2/15/2003

Finding stupid comments from today's protesters isn't difficult but even from that group, I found this statement particularly idiotic:

"I'd like to hear more people chanting "yes to peace" rather than no war - after all we're trying to fight the concept of war and our message should be solution based. We've been in Hyde Park since the speeches began and it's been really powerful stuff. An Iraqi man stood up and said his people don't want this [war] he shouldn't still be having to say this after all these years." - Jennifer Connell

Wow! Peace as a solution to war! Thanks Jennifer!
I’ve put this in a separate post because it’s not really relevant to the anti-war debate, but Kaiser has another passage that is truly indicative of the intellectual isolation the left wing lives in.

He writes:

“The Republicans, since Barry Goldwater's disastrous defeat in 1964, have built a strong conservative party. Ideologically it is nearly homogeneous, now that the moderates have shrunk to a small fraction of the whole, and it is extraordinarily disciplined.”

This is probably his most ridiculous statement in the whole article. Consider that despite his claim that Republicans are “ideologically . . . homogeneous” and have pushed moderates out of their ranks, Republicans control a plurality of state legislatures, a majority of governors’ mansions, the majority in the US House and Senate, and the White House. Now this contradiction can only exist for one of two reasons – either the Republican party is not nearly as far right as Kaiser and other liberals believe or the country as whole is far more conservative than the left wants to believe. I suspect the truth is a combination of the two but, in either case, it’s further proof that the left should spend a bit more time away from East Coast cocktail parties if they want to understand the true political mood of the country.
Robert G. Kaiser’s analysis of the lack of political opposition a war in Iraq is itself indicative of why the left is having trouble motivating a broad-based anti-war movement.

“Democratic government works best when those in power face challenge and debate from opposition politicians, a free press, interest groups and citizens. By responding to critics, the government tests and hones its policies, and wins greater support and legitimacy for them. This is an article of the fundamental American faith. Theoretically at least, we believe in the competition of ideas, and the survival of the best ones.”

But what is most interesting is that, despite Kaiser’s acknowledgement that political support is built by a competition of ideas, he blames the lack of political opposition to the war on the President - “even one who lost the popular vote but won office in the electoral college – [rolling over] over opponents like a tank squashing beer cans.” He never even considers that the anti-war arguments are simply so weak as to be unable to survive in the marketplace of ideas. Interestingly, he essentially recognizes this point when he notes “critics of a quick rush to war did affect the administration's behavior” last fall and Bush was forced to seek UN support. In other words, when the anti-war crowd did have a cogent argument – that the US should seek international backing before beginning the liberation of Iraq – opponents of the President did speak up and Bush was forced to modify his plan.

Yet Kaiser asks:

“Will the administration pay a price for bulldozing ahead -- assuming that's what it does -- without responding substantively to critics at home and abroad who are urging a slower, more deliberate squeeze on Saddam Hussein?”

But Bush hasn’t responded to critics simply because no coherent argument has been made against the war now that an irrefutable case has been made that Saddam is in violation of Resolution 1441. A slower squeeze? Proponents of this can’t explain how this will either bring down the Saddam regime or how this will stop Iraqi weapons programs – an especially difficult argument given that most who’d make this argument supported 1441. And then there’s the brilliant arguments seen at the “peace” rallies today. He agrees that the opposition needs a coherent argument to make their positions legitimate, but he can't see the obvious reason for this lack of coherence

Put plainly, when compelling anti-war arguments simply don’t exist, it is unreasonable to expect major Democratic figures – the sort that will need to be vocal to have the kind of debate Kaiser wants – to speak up. They haven’t been bulldozed by the administration PR machine, Bush has simply won the battle of ideas.

UPDATE: This settles it. Even the NY Times is supporting (well as much as they can) war on Iraq now. If Howell Raines can't come up with an anti-war argument anymore, none exists.
BAY AREA ANTI-FACISTS: A morning show in the Bay Area today had a tribute song to the UN inspectors, implying that they are, uh, less than competent. When San Francisco pop radio realizes Saddam is being less than honest (lying) about his non-existent WMD, I think it's time to go in.
One underreported effect of France and Germany’s unilateralism is the economic consequences of the breakdown of the EU. The EU was to be an economic rival to the U.S. With an economy of a comparable scale to America’s, united, the Europeans could be an effective economic rival. The effects of this can already be seen in Africa’s debate over accepting genetically modified foods from the U.S. (that could save lives) due to fear of European reprisal. However, with the ugly unilateralism of France and Germany, the other EU counties and prospective counties are now becoming concerned about joining an alliance with these two nations, particularly one dominated by these two nations. The initial fallout of the potential breakdown of the EU is the short-term maintenance of U.S. economic dominance. If the U.S. decides to take advantage, though, the consequence could be very far reaching. By signing up New Europe to bilateral free-trade (or relatively free-trade) agreements, the U.S. can expand its free-trade sphere and further isolate the Axis of Weasels. Old Europe has no military power, and they are giving up political power by destroying the UN. There only hope is economic power. There population and socialist tendencies are preventing them from achieving economic power individually, but together it is possible. By reaching out and taking away their comrades now, the U.S. can a) better itself and others through free-trade, b) remove from all types of power those who cannot handle it, and c) save a lot of hungry people by eliminating the European embargo threat to countries who accept American food.
VIVA LA FRANCE! After over 50 years of waiting, Gallic developers are planning to release France 6.0! This new and improved version will include enhanced security features, strengthened reliability, and patches to deal with the Al Qaida and Marxism viruses. The new version stands as a major change from previous versions, as it will be based on the Common Law kernel. A beta release is planned in Iraq for Q203, with the full release in France proper during Q204.

2/14/2003

Andrew Sullivan, as usual, hits the nail on the head.

"The notion that inspections are working is simply ludicrous on its face. The fact that that position was warmly applauded at the Security Council today is a signal that it has decided to engage in unreality."

It's amazing to me that people, with a straight face, can actually say that inspectors should be given a chance. If you don't think Iraq is a threat, fine. If you think Iraq can be deterred, OK. You're wrong, but least you may be able to make a semi-coherent argument to support your point. Believing inspectors can work simply makes you a fool.

A fascinating poll conducted in the United Kingdom suggests that Britons are not as anti-war as normally believed. While only 28% of Britons would strongly or generally support an attack on Iraq if overwhelmingly rejected by the security council and if British troops are asked to take part, if the Security Council approves of the action support climbs to 82% with only 6% strongly opposed. But here is the most interesting thing - if a majority of the council votes in favor of the war yet action is blocked by a French, Russian, or Chinese veto, support for action only drops to 62% and, perhaps more importantly, the strongly opposed number rises to just 11%. Perhaps even more importantly for Blair, while Tories are generally more hawkish than Labor voters, it is not his own party but Liberal Democrats who make us the disproportionate share of doves - Labor voters are still 60% in favor of action given the third scenario with only 12% strongly opposed.

Read the whole poll; it offers fascinating insights into British politics including that despite only 33% of Britons believing that there are strong ties between Al Qaida and Hussein, 61% find the argument that if "we don't deal with [Iraq's WMD] now, those weapons may well end up in the hands of terrorists" convincing.
ESPN's Page 2 today runs a list of the top 10 heartbreakers in sports history. While the first two are undeniable, number 4 - Lou Gehrig's farewell speech - was certainly the most powerful. Although many of us, myself included, weren't around when the Iron Horse played, it's impossible not to get at least a little choked up hearing him say "Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." I get the chills just pasting it in this blog.
With the French trying to destroy the trans-Atlantic alliance and an arrest warrant out for Jose Canseco, Gehrig's single line reminds us just how truly noble man can be.
Hans Blix has just finished his most recent presentation to the security council and, not surprisingly, we've learned absolutely nothing. Blix did make a valiant effort to put a good face on Iraq "efforts" to cooperate:

The number of Iraqi minders during inspections has often reached a ratio -- had often reached a ratio as high as five per inspector. During the talks in January in Baghdad, the Iraqi side agreed to keep the ratio to about 1:1. The situation has improved.

Yet even he was forced to admit:

This impression remains, and we note that access to sites has so far been without problems, including those that have never been declared or inspected, as well as to presidential sites and private residences.
In my last updating, I also said that a decision to cooperate on substance was indispensable in order to bring, through inspection, the disarmament task to completion and to set the monitoring system on the firm course.
Such cooperation, as I have noted, requires more than the opening of doors. In the words of Resolution 1441, it requires immediate, unconditional and active efforts by Iraq to resolve existing questions of disarmament, either by presenting remaining proscribed items and programs for elimination or by presenting convincing evidence that they have been eliminated.


None of this is new. No one, especially after Powell's brilliant presentation, can seriously argue that Iraq is not in violation of 1441. Instead, as liberals are want to do when their position is proven wrong, France and Germany are now simply changing the subject. The BBC says that this latest report has only "deepened divisions on the Security Council," with France and Germany arguing that weapons inspectors still need more time to complete their job. Following Powell's presentation and continuing through today's meeting France and Germany have simply decided to forget their support for 1441 entirely and are trying to shift the debate to whether arms inspectors can keep Iraq's weapons program sufficiently contained. This is why the logic that Iraq is in material breach (again) of UN resolutions is irrelavent - Germany and France have simply decided to stop listening. Thankfully, Bush appears to be sticking to his guns demanding, perhaps shockingly for the French, that the UN actually mean what it said less than 6 months ago.
Voting has begun for Florida's state quarter. I actually like most of the designs, but "Fishing Capital of the World?"

2/13/2003

Great moments in Cultural Assimilation
You know a people's becoming Americanized when their major cultural festival is sponsored by Southwest Airlines.
Way to go France! Estonia and the other new NATO entrants' are getting nervous about the Alliance's commitment to mutual defense in the wake of France and Germany's shameful refusal to guarantee NATO protection of Turkey, reports the BBC. Lets see now . . . France and Germany are well on their way to delegitimizing the Security Council and NATO, and have put into doubt Tony Blair's ability to push through a Euro referendum anytime soon. After such a successful run of destruction, where can France go from here? Maybe we can get them to join OPEC . . .
As Americans (including myself) try to come to grips with Germany and France's seemingly head-in-the-sand mentality on Iraq, one concept that would be worth considering is notion that history's greatest "what ifs" are inherently unprovable. Perhaps the strongest argument that has been given for attacking Saddam preemptively is the ineffectiveness of reasoning with and more specifically appeasing dictators. The first proof sited is the Munich Accords where Chamberlain traded Czechoslovakia for "peace in our time" with Hitler's Germany. We now take it as gospel that this agreement was failure and, as such should never be repeated again. But was it the incorrect choice? While it did not avert World War II, by 1938, Hitler had remilitarized the Rhineland and essentially completed the rebuilding of Germany's armed forces. Therefore, what could Britain and France have done differently in 1938? Like their ineffectual defense of Poland in 1939 and of France itself in 1940, military protection of the Sudetenland just one year earlier would have been equally futile. Indeed, could going to war in 1938 made matters worse? Consider this scenario: after Britain and France swear to defend Czechoslovakia in 1938 German tanks move in and take the country without opposition. Germany then proposes peace with the allies in exchange for the partition of Poland with Stalin. The allies accept, knowing that they'll be equally helpless to defend Poland. This gives the Nazi armies additional time to increase their military might before attacking France. Would this scenario have played out as describe? Perhaps not, but the point is we can simply never know.
German, France, the UK and the United States, despite temporary setbacks, have indesputably been history's big winners. Over the last 2000 years, events have transpired in such a way as to make the citizens of these four nations richer, healthier, and more successful than any other people in human history. Therefore it is actually quite a difficult argument to say that a different course of action should have been taken at history's greatest turning points simply because, for citizens of these four countries, history turned out quite nicely the first time. Consequently, it takes what is actually quite a difficult logical leap to argue that we should take a particular course of action today, such as a preemptive attack on Iraq, based on supposed historical failures; we need to argue that if a different action were taken then, modern Germans, French, Brits, and Americans would actually be bigger historical winners than they are currently.
This fog of history presents an even greater challenge for supporters of contemporary action when compared with past actions taken, as opposed to not taken (such as Munich). When an action is taken, one of two outcomes are the only possible result - failure or success - and as obvious as this sounds, these two outcomes present a unique problem in translating them to the present present day. If the former was the result of a particular historical conflict, the Vietnam War* for example, supporters of modern day action are forced to argue why the current conflict will have a different outcome. However, if the historical action was a success, then he is forced to argue, again through this fog of history, why modern man would be worse off if this action would not have been taken. We could certainly argue that if Noriega wouldn't have been taken out by Bush I then the drug problem would be more severe today than it already is, but this argument has to be made without any supporting evidence because, after all, we did take out Noriega. Therefore, any arguments made today to support an invasion of Iraq using historical evidence have to be built with completely unprovable assumptions about the alternate outcomes of history.
Does this mean that historical comparisons are invalid given their inherent bias in favor of the status quo? Absolutely not. Munich does bear a great similarity to the current environment and, given that standing up to Hitler in Munich was drawing to an inside straight because of the military weakness of the Allies relative to Germany, the risk of standing up to Saddam today is not nearly as great as it would have been to Hitler in 1938. Nevertheless, I think it's worth considering whether France and Germany's aversion to war stems, at least in part, from this fog of history and not solely from simple cowardice, anti-Americanism, or greed for oil, as most of us seem to think.
The United States announced today that it won't push for UN sanctions against North Korea in response to the IAEA's vote yesterday to refer Pyongyang's violations to the Security Council. This is probably the right decision in light of what should be ongoing efforts to pressure Russia and China to influence North Korea to halt weapons production. While sanctions against the North would certainly be justified in response to recent actions, I think (or at least hope) this decision is based on a fundamental move by the Bush administration away from the foreign policy of symbolism that dominated our actions against rogue states throughout the Clinton administration (cruise missile diplomacy) and, with actions such as the continuing and hopelessly ineffective sanctions against Cuba, in many ways throughout the last half-century. What Bush seems to be realizing is that if the country is not willing or able to make a true effort to solve a problem (Afghanistan and Iraq), a symbolic gesture such as sanctions against a regime that starves its own people does nothing but exacerbate a conflict.
By now you've no doubt read Gary Hart's statement that we "must not let our role in the world be dictated by . . . Americans who too often find it hard to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands from their loyalties to America and its national interests." Everyone on the right-half of the blogosphere seems to have their own opinion on this subject - Armed Profit sees blatant anti-Semitism, Virginia Postrel thinks the anti-Semitism charge is crazy, Josh Chafetz says it doesn't matter who Hart means but is wrong either way, and Glen Reynolds simply calls the comments "cryptic." Looking at the entire statement, I'd say that given Hart also attacked foreign policy ideologues and thus he was likely speaking in more general terms; Jews, Cubans, and Mexicans, among others, could all seem to be included in Hart's un-American band.
What I find most interesting about this story, however, is that, as during the Trent Lott affair, Conservative bloggers have taken the lead on this story. Although there's certainly a large measure of partisanship in the Right's attacks, I think the larger factor is the continuing transformation of Conservatism into Neo-Conservatism as the dominant ideology of the Right. What is most interesting about the Hart controversy is that, unlike Lott who unfortunately embraced an ideology (segregation) that has been repudiated by Conservatives and Neo-Conservatives alike, the former Presidential candidate actually embraced an idea - immigrants should "love or leave" America, if you will - that has formed a cornerstone of Conservative policy for many years and has certainly not been repudiated.
What then, is Hart's crime? I would argue that he is being attacked not because he's saying all Jews (or Cubans) are still primarily loyal to their homelands, but because inherent in this implication is the notion that it is not in America's best interest to blindly support democracies (Israel) or democratization (Cuba) over a real politick view of American national interest. This is an interesting development because Hart's view is, in essence, a paleo-Conservative attitude. Instead, neo-Conservatives understand that support and promotion of democracy around the world is America's national interest. Therefore these attacks on Hart as much as anything, are notable because they represent another example of the right's dramatic shift from the narrow paleo-Conservative view of American interest that dominated Republican foreign policy for 50 years to the more global neo-Conservative perspective.

2/12/2003

The case against multilateralism: If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?
With no word with size more than four
E=mc2 is now in a form for the man who is poor.
Charles Krauthammer explaines our relationship with New and Old Europe while pointing out some of the ironies in our relationship with both. The whole thing is excellent, but I particularly loved the closing paragraph:

Except for Mexico's Vicente Fox, the only world leader to have been given a formal state dinner by this administration was the president of Poland. Some thought this odd. On the contrary, it was a perfectly pitched acknowledgment of the new reality in Europe--of where America can today expect to find real friends as the war against the new totalitarians and the new barbarians grows more intense and more dangerous. I was at that state dinner. Looking around the room, I noted to a friend of mine on the absence that night of the rancor and animosity that we have come to expect from the West Europeans. "Imagine how many real friends we'd have in the world today," he observed wickedly, "if we'd let the Soviets have Western Europe for fifty years too."


Another typically brilliant John Keegan piece.
I haven't decided how I feel about Annika Sorenstam being invited to play in the Colonial. On the plus side, the Colonial is a small tournament whose TV ratings and attendance will surely be helped by this move, and the capitalist in me tells them to go ahead. I'm worried, however, about the negative repercussions of her entry, irrespective of her performance, on the LPGA tour. If she does well, will the LPGA become nothing more that a AAA league for women with the top players under constant pressure to emulate her jump. On the other hand, if she plays poorly, what does it say about women's golf if the most dominating player either tour has ever seen - 13 wins in 2002 - gets smoked by the likes of Fred Funk?
Fantastic Best of the Web Today, with poems sent in by readers for "A day of poetry for the war." Read them all, but I especially liked Dan Calabrese's "A Liberal's Ode to Regime Change:"

Murder, mayhem, torture
Unfortunate these acts
Would that we had a perfect world
We'd surely turn them back

But from my purview on the left
I've an enlightened view
No regime's a perfect one
We must accept it's true

So while Saddam is clearly bad
We all agree, oh yes
We mustn't lose our focus
On whom we do detest

He's the one who terrorizes
All that we hold dear
By cutting taxes for the rich
He makes it oh so clear

He wants to drill in ANWR
His lawman's known to pray
He doesn't bow at Kofi's feet
He needs to go--today!

We lefties want regime change
Oh let there be no doubt
We must depose this daunting threat
We have to throw him out!

Saddam may be an awful thug
Killing near and far
But he does not cut finding
Of our precious NPR

So let Hussein play torture games
It's no skin off our back
But for the tyrant cretin Bush
A pre-emptive attack!

Instapundit notes with approval Michael Lerner's highly disturbing account of ANSWER's refusal to allow him to speak at the upcoming anti-war rally in San Francisco. Beyond the irrefutable evidence of ANSWER's anti-Semitism, which has been the focus of most commentary on the article, I am also troubled by Lerner's claim that "Tikkun will be bringing thousands of our supporters to the demonstration Sunday. But just as we fought against the sexism and homophobia that once infected the left, we will challenge anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing on the left, even as we say 'no' to a war with Iraq." I simply don't think it's possible to have it both ways and by still attending the rally and by bringing other Jews with him even in the face of blatant anti-Semitism, he's implicitly saying that stopping the war is more important than stopping the hatred of his people.
I'm getting frustrated reading coverage this morning of the mayoral runoff in Orlando (my old hometown) between Pete Barr and Buddy Dyer. While I knew Dyer's party (D) affiliation - he was once a state Senator - the Orlando Sentinel's coverage made no mention of Barr's leaning as this was a "non-partisan" race. To me, non-partisan races are yet another example of the government protecting voters from their own stupidity. Doesn't knowing a candidate's party affiliation tell you more about how he will govern than the issue positions the Sentinel does give, such as Barr's highly controversial stand on improving the local economy?

"The economy is heavily dependent on tourism, but we have a lot of other opportunities that have never been showcased. The first thing we do is get the business community together and get them to help us recruit businesses to relocate here. Secondly, the Economic Development Commission ...doesn't have the support or the money to drive its programs. Also, the city and its businesses need to buy from Orlando vendors."

FYI: Barr is a Republican.

2/11/2003

Fascinating piece today on Tech Central Station on how defeated societies, either militarily like the Confederacy in the Civil War, or culturally and economically, like the Arab world today, deal with their failures. Myths are created to explain defeat and some, that of the post-war South for example, unconsciously play a key part in the society’s rehabilitation.
The South, following the war, chose to “lick its wounds, and vow never to act like such an idiot again, as urge to do by Robert E. Lee.”

“In doing so, it collectively elected to subscribe to a myth—a complexly nuanced myth in which a noble citizenry had fought for a poorly chosen lost cause and was defeated by the material superiority of a not totally indecent North.
In short, the South had been defeated fair and square. It was no one's fault. And let's get on with it.”


While he recognizes the arguable historical inaccuracies in this vision created to justify the society’s defeat, it was this myth that largely allowed the South to heal itself.

Turning then to the modern Middle East:

“The Arab world is haunted by the failure of a great culture to follow through on its promise, accompanied by a falling behind into feudalism and fanaticism. Had Islam not possessed such genuine grandeur in the past, the present would not be so painful, and so much in need of balm to soothe its pangs of self-recrimination. Nor were matters in any way helped by the string of humiliating defeats suffered by Arab forces at the hands of a vastly smaller state of Israel.
But, tragically, the Arab world seems to be united in wishing to choose the same balm that the Germans chose after the Great War, the indispensable fantasy of those who refuse to face up to reality, ‘It was all someone else's fault.’”


This is the reason that the Arab world hates America, we are the “bad guys in the black hats that the Arab world so desperately needs to comfort themselves for their own failures and defeats.”

“[Americans] are not, to them, real creatures of flesh-and-blood, but djinns, and our power has nothing to do with our own historical achievement as a people, but arises from the Aladdin's lamp called technology which, in their eyes, simply happens to be in our possession, and not theirs—though, with a little good luck, all this could change, in a twinkling of an eye, in the next twist of Scheherazade's serpentine tale.”

At this point, however, Lee Harris and I differ. He claims that this view is incomprehensible to Americans as we have a self-blame mentality, always asking ourselves “why do they hate us?” While it's true that the Intellectual Left has this mentality, one of the glories of America is that the great majority of us don’t subscribe to this self-loathing. Instead, I would argue that the reason we don’t understand the Arab loathing of America is not that we also want to blame ourselves but that we don’t believe in blaming anyone. Americans are not backward looking but forward looking. Other than Left Wing intelligentsia, we don’t understand Arabs making us the black-hatted cowboy not because we view ourselves in the same light, but because we simply can’t understand why anyone needs to be the “bad guy.” When America has struggled – the great depression, the disco era – we’ve made this nation better and we can't understand why other cultures won't do the same thing.
Today's BBC "Talk Back" section had an unusually large number of bizarre responses. This indignant letter from one French gentleman is my favorite response to the question, "is France right to force a split over Iraq?"

"As a French citizen, I am amazed by how strong France is being insulted when it tries to maintain peace in a part of the world that has known enough wars. Of course, France is also pursuing its own interest. Of course also, the US is pursuing its own interests! Now the French people are being crudely insulted in most of the right wing US press. These people accuse the French that we have short memories and forget they freed us back in '44, but we have paid the invoice of their "help"."
-Pierre Massabki, Paris, France

Glad to know we've been paid back for "helping" the French.
Around the Blogosphere:

As usual, Jack Straw brilliantly summarizes the anti-inspector argument. Sited by Andrew Sullivan, whose got all sorts of good stuff today:

"If Saddam bows to the UN's demands and co-operates promptly, what is the need for greater numbers of inspectors? If he maintains his refusal to cooperate, how will higher numbers help? Lethal viruses can be produced within an area the size of the average living room. In the absence of Iraqi cooperation, even a thousandfold increase in the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission's capabilities will not allow us to establish with any degree of confidence that Iraq has disarmed."

Does the anti-war crowd really not see this?

I also liked Dave Barry's analysis of why Joe Millionaire is going to last another week:

"He still has not made up his mind! This is because he faces a very difficult choice. Also, he as the IQ of a lawn ornament."
Good poll news - By a margin of 57-40, Americans now support a war against Saddam even if the Security Council rejects the plan so long as the action is backed by key "allies such as Great Britain, Australia, and Italy."
One additional observation on Congressional websites. Unlike their Science and Technology Counterparts, both the House and Senate Armed Services committees are very useful. While too much shouldn't be read into this, I do think there is something to be said for an organization that is a first rate organization at every level, and the Armed Services committee site is demonstrative of why our military is the best the world has ever seen.
Heck of a day historically today. In 1975 Margaret Thatcher was made leader of the Tory Party, initiating the demise of British socialism and in 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prision, signaling the death of the South African Aparthide regime. At least one is still sane.
I'm looking for the schedules for tomorrow's congressional hearings on the future of the Space Shuttle. Should it bother me that the website for the House Committee on Science, you know the group that will largely decide the future of manned space, can't build a web site without broken links to their latest press releases?

2/10/2003

Today’s National Review Online had three articles focusing on the Estrada confirmation hearings with Raul Damas’ particularly interesting article urging Republicans to “let . . .. [the Democrats] filibuster . . . the first Hispanic nominated to this prestigious post.” While his reasoning is correct in the short term, that the Republicans will do well to be seen defending this Hispanic immigrant while the Democrats try to scuttle him on orders of the abortion lobby, he and other pro-Estrada pundits are putting too much weight on the long-term impact of this one confirmation. Perhaps on the margin, Bush and other Republicans will benefit among Hispanic voters but let's not forget that they don’t have to face voters again for 20 months and, honestly, how many people outside the beltway are truly riveted to these hearings? However, the Republicans would still be well advised to fight a Democratic filibuster. The political importance of this hearing is as the first of a string of battles that will likely culminate with a Supreme Court nomination. Therefore, the real question is whether the anti-abortion crowd will be more motivated by Democrats blocking Bush’s nominees than pro-choice voters will by Bush fighting for supposedly extreme judges. While there is no certain answer to this question – the battle will be decided by Karl Rove and his Democratic counterparts – Republicans will likely come out of this fight ahead simply because they’ll have an easier sell. It will be fairly easy to paint the Democrats as obstructionists – after all, that’s what they’ll be – whereas I don’t think the vast middle of the country is buying Liberal claims that Estrada (and future nominees) are the demons they’re being painted as for no other reason that Estrada hasn’t given them that much to work with. “He’s an extremist on abortion because we don’t really know where he stands” is simply not a persuasive argument.
"With the threat of war looming large, Baghdad appeared eager to display new cooperation with the inspectors in hopes of encouraging opposition to an imminent military strike." -- AP

When will the peace movement make the connection between "the threat of war looming large" and "Baghdad...eager to display...cooperation"? The only thing that motivates Saddam, like many dictators before him, is the threat of war. Therefore, the only way to peace is through the threat of war. Protesting war only lessens "the threat of war".
Although I won't really be following sports again for another 2 days - pitchers can catchers report! woo hoo! - I definitely would have watched the NBA All-Star game if they took Bill Simmons' suggestion:
Who else thinks the NBA should have hired James Brown to sing "Living in America" during the West intros, then dropped Yao Ming from the sky like Ivan Drago for his intro? And he could have looked all confused and stuff, and they could have interspersed shots of Confused Yao and James Brown, and then Warner Wolf could have been imported to exclaim, "I can't get over the size of that Asian!"
Today's lead WaPo editorial sounds a familiar refrain against public/private choice vouchers, this time referring to President Bush's proposal to allow government money to pay for drug rehab including religiously affiliated programs. As with school choice, the Post argues, "Sometimes, church-run programs are the only option. In Wisconsin, a federal judge upheld a similar voucher program. But the decision was widely criticized for validating a false choice, because a church-run treatment program was the only long-term option in the state, and the parole officer had specifically recommended long-term treatment as a condition of release." In other words, if secular choices are available to voucher recipients in addition to faith based ones, these vouchers are not unconstitutional. However, if secular school and rehabilitation programs are, say, more expensive than similar religious options or if secular charities simply choose not to open clinics themselves then, according to this argument, the vouchers would then become unconstitutional. I admit to not knowing the currently accepted legal interpretation of this paradox (but will attempt to find it out) although I thought in the Cleveland voucher decision they did say a true choice needed to be available to voucher recipients. However, I find it difficult to accept that the constitutionality of the government giving money to an individual to spend at his choice of rehabilitation programs, religious included, could be determined by the day-to-day operating decisions of an unassociated third party (the secular program).
I've been wondering how the sensible portion of the American Left would continue to justify their objection to war in the face of overwhelming evidence presented to the Security Council of Saddam's duplicity. I say the sensible part of the American Left because the ANSWER crowd would object to taking out Saddam even if we had a picture of him personally carrying nerve gas to New York. William Raspberry is one of these Liberals; while I vehemently disagree with him on almost every topic, his logic is generally reasonably sound and his arguments intellectually defensible. Two days before Secretary Powell's presentation to the Security Council, Raspberry made the argument that the potential risks for the war outweighed the potential benefits of stripping Saddam of his weapons and the reigns of power. He argues that during the Cold War, despite America's clear knowledge of the Soviet Union's WMD, we categorically rejected the first strike option. This decision he frames in moralistic terms - that we didn't strike Russia because it wouldn't have been right - forgetting that at least part of our rational was fear of the Soviet's massive retaliatory ability. But then he goes on to the "prove it" argument popularized by the Left over the past month, writing, "we have a relatively piddling enemy, whose 'weapons of mass destruction' are not nuclear warheads with ICBMs capable of delivering them to the American mainland but suspected supplies of chemicals and germs that would virtually have to be FedExed to reach here." Note the derisive nature in which he refers to Iraq's weapons stash.
Fast forward to today, when Raspberry pays homage to Colin Powell and his brilliant performance at the UN. He now admits that Hussein has a serious weapons program and has been actively deceiving inspectors. Ignoring the obvious question of what allowing a nation to be in severe material breech of the security council would do to its credibility - that wouldn't be a good topic for the anti-war crowd - he proceeds to argue that regardless of whether he has these weapons or not he is still not an imminent threat to the US and thus he need not be removed from power. [So that's the new Liberal argument! Ignore the ramifications to international law and ignore human rights abuses but instead shift to the completely Realist argument of national sovereignty and military action only for direct national self-interest.] He bases this rational on two main arguments. First, he says that Powell "fell short of convincing me that madman Hussein has either the intent or the near-term capability of attacking America -- although that was the implication of several of the exhibits, including the rather strained attempt to link Hussein to al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks." No evidence to back up this claim or to satisfy those of us who fear the Iraqi tie to al Qaeda will mature, just his own gut feeling that we shouldn't be worried. Thanks Bill.
Secondly, he writes "our ability to know what is going on in Iraq's secretive society is nothing short of stunning." Therefore, "doesn't it follow that we will know, in advance, of Iraq's intention to launch an attack?" The only problem with this argument is that, given what we saw last week at the UN, its completely inaccurate. Yes, we are able to see much of what goes on inside Iraq but given that Powell explicitly noted our inability track Iraq's chemical weapons trucks I don't feel comfortable that we can truly see everything that goes on in that vast country.
A final point that Raspberry makes is one that, although an excellent one, betrays a line of thinking that I've been unable to comprehend from the anti-war crowd. He says, "Surely the case can be made that Israel is a sufficiently valuable ally that we would come to its aid militarily if it were attacked. Do we fear that saying so would drive Israel-hating Arabs into a frenzy? Or are we afraid that open acknowledgment would reduce support for 'regime change' here at home?" Raspberry's absolutely right. One of the most important reasons to disarm Saddam is Israel, both to keep it from being attacks or to preempt the need for Israel to again unilaterally attack an Iraqi WMD facility. But what's most interesting about Raspberry's invocation of this argument is not that he uses it to support other rationales for war but, after admitting that it is a great argument he essentially says that because Bush and Powell haven't made this point (for whatever reason), the rationale thus becomes invalid. To me, this truly is a twisted bit of reasoning, and harkens back to the Congressional Democrats' "Bush hasn't made the case for war" argument that we heard last summer and fall. Raspberry doesn't use this reasoning on issues that he is in favor of such as affirmative action. In addition to parroting Ted Kennedy's rhetoric, he comes up with his own unique arguments in favor of Affirmative Action. Can anyone really imagine Raspberry saying that he doesn't support Affirmative Action because (and this is true given poll numbers) Ted Kennedy hadn't "made the case" for it?

2/09/2003

Ah, those peace-loving Arabs - Just as Saddam is having a "change of heart," a Yemeni man took a step backward for the Religion of Peace by throwing a bomb into a noisy market, apparently angry at the noise being made by the nut sellers outside his window. In his defense, however, the Jordan Times does point out that "The market area was particularly busy ahead of Eid Al Adha feast."
"You're either with us or against us" has become a staple of the Right's view of international relations during the War on Terrorism. I think this phase deserves further analysis as Europe divides into the pro-Iraqi liberation democracies and the newly pacifist France and Germany.
Generally speaking that while the Left has seen this phrase as simpliste, Conservatives and Neoconservatives have viewed it as a groundbreaking worldview appropriate for the fight against terror. In reality, however, this view has been the staple of realist foreign policy for at least 60 years. Throughout the Cold War, we looked the other way as dictators repressed dissent in their countries simply because they were with us against the Soviets, a policy best verbalized by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (hardly a right-winger) famous appraisal of Anastasio Somoza: "He may be an SOB but he's our SOB!" While I'm certainly not critical of this policy as it both helped win the Cold War (the Contras in Nicaragua) and genuinely helped several impoverished nations (Pinochet in Chile), the essence of the Neoconservative movement post 9/11, it seems to me, has been a rethinking of this support for dictatorships simply because they're outwardly backing America's overriding international struggle - our fight against Communism or Terrorism. The Neoconservative right is currently at the forefront of critiquing Egypt's anti-Semitism and Our Friend the Saudi's brutal repression of women and religious minorities while the Left, who rightly protested against the South African Apartheid regime, has inexplicably chosen to worship at the alter of cultural relativism instead of attacking these gross violations of both civil and natural rights. The right, instead, understands that these violations are primary causes of the anti-Americanism in the region as, without democracy, protesting against America and, at the extreme, flying planes into American buildings are the only "legitimate" expressions of their anger. Neoconservatives, therefore, see the promotion of democracy in this region as not simply morally right, but also as the best means of combating terrorism. But this is where our difficulty arises. The left, continuing their intellectual shift to a bizarre form of international realism, warns, perhaps correctly, that any new democracies formed in the Middle East could have elected governments more hostile to American interest than are their current dictators. I believe that, as Capitalism, respect for natural rights, and freedom - America's values - are morally right and economically sound, these anti-American elected leaders will fail and, more importantly, the very existence of democratic institutions will give the people an outlet for anger independent of explosive devices.
This brings us to the great delema of the War on Terror. If Neoconservatives are correct that the promotion of democracy is central to the fight against democracy, it is essental that we recognize that these democracies might not be "with us" in the fight against terror. While in the long run this will do more to fight terror than the continued promotion of dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Egypt - even though France is not "with us" you don't see a lot of Gauls blowing themselves up in dance clubs - it will be a difficult exercise in self control for Neoconservatives to continue to support a new democracy in the Arab World when an election is won by an anti-American zealot or, worse, a Francophile.