictures of Kisma which tell the whole story of the operation. As you can see the arrow was removed successfully without hemorrhage, although the position of the arrow, with the broad penetrating arrow head, made the surgical exposure very difficult.
Unfortunately, I could not locate the aforementioned pictures of this procedure on Bill Frist's blog.
We changed into our scrubs in the newly constructed operating pavilion in rural Kenya and said hello to Kibet (who we had examined last night) just before he was put to sleep for his surgery. We would do his case first as the emergency patient was being prepared for surgery by another surgical team. A last look at the x-rays and then out to the scrub sink to wash our hands for 10 minutes … no different than in the US.
Kibet was explored through a left thoracotomy (chest incision). There were a lot of adhesions surrounding the lung that had to be taken down sharply. The large mass inside the young boy’s chest was isolated and entered, with tuberculosis pus spilling into the chest cavity. The infected, crumbling, mushy bone of the spine was excised and a bone graft taken from the boy’s hip was inserted after extensive debridement of the infected wound. The healthy bone graft was wedged into position to replace the necrotic bone, with a few bits of rib inserted to fill the surrounding area. He was placed in a full chest cast to ensure stability. I had never seen Pott’s disease so extensive, literally eating away the spine with the abscess mass pushing on the boy’s spine which explained his paralysis. But today’s successful decompression should allow Kibet to walk again. It will take a couple of months for full recovery. But later in the day when we visited him in the recovery room he was smiling without pain.
I won’t get too much into the medical aspects, but have to mention one patient. Kala is an 11 year old boy who in the middle of the night about 2 weeks ago was awakened by a hyena that had broken into his one-room mud hut. The hyena had attacked his older brother, amputating 3 of his fingers and biting off a huge section of his back. The hyena attacked his grandfather and then Kala. (The tribal people explained to me that this is unusual behavior for a hyena – they usually bite once then back off to assess whether or not a carcass is dead …but not on this night.) His grandfather began to bleed profusely from his neck wound. Kala was bitten in the face with a huge section of his left cheek, mouth and lip bitten off. The old man died on the one hour journey to the hospital but Kala survived. He was operated on today by two volunteer surgeons from World Medical Mission (Samaritans Purse) who had come to operate at Tenwek for 2 weeks from Massachusetts and Illinois (They had done so on four previous occasions as well). His face and lip and mouth have been totally reconstructed (see picture) and he can live now a normal life, saved by the grace of others… volunteer doctors, a mission hospital, World Medical Mission, the pilots who bring the doctors here.
For more of that sort of thing, go to the main page of Senator Frist's blog and just keep scrolling. And while you're there, do note that the Senator's "personal blogroll" is only seven blogs long...
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Those aren't my words, they are the judgment of the editors of The Washington Post.
Mr. Murtha's cynicism is matched by an alarming ignorance about conditions in Iraq. He continues to insist that Iraq "would be more stable with us out of there," in spite of the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that early withdrawal would produce "massive civilian casualties." He says he wants to force the administration to "bulldoze" the Abu Ghraib prison, even though it was emptied of prisoners and turned over to the Iraqi government last year. He wants to "get our troops out of the Green Zone" because "they are living in Saddam Hussein's palace"; could he be unaware that the zone's primary occupants are the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy?
My words would be "dumber than a bag of rusty hammers."
The WaPo moves quickly from attack to despair disguised as wishful thinking: "It would be nice to believe that Mr. Murtha does not represent the mainstream of the Democratic Party or the thinking of its leadership." It would also be nice to believe that withdrawal from Iraq will improve the strategic position of the United States. After all, easy decisions are, well, so much easier than hard decisions.
More links here.
I'm late -- very late -- to the party on the controversy surround Amanda Marcotte's brief fling with the Edwards campaign. (On the micro-chance that TigerHawk is the only blog you read -- that means you, Mom -- a very bland summary of the controversy is here, much less bland here.) I do, however, have two tiny observations to contribute, neither of which are probably original to me.
First, somebody needs to explain to me the value of an "official" campaign blogger. It seems to me that such a person will be at best worthless and more likely a liability.
Virtually all bloggers with an audience get that way by developing an original voice that attracts a self-selected audience that is -- let's face it -- pretty narrow in its political leanings. If you're good, you gain a lot of readers who more or less agree on the subjects that you write about (this is largely true, I think, even of the big-traffic "linkers" of the left and right). If you're lucky and enforce a tolerant atmosphere in the comments, you also get a few people who enliven the discussion by taking positions that are "unpopular" among the blog's dominant audience (a big thank you to our regular center-left commenters, by the way). Either way, it is a grave mistake for any blogger to assume that his or her audience is anything other than a narrow sliver of the American voter base, both in fact and in its political preferences.
So, if you hire an "official" blogger with a pre-existing audience -- Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon being a perfect example -- you are not only saddled with all her prior writings, most of which will have been crafted to appeal to an atypical audience (as hers obviously are). You have also recruited into your campaign somebody who is expert at developing a segmented audience. This seems to me to be quite opposite from the mission of a presidential campaign, which is to promulgate a message that appeals in one fashion or another to as large a proportion of the American public as possible.
Now, I appreciate that the "post-Rove" conventional wisdom is that it is more important to energize a candidate's base than to broaden the message to pick off centrist voters, especially during the primary campaign. Perhaps, perhaps not (George W. Bush has certainly sacrificed a lot of issues that are important to his base, presumably in a (failed) attempt to hold the center). One does not need an official campaign blogger to do that, though. Amanda Marcotte and other heavyweight lefty bloggers would have been out there energizing the base whether the Edwards campaign hired them or not. In fact, the real strength of the lefty blogosphere (compared to the right) is that it has self-organized into an influential force to drive its agenda. The lefty blogs make a lot of great things happen for their candidates -- press coverage, fundraising, off-the-wall attacks on conservatives -- at a deniable distance. Why the Edwards campaign wanted to accept responsibility for all of that is beyond me.
Second, I think this episode will turn out to have been good for the Edwards campaign. While it looms large in the blogosphere and got a fleeting bit of coverage in the mainstream media, all will be forgotten well before the Iowa caucuses. The Edwards campaign, however, has undoubtedly learned an early vital lesson about message control, one that it obviously had not absorbed before this. Unless Edwards and his crew are complete blockheads, the blogger kerfuffle will turn out to have been a blessing in disguise.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds (for the Gerstein link).
Friday, February 16, 2007
It being a bit too cloudy for lounging by the pool, Mrs. TigerHawk and I hired a taxi to drive us from the Moon Palace resort to the Chichen Itza Archeology Park. Chichen Itza is the former capital of the Mayan people, in the year 1000 a sprawling city of 50,000 (large for the time, although still only 1/9 the size of the largest city in the world at the time, Cordova, Spain). For reasons that allegedly remain unknown today, the city and all its considerable architectural glory was suddenly abandoned about 1200.
Naturally, I took pictures (click on them to enlarge):
It has become obvious that on September 11, 2001, al Qaeda trained the entire world to fight back against hijackings. The interesting question is, when al Qaeda pioneered the conversion of airliners into weapons of mass destruction, did it realize that the tactic would only work once? If it did realize that, why didn't it try to take more planes?
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
After an arduous week of travel and non-stop meetings, I've finally arrived at the fun part - a weekend tacked on to the end of my last sales meeting at the Moon Palace in Cancun. So what do I do at an all-inclusive resort on the beach sans family? Given the best resort-wide free wireless Internet access I've ever encountered (it goes to the beach!), that's obvious:
Mrs. TigerHawk was due to fly down here this afternoon and join me here for no end of fun. Unfortunately for both of us, she is stuck in Houston, having been delayed for so long in her departure from Newark that she missed all but one of the remaining flights to Cancun. She is now on standby for a flight leaving about half an hour from now, and if she does not get on that she won't be able to join me until tomorrow morning.
Anyway, wish you, or at least some of you, were here.
UPDATE: Mrs. TigerHawk got past standby and will land at 9! Huge.
I sometimes get comments or emails asking why I and other righty bloggers spend so much time flyspecking the mainstream media's coverage of irregular wars involving the United States and its allies. One reason is that there are so many examples of the media swallowing enemy propaganda hook, line, and sinker, and occasionally being complicit in its promotion. As regular blog readers know, both of these tendencies figured prominently in last summer's Hezbollah-Israeli war, and they have also been a staple of blog coverage of Iraq.
The question then becomes, why are righty bloggers so quick to assume that many mainstream reporters are acting in bad faith, or with a bias that veers so strongly in one direction that it seems like bad faith? Well, one of the reasons is that righty bloggers read a lot of history, and remember the games that the American press played in Vietnam forty years before the invention of the blog. We now know via Communist histories and other evidence that has only surfaced with the end of the Cold War that the enemy went to great lengths to subvert the Western press, which it regarded as central to the sustenance of American will. I was struck, in particular, by this passage from from Mark Moyar's outstanding revisionist history of the Vietnam war, Triumph Forsaken, in which Moyar documents subversion of the foreign press into backing the infiltrated Buddhist "reform" movement of the early 1960s that undermined the most successful government South Vietnam ever had, headed by Ngo Dinh Diem regime (detailed citations in the original):
The American press corps in Saigon seized on the Buddhist protests as evidence that the Diem government lacked public support and was hopelessly repressive and therefore deserved to be overthrown. It soon became their principal means for attacking Diem, as they were finding it harder and harder to deplore the South Vietnamese war effort. The reporters developed friendships with the militant Buddhist leadership, thanks largely to their common contempt for Diem's government. The activists gave the newsmen tips and other information in English, carried protest signs and banners written in English, and made the young men feel important, as indeed they were. In return, the correspondents penned favorable stories about the Buddhist protesters. The militant Buddhists, in fact, were so much more skillful at pandering to the Western media than almost any other Vietnamese group, then or since, that one could sensibly deduce that they were receiving guidance from their American press allies. The American correspondents, because of their hatred of the Diem government and their unfamiliarity with the Vietnamese political environment, uncritically accepted their Buddhist friends' claims about the political situation, manyu of which were fallacious. The journalists were similarly credulous in their dealings with South Vietnamese intellectuals and other English-speaking schemers who regaled them with the ominous stories of dissatisfaction with Diem and plots against him, oftentimes unaware of these individuals' own political agendas and political myopia. Halberstam later acknowledged that the individuals upon whom he and the other reporters depended for political information "were regrettably limited in their larger vision."
Two of the sources upon whom the journalists relied most heavily, Pham Ngoc Thao and Pham Xuan An, were actually Communist agents. Pham Ngoc Thao, a colonel in the South Vietnamese Army, was touted by the American media as a brilliant Young Turk who could help turn South Vietnam around. Thao regularly gave the correspondents information on dissension and intrigue against the government, which they in turn eagerly passed on to their readers. Pham Xuan An was a member of the international press itself, for he worked as a stringer for Reuters. Muoi Huong, the Communist who recruited both Pham Ngoc Thao and Pham Xuan An, later said that he had told An to become a journalist for the very purpose of influencing foreign reporters. Muoi Huong explained that he wanted An to become a journalist because "in 1945, when our people had just seized political power, a number of foreign journalists sought to speak ill of our young government. Uncle Ho always reminded our leaders to be careful in dealing with these journalists because they were the 'fourth power' whose voice was of great influence." In fulfillment of Muoi Huong's vision, Pham Xuan An brilliantly manipulated and misled the foreign press. After the war, journalist Stanley Karnow would acknowledge his heavy reliance on Pham Xuan An during the war: "We would huddle together in the Brodard or the Givral, his favorite cafes, as he chain-smoked and patiently deciphered the puzzles of Vietnam for me." Halberstam and Sheehan relied heavily on information from Pham Xuan An; Halberstam considered An to be their best source on the South Vietnamese officer corps because of his supposed contacts among the officers. The newsmen's reliance on Pham Xuan An goes a long way toward explaining why the press kept reporting dissatisfaction among the officers in 1963 that did not actually exist.
No wonder today's journalists take such great umbrage at any suggestion that they are writing down enemy propaganda points from sources that may not be as objective as they portray. They've done it before.
Andy McCarthy makes the case that conservatives should support Rudy Giuliani for President. It's a strong one.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
According to the New York Times -- at least as it is published in the imagination of Mark Steyn -- we can consider the waxing and waning of Moqtada al-Sadr's fortunes from many difference perspectives:
The Times gets it:Sadr running around Baghdad: Iraq in bloody sectarian civil war.
Sadr fled to Tehran: Dangerous power vacuum in Iraq.
Sadr lying in a big hole in the ground underneath US ordnance dropped from a great height: Beloved martyr whose death will be a recruiting tool across the Muslim world.
Sadr polling a strong third among GOP primary voters in New Hampshire: He’s a popular centristinsurgent who represents many moderate Republicans’ wish to move beyond the partisan bitterness of the Bush years.
Sadr discovered to be the cause of climate change: Rumsfeld sold him a second-hand Cadillac Escalade in the Eighties.
I've been too busy to blog thoughtfully on the deal we seem to have struck with North Korea (OK, I'm here, but it's still work as evidenced by the fact that I have to give a speech in an hour). Westhawk, however, has written a post that closes in on my point of view.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Admittedly, that sounds like the title of a goofy blog contest. If there were such a contest, surely the first sentence in today's lead editorial would be a candidate:
Before things get any more out of hand, President Bush needs to make his intentions toward Iran clear.
The last thing that our president should do -- right now, at least -- is "make his intentions toward Iran clear." As I have written before, in the confrontation between Iran, on the one hand, and its geopolitical adversaries, on the other, both sides correctly believe that uncertainty is their friend. Indeed, Iran has deliberately manufactured uncertainty -- about the pace and stage of its nuclear program, for example -- precisely because it knows that it will get a better deal from the West if we don't know what is going on than if we do. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to revel in this. See, for example, his unwillingness even to deny that Iran is supplying weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq. Instead he demands "proof."
Well, it would be equally silly for the United States, Israel, or any other threatened power to reveal either its intentions or its menu of options for confronting Iran. We would be weakening our own position in the negotiations with Iran. What negotiations, you ask? They are going on all the time, even if they do not involve direct discussions in a five-star hotel with press conferences before and after.
There will come a time in the confrontation with Iran when we will spell out our intentions clearly, as we have, finally, this week in the six-party talks over North Korea's weapons program. In the case of Iran, that time has not yet arrived.
The question then is, are the editors of the Times calling for transparency in American strategy because they actually believe it would be useful to tell Iran exactly what we will and will not do if it continues to develop the nuclear fuel cycle? If so, I'm sure many of you would jump at the opportunity to sit down at the poker table with them. If not, their demand that the president state his intentions is nothing but a disingenuous political attack.
Believe it or not, my own hypothesis is that the Times actually believes that we should explain to the world -- in public, so the Times can editorialize about it -- precisely what we intend to do about Iran. My evidence is this strange paragraph from the same editorial:
We have no doubt about Iran’s malign intent. Iran is defying the Security Council’s order to halt its nuclear activities, and it is certainly meddling inside Iraq. But we are also certain that the Iraq war has so strained the American military and so shattered this president’s credibility that shrill accusations and saber rattling are far more likely to frighten the allies America needs to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions than to change Tehran’s behavior.
Apart from the absurdity of the premise (that the New York Times believes the president about the threat Iran poses, but "the allies America needs" do not), the editors reveal a bizarre sense for the attitude of "the allies America needs." America's "allies" (and the critical countries in this formulation -- Russia and China -- are rivals, not allies) do not want to get into the messy business of containing Iran. They would much prefer to sell it stuff (in the case of Russia) and secure its oil and gas (in the case of China). So the question becomes, under what circumstances are Russia and China going to do what both George Bush and the New York Times want, which is to vote for and enforce tough sanctions against Tehran? Are they more likely to cast that vote if the United States and Israel have already spelled out precisely what they will not do if Iran fails to comply? Or, will Russia and China be more willing to squeeze Iran if they think that there is at least a teensy chance that George W. Bush might do something rash?
I think everybody with two brain cells to rub together knows the answer to that.