The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

              Vice-President Clinton
Drudge is reporting that well-placed Democratic insiders are saying that Kerry will choose Hillary Clinton to be his VP. Undoubtedly this would be a huge boost for the Democratic ticket, at least initially.
|| Nudnik 12:32 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Bush as Progressive
The 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq have produced a marked shift in the foreign policy views of the Democrats and Republicans. In pushing for democratization and radical change in the Arab world, Republicans became progressives while Democrats, in their desire to maintain the status quo became conservatives. Peter Berkowitz thinks that success or failure of establishing consensual government in Iraq could have a paradoxical effect on the views of the two parties.
Whatever the outcome, however, it is likely to have paradoxical effects on American political sensibilities. For if the conservative driven experiment in nation building in Iraq enjoys even modest success in the coming years, it will provide long-term nourishment for progressive ideas in America. And if it fails, as many progressive critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom think it is bound to,it will strengthen over the long haul conservative proclivities in America.
|| Nudnik 11:43 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The UN Family
Claudia Rosett has been a fierce critic of the UN and has recently been key in uncovering the sordid details of the Oil-for-Food scandal. Today she looks at the dysfunctional "family" that is the UN.
"Let freedom reign," wrote President Bush as Iraq regained sovereignty Monday.

"Today, the secretary-general welcomes the state of Iraq back into the family of independent and sovereign nations," said a United Nations statement.

In the gap between those two statements, you can see the world of difference that lies between the U.S. and the U.N. in approaching the worst troubles of our time. For America, and Mr. Bush, the struggles now upon us are basically about freedom, and rule of, by and for the people. For the U.N., and Mr. Annan, it is all about paternalism, consensus, family. And I'm sorry to say that the family that springs first to mind has a lot less to do with Gramps, Grandma and the kids than with the Mafia clan of TV fiction fame, the Sopranos. And not just because both families claim tax-free status for their rackets.
|| Nudnik 11:25 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The Neocon Paradigm
In its third and final installment on the Neocon paradigm, TechCentralStation asserts that this paradigm is the only one that recognizes that the security of the U.S. depends on the reform of Arab society and the spread of democracy in that region. Iraq, whether it had WMD or not, thus became the central front in this confrontation with Islamism.
Uniquely, democratic realism recognizes that in the present era of Islamic terror, security is only attainable through engagement, and that engagement will only have meaningful long term benefits if followed by committed democratic construction. In contrast, a policy of containment -- one that focuses on either multilateral diplomatic discussions or a realist playing of one hostile interest against another -- works to merely reinforce the status quo that breeds Jihadist killers. Only democracy and the rule of law can permanently alter the Middle East's volatile status quo, and extinguish the flames of violent radicalism in the Arab world. This is the great truth of the neo-conservative paradigm.
In the War on Terror, the central front is the Middle East. It is there from which the radical Jihadists derive, draw their manpower, and maintain their strongest roots. It is from the Middle East that Wahhabism is exported. It is accordingly the Middle East that must be engaged. The status quo that has allowed the Jihadists to thrive must be altered, and it must be altered in a permanent fashion.
|| Nudnik 10:19 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

              Comparing Occupations: Iraq and Germany
The Command Post has a good chart illustrating the accomplishments in Iraq versus the time it took to achieve the same things in post WWII Germany; showing once again that those complaining about the slow pace of reconstruction in Iraq are simply ignorant of history.
|| Nudnik 11:33 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Kerry as Hostage
Thomas Lifson, in today's American Thinker column, contrasts Kerry's self-proclaimed courage and leadership in Vietnam with his current lack of political courage - expressed in a willingness to be held hostage.
But his own candidacy, indeed his very lifestyle, betrays a pattern of entering into voluntary hostage status, unable to confront threats directly, instead allowing those who might harm him to dictate the limits on his actions.
He will sell out a natural ally, the Democrat mayor of the town where he ostensibly resides, and where he expects to receive the nomination. Just because he was mildly threatened.
A man who marries the person who signs the checks supporting his taste for luxury is a man who is accustomed to practicing deference to powerful others.

The question facing Americans is whether these habits are appropriate for a wartime president. Thanks to the global reach of the electronic media, our foes in the Islamicist terror movement are quite aware of Kerry’s pattern of behavior. They can only draw the conclusion that further outrages will produce a compliant President Kerry, anxious to avoid further trouble with them. Just the sort of man Osama bin Laden can work with.

Leaders by definition take risks, and are unafraid to identify obstacles and address them boldly. Kerry’s approach to problems is just the opposite: palliation of those who hold threats over his head, caving-in rather than confronting, learning to accommodate the limits they impose.

For a nation at war with terrorists who dream of carrying-out horrific threats, such a leader would be an absolute catastrophe. The Islamists recognize compromise and accommodation as signs of weakness, and speak only of temporary truces in a longer run plan to establish a global Caliphate. And we all know what they do to hostages.
|| Nudnik 11:14 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Final (more or less) Moore
Mark Steyn today reviews the Michael Moore "documentary".
Midway through the picture, a "peace" activist provides a perfect distillation of its argument. He recalls a conversation with an acquaintance, who observed, "bin Laden's a real asshole for killing all those people". "Yeah," says the "pacifist", "but he'll never be as big an asshole as Bush." That's who Michael Moore makes films for: those sophisticates who know that, no matter how many people bin Laden kills, in the assholian stakes he'll always come a distant second to Bush.

I can understand the point of being Michael Moore: there's a lot of money in it. What's harder to figure out is the point of being a devoted follower of Michael Moore. Apparently, the sophisticated, cynical intellectual class is so naïve it'll fall for any old hooey peddled by a preening opportunist burlesque act. If the Saudis were smart, they'd have bought him up years ago, established his anti-Saudi credentials, and then used him to promote the defeat of their nemesis Bush.

Hmm. Maybe they don't need to. Stick him in a headdress and he looks like King Fahd's brother. All I'm saying is connect the dots.
Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan fisks William Raspberry's op/ed about the movie.
What matters is not veracity, good faith, cinematic excellence, but attitude. And Raspberry even invokes anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan as the model! And who exactly is the "devil" in Farrakhan's "discourse"? The Jews! And this, according to Raspberry, is a valid model for Michael Moore to follow. Hello?

And notice the point of this attitude: not that Bush has been wrong in his judgments; not that he has botched a war; not that he has ruined the economy; not that he has pursued any particular policy with which a reasonable person might disagree. The point is that Bush "is a devil." A devil? Like, er, Satan? And this is what nice, educated people believe but "cannot bring themselves to say"? This is not an argument. It's literal demonization--a defense of losing one's sense of fairness and rationality.
|| Nudnik 10:53 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Iraq's New History
The transfer of sovereignty in Iraq happened yesterday, two days before it was supposed to occur. Fouad Ajami looks at the handover as a new opportunity for Iraq. While the job of the US in the Middle East is certainly not complete, this transfer is a good beginning.
America is not to stay long in Iraq. No scheme is being hatched for the subjugation of Iraq's people. No giant American air bases on their soil are in the offing. In their modern history, Iraqis witnessed direct British control over their country (from 1921 to 1932), followed by a quarter-century of a subtle British role in their politics, hidden behind a facade of national independence. Ours is a different world, and this new "imperium" is the imperium of a truly reluctant Western power.
What shall stick of America's truth on the soil of Iraq is an open, unknowable question. But the leaders who waged this war--those "architects" of it who have been thrown on the defensive by its difficulties and surprises--should be forgiven the sense that things broke their way during that five-minute surprise ceremony yesterday morning. They haven't created a "new" Iraq, and sure enough, they have not tackled the malignancies of the Arab world which lay at the roots, and the very origins, of this war. America isn't acquitted yet of its burdens in Mesopotamia. Our heartbreaking losses are a daily affair, and our soldiers there remain in harm's way.

But we now stay under new terms--a power that vacated sovereignty 48 hours ahead of schedule, and an Iraqi population that can glimpse, just a horizon away, the possibility of a society free from both native tyranny and foreign control. There is nervousness in Iraq: the nervousness of a people soon to be put to the test by the promise--and the hazards--of freedom.
|| Nudnik 10:18 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Monday, June 28, 2004

              War of Attrition
From the purely military perspective, the Iraq war was different from virtually any other war waged before it. The new theory of warfare - that technological superiority is the key component of future warfare - has been both successful and problematic. Using limited ground forces, in conjunction with technology in the form of precision guided munitions, UAVs, and a networked digital battlefield, the US was able to overthrow a regime quickly and with minor casualties to itself. In this the new theory of warfare was successful. On the other hand, the very success of this new warfare has been the prime cause of our post-war security problems; having barely experienced war against them, Iraqis did not feel defeated. And as a result, elements of the former Iraqi forces continued fighting and receiving support from segments of the local population. Ralph Peters in this article for the US Army War College insists that we are engaged in a war of attrition and need to recognize this and fight accordingly.
We have heard no end of blather about network-centric warfare, to the great profit of defense contractors. If you want to see a superb - and cheap - example of "net-war" look at al Qaeda. The mere possession of technology does not ensure that it will be used effectively. And effectiveness is what matters.

It isn't a question of whether or not we want to fight a war of attrition against religion-fueled terrorists. We're in a war of attrition with them. We have no realistic choice. Indeed, our enemies are, in some respects, better suited to both global and local wars of maneuver than we are. They have a world in which to hide, and the world is full of targets for them. They do not heed laws or boundaries. They make and observe no treaties. They do not expect the approval of the United Nations Security Council. They do not face election cycles. And their weapons are largely provided by our own societies.
But we do have superior killing power, once our enemies have been located. Ultimately, the key advantage of a superpower is super power. Faced with implacable enemies who would kill every man, woman, and child in our country and call the killing good (the ultimate war of attrition), we must be willing to use that power wisely, but remorselessly.

We are, militarily and nationally, in a transition phase. Even after 9/11, we do not fully appreciate the cruelty and determination of our enemies. We will learn our lesson, painfully, because the terrorists will not quit. The only solution is to kill them and keep on killing them: a war of attrition. But a war of attrition fought on our terms, not theirs.

Of course, we shall hear no end of fatuous arguments to the effect that we can't kill our way out of the problem. Well, until a better methodology is discovered, killing every terrorist we can find is a good interim solution. The truth is that even if you can't kill yourself out of the problem, you can make the problem a great deal smaller by effective targeting.

And we shall hear that killing terrorists only creates more terrorists. This is sophomoric nonsense. The surest way to swell the ranks of terror is to follow the approach we did in the decade before 9/11 and do nothing of substance. Success breeds success. Everybody loves a winner. The cliches exist because they're true. Al Qaeda and related terrorist groups metastasized because they were viewed in the Muslim world as standing up to the West successfully and handing the Great Satan America embarrassing defeats with impunity. Some fanatics will flock to the standard of terror, no matter what we do. But it's far easier for Islamic societies to purge themselves of terrorists if the terrorists are on the losing end of the global struggle than if they're allowed to become triumphant heroes to every jobless, unstable teenager in the Middle East and beyond.

Far worse than fighting such a war of attrition aggressively is to pretend you're not in one while your enemy keeps on killing you.
It is not enough to materially defeat your enemy. You must convince your enemy that he has been defeated. You cannot do that by bombing empty buildings. You must be willing to kill in the short term to save lives and foster peace in the long term.

It is not a matter of whether attrition is good or bad. It's necessary. Only the shedding of their blood defeats resolute enemies. Especially in our struggle with God-obsessed terrorists - the most implacable enemies our nation has ever faced - there is no economical solution. Unquestionably, our long-term strategy must include a wide range of efforts to do what we, as outsiders, can to address the environmental conditions in which terrorism arises and thrives (often disappointingly little - it's a self-help world). But, for now, all we can do is to impress our enemies, our allies, and all the populations in between that we are winning and will continue to win.

The only way to do that is through killing.
|| Nudnik 1:39 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Sullivan on Kerry
Andrew Sullivan has a devastating critique of John Kerry in the Sunday Times, calling him The Human Antihistamine:
For almost the entire campaign, Kerry was essentially absent. And then, in a matter of a few weeks, he won it all. After all the deranged drama of Dean and the cheery charm of John Edwards, Kerry suddenly seemed a safe bet. Tedium was in. And when I say tedium, I mean levels of boredom that ordinary mortals cannot hope to emulate. The minute Kerry starts to speak, you can hear the life drain out of a room. When he appears on television, the right hand gravitates almost instinctively toward the remote. The word 'pomposity' doesn't quite capture the condescension of the man. Think Clinton's ambition matched with Gore's endlessly self-callibrating mind. Now remove all charm whatsoever. There's a reason he went un-noticed in the primary campaign. No sane human being would ever want to notice him. He's a human anti-histamine. He's Botox for the brain.
Some of the analysis in the article is, I think, incorrect. Specifically, more violence in Iraq probably will not hurt Bush, unless it is extreme. As the violence continues, voters become somewhat inured to it, and will filter it out of their voting calculation.

As Dick Morris and others have written, Kerry does best when he is out of the spotlight and is still mostly an unknown to most people. As he gets more attention, it is very likely that people will not like what they see, especially if the Bush campaign does a good job of defining him.
|| Nudnik 9:55 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Wrong Again
Yesterday's Financial Times carries an article that disproves another of the Left's attacks on President Bush - Niger and Iraq. Turns out that there was a reason that British Intelligence refused to back down on this story when it was being so loudly criticized - it was true.
When the US State Department later passed the documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, they were found to be fake. US officials have subsequently distanced themselves from the entire notion that Iraq was seeking buy uranium from Niger.

However, European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.

These intelligence officials now say the forged documents appear to have been part of a "scam", and the actual intelligence showing discussion of uranium supply has been ignored.
The FT has now learnt that three European intelligence services were aware of possible illicit trade in uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.

This intelligence provided clues about plans by Libya and Iran to develop their undeclared nuclear programmes. Niger officials were also discussing sales to North Korea and China of uranium ore or the "yellow cake" refined from it: the raw materials that can be progressively enriched to make nuclear bombs.
Mr Wilson was critical of the Bush administration's use of secret intelligence, and has since charged that the White House sought to intimidate him by leaking the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent.

But Mr Wilson also stated in his account of the visit that Mohamed Sayeed al-Sahaf, Iraq's former information minister, was identified to him by a Niger official as having sought to discuss trade with Niger.

As Niger's other main export is goats, some intelligence officials have surmised uranium was what Mr Sahaf was referring to.
|| Nudnik 9:47 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Saturday, June 26, 2004

              Good News from Iraq
Day after day we are subjected to network news reports on the horrible condition of Iraq. We hear about suicide bombings, and soldiers killed by roadside bombs almost every day. The impression that one gets from this coverage - which many times comes from journalists safely ensconced in their hotels who receive their information from their Iraqi translators, many of whom were former media minders for Saddam Gussein - is that the country is falling apart and that the US invasion unleashed this hell on Iraqis. Amir Taheri recently returned from a tour of Iraq and describes the real situation, something that we are unlikely to hear from mainstream news sources.
Iraq today is no bed of roses, I know. I have just come back from a tour of the country. But I don't recognise the place I have just visited as the war zone depicted by the Arab and western media.

It is true that Saddamite leftovers and their allies have stolen enough money and arms to continue their campaign of terror and disruption for some time yet. But they have no popular following and have failed to develop a coherent national strategy.
There is also good news on the economic front. In the last quarter the dinar, Iraq's currency, has increased by almost 15% against the dollar and the two most traded local currencies, the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial.
Despite the continuing terrorist violence Iraq has attracted more than 7m foreign visitors...This year Iraq has had a bumper harvest with record crops, notably in wheat. It could become agriculturally self-sufficient for the first time in 30 years.
Nor should one believe the claims of self-styled experts that the Iraqis are not ready for freedom. During the past 10 months elections have been held in 37 municipalities. In each case victory went to the moderate, liberal and secular candidates. The former Ba'athists, appearing under fresh labels, failed to win a single seat. Hardline Islamist groups collected 1% to 3% of the vote.
Taheri describes the possible reason why it is that we hear only bad news.
"We are coming out of the cold," says al-Ayyari. "The world should help us put our house in order." But this is precisely what many in the West, and the Arab world, won't do.

Having opposed the toppling of Saddam, they do not wish to see Iraq build a better future. Arab despots and their satellite television channels fear a democratic Iraq that could give oppressed people of the region dangerous ideas. The anti-American coalition in the West shudders at the thought that someone like Bush might put Iraq on the path of democratisation.

The Arab fear of democracy and the western disease of anti-Americanism mean that media coverage of Iraq is often focused on bad news.
In their hatred of Bush, the media provides a narrative that serves their view that the war and reconstruction of Iraq does not have popular support in the US. And by doing this they are influencing people to not support the war, as was evidenced in a few of the latest polls which show that a majority of the US no longer thinks that it was worth going to war. We can succeed in Iraq, but with the media creating so much doubt the task becomes much more difficult.
|| Nudnik 7:08 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Moore's Worldview
Michael Moore's latest movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, has been criticized by many for a number of different reasons. The main line of criticism has been on the inaccuracies and gross distortions perpetrated by Moore on the historical record in order to enhance the propaganda value of his film. David Brooks, in today's New York Times op/ed, demonstrates that the problem is not simply in the movie, but in Moore's entire worldview: a hatred of America and Americans. Through numerous statements - usually when he's abroad - Moore conveys this to anyone who will listen. The worst part of all of this is not even that he hates America - there are plenty of people who don't like the US. No, the worst part is that his worldview is accepted and supported by many of the liberals in the US, including the leadership of the Democratic Party who expressed their support at a special screening of the movie.
In years past, American liberals have had to settle for intellectual and moral leadership from the likes of John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr. But now, a grander beacon has appeared on the mountaintop, and from sea to shining sea, tens of thousands have joined in the adulation.
So we have our Sartre. And the liberal grandees Arthur Schlesinger, Ted Sorenson, Tom Harkin and Barbara Boxer flock to his openings. In Washington, a Senate vote was delayed because so many Democrats wanted to see his movie.

The standards of socially acceptable liberal opinion have shifted. We're a long way from John Dewey.
|| Nudnik 6:37 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Friday, June 25, 2004

              Polls has a good analysis of the recent polls. Judging by these polls, President Bush is in pretty good shape for reelection (the usual caveat is that there is still more than 4 months to the election, and a lot can happen). For virtually all of June Bush has been leading in every poll with the exception of the Wash.Post/ABC News poll. In most of these polls his lead is between 2 and 4 points, although two of the most recent polls (Harris and Fox News) have shown Bush leading by 10 and 7 points respectively. What is even more interesting is the percentage of people who view Kerry unfavorably, a larger number than view Bush that way. Additionally, while 73% of those intending to vote for Bush say their vote is "for" him rather than "against" Kerry, 59% of Kerry supporters are voting "against" Bush as opposed to "for" Kerry. Kerry just has not been able to gain any traction whatsoever. With the economy continuing its rapid expansion, and despite (or maybe because of) the attacks in Iraq, Bush's support continues to increase.
|| Nudnik 3:00 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Reform in the Arab World
The stated goal of the Bush Administration after 9/11 has been the wholesale change of the political culture of the Arab world. It is for this reason that the US waged war in Afghanistan and especially in Iraq. The Left has advocated a different method to achieve this transformation - in effect, the continuation of policy prior to 9/11. An article in The American Thinker proposes a third way to achieve reform:
However, a third way exists and has begun to flourish. Democratic ferment is brewing on the periphery of the Arab world, in smaller states. This trend should be encouraged. Diffusion of these ideals to the wider Arab world will steadily erode the structures of Arab despotism. Percolation of these practices and philosophies can be considered the "trickle up" strategy of reform.
The point is that we can achieve reform of the Arab world by supporting the reforms of the Gulf States, and these reforms will eventually work their way into the rest of the Arab countries. Its a good idea, but incomplete. Without a doubt we should be encouraging reforms in the small sheikhdoms, unfortunately this is not enough. This kind of process is a very lengthy one, potentially a few generations long. With the current threat of terrorism, we simply do not have the luxury of waiting for so long. So while we support the small changes in the Gulf States, we also need to exert strong pressure, militarily when necessary, for much more rapid reform in the rest of the Arab world.
|| Nudnik 12:57 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
In today's column Victor Hanson analyzes the progress we have made in the three years of this new war. His assessment is that while we are making progress in the Arab world, we are still vulnerable and could still lose. The main driver of our possible defeat, however, is not the terrorists but ourselves.
But if the pulse of the strategic, tactical, and ideological theaters suggests we can win this war, the home front is not so bright. The few hundred American lunatics who tried to explain away 9/11 (or apologize for it) turned into thousands a few weeks later who swore we either would or should lose in Afghanistan. Now they are millions who see our ongoing struggle in Iraq as either immoral or inept. George Bush did not create this cascading antiwar movement. It was rather fueled by the blood and treasure spent to eliminate the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, together with a has-been '60s generation that felt there was still one more creaky return to the barricades left in them.

Right after 9/11, some of us thought it was impossible for leftist critics to undermine a war against fascists who were sexist, fundamentalist, homophobic, racist, ethnocentric, intolerant of diversity, mass murderers of Kurds and Arabs, and who had the blood of 3,000 Americans on their hands. We were dead wrong. In fact, they did just that. Abu Ghraib is on the front pages daily. Stories of thousands of American soldiers in combat against terrorist killers from the Hindu Kush to Fallujah do not merit the D section. Senator Kennedy's two years of insane outbursts should have earned him formal censure rather than a commemoration from the Democratic establishment.

What a litany of distractions! Words — preemption," "unilateralism," "hegemony," — whiz by and lose all meaning. Names — "Halliburton," "Chalabi," "INC" — become little more than red meat. Vocabulary is turned upside down: "Contractors," who at great risk restore power and water to the poor, are now little more "profiteers" and "opportunists"; killers are not even "terrorists" but mere "militants." "Neo-cons" are wild-eyed extremists; "realists" are no longer cynics — inclined to let thousands die abroad unless the chaos interrupts transit of oil or food — but rather "sober" and "circumspect," and more likely Kerry supporters.
We are winning the military war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The terrorists are on the run. And slowly, even ineptly, we are achieving our political goals of democratic reform in once-awful places. Thirty years of genocide, vast forced transfers of whole peoples, the desecration of entire landscapes, a ruined infrastructure, and a brutalized and demoralized civilian psyche are being remedied, often under fire. All this and more has been achieved at the price of political turmoil, deep divisions in the West — here and abroad — and the emergence of a strong minority, led by mostly elites, who simply wish it all to fail.

Whether this influential, snarling minority — so prominent in the media, on campuses, in government, and in the arts — succeeds in turning victory into defeat is open to question. Right now the matter rests on the nerve of a half-dozen in Washington who are daily slandered (Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz), and with brilliant and courageous soldiers in the field. They are fighting desperately against the always-ticking clock of American impatience, and are forced to confront an Orwellian world in which their battle sacrifice is ignored or deprecated while killing a vicious enemy is tantamount to murder.

No, we — along with those brave Iraqis who have opted for freedom — could very easily still lose this war that our brave troops are somehow now winning.

|| Nudnik 10:57 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              More Evidence
There is more evidence today of two things that the Democrats and their media supporters continue to deny. The New York Post reports that more chemical weapons shells have been found in Iraq, and that terror groups are actively trying to recruit some of Saddam's WMD experts.

The New York Times reports that according to a newly disclosed document, Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated against the Saudis in the mid '90s. Meanwhile, Al Gore, in another foreign policy speech, is still denying these two things. When will we hear an apology from Al Gore for "lying" to us?
|| Nudnik 10:02 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Moore Reviews
Two excellent reviews of the new Michael Moore "documentary: Jeff Jarvis thinks
The real problem with the film, the really offensive thing about it, is that in Fahrenheit 9/11, we -- Americans from the President on down -- are portrayed at the bad guys. If there's something wrong about bin Laden it's that his estranged family has ties with -- cue the uh-oh music -- the Bush family. Saddam? Nothing wrong with him. No mention of torture and terror and tyranny. Moore shows scenes of Baghdad before the invasion (read: liberation) and in his weltanschauung, it's a place filled with nothing but happy, smiling, giggly, overjoyed Baghdadis. No pain and suffering there. No rape, murder, gassing, imprisoning, silencing of the citizens in these scenes. When he exploits and lingers on the tears of a mother who lost her soldier-son in Iraq, and she wails, "Why did you have to take him?" Moore does not cut to images of the murderers/terrorists (pardon me, "insurgents") in Iraq or killed him -- or even to God; he cuts to George Bush. When the soldier's father says the young man died and "for what?", Moore doesn't show liberated Iraqis to reply, he cuts instead to an image of Halliburton.

He doesn't try, not for one second, to have a discussion, to show the other side -- and then cut that other side down to size with facts and figures and the slightest effort at argument. No, he just shows the one side. And that, really, is a tragedy. It would be good if we had a discussion. It would be good to have a movie that made us think and reconsider and talk.

But polemics don't do that. They're only made of two-by-fours.
Meanwhile, James Lileks reviews Rex Reed's review:
Mr. Moore, who has tackled corporate greed (Roger & Me) and gun control (Bowling for Columbine), now feels driven and obligated to strip the façade from a swaggering, bow-legged, grammatically challenged bully and a cabinet that is beginning to look more like the Third Reich every day.

Does this sort of rhetoric make us more likely to accurately identify future Hitlers, or less? I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat myself. You have Bush. You have Saddam.

One is a megalomanical dictator with a small moustache who killed millions, gassed ethnic minorities, annexed a neighbor state and paid underlings to kill Jews.

The other is Hitler.

I know I'm an unsophsiticated partisan blinded by ideology, but something about that equation just strikes me wrong. Rex! Help me out here. Who's Condi Rice? Goebbels, or Goering?
|| Nudnik 9:42 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The Smallness of Clinton
There have been a number of reviews of Bill Clinton's recently released memoirs. The reviews have been rather mixed, with many panning the book as full of nothingness. Perhaps the reason that it is so full of nothingness is because the presidency that it describes was exactly that. Charles Krauthammer points out the smallness of the Clinton presidency:
Clinton's autobiography, appearing as it does in such close conjunction to the national remembrance of Reagan, invites the inevitable comparison.

The contrast is obvious. Reagan was the hedgehog who knew -- and did -- a few very large things: fighting and winning the Cold War, reviving the economy, and beginning a fundamental restructuring of the welfare state.

Clinton was the fox. He knew -- and accomplished -- small things. His autobiography is a perfect reflection of that -- a wild mishmash of remembrance, anecdote, appointment calendar and political payback. This themeless pudding of a million small things is just what you would expect from a president who once gave a Saturday radio address on school uniforms.
Supposedly the '90s were a time of great peace and prosperity where not much needed to be done: the Soviets were defeated, Iraq was contained, and the main concern was how high tomorrow's Internet IPO would open - in effect, a "holiday from history". This smallness of Clinton, while a positive on the domestic front because at least the President didn't interfere (much) in the economy, it was disastrous on a foreign policy level. Each of Clinton's foreign policy initiatives focused not on a grand vision, but on alleviating minor details and then declaring triumph for that policy. And predictably, each of these foreign policy "triumphs" has imploded - the Oslo Accords, North Korea, Haiti, Ireland, and most importantly the terrorist threat. It took a horrific attack on the US to wake us from our respite from history and realize (at least for some) that smallness, while it may be comfortable now, ultimately brings tremendous harm.
|| Nudnik 9:23 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Thursday, June 24, 2004

              More on Iraq and 9/11
Laurie Mylroie, a former adviser to President Clinton, presents a very interesting analysis of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. Her theory links some of the top al Qaeda operatives captured - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yusef, etc. - to Iraqi intelligence, and specifically to their occupation of Kuwait.
|| Nudnik 2:15 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Missed Connections
The Left still doesn't get it. In a couple of columns today we see the same inane arguments that we shouldn't have attacked Iraq because, as the 9/11 commission stated, there were no ties there. There is a lot of purposeful obfuscation of this issue. As numerous others have written, the 9/11 commission found that Iraq was not directly involved in 9/11, but it did find that there were plenty of links between bin Laden and Hussein's Iraq. For the Left, the only reason to have attacked Iraq is that if they directly participated in 9/11. What they still have not grasped, as evidenced by their statements, is that this is not a war against bin Laden the person, or even al Qaeda the group. It is a war against an ideology that has permeated the Arab world. And the only way to stop this ideology from spreading is to defeat it at its source, the Arab Middle East. Ellen Goodman perfectly illustrates this lack of understanding in her op/ed.
From the outset, I was dismayed that the Iraq war was not only launched and defended but accepted in the name of 9/11. Osama and Saddam, a religious fanatic and a secular despot, were morphed into terrorist brethren. Afghanistan and Iraq merged into one war on terror.
Yes, they were merged because they emanate form the same source; from the same failed society that can only blame others (Americans and "Zionists", primarily) for all their misfortunes, and whose goal is to spread their ideology through conquest. We have let this ideology fester and metastisize during the last 10 years (and maybe more) of inaction. That was the status quo, and after we were attacked, we decided that such "stability" was dangerous. Maureen Dowd, meanwhile, is upset that we are changing the status quo.
Once again, Mr. Wolfowitz conflates 9/11 and Iraq. Instead of finishing off Osama in Afghanistan, the neocons dragged us into an Iraq adventure, which has ended up destabilizing the Middle East. So much for the "status quo."
To paraphrase P.J. O'Rourke, in the last 60 years a "stable" Middle East has been the source of 5 wars against Israel, a brutal Iraq-Iran war, the invasion of Kuwait, hijacking of civilian airliners, suicide bombers, and numerous fascistic tyrants. Can Maureen Dowd, or Ellen Goodman, or any of their ilk explain why it is that we would want a continuation of such "stability"?
|| Nudnik 10:57 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Northeast Intelligence Network has a very disturbing video. Children playing at beheading someone. If this is not a sign of the disease that has permeated Arab society, I dont know what is.
|| Nudnik 3:49 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Perspective and Rhetoric
The tone of political rhetoric, specifically of the Left as regards President Bush, has gone way beyond any normal bounds of decency and propriety. Hyperbole has become rampant, and comparisons (i.e. Bush=Hitler) have descended to the obscene. Bret Stephens thinks that part of this has to do with the insanity of Bush's critics.
What makes these arguments insane--I use the word advisedly--isn't that they don't contain some possible germ of truth. One can argue that Mr. Clinton was a reasonably good president. And one can argue that Bush economic policy has not been a success. But you have to be insane to argue that Mr. Clinton was FDR incarnate, and you have to be insane to argue Mr. Bush has brought the U.S. to its lowest economic point since 1932. This style of hyperbole is a symptom of madness, because it displays such palpable disconnect from observable reality.

If you have to go looking for outrage, the outrage probably isn't there. That which is truly outrageous tends to have the quality of obviousness.

So here is one aspect of this insanity: no sense of proportion. For Mr. Blumenthal, Fallujah isn't merely like Stalingrad. It may as well be Stalingrad, just as Guantanamo may as well be Lefertovo and Abu Ghraib may as well be Buchenwald, and Mr. Bush may as well be Hitler and Hoover combined, and Iraq may as well be Vietnam and Bill Clinton may as well be Franklin Roosevelt.

The absence of proportion stems, in turn, from a problem of perspective. If you have no idea where you stand in relation to certain objects, then an elephant may seem as small as a fly and a fly may seem as large as an elephant. Similarly, Mr. Blumenthal can compare the American detention infrastructure to the Gulag archipelago only if he has no concept of the actual size of things. And he can have no concept of the size of things because he neither knows enough about them nor where he stands in relation to them. What is the vantage point from which Mr. Blumenthal observes the world? It is one where Fallujah is "Stalingrad-like." How does one manage to see the world this way? By standing too close to Fallujah and too far from Stalingrad. By being consumed by the present. By losing not just the sense, but the possibility, of judgment.
As Stephens also points out, by using such language and comparisons, the horrors of the original lose their meaning.
Care for language is more than a concern for purity. When one describes President Bush as a fascist, what words remain for real fascists? When one describes Fallujah as Stalingrad-like, how can we express, in the words that remain to the language, what Stalingrad was like?
|| Nudnik 1:28 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Changing Rules
In the past few years the Democratic party has come up with a new tactic - when losing, change the rules of the contest. They tried this tactic in Florida in 2000, then with the Senate election in 2002, and now they are trying something similar in Massachusetts.

Last week Gov. Romney and Lt. Gov. Healey called on Senator Kerry to resign his Senate seat since he was not adequately representing the state, having missed almost 90% of Senate votes this year. Under the current Massachusetts law that has been in place for over 80 years, the Governor would appoint a Senator to fill out the term of a Senator who resigns. Since Romney is a Republican, he would obviously appoint a Republican to the vacated Senate seat, something the Democrats could not countenance. So, as the Boston Globe reports today, Massachusetts Democrats are trying to pass a new law that would require a special election instead of an appointment. By the way, Kerry was appointed to his Senate seat under the existing law by Michael Dukakis, after Paul Tsongas resigned due to illness. When the law worked in their favor, it was fine; now that it may work in the favor of Republicans, it needs to be changed.

CORRECTION(courtesy of Kerry Haters): Kerry was actually not appointed; he was elected in 1984 when Tsongas chose not to run.
|| Nudnik 11:17 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Spread of Democracy
Throughout the last 20 years democracy has been spreading throughout the world; after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Easter Europe quickly moved from communism to democracy; Asia and Latin America have moved from the rule of unelected strongmen to much more democratic institutions; even sub-Saharan Africa has made moves away from despotism towards democracy. The only region of the world that has been left behind is the Arab Middle East(with the possible exception of the tiny Gulf states and Jordan, somewhat). There are many possible reasons for this apparent lack of progress. Undoubtedly, one of the primary reasons was the US reluctance to alter the status-quo there, fearing that the destabilization of that region could affect our oil supply. After 9/1, though, we have begun to realize that the stability of the Middle East has been an illusion. By refusing to pressure the leadership to reform, as the US did with every other region under the rubric of fighting communism, the forces of a new totalitarianism - Islamofascism - have grown unimpeded. Mark Steyn suggests that just as Latin America was transformed, so can the Middle East.
One can argue that things have slipped a little in the last three years: fiscal woes in Argentina; the grubby thug Chavez in Venezuela. But still, even by the most pessimistic reading, an area that 30 years ago was wall-to-wall dictatorships is now overwhelmingly democratic. Whatever the continent's fate, it won't include a return of the puffed-up bemedalled El-Presidentes-For-Life, like General Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, who abolished Christmas and banned Donald Duck.

That's what makes Latin America relevant to the Bush project in the Middle East. For much of the last century, the region was mired in the same dead-end victim complex as the Arab world. The celebrated Brazilian sociology professor Fernando Henrique Cardoso was a famous proponent of "Dependency Theory", which blamed the woes of everybody south of the Rio Grande on Uncle Sam, in much the same way that Arab regimes, invited to explain why they're sewers of corruption and brutality, bore on about the Great Satan and the Zionist Entity.
If you think the democratization of Arabia is a long shot, so was the democratization of Latin America. But it happened. And the only thing to argue about is how much credit you want to give the Reagan Doctrine. You want to blame the US for acts of genocide against the Mayans by the Guatemalan military? As you wish. But that, in fact, is an example of what happens when Washington is absent. The Guatemalans reckoned they could handle the insurgency and buy arms on the international market, so they set to it, without any pesky foreigners around to complain about human-rights abuses (unlike, say, the Balkans, where the atrocities occur in plain sight of the UN peacekeepers).
|| Nudnik 10:39 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              No Alternatives
TechCentralStation today has the second in a series of three articles about the neo-conservative agenda. Michael Brandon McClellan argues that this is the only alternative by looking at three other possible world-views and showing how they can not possibly work in the post 9/11 world.
Charles Krauthammer has likely adopted the most concise and effective taxonomy for categorizing the arguable strategic frameworks for fighting the War on Terror. I will accordingly use his classification system to analyze the strategic merits of the three primary alternative paradigms to the Bush administration's grand strategy. The alternative schools can be generally named 1) the "isolationists" advocating a strategic withdrawal from the Middle East and elsewhere, 2) the "liberal internationalists" who seek to emphasize multi-lateral diplomacy, and 3) the "pure realists" looking to manage the international environment by playing one evil off against another. None of these paradigms can survive the scrutiny of real world application in 2004. As will be shown below, they are dangerously insufficient to guide America in the War on Terror.
None of the above frameworks can serve as an effective grand strategy for the United States. The integrated nature of the modern world mandates that the Middle Eastern problem of exporting radical Islamic terrorism is both a global problem, and an American problem. If the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole did not drive the point home, September 11th undoubtedly did. Immigration, free trade, economic integration, and modern technology render the isolationist option untenable and obsolete. America cannot simply withdraw and hope to be left alone. It is strategically and economically impossible. Likewise, the Middle Eastern geopolitical reality of tyrannical autocracies presiding over ruthless religious zealots renders multilateral diplomatic engagement to a position of little utility in implementing long-term change. Those who abide by the law of the jungle will not voluntarily accept the rule of law in the absence of force. Moreover, the United States can only play one evil against another for so long. Pitting tyrants against terrorists will not extinguish the fires of Middle Eastern violence and hatred; it will stoke the flames in perpetuity.
|| Nudnik 10:25 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

              Bush Hatred
The Belmont Club has an excellent analysis of the reasons the Left hates Bush so much:
...To understand why the President and individuals like Paul Wolfowitz are described as "illegitimate", one should not, like the man who doesn't get the reference, look to the Florida chads or US Supreme Court decisions. Liberals are not talking about that kind of statutory legitimacy. Rather they are referring to what is perceived as a brazen attempt to negate the cultural equivalent of the Brezhnev doctrine, the idea that certain "progressive" modes of behavior, once attained, are irreversible. In this view, an entire set of attitudes, commonly referred to as "political correctness" and their institutional expressions, like the United Nations, have become part of a social contract, part of an unwritten constitution.

President Bush, so the indictment goes, is guilty of ignorant trespass on these civilizational norms; he is simply too stupid, too much of a yokel to know better....
|| Nudnik 1:53 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              What Are They Thinking?
Iran's seizure of 3 British Naval vessels and 8 sailors seems, at first blush to be inexplicable. Clearly this could be seen as a casus belli, a seemingly bad idea right now. Michael Ledeen sees it as an attempt by Iran to hurt Bush's election chances by creating an increase in the price of oil.
Yes, they're crazy, no doubt. But they're not stupid. And if an Iranian action seems stupid, you're probably misinterpreting it. There's a perfectly straightforward explanation for the whole episode: The Brits were laying down a network of sensors to detect the movement of ships toward major Iraqi oil terminals. The Iranians considered that a bit of a threat. So they attacked.

And why, you might ask, did the Iranians feel threatened?

Because they were planning to attack (or have their surrogates attack) the oil terminals, silly.

And why attack the oil terminals?

Because they want to defeat President Bush in November, and they figure if they can get the price of oil up to around $60 a barrel, he'll lose to Kerry.

Not to mention a considerable side benefit: At $60 a barrel, they can buy whatever they may be lacking to get their atomic bombs up and running.
Another explanation may have to do with the Britain's support of the recent IAEA censure of Iran for its nuclear program; the sailors seem to be bargaining chips to try to get Britain to back off.
|| Nudnik 11:41 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Hitch on Moore
Christopher Hitchens tears apart Michael Moore and his new movie:
To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.
If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture. Rock the vote, indeed.
And challenges him to actually debate the issues:
Moore has announced that he won't even appear on TV shows where he might face hostile questioning. I notice from the New York Times of June 20 that he has pompously established a rapid response team, and a fact-checking staff, and some tough lawyers, to bulwark himself against attack. He'll sue, Moore says, if anyone insults him or his pet. Some right-wing hack groups, I gather, are planning to bring pressure on their local movie theaters to drop the film. How dumb or thuggish do you have to be in order to counter one form of stupidity and cowardice with another? By all means go and see this terrible film, and take your friends, and if the fools in the audience strike up one cry, in favor of surrender or defeat, feel free to join in the conversation.

However, I think we can agree that the film is so flat-out phony that "fact-checking" is beside the point. And as for the scary lawyers—get a life, or maybe see me in court. But I offer this, to Moore and to his rapid response rabble. Any time, Michael my boy. Let's redo Telluride. Any show. Any place. Any platform. Let's see what you're made of.
Meanwhile, Mark Goldblatt writes:
As Moore is hailed by the liberal press in the coming weeks as a champion of the effort to unseat President Bush, and as he's embraced by mainstream figures within the Democratic party, he will inadvertently provide evidence of the intellectual depths to which the political Left has sunk.

That, in the final analysis, is Moore's special contribution to electoral politics.
|| Nudnik 10:31 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Election Site
An excellent site that shows the breakdown of the electoral college state by state: Dale's Electoral College Breakdown. As most polls have continued to show the election at this point is a virtual tie, although in the last couple of weeks Bush's numbers seem to have bottomed out and are starting to rise, especially as the economy is picking up steam and this is filtering down despite the meager press coverage.
|| Nudnik 10:05 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Culture of Hate
One of the main problems that the US is encountering in its attempts to transform the Arab world is the indoctrination that has occurred in that society. All over the Arab world children are taught from the earliest schooling (and sometimes even before that) to hate infidels and Jews. They are taught to glorify martyrdom and to desire to achieve it in brutal acts of murder. In large part, this indoctrination is funded and supported by the various Arab regimes, many of whom receive financial and military support from the very people they attack. Yet, the problem is far deeper than simply the governments. Amir Taheri points out the wide ranging support for the killing of infidels among the general Arab population.
The tragedy that struck Johnson is the product of a culture of hatred, arrogance and cruelty built over decades by the Saudi society.

To be sure, this does not mean that all Saudis think or would, if given the opportunity, behave as the killers did. But there is no escaping the fact that they do bear part of the responsibility, if only by providing the socio-cultural topos in which terrorism thrives.

Until recently, Saudi textbooks taught schoolchildren to regard non-Muslims as sub-humans who did not deserve the same respect due to "true believers," that is to say the followers of the officially approved Hanbali brand of Islam.
One of the most culpable in this dissemination of jihad has been Al-Jazeera and its like minded Al-Arabiya satellite "news" services. As they did in Jenin a few years ago, the Arab press has created a completely new narrative for the events in Fallujah over the past few months.
The Arab media, especially the satellite TV channels, presented the Fallujah insurgency as "one of the greatest battles the Arabs have ever waged against the Crusaders," as an editorial in the daily Al-Arab claimed.

The fact that the Arabs had hardly played a role in the historic Crusades (which were largely fought by Turks, Kurds and the Mamelukes) did not prevent the propagandists from exaggerating the "Epic of Fallujah" far beyond an understandable degree of hype.

Dominated by pan-Arabists and Islamists, the Arab media claimed that the United States had deployed "all its military might" to conquer Fallujah and had failed. The "heroes of Fallujah" fought like lions and, supported by non-combatants, including women and children (who died in thousands), succeeded in winning "a spectacular victory," thus "saving Arab honor."

More than a dozen Arab poets have already committed odes and sonnets to commemorate Fallujah as "the Arab Stalingrad." One Syrian composer is working on an opera about "the heroes of Fallujah," while a couple of Egyptian hacks are breaking their typewriters to produce scripts for a film and a TV series on this latest of imaginary Arab victories.
This type of disinformation has been a staple of Arab reporting, especially of military encounters. One of the key ingredients of a free society is the ability to critically view events. Until the Arab world learns to do that, instead of simply swallowing the propaganda spewed by its "news" outlets, it will not be able to reform itself and become free.
|| Nudnik 9:47 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Monday, June 21, 2004

Leon Wieseltier says that he is disillusioned by the war in Iraq and its aftermath. Like many on the Left, this disillusionments stems from the lack of stockpiles of the promised WMDs. Yet, his analysis for the reasons for going to war, and its strategic consequences are completely incorrect.
And so I was persuaded that the United States was facing a significant strategic threat and a significant humanitarian threat. Prudence and conscience brought me to the same conclusion.

But I was deceived. Strategic thinking must have an empirical foundation. You do not act against a threat for which there is little or no evidence. Yet that is precisely what the United States did.
Wieseltier's first mistake is to assume that the strategic reason for invading Iraq was the WMDs. I would say that if anything, the WMDs were the tactical reason within a much broader strategic reasoning. The strategic reasoning had to do with the threat posed to the United States by the economic and political stagnation of the entire Arab world. Iraq was simply a place to start the reconstruction of this mess. Additionally, the whole theory of pre-emption, which he says is now dead due to the lack of WMDs, relies on acting before a strategic threat emerges. This means oftentimes acting on incomplete intelligence. He continues:
It always seemed to me that the benefits to American security that would result from preventing a collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden (and I am under no illusion that the Baathism of the one or the Wahhabism of the other would stand in the way of their mutual anti-American convenience) would be substantially less than the costs to American security that would result from the introduction of an American army into the heart of the Arab world.
What Wieseltier sees as a by-product, "the introduction of an American army into the heart of the Arab world" was in fact one of the strategic reasons for going to war. 130,000 US troops sitting in this heart can do more to influence the actions of the surrounding regimes than all of the State Dept. diplomacy combined. One can argue whether the Army should actually be doing more vis-a-vis those regimes, but regardless, their presence in and of itself is causing a major readjustment of thinking there. Wieseltier then goes in to the familiar refrain of the Left that terrorism can not be fought militarily and that we need to take into account root causes.
We cannot fight Islamic radicalism, I mean militarily, without creating Islamic radicalism. The fight against Islamic radicalism must be political and cultural, which is why the fight against Islamic radicalism must not be conflated with the fight against Islamic terrorism.
As Israel has shown, it is possible and in fact necessary to fight Islamic terrorism and radicalism (a distinction without much of a difference) with military might. The key is to fight it correctly - as Victor Hanson, among others has pointed out.

Wieseltier then goes into the other justification for the war "the ennobling one". Here, he understands that the democratization of the Arab world is necessary for our security. His criticism here is that while this is a good goal it was poorly executed.
It is absolutely astonishing that the planners of this war expected only happiness in its wake. Their postwar planning seems to have consisted in a kind of reverse Augustinianism: goodness is the absence of evil, Saddam is evil, Saddam's absence is good. They failed to intuit all the other evils that would emerge in the absence of this evil. They did not recognize the multiplicity of Iraq's demons; which is to say, they did not recognize Iraq. Here, too, they operated unempirically, in a universe of definitions and congratulations.
It is fashionable to decry the poor post-war planning, and while it certainly could have been better, overall the reconstruction is going significantly better than could be expected from a thoroughly destroyed society, even if that good news is not being reported.
|| Nudnik 7:03 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The UN and Anti-Semitism
On the occasion of the UN Conference on Confronting Anti-Semitism, Anne Bayefsky presented this excellent speech. Unfortunately, since this is the UN, this speech will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears.
The inability of the U.N. to confront the corruption of its agenda dooms this organization's success as an essential agent of equality or dignity or democratization.
This conference may serve as a turning point. We will only know if concrete changes occur hereafter: a General Assembly resolution on anti-Semitism adopted, an annual report on anti-Semitism forthcoming, a focal point on anti-Semitism created, a rapporteur on anti-Semitism appointed.

But I challenge the secretary-general and his organization to go further--if they are serious about eradicating anti-Semitism:

Start putting a name to the terrorists that kill Jews because they are Jews.

Start condemning human-rights violators wherever they dwell--even if they live in Riyadh or Damascus.

Stop condemning the Jewish people for fighting back against their killers.

And the next time someone asks you or your colleagues to stand for a moment of silence to honor those who would destroy the state of Israel, say no.
Only then will the message be heard from these chambers that the U.N. will not tolerate anti-Semitism or its consequences against Jews and the Jewish people, whether its victims live in Tehran, Paris or Jerusalem.
|| Nudnik 3:02 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Israel and Turkey
In the past few weeks, the Turkish Prime Minister has very publicly criticized Israel, something that did not really happen previously. Ilan Bernstein attributes this in large part to the Islamism of the AKP, the ruling party, and its attempt to wrest more power from the military. However, there is another, and possibly much more important, reason for Turkey to move away from Israel - its attempts to become a member of the EU. Perhaps in becoming "European", Turkey feels that it needs to become more aligned with the European view of Israel.
|| Nudnik 1:13 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Editing History
Much was made of the story a little while ago of Attorney General John Ashcroft covering up a statue in the interests of modesty. Undoubtedly this is ridiculous and should be criticized as such. Yet, if we are to criticize the covering up of a statue, shouldn't an attempt to cover up history be criticized even more harshly? This editing of history is not very different from the editing of history in a different time and place. But if we start down that road, where do we decide that it has gone too far?
|| Nudnik 11:34 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Press Freedom
In our war with the Islamofascists one of the most important elements is undoubtedly "the war of ideas". We need to show the people of the Arab world that our institutions and our society are better than theirs, and that if they ever want to progress out of the tyranny and economic malaise that has afflicted them for so long they, will need to emulate in some way the system that we have. For this end the US has set up a number of information outlets that broadcast to the Arab world in an attempt to "win hearts and minds". As of now, these have been marginally successful, in large part because our campaign is being undercut by the defeatism of our own media and even more so by the anti-American propaganda, outright mendacity, and incitement of Arab news services like Al-Jazeera. As Ralph Peters writes: "Al-Jazeera not only encourages the assassination of American soldiers, but pulls out all the stops to excite anti-U.S. hatred throughout the Arabic-speaking world." Yet despite this, Al-Jazeera is allowed to continue its propaganda campaign in Iraq because the Coalition Provisional Authority believes that this is an example of freedom of the press. Peters goes on to point out why this is absurd:
This is idiocy, a perverse political correctness based upon a rejection of common sense.

Press freedom is a treasure of our civilization, but it's also distinctly a product of our civilization — one that doesn't always export well. It works in our society for numerous reasons.

First, despite undeniable excesses, there's a fundamental respect for facts in our media. Second, our press is not rewarded for encouraging mass murder. Third, we have libel and hate-crime laws that work. Fourth, the great majority of journalists take pride in the standards of their profession — despite popular notions to the contrary.

We also have healthy, vigorous, combative competition. In the end, the members of our media keep each other honest. One should never underestimate the jealousy journalists feel toward one another as a factor in exposing fabrications. The glee with which reporters unmask the sins of more successful colleagues is an unappreciated virtue of the profession.

Al-Jazeera has no such controls. It's Pravda without the truth — in living color. As long as the network glorifies its host, the Emir of Qatar, and avoids anything beyond the most lightweight criticism of select Arab leaders, it's allowed to incite hatred, assassination and genocide.

Facts are never allowed to interfere.
Undoubtedly freedom - any kind of freedom - must be counterbalanced by responsibility; you can not have the first without the second. By allowing Al-Jazeera's (and others like it) presence in Iraq, we are teaching the wrong lesson - that freedom exists in a vacuum, without the burden of responsibility.
|| Nudnik 10:14 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Friday, June 18, 2004

              BBC Bias
Tom Gross has a very illuminating column on NRO. It is stunning to see the blatant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda that gets passed off as news by BBC. This "news service" reaches more people world-wide than pretty much any other news service.
The English-language version of the BBC seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. My friend Kamran al-Karadaghi, an urbane, moderate, and thoughtful Iraqi, who was for a decade the political editor of the Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat in London, and who until last week served as head of Radio Free Iraq, tells me that the BBC Arabic-language service is not just far worse than the English-language BBC. It is "even worse," he says, than al Jazeera, in the vitriol it pours out against America and Israel.
Is it any surprise then, what the attitudes around the world are to America and Israel?
|| Nudnik 3:10 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The Great Divide
Since the attacks of 9/11 American society and opinion have gotten more polarized. Perhaps one reason for that is that serious issues emerged - as opposed to before when our main concerns were whether Bill slept with Monica - and suddenly there was something to actually disagree about and get upset about. Victor Hanson breaks down the split in society and characterizes one as "angry, but also therapeutic", held by the Left, and the other as "somewhat tragic, largely upbeat about our recent accomplishments", held by the Right.
How to adjudicate these two conflicting views of the present situation? We cannot. Why so?

The answer is that our interpretations of the present crisis are predicated on our own larger views of mankind itself. The tragic sense accepts us as flawed and thus expects setback, mistakes, and even moral lapses. The therapeutic view in contrast demands perfection right now and thus allows for few, if any, mistakes. Some of us look to history and thus gauge our present war rather humane at least by the losses of prior conflicts, the mess in rebuilding Japan and Germany, and the audacity of trying to bring consensual government to an autocratic Middle East.

Others trust more in the promises of social science, and thus are ignorant of the horror of past American wars, but fault us daily for our inability to use the proper wisdom or protocol to restore full power, stop all violence, and ensure professional behavior on the part of our soldiers.
|| Nudnik 1:32 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Liberal Entitlement
Keith Burgess-Jackson in today's TechCentralStation column attacks Paul Krugman's criticism of Bush's tax policies. The heart of the matter is the differences in the conceptions of ownership and entitlement between liberals and conservatives in the US (and elsewhere). The philosophical difference boils down who owns the fruits of one's labor. For liberals, society owns it and is free to do what it wills; alternatively, for conservatives, ownership resides with the individual.
Krugman says that unless taxes are raised, social programs will have to be cut. These programs help poor and middle-class families, not the families of the well-to-do; so cutting them hurts poor and middle-class families (but not the families of the well-to-do). The Bush administration, however, is adamant about not raising taxes. So, in effect, the Bush administration makes things better for the well-to-do and worse for everyone else.

What Krugman conveniently ignores -- perhaps because it undermines his position -- is the question of entitlement. He writes as if nobody is entitled to anything. Suppose that were the case. A policy that hurt many and helped only a few would indeed be unjust (not to mention irrational). But when you factor in entitlement, the situation changes completely from the moral point of view. Lowering taxes isn't giving the well-to-do something to which they're not entitled. It's not a boon to them, or a windfall. It's letting them keep that to which they're entitled!

In Krugman's twisted mind (I say that endearingly), not taking your money against your will is giving you money. Read that sentence again, slowly and carefully.

It all goes back to liberal first principles. Nobody, to the liberal, has a valid claim on anything, even his or her talents. Those who produce or acquire wealth do so not because of effort, initiative, creativity, or sacrifice. They're just lucky. They were born healthy and into loving families. Others are unlucky. They were born unhealthy or into indifferent families. Since none of us is entitled to what we have at birth, none of us is entitled to anything we produce thereafter. We might call this, to borrow a term from the criminal law, the fruit-of-the-poisonous-tree doctrine. Wealth, to the liberal, belongs to all of us in common, not to any of us in particular. There are possessions, but not property.
|| Nudnik 10:43 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Amazing Technology
In its battle against Palestinian terrorists Israel yesterday reported plans for a moat on the Gaza border. Along with this ancient defensive measure, Israel will also be deploying amazing high tech measures: Israeli Army Wants 'Remote Control' Border.
An Israeli army think tank has been working on a new border design for months, the military officials said. The planners envision a "remote control" border that will cut down on the number of troops being deployed in the area. High-tech equipment for border control is already being tested, they added.

A computerized observation system will allow the army to identify "hostile elements" and fire deep into Gaza, Yediot said. The system will even choose the most appropriate weapon to use to hit a specific target.

In addition, the army is testing unmanned patrol cars that can identify and defuse explosives by remote control. Planners have prepared alternatives in case the technology is not useable in time, military officials said.
|| Nudnik 9:53 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Israel's Victory
Charles Krauthammer writes today that while no one was looking the Palestinian Intifada ended, and as has happened for the Arabs in every other war they have fought against Israel, the lost. This loss has damaged the Palestinian "cause", whatever that may be, by removing them from the decision making process of future events.
Arafat failed, spectacularly. The violence did not bring Israel to its knees. Instead, it created chaos, lawlessness and economic disaster in the Palestinian areas. The Palestinians know the ruin that Arafat has brought, and they are beginning to protest it. He promised them blood and victory; he delivered on the blood.

Even more important, they have lost their place at the table. Israel is now defining a new equilibrium that will reign for years to come -- the separation fence is unilaterally drawing the line that separates Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians were offered the chance to negotiate that frontier at Camp David and chose war instead. Now they are paying the price.

It stands to reason. It is the height of absurdity to launch a terrorist war against Israel, then demand the right to determine the nature and route of the barrier built to prevent that very terrorism.
|| Nudnik 9:44 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Mark Steyn, in his latest column compares the "romantic eloquence" of Reagan with Bush and their overall world-views. In some ways, Bush's rhetoric has had to be tempered by the times that we live in, and Steyn thinks that this has hindered the ability of the Administration to get people to understand the nature of the conflict in which we are involved.
But, in the broader sense, Barnett might be right — that the very name of the war was its first polite evasion, the product of a culture which has banished the very concept of ‘the enemy’. From grade school up we’re taught that there are no enemies, just friends whose grievances we haven’t yet accommodated. One sympathises with Bush’s difficulties: in the early days, every time he tried to name an enemy, he got undercut. When he denounced the Taleban, Colin Powell said, au contraire, we’re very interested in reaching out to moderate Taleban. So Bush switched to the more general term ‘evildoers’, and crossed his fingers that Powell wouldn’t go on Meet the Press and claim the administration was interested in reaching out to moderate evildoers.

Three years on, I think one can make the argument that this fuzziness about the precise nature of the enemy is one reason so many Americans have checked out of the war. The President is getting his way, in Iraq and at the UN. But at home he doesn’t seem able to package it all into a great cause the way Reagan did. I mentioned two years ago that ambitious presidents take advantage of extreme circumstances — the way FDR did in the Depression. Bush had an opportunity to shift the broader cultural landscape in 2001 — to take on the enervated, self-loathing, multiculti self-absorption that in the days after 9/11 looked momentarily vulnerable. But he chose not to do so. Unlike Roosevelt, he declined to seize the moment.

But even FDR couldn’t have done it without the help of Wall Street and bread lines. What makes Reagan the most impressive president of the century is that he shifted the landscape without any external assistance — no Depression, no 9/11, no nothing: like the Queen and Comrade Bishop, everyone was in ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ mode vis-à-vis the Soviet Union as it gobbled up more and more real estate. Reagan got a notion to win the Cold War at a time nobody else had. And he made it happen.
|| Nudnik 1:56 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
It seems that when battling an ideology and society perpetually stuck in the 12th century, it is necessary to resort to 12th century defenses: Israel Launches Gaza Moat Plan.
|| Nudnik 10:37 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Saddam and Osama
The press has been full of stories yesterday and today claiming that the 9/11 commission, in its report, stated that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The actual story is much more complex than that, and when looked at closely actually states the exact opposite. The report concludes that Saddam was not involved in 9/11, but this was never an actual claim of the Bush administration. The claim was merely that there was a connection between these two and the details of the report bear this out. Andrew McCarthy dissects the report and shows its internal contradictions and errors. Joel Mowbray looks at the media reactions to the report.

Nevertheless, the media in its need to further its own agenda of "Bush Lied" and assisting the campaign of John Kerry does not delve in to these issues.
|| Nudnik 10:23 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Quite an Endorsement
It is said that a person can be judged by the type of friends he has. Michael Moore's new "film", Fahrenheit 9/11 is being offered help from the usual friends of the Left, the Guardian reports:
According to Screen International, the UAE-based distributor Front Row Entertainment has been contacted by organisations related to the Hezbollah in Lebanon with offers of help.
|| Nudnik 9:32 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
Some good articles on Europe today. Tim Worstall assails the new EU Constitution set to be agreed upon this weekend.
The governmental leaders of Europe will gather this weekend, along with aides, mistresses and varied leeches upon the tax payers (assuming that those classes are mutually exclusive), to attempt agreement upon the new European Union Constitution. I am not sure which to pray for: a failure to agree and subsequent collapse of the idea, or an agreement so that we can then get on with voting the thing down in referenda across the continent. For the basic document itself is hopeless, a mish mash of every semi-thought that evanesced across the synapses of its octogenarian progenitor, Giscard d'Estaing, and his merry committee of statist political pygmies.
The US Constitution is about 15 pages long, including all the Amendments that have been added over 200+ years. Despite many disagreements on the meaning of many items that have been adjudicated, it is a fairly concise document laying out the general structure and operation of the government of the United States and the rights of its citizens. By contrast, the EU Constitution comes out to more than 200 pages and contains lines like "The Union shall work for the sustainable development of Europe" and "It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the earth."

Meanwhile, James Glassman and The American Thinker discuss the societies and failing economies of Europe. The one hope that Europe has, if it continues on its present course, is that the new countries of the EU (Poland, Slovenia, etc) will be able to drag the "Old Europe" away from its decaying, statist ways. This won't happen, however, if France and Germany continue to bully these new members into molding their economies to be more like theirs.
|| Nudnik 9:13 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              More on Mubarak
Israel Army Radio is reporting that Mubarak unexpectedly cancelled his meeting with Ahmed Queria, and Debka is saying that he appeared "ill and his speech labored" at his last public appearance. Maybe there is some truth to yesterday's rumors of his health problems.
|| Nudnik 7:56 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

              Iran and Regional War
Iran, by its proximity and interest in Iraq as well as its development of nuclear weapons, has emerged as the primary opponent of the US in its goals in the Middle East. In a very interesting article, Herbert London analyzes the implications of various Iranian actions and US reactions to counter them.
If it wasn't clear before, it is crystal clear now that the war in Iraq is a regional war. At stake are the tyrannies that hold sway over the Middle East. At the epicenter of this tyrannical world is Iran, a nation feverishly panting for nuclear weapons and simultaneously funding and supporting terrorist organizations of every stripe. Iran is terror central. The mullahs in this peculiar nation realize that a stable Iraq on its border that will make strides economically challenges willy-nilly the very existence of the present Iranian government.
If we are to triumph in the War on Terror we will need to in some way confront Iran and defeat them.
As I see it, Iran is the wild card in the region. Unrestrained, it will cast an ominous shadow over Syria, support Hamas in the Palestinian territory, send troops into Afghanistan, and foment terror in Turkey. Some of these conditions already exist and others could be moving in an ominous direction.

Iraq is the first step in forestalling Iran. We must realize that and realize as well that this is a regional war in a high stakes effort. To fight half-heartedly won't send the appropriate message. There is much more at stake here than some barren desert land.

The future of mankind is contained in this cradle of civilization. History has anointed the United States as global protector. We cannot shun this responsibility. In fact, as I see it, there isn't any alternative other than defeating Iranian extremists and radical Islamists so that we can win the war on terror.
|| Nudnik 2:10 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Mubarak Dead?
Rumors going around that Hosni Mubarak has died. Northeast Intelligence Network.
Unconfirmed reports by multiple posters on multiple Arabic language message boards claim that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has died.

The reports indicate that Mubarak's health took a turn for the worse late last night, and he was rushed to a Cairo hospital. According to the report, the Egyptian government is expected to not release news of the death until an orderly succession can be ensured.
The site is fairly alarmist, so this should probably be taken with a large grain of salt.
|| Nudnik 12:58 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Neoconservatism as Realism
The neoconservative policy and agenda and agenda have been under assault for the past few years as unrealistic. Michael McClellan argues the exact opposite, that it is entirely realistic and in fact the best alternative we have in defending ourselves from Islamist terrorists, as well as changing the very nature of the region that produces these murderous ideologies.
Such democratic construction is an ambitious endeavor. However, the neo-conservative vision is a far cry from an idealistic or reckless Wilsonian crusade. In 2004, democratic realism is the most pragmatic form of realism. The massive nature of the task merely reflects the tremendous danger of the threat.

Regime change will only effectively alter the Middle Eastern status quo if bolstered with the permanence of democratic construction. Likewise, defeating terrorist organizations and defending the US homeland depends upon altering the terrorist-producing status quo of the Middle East. Locating and pursuing al Qaeda operatives and hardening US targets at home and abroad are vital, necessary measures. Alone, however, such measures are insufficient. If hostile regimes are permitted a nexus to terrorists, the terrorists will eventually arm themselves with WMD and use them against the United States. If the underlying terror-supporting factors in the Middle East are not addressed, more terrorists will simply emerge in al Qaeda's stead. Abandoning any element of the 4D strategy risks the grave potential of overall strategic failure.
|| Nudnik 10:51 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Jews and Democrats
American Jews have overwhelmingly supported the Democratic party throughout the 20th century. There are probably many reasons for this, but one of the main ones is probably that the Democratic party was viewed as the "progressive" party - interested in fairness and creating a system of social support for all of society, both at home and abroad. But times have changes, and as Ben Shapiro argues, the Democrats no longer represent these principles.
It was Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, who claimed that a Jewish cabal stood behind the Iraq war. It was former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a Democrat from Georgia, who took money from anti-American and anti-Israeli terrorist supporters during her candidacy for Congress. It was Vermont's Howard Dean, a Democrat, who labeled Hamas members "soldiers." It was Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, who was once Grand Kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan. It was Sen. Ernest Hollings, a Democrat from South Carolina, who blamed the Iraq war on pro-Israeli interests. Beyond all the rhetoric about Jewish relatives, the Democratic Party stands for a thinly veiled hostility toward Judaism and Jews.
At the same time, the resistance to the Republican party was partially based in the perception and fear of the religiosity of many Republicans. For Shapiro this is something to be embraced, not feared. He contends that it is the secularists who have been most anti-Semitic and damaging to Jews. Of course this has been the case primarily in modern history; before that religious fervor produced the most destructive events for the Jewish communities (i.e. Inquisition, blood libels, etc.) Shapiro believes that Jews must reappraise their attitudes to the Republican party:
President Bush and the American right have been the best friends to the Jewish community in the annals of modern history. It is President Bush and his administration that have staunchly maintained their support for Israel, even in the face of withering attacks from the world community. It is President Bush and his administration that have stood up against the neo-Nazi ideology of Islamism. It is President Bush and the Republican Party that have fought for American morality; it is they who zealously guard the Judeo-Christian ethic that has made America the greatest power in world history. It is they who uphold the concept of a culturally, economically, morally strong Jewish people.

It's about time the Jewish community recognized that fact and realized that allegiance must be to principles, not to parties.
|| Nudnik 10:21 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Bush beats Europe
Irwin Seltzer at the Weekly Standard believes that last week's EU elections show that Bush and Blair are triumphing over Chirac and Schroeder.
So these countries, and the German business community, are telling Schröder to tone down his anti-American rhetoric--which he can't do without antagonizing the voters he has persuaded to hate America in general and George W. Bush in particular.

TO ADD TO the Franco-German discomfort, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the new Iraqi government, led by Ghazi al-Yawar, who was educated in America. And when the heads-of-state show moves on to Istanbul later this month for the NATO summit meeting, after a two-day stop in New Market-on-Fergus in Ireland for an E.U.-U.S. summit meeting, Chirac is likely to find that his resistance to NATO involvement in Iraq's reconstruction will be ignored by an organization desperate to prove that it is relevant to the 21st century. All in all, it seems that in a single week the reputations of George W. Bush and Tony Blair have moved from the valley of despair to the bright uplands reserved for those who get it right in the tough world of geopolitics.
Additionally, this could all be very bad for Kerry.
All of this is a misfortune for John Kerry. His campaign rests on a three-legged stool. The first leg is that Bush is a job-destroyer; but the economy has created almost one million jobs in the past three months, and is probably adding better than 10,000 every day. The second leg is that Bush has antagonized America's allies and is isolated; the 15-0 Security Council vote to recognize the Bush-backed Iraqi government saws that leg off. The final leg is that the Bush tax cuts have been a disaster. Ronald Reagan's death has brought renewed attention to the fact that the late president's tax cuts helped to end the recession he inherited from Jimmy Carter, just as Bush's cuts kept the Clinton recession short and mild.
|| Nudnik 9:44 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Iraq Poll
A recent poll requested by the Coalition Provisional Authority has some pretty disheartening results. Granted the poll is somewhat skewed because the Kurds were not included, but in another way it makes it more important, since the Kurds are known to be firmly in the US camp and very grateful to the US. The poll shows that the vast majority of the rest of Iraqis have a very poor view of the CPA - a favorable rating of just 11%, while coalition forces received a favorable rating of just 10%. Additionally 92% of Iraqis view coalition forces as occupiers, and just 2% view them as liberators.

Its difficult to make out what this really means. Has the US really lost the window of opportunity of the good will of Iraqis, as Andrew Sullivan believes? Or is this merely an expression of frustration of the continuing problematic security?

Another way to look at this is that the Iraqis are now feeling a lot more confident in themselves and their future government, and therefore don't want or think they need US troops there any more. More interesting will be the polls a few months after the handover of power to the Interim Iraqi Government.
|| Nudnik 8:56 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

              End of EU?
The recent elections in Europe for the European Parliament have exposed some huge cracks in the supposedly united Europe. The elections were supposed to be the largest transnational elections ever, but instead of confirming a united Europe, they instead showed how many euro-skeptics there really are. As Scott Norvell points out, many of the new parliamentarians are going there with the express purpose of undermining the system.
The outcome couldn't have come at a worse time for Euro-lovers. Even as the last votes were being tallied Sunday, foreign ministers were jetting off to Brussels to try and finalize a constitution for the bloc. They had hoped to have an agreement ironed out by the time heads of state from all 25 members of the union gathered on Thursday and Friday.

Now, the constitution may have to wait while they chew on the possibility that people in Krakow and Riga don't necessarily share Jacques Chirac's ideal of forcing 35-hour workweeks on everyone and spending those extra five hours coddling Middle Eastern dictators.
What's most astounding about the exercise is that even as Kilroy and company were plotting their sabotage, the people who should have been paying heed to the vote still failed to notice the truck barreling toward them.

In a dispatch from Brussels Monday afternoon, Reuters relayed the argument of the European Commission -- the EU's executive body -- that the Parliament didn't have enough power, and that's why people voted the way they did.

Yea. That's right. That's the answer.
It seems to me that the EU, as anything more than a free-trade zone, was doomed to failure from the very beginning. It is impossible to create a common economic policy for countries that are so economically different. It didn't help that Germany and France decided to violate the very rules that they created by going over the spending limits, while trying to penalize the smaller countries for doing the same. And if economic integration is difficult, attempting political integration of 25 countries with very distinctive histories and often strong nationalisms is absurd.

So the question is where does Europe go from here? Most likely the economic integration will continue, though at a slower pace as England is far less likely now to join the Euro. Political integration has now been made even more difficult than it already was. And it seems that a political arrangement that was initially created by the US to keep France and Germany from fighting, will be doomed by the arrogance of an allied France and Germany.
|| Nudnik 11:33 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Iran Acting Up
The Washington Times is reporting that according to the Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Iran has moved four battalions of troops to the Iraqi border. This doesn't seem to have anything to do with "readying troops to move into Iraq if U.S. troops pull out, leaving a security vacuum", since there is no indication that US troops will be leaving anytime soon and since four battalions really are not going to have much of an effect anyways. Most likely this has to do with the current issues that Iran is having with the IAEA.

The anniversary of the revolution is approaching, and this has usually been the time of a pickup in demonstrations against the government. Until we see what the result of these demonstrations are on the mullahs, it is unlikely that the US will do anything vis a vis the Iranian nuclear program.
|| Nudnik 10:40 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Great Economic News
Reuters is reporting that the Manpower employment survey is showing that "U.S. companies are gearing up to create jobs at rates not seen since the height of the 1990s boom...adding to evidence that job growth will keep the U.S. economic recovery rolling." And of course, now that the economy is an issue that would help President Bush, the media is no longer reporting on it.
|| Nudnik 3:25 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The New Realism
In a very interesting article in The New Republic (registration required), Lawrence Kaplan traces the course of the Administration's and others' thinking about the war in Iraq. As violence in Iraq has continued, and progress is difficult, more and more people have begun to propose a more "realist" view of what can be accomplished. For many, the idea of creating a democracy there has given way to simply creating "stability". "Which is too bad. Because, no matter what you think of Iraq, realism can't win the war on terrorism."

Obviously much of the problem has been because of the continuing violence:
The genesis of the new realism is, of course, America's problems creating democracy in Iraq. But today's problems in Iraq do not derive from failures of democracy. They derive from failures of security, which have made democracy difficult to achieve. Those failures owe to a well-chronicled fact--the United States lacks the troop levels required to provide security. It should be axiomatic that, as former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) adviser and democracy expert Larry Diamond puts it, "you can't have a democratic state unless you have a state, and the fundamental, irreducible condition of a state is that it has a monopoly on the means of violence." In Iraq today, not even the U.S. Army, much less the interim government, possesses such a monopoly.

Kaplan argues that the "realism" of simple stability is no longer possible:
The lack of "realistic" alternatives to democracy in Iraq applies equally to the Middle East as a whole. Complaining that democratic idealists "incorporate Wilsonian ideas into their vision in urging the spread of democracy," prominent realist G. John Ikenberry of Georgetown University scoffs at the notion that this "is not merely idealism, according to them; it is good national security policy." Meanwhile, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued in The New York Times last week, "What we need now is pragmatism and not ideology. ... We must do everything we can to help the region's more moderate and friendly regimes--the Saudis and others--to defeat terrorism and improve the protection of foreign workers and oil facilities." Likewise, Republican Senator Pat Roberts insists that Washington must restrain its tendency toward "social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy."

But the United States is entitled--on September 11, the aim of a democratic Middle East became a matter of our national well-being, even survival. And the United States is obligated--because either pressure for democracy in the Arab world will come from the United States or it will come from nowhere at all. For the source of America's entitlement, look no further than the region's "friendly regimes." Not only has repression fueled terrorist movements in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt; the very governments we prop up have sanctioned the worst elements as a way to deflect popular anger from their palace gates. The absence of civil society, the weakness of independent media outlets, the weakness of secular opposition parties--all these things underpin the truth that, as Bush said in a recent speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, "as long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready to export."

This is more than conjecture. A recent study by Princeton's Alan Krueger and Czech scholar Jitka Maleckova analyzed data on terrorist attacks and measured it against the characteristics of the terrorists' countries of origin. The study found that "the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists." Unfortunately, according to the U.N.'s Arab Human Development Report, not a single Arab state offers such freedoms. One could plausibly have argued before September 11 that this was none of America's business. But, on that day, the Arab world's predicament became our own--thrusting the United States into a war of ideas to which realism has no adequate response.

Nor will victory in this highly ideological war be accomplished by standing by while Arab states leisurely pursue their "own path" to democracy, as Powell puts it. When it comes to the Arab world, either the spur for democratization will come from without or it will not come any time soon. Realists like Republican Senator Chuck Hagel insist the solution to the lack of freedom in the Middle East cannot be that "we are going to go forth and impose democracy." If Hagel means to suggest we should not regularly resort to arms to do so, he has a point. Yet, the realist critique refuses to distinguish between war and democracy promotion. (In this, it takes its cue from the White House, whose revised case that it waged war for the explicit purpose of creating democracy--rather than to topple an aggressive tyrant and then implant a democratic political order--has created the impression that America cannot promote democratization by means other than force.) Yes, America will need to "impose" democracy in the Arab world, but it can also rely on peaceful tools, such as broadcasting, financial aid, diplomatic pressure, public support for regimes that pursue democracy, and public opprobrium for those who do not. If this amounts to an imposition on the sovereignty of dictatorial regimes, so be it.

The notion that we ought not impose what Cordesman derides as "our own political values"--that is, democracy--on others misses the fact that, as democracy scholar Joshua Muravchik has pointed out, if people do not want to be governed by consent, they can always vote for a tyrant. In fact, defining democracy as a universal rather than specifically American aspiration means the United States would not stop such an outcome. More compelling is the argument that some countries might not be ready for democracy. No one has espoused this view more vigorously than Powell, who, in his memoirs, dismisses the idea of a "desert democracy where people read the Federalist Papers along with the Koran." This line of reasoning mirrors the logic that American policymakers applied to other formerly undemocratic regions of the world. Joseph Grew, the State Department's chief Japan expert, cautioned President Truman that "the best we can hope for is a constitutional monarchy, experience having shown that democracy in Japan would never work." Awash in cultural relativism, his colleagues and successors made the same point about East Asia, Germany, and South America. Now that the tide of democracy has swept over these regions, they are making the same point about the one part of the world it has yet to touch.

To be sure, with Iraqis killing Americans every day, the temptation to yield to such pessimism may prove irresistible. But, when they advertise Iraq--like they advertised Vietnam before it--as the repudiation of a larger democratic war of ideas, the realists encourage a more pessimistic conclusion than circumstances justify. A policy can be measured by its successes, and it can be measured by its failures. When it comes to America's record in promoting democratic change, the former surely outweigh the latter. The world may not change easily, but, because of America, it has changed. Having come so far, and confronted with a new totalitarian threat, how "realistic" would it be to quit now?
|| Nudnik 1:59 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
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