3/01/2003

You'll notice on the left our new "Grille Line" which will be our method of noting our running positions on a variety of topics. E-mail us if you have ideas for other bets or have a comment about the odds we've set.
A couple of particularly stupid comments on today's BBC "have your say."

In response to "Would Saddam's exile avert war?" Ken from America writes:

"No. Every time Saddam complies with a US requirement, Bush adds a new one."

Adam from the UK is still not convinced that Saddam has WMD:

"Suggestions that changing the top level of Iraqi leadership would in some way be an alternative to war reveal one thing: this is not a war intended to counter a 'regional threat' from Iraq (there clearly isn't one) nor is it relating to weapons of mass destruction (there's no evidence of these, either). None of these things would be changed by Saddam going into exile. This war is about political control of Iraq, and the US's willingness to accept this solution - and their frequent, domestic talk of achieving regime change illegally makes this crystal clear."

And finally, Kais Al-Kaisy, also from the UK, manages to attack Israel and the US, defend Saddam, and stand up for international law, all in one mind-blowingly dumb paragraph:

"As much as one would like to see the back of Saddam, the notion of asking a head of state to go into exile will set a dangerous precedent. While Saddam was not elected to power, we note that the USA has publicly asked the democratically elected Yasser Arafat to step down. Who next? And are we going to ask anyone who disagrees with US policy to step down? Why can't the USA apply the same argument to Ariel Sharon and ask him to step down for the sake of world peace? International law is threatened here."

2/28/2003

I done told you once, you son-of-a-bitch, he's the best that's ever been - Charlie Daniels wrote this letter to leftist entertainers. I'd normally just post an excerpt, but I couldn't cut anything out:

Ok let’s just say for a moment you bunch of pampered, overpaid, unrealistic children had your way and the U.S.A. didn’t go into Iraq.
Let’s say that you really get your way and we destroy all our nuclear weapons and stick daisies in our gun barrels and sit around with some white wine and cheese and pat ourselves on the back, so proud of what we’ve done for world peace.
Let’s say that we cut the military budget to just enough to keep the National Guard on hand to help out with floods and fires.
Let’s say that we close down our military bases all over the world and bring the troops home, increase our foreign aid and drop all the trade sanctions against everybody.
I suppose that in your fantasy world this would create a utopian world where everybody would live in peace. After all, the great monster, the United States of America, the cause of all the world’s trouble would have disbanded it’s horrible military and certainly all the other countries of the world would follow suit.
After all, they only arm themselves to defend their countries from the mean old U.S.A.
Why you bunch of pitiful, hypocritical, idiotic, spoiled mugwumps, get your head out of the sand and smell the Trade Towers burning.
Do you think that a trip to Iraq by Sean Penn did anything but encourage a wanton murderer to think that the people of the U.S.A. didn’t have the nerve or the guts to fight him?
Barbra Streisand’s fanatical and hateful rankings about George Bush makes about as much sense as Michael Jackson hanging a baby over a railing.
You people need to get out of Hollywood once in a while and get out into the real world. You’d be surprised at the hostility you would find out here.
Stop in at a truck stop and tell an overworked, long distance truck driver that you don’t think Saddam Hussein is doing anything wrong.
Tell a farmer with a couple of sons in the military that you think the United States has no right to defend itself.
Go down to Baxley, Georgia and hold an anti-war rally and see what the folks down there think about you.
You people are some of the most disgusting examples of a waste of protoplasm I’ve ever had the displeasure to hear about.
Sean Penn, you’re a traitor to the United States of America. You gave aid and comfort to the enemy. How many American lives will your little, ”fact finding trip“ to Iraq cost? You encouraged Saddam to think that we didn’t have the stomach for war.
You people protect one of the most evil men on the face of this earth and won’t lift a finger to save the life of an unborn baby. Freedom of choice you say?
Well I’m going to exercise some freedom of choice of my own. If I see any of your names on a marquee, I’m going to boycott the movie. I will completely stop going to movies if I have to. In most cases it certainly wouldn’t be much of a loss.
You scoff at our military who’s boots you’re not even worthy to shine.
They go to battle and risk their lives so ingrates like you can live in luxury.
The day of reckoning is coming when you will be faced with the undeniable truth that the war against Saddam Hussein is the war on terrorism.
America is in imminent danger. You’re either for her or against her.
There is no middle ground.
I think we all know where you stand.
What do you think?

God Bless America

Charlie Daniels
James Taranto writes:

"Even if Guinea, Cameroon and Angola all take America's side, France can still veto the proposed 18th U.N. resolution. But will it? President Bush has put France between a rock and a hard place. If it does exercise its veto (or if Russia does), America and its allies will enforce the 17 previous U.N. resolutions anyway, and it will be an end to the fiction that the Security Council is an authoritative body. The French veto, in other words, is a weapon that destroys only itself. Despite their storied penchant for surrender, this may not be a weapon the French want to use."

This notion that a French veto would be the death of the Security Council's power has become conventional wisdom in the Iraq debate and the silver lining of a French veto for Conservatives. Yet as much as I'd like this to be true, when America faces the next Iraq we will unfortunately face the same pressure to go to the United Nations that we buckled to this time. Why? Simply because none of the interested parties would be incentivized to change their positions. Neocons and paleocons weren't interested in working with the UN this time. French, Russian, and Chinese leaders are desperate to maintain relevance on the international stage and so would continue to demand that all work remain inside the UN framework. Sure it would be ridiculous, but no more than their current position that inspectors can actually disarm Iraq. Peaceniks have shown that they value the UN not because they support international law but because they see the UN process as a means of preventing war. Finally internationalists such as Powell and the British, while the most likely group to realize the absurdity of the UN proven by a French veto, would hear the same pressure from the Peaceniks and the French alliance that they are hearing today and likely accede to their demands to return once again to the UN.
Therefore while a French resolution would certainly make the UN look ridiculous, why would that act irreparably damage its usefulness to these entrenched interests? Is a French veto really going to make the UN look any more absurd than it does by having Libya chair the committee on human rights? I certainly hope that Bush and the neocon movement takes the opportunity a French veto would present to make a definitive stand against the supposed supremacy of the Security Council, but I'm afraid that the next time America turns to the world for international assistance is will accede to global pressure much as it did last fall.
And so the Miguel Estrada's "filibuster" drags on. If Republicans really wanted to play hardball, they should allow Democrats to continue this filibuster-light up until the shooting starts in Iraq. At that point, make Democrats actually filibuster - talk around the clock about Estrada. Does anyone really think Democrats want to talk about Estrada while our army is rolling into Baghdad?
Republicans have been salivating for months over the possibility of a strong showing by Al Sharpton in the Democratic primaries. The thinking goes that, given the importance of the black vote in the Democratic party, Reverend Al will get enough delegates to make him a player at the convention in Boston. They'll be forced to concede him a major speech and mainstream America will be so horrified that this race-baiter is a face of the party that whoever the nominee is will be done irreparable harm. The warm reception he received yesterday in lily-white New Hampshire only seems to underscore this belief.
Yet when all is done, this is not a realistic hope and Sharpton won't have a strong showing in any primary. The Rev strikes me as the Democrat's version of our more extreme talk radio hosts - striking a chord with their rhetoric that the party faithful really does agree with, but who their fans understand cannot be the face of the party. Thus, unless none of the other candidates do anything to excite the base of the party, I really can't see Sharpton having a strong showing. He'll receive lots of applause but that's as far as it'll go.
Obviously I hope I'm wrong.
I've been trying to figure out for the past several weeks why I don't really like Michael Savage. Despite being more libertarian than I like, I agree with his points more often than not. He is verbally entertaining and while he is unbelievably arrogant, his ego's not that much worse than Rush's.
I concluded yesterday that I don't like the Savage Nation because he gives voice to the ideology of Conservative victimization. Conservative victimization is the idea that our nation and our culture is under assault from liberals/foreigners/politicians/etc. Savage, far more than Limbaugh or Hannity, seems to wallow in this notion of an America under assault. And telling your audience day in and day out how they're getting screwed simply doesn't make for entertaining radio.
This is why the left has a problem in the format. Whereas Savage has a large component of Conservative victimization in his message, victimization itself is a fundamental principle of modern liberalism: the poor are being victimized by the rich, women are victimized by men, and the world is victimized by America. It's simply no fun to listen to a laundry list of who's getting screwed for three hours per day, especially if - as is usually the case - they have no concrete proposals on how to solve the problem.
On the other hand, Savage's 5 million listeners could be proof that I'm wrong . . .
Good news from Iraq, the Washington Times reports:

"Morale is low in the Iraqi army and many soldiers are preparing white flags of surrender, we are told by someone in northern Iraq who recently interviewed two defectors from Saddam Hussein's army."

Obviously you never want to enter a war overconfident or base your attacks on the assumption of an easy victory. Yet the more information that leaks out of Iraq the harder it is to believe that the Iraqi Army is as willing as willing to fight the United States as Saddam himself.

2/27/2003

While the website may no longer exist, Google doesn't forget about Carolyn "Americans... I hate those bastards" Parrish's trip to a non-existent country. (I do agree with Indy, though.)
Fantastic editorial today in the Real Paper of Record as WaPo takes the unusual step of responding more of less directly to the "torrent of letters" received by the paper criticizing its pro-liberation position.

"They are for the most part thoughtful and serious; the antiwar letters in particular are often angry and anguished as well. "It is truly depressing to witness the depths Washington Post editors have reached in their jingoistic rush to war," another reader writes. It's a serious charge, and it deserves a serious response."

The editorial goes on to detail the efforts taken throughout the 1990s and the second Bush administration to persuade Saddam to live up to the commitments he made following the first Gulf War. "In fact," they write, "there is nothing sudden or precipitous about our view that Saddam Hussein poses a grave danger."

The best part of the article, however, is its assault on a concept that has thus far been allowed to go virtually unchallenged - that war should always be a last resort:

"War in fact has rarely been the last resort for the United States. In very recent times, the nation could have allowed Saddam Hussein to swallow Kuwait. It could have allowed Slobodan Milosevic to expel 1 million refugees from Kosovo. In each case, the nation and its allies fought wars of choice. Even the 2001 campaign against Afghanistan was not a "last resort," though it is now remembered as an inevitable war of self-defense. Many Americans argued that the Taliban had not attacked the United States and should not be attacked; that what was needed was a police action against Osama bin Laden. We believed they were wrong and Mr. Bush was right, though he will be vindicated in history only if the United States and its allies stay focused on Afghanistan and its reconstruction."

Precisely. As Clausewitz famously said, "war is an extension of politics by other means." Once we decide that war is a legitimate tool of international politics - few would argue otherwise - we should not use war when it is the last resort but instead when it is the best resort. Given the risks inherent in armed conflict coupled with legitimate moral concerns, war is not often the best resort. Yet there are times, such as the present Iraqi crisis, when the clear necessity of war is a reality from which we cannot hide.
A "fat-right's group," the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance - yes, that's a real group - is complaining that American Idol judge Simon Cowell's categorization of some contestants as fat may be having a detrimental effect on members of the show's young female audience who really are fat.
Maryanne Bodolay, executive administrator of NAAFA, states:

“His comments are targeting an audience that already has a propensity for eating disorders. . . . He’s looking at average-size women and making fun of them. These young women are going to say, ‘If he thinks they’re fat, what is he going to think of me?’ He’s contributing to young women having eating disorders. . . . This is not funny. And it’s not just silly. It’s dangerous."

Thankfully, a "Fat Activist Task Force" - no, I'm not making this up - is now busily engaged in a letter writing campaign to protest the Brit's insensitivity.
To no one's real surprise, Florida Senator Bob Graham has officially joined the increasingly crowded 2004 Democratic Presidential field. Barring a catastrophe with the war or the economy - in which case almost any Dem would have a good shot at unseating Bush - Graham is the one candidate who really scares me. He is the only Democrat (ok, maybe Lieberman too) for whom foreign policy isn't a significant liability. Moreover while his Congressional record isn't particularly distinguished, it's also moderate enough to attract swing voters.
Yet maybe because of that, I really don't see him making it out of the primary. Admittedly he does have a significant advantage in the important Florida primary as well as a decent shot in South Carolina as one of two Southerners on the ticket.
He doesn't have, however, have a particularly strong claim to the two most significant constituencies of the Democratic party - blacks and women. Using Gore's 2000 voters as a rough proxy for the Democratic primary, blacks will comprise 18% of the total voter base and, in the South where Graham needs to do particularly well, the percentage is significantly higher (~40% in South Carolina).
Among whites nearly 60% of Gore's vote came from women, another group with whom Graham doesn't seem to have a particular advantage over the other candidates.
The 500 pound Gorilla that could drastically alter this situation, however, would be a war whose victory is so decisive that the anti-war movement is completely discredited. Democrats might then choose to nominate more of a hawk, and Graham fits that bill nicely.
Tim Blair noticed this gem on a website selling "Give War a Chance" hats:

"War, what you think you good for?"
Quite a lot actually.
Defending freedom, toppling dictators, spreading democracy. When nothing else works, war works wonders.
Just ask Japan, well behaved since 1945.
Now it's Saddam's turn.

2/26/2003

U.S. bases to Poland? Let's hope so.
I'll avoid saying too much about today's Supreme Court decision striking down the use of RICO against abortion protestors - better qualified legal minds can do the analysis. I would make one observation though. I'm staunchly pro-life and, as such, seemingly should be ecstatic about this decision. Yet what if you take my views on abortion out of the equation? What if, instead of abortion protestors these were animal rights nuts. Would I be just as happy? Obviously this double standard works both ways - the same Liberals who wanted RICO to be used in this case would cry McCarthyism if it were used against anti-war protestors. In fairness, though, PETA and several other far-left activist groups were against the use of RICO in this way.
Again, I haven't decided if the Court made the right decision in this case - although Rehnquist's reading of the Hobbes Act seems pretty straightforward - but I would say that it's important to look at this issue not as an abortion case but across the political spectrum. Otherwise the analysis is no different than saying killing America is terrorism but killing Israelis is rebellion
Regarding today's 10th anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing, much of the talk has been lamentations over the missed lessons of the attack, lessons that could have perhaps prevent the second.
I would like to defend the American people on this point. While Taranto does point to a 1996 article calling us to learn from 1993, it's almost impossible to expect any reasonable precautions to have been taken from the first attack. Remember that the terrorists attempted to get a refund for the truck with which they carried out the bombing! No matter how naive we were as Americans about Islamic terrorism prior to 9/11, can we really be expected to have believed that this group of bunglers could actually have brought down the two towers as they planned? Tragically the terrorists 8 years later were much less incompetent.
While we don't know the final tally of Labour dissenters yet, it looks like over 100 voted to back an amendment calling the case for war unproven. While this is certainly unfortunate, the total vote was 393 to 199 in Blair's favor, which seem to me to be a pretty comfortable margin. Moreover, Parliament passed a resolution that the BBC is calling a "final warning" to Saddam by a 434 to 124 margin. While I realize why the international press is calling this a "setback" - the nature of Britain's Parliamentary system makes it significantly easier for a Prime Minister to push through legislation than for a U.S. President - given the supposedly huge anti-war sentiment in England, the fact that Blair did win by a 2:1 margin on the amendment and a 3:1 margin on the overall resolution should be comforting to Blair regardless of the structural advantages he had in passing the measure.
Andrew Sullivan notes how the debate over war in Iraq has morphed into just another aspect of the blue-state/red-state divide:

"By far the most depressing aspect of the debate over war to disarm Saddam has been how it has swiftly adopted the contours of the culture war. There is a solid and passionate base among many blue-staters that opposes this war at least in part because they oppose George W. Bush. At some point in the last few months, in fact, being anti-war clearly became a defining cultural moniker for an entire sub-population. Almost the whole academic class, the media elites, the college-educated urbanites, the entertainment industry and so on are now reflexively anti-war. Worse in fact: there is very little argument or debate going on in these sub-populations, simply an assumption that war against Saddam is wrong, and that all right-thinking people agree about this."

This is why I find Liberal contentions that their ideology is the "intellectual" one to be laughable. The Left divines what the correct position on an issue is - anti-war, pro-diversity, anti-globalization - and all internal debate over the issue is stifled. If you don't subscribe to their point of view you're either hateful ("racist", a "baby killer", etc) or simplistic ("understand the root causes"). I fully admit the Right can be illogical at times - our hatred for Clinton had more to do with what he was than what he stood for - but we do not claim to be the ideology of higher discussion; we're the ideology of truth. Moreover, the seismic shift in Conservative views on foreign policy after 9/11 shows that our positions are open for reevaluation given new evidence.
Senator Zell Miller on the floor of the United States Senate:

"I'd like to say a few words about that as a United States senator who happens to be a hillbilly" . . .
"CBS, once a proud and honorable broadcasting company . . . has become just another money-grubber" . . .
"Since the beginning of civilization, there have always been some Homo sapiens who it seems have to have someone to look down upon -- some group to feel superior to. For these kind of people, it is as basic to their human nature as the drive to reproduce or the urge for food and water. They were there in the time of the Greeks and the Romans. They can be found all through the Bible" . . . "Shakespeare wrote about them, as did Dickens and Steinbeck and Faulkner" . . .
"What CBS and CEO Moonves propose to do with this cracker comedy is bigotry, pure and simple. Bigotry for big bucks"


Zell always was my favorite Dem. He'll definitely be missed when he leaves the Senate.
Blair faces a key vote today when Parliament votes on a motion calling for Saddam's cooperation with the UN. Around 80 Labour members (anti-war groups are saying 100) are predicted to go against the government, in addition to 50 Liberal Democrats. The motion should be able to still pass given its overwhelming support from Tories, but this will be a good indicator of the extent of dissatisfaction within Blair's own party.
"France Warns Iraq War Would Cause Split"

One thing I've found interesting about listening to the anti-war crowd is their assumption that action is a proactive move while while inaction is not. In reality, both action and inaction are choices that actively affect a course of event. Thus while you can say "US action threatens to split the world," you just as easily can say "allowing Hussein to continue his WMD programs will divide the international community"?

2/25/2003

Moe Freedman noticed this quote from Kid Rock after the Grammys, as reported in the NY Daily News:

"Why is everybody trying to stop the war? George Bush ain't been saying, 'You all, make s-y records.' Politicians and music don't mix. It's like whisky and wine. [Musicians] ought to stay out of it."
But it doesn't take much nudging to hear the Kid's policy analysis. "We got to kill that mother-[bleeper] Saddam," he says. "Slit his throat. Kill him and the guy in North Korea."
Are some women and children going to die? "Yeah. But is doing the right thing. You got money, you sit around talking about peace. People who don't have money need some help."


Now that's an American Badass.
The Reparations Coordinating Committee, a group formed to pursue slavery reparations, has launched its first lawsuit against a government today, suing the state of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa for their alleged complicity in the city's 1921 race riots. Johnnie Cochran, part of the plaintiffs' legal team, said:

''we have an obligation to fight hard and leave no stone unturned to find justice. It's been too long coming, so we must act urgently.''

While this lawsuit isn't as ridiculous as the group's larger goal of seeking reparations from slavery as some of the aggrieved parties are still alive, it shares many of the same problems.

1) What do the modern citizens of Oklahoma have to do with the riot? 7.6% of the current population is Black, and another 7.9% is Native American. Why should they be punished?

2) What kind of precedent does this set? Look, lots of bad things have happened throughout history - many of them here in America. Where do we draw the line? Should I sue the modern Russian and German governments for repeatedly invading my ancestral homeland of Poland? One of the beauties of America has always been our ability to look beyond past grievances, realizing that, by working together, life would be better for all groups. This certainly doesn't help America move forward.

3) There are too many lawsuits as it is. Between malpractice and corporate liability suits, trial lawyers are driving up medical costs and stifling innovation. Should we encourage another lawsuit industry?
Here's the WaPo story Drudge was referring to:

"North Korea urged its military and people to be ready for a U.S. attack, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported quoting a statement from the North Korean government Tuesday.
The communist North's Foreign Ministry issued a statement late Tuesday accusing the United States of planning massive war games in the Korean Peninsula in preparation to attack North Korea, Yonhap said."


An excuse to get his military ready for an attack of their own? I doubt it but . . .
Don't know what this means, but Drudge is reporting that North Korea is urging "its military and people to be ready for war."
Regarding John’s post on forgiveness, while I agree that repentance is an important prerequisite for forgiveness, I would argue that the Pope’s position, unlike that of more pacifist religious leaders, is a specific call for repentance. By calling on Saddam to abide by UN resolutions, JPII is essentially inviting Hussein into a geopolitical confessional where he can, by giving up his WMD, seek reconciliation with the rest of the world. The only question, I suppose, is how much time and effort should be invested in this processes when most reasonable observers quickly conclude that Hussein has no desire to willingly disarm.
On your second point, however, I think you may be missing the protesters argument – understandable as their position is immensely stupid. Your right in saying that, especially regarding the torture and execution of his own people, it is not our place to “forgive” Hussein. Yet because even the anti-war crowd isn’t nuts enough to say we should forgive torture, they instead choose to ignore that rational for war and claim Bush wants to overthrow Saddam to settle an old score for his daddy. Absurd or not, once you accept this explanation for the attack, it’s easy to see how Bush can just “forgive and forget” with Hussein.
Mark Shea has an interesting comment about the wave of French jokes.

"It is curious that a nation as *intensely* hypersensitive and phobic about ethnic humor as the United States has this complete open season on the French. Replace "French" with, say, "Poles", "African-Americans" or "Women" and people would be having cows about such jokes.
That sense of freedom to say whatever rude thing you like about the French is not, by the way, something "caused" by the present tension with France. We've heard these jokes for years. What causes it is a) America's English cultural heritage (which has always reveled in sneering at the French) and b) a kind of liberal racism which down deep believes that Western Europeans are "big enough to take it" while other groups are so incredibly fragile and juvenilized that they should be indulged when somebody freaks out over use of the word "niggardly" in a sentence.
I wonder if there will be a backlash from some Victims of French-American Humor group?"


I'm not a huge fan of the "white Christian male as victims" line of argument but Mark definitely has a point here. I would say, however, that one difference between France and other nations with whom we've had issues - Iraq, Afghanistan, and even the Soviet Union - is the general feeling that while their leaders may be awful, their populations were not responsible for a dictator's actions. In the French case, however, the French government seems to be responding to the will of the people and, as such, the population becomes fair game.
French battle flag being auctioned on eBay. The American Street's really getting feisty . . .
Has anyone else noticed the striking similarity between Iraqi mouthpiece Tariq Aziz and Dr. Nick Riviera of Simpsons fame?

Dr. Nick discussing a medical malpractice claim:

Board Chairman: "Among the 160 gravest charges are: performing major operations with a knife and fork from a seafood restaurant."
Dr. Nick: "But I cleaned them with my napkin."
Board Chairman: "Misuse of cadavers."
Dr. Nick: "I get here earlier if I use the carpool lane."


Now let's listen to Mr. Aziz:

"Well, the question of missiles was discussed between our experts. There is no serious violation. The main problem is that the Iraqi missiles, which are very short range, don't have a guidance system and sometimes when a missile doesn't have a guidance system, it goes five or 10 or 15 kilometers beyond (what is allowed) and that's not a very dangerous thing,"

Put glasses on Dr. Nick and they even look alike . . .
E.J. Dionne, in his report from the Democratic Hot Stove League, argues:

"But you don't have to agree with Lieberman, Edwards or Gephardt in supporting Bush on the war to see that Democrats who want to win will need more coherence on foreign policy than they have now.
Through his forceful opposition to Bush's policy, Dean has established himself as someone far more important than a second-tier candidate -- as long as currently second-tier candidates Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley-Braun and Sharpton don't nibble away at the edges of his antiwar constituency. Yet for the moment, it's Kerry -- with his standing as a Vietnam veteran and by combining support and criticism of Bush on Iraq -- who comes closest to the foreign policy balance a Democrat needs to strike to satisfy both his party and those outside it.
Democrats aren't so dumb that they can't learn from defeat. They're better off now than they were three months ago. They've got the anti-Bush part down. The inspiration isn't there yet."


However, unfortunately for Democrats, they aren't better off than they were three months ago. Immediately after the November election left wing pundits like Dionne himself were arguing that Democrats need to find a coherent, popular position on foreign policy that they could actively promote in opposition to Bush. Yet nothing's really happened since then. Sure, Dean and other anti-war candidates have emerged, but that's due more to the coming primary season than a crystallization of thought within the party. Kerry, Lieberman, and the rest of the "pro-war" haven't really improved their arguments either; they simply shift them slightly, increasing their coherence while reducing their mainstream popularity.
The reason Democrats can't find the "inspiration" that Dionne wants is simply because there is no good position to take in opposition of a popular war. We will never, as McGovern proved, elect a truly anti-war candidate and thus, while a Dean position might rally the Democratic base, it's a death sentence for the party nationally. As for the multilateralist position, I hardly see "Follow the French" as a winning political slogan.

Simply put, there isn't a great position for Democrats right now politically. Yet while the pro-war position staked out be Daschle didn't allow Democrats gain back the House or Senate, the alternative is certainly worse. The best path for Democrats can take right now is mild support for the President and hope for a quick war in Iraq so that, as happened to Bush's father, the nation's attention shifts to domestic issues by the 2004 elections. Any other position would prove disastrous.
The Independent is reporting that three states, Arizona, New Jersey, and Missouri, are considering the complete shutdown of their government funded arts programs as they face acute budget shortfalls. What's most interesting, however, is that while two of these states have GOP-majority legislatures, all three have Democratic governors. Should be interesting to see how this plays out . . .

2/24/2003

I believe that two important details are being left out of the debate over what the Christian thing to do is in the Iraq situation.

First, when the Bible talks about forgiveness, it generally is in relation to someone who wants to be forgiven. The Prodigal Son returned home and pleaded forgiveness from his father, repenting for what he had done wrong. Similarly, I believe that any person who turns to Christ and seeks forgiveness (and truly means it), no matter what that person has done, will go to heaven. Saddam Hussein, as a human being, is capable of repenting and, as a human being, worthy of our forgiveness, no matter how difficult that may be. Playing games with the UN inspectors who have been sent in as a final, final, final, final chance, continuing to seek nuclear weapons, continuing to starve his people, continuing to torture and kill those who disagree with him is not repenting and seeking forgiveness.

Secondly, and this is where I feel the real issue comes, is the question of who should forgive Saddam. It is all well and good for us to say, “We forgive you,” and move on, but what happens to those people who are being tortured and killed, those people who are being dragged from their homes, those people who are starving to death? Is our faith one that leads us to allow these things to happen? To press for peace now because it is not our place to act is similar to sitting idly by while a 5th grader beats to death a 3rd grader. You have the means to stop it, but refuse to on moral grounds. We have the ability to prevent the catastrophe, but we are unwilling to use it, allowing the catastrophe to occur. Are you willing to follow the footsteps of that noted pacifist Pope Pius XII? Hitler was a human being. As such he was worthy of forgiveness by your definition. So we should have forgiven him and let him kill as opposed to risking war and attacking another human being.

Is Saddam repenting? No. Assuming forgiveness doesn’t require repenting, should we forgive and forget? No. True, there is a chance that he will stop, but how many innocents are you willing to risk the death of, simply to satisfy your conscience today? While God might ask us to die for Him, or to give our first born son for Him, or to be stoned to death for Him, or to turn the other cheek for Him, I do not believe that He asks us to sit idly by and let other die because of our faith in Him. Christianity calls for personal sacrifice that true believers make because of their faith and trust in God. It does not call for us to allow the personal sacrifice of others who do not have a choice in the matter. That is arrogant and barbaric.
With the exception of liberals such as Nelson Mandela who are consistent but idiotic, on the issue of US "unilateral" military action, the reaction of the Left to the proposed liberation of Iraq has been decidedly different than it was to NATO's defense of Kosovo. Since neither action bore UN approval, what explains the dichotomy? To be sure, there are two central and obvious differences between the two actions. The first is Clinton vs. Bush. The Left liked and trusted Clinton while many liberals have an almost visceral hatred for Bush and oppose war in Iraq simply because they reflexively oppose Bush. The second major reason for the Left's differing views is that, unlike Kosovo whose strategic interest for the United States (European stability) was an acceptable goal, Liberals see this war as one for oil, an unacceptable rationale for war.
Yet this doesn't seem like a complete explanation to me. Hatred for Bush, while certainly a part of the anti-war movement, I hope hasn't completely overshadowed rational thought among the Left. As for oil, beyond it being an absurd argument, it can't seem to explain the difference between American and European perspectives. Unless Liberals are contending that the common man in America cares deeply that Exxon and not Elf gets a post-sanction drilling contract, why would Americans care more about cheep oil than Europeans? Are Europeans that much less materialistic than Americans?

The Hidden Reason:

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.


Following September 11th, the formerly realist and almost isolationist Republican party underwent a profound transformation to a neo-Conservative internationalist ideology. Whereas during the 90s the GOP detested nation building - a position President Bush himself took during the campaign - today the Right sees the promotion of democracy not only as central to America's own interests but as the noble duty of the richest nation on earth.

And herein lies the problem that the Left has with this new Conservative foreign policy. While Liberals ostensibly supports the concept of universal human rights, since the 1960s when cultural relativism came to dominate left wing thinking the Left has been uncomfortable with anyone actually pointing out human rights violations - unless of course they're committed by a right wing ally. Moreover, as Victor Davis Hanson recently noted, Vietnam made Liberals suspicious of efforts to instill any American value by force, even one - like the right not to be tortured and killed by your dictator - to which the Left ascribes.
Now lets look at why this viewpoint explains the difference between the Left's reactions to Kosovo and Iraq.
Notice, for example, that in President Clinton's speech announcing the start of the bombing in Kosovo, he never speaks of the democratization of Serbia:

"First, I cannot emphasize too strongly that the United States and our European allies have no quarrel with the Serbian people. We respect your proud history and culture. We joined together on many occasions, including our victory over Nazism in World War II. Our own history has been honored by the contributions of Serb families who came to America to start a new life."

Compare that passage to Bush's second State of the Union:

"As we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies -- and freedom."

Now, I realize that democratization of Serbia wasn't our mission in Kosovo, yet that's exactly my point. Democratization is also not officially our goal in Iraq - eliminating WMD is - but the neo-Conservative movement has made the liberation of the Iraqi people one of the central themes of any military action.
Bringing democracy to despotically ruled states is, to the modern neo-Conservative movement, America's Burden. In the President's words:

"We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers."

This talk of sacrifice and the use of America's power for the benefit of the world is a world apart in tone from Clinton's justification for action in Kosovo. Whereas Bush speaks of a noble goal to help a people break the chains of tyranny, Clinton does not hide his reluctance to do any more than is absolutely necessary to prevent genocide:

"I want you to understand that NATO only agreed to be peacekeepers on the understanding that its troops would ensure that both sides kept their commitments and that terrorism on both sides would be brought to an end. They only agreed to serve with the understanding that they would protect Serbs as well as ethnic Albanians, and that they would leave when peace took hold."

As much as oil or territory, this American Burden is what the Left laments when it speaks of American Imperialism. How different, in underlying motivation, is Bush's drive for democracy throughout the Arab world and Kipling's call to "take up the White Man's burden"? Certainly the notion of bringing savages into civilization was imperfectly realized as well as, to our modern perspective, morally flawed, but does that mean that the underlying ideal of a rich successful people bringing its benefits to a less fortunate people is perverse as well? To Liberals the answer seems to be yes. As Régis Debray, former advisor to French President Mitterrand and, as James Taranto points out, Marxist guerrilla, writes in today's New York Times:

"'Old Europe' has already paid the price. It now knows that the planet is too complex, too definitively plural to suffer insertion into a monotheistic binary logic: white or black, good or evil, friend or enemy. When, one wants to ask, will Washington agree to count to three — and think not this or that, but this and that? A sober weighing of threats, without emotional obfuscation, is far more attuned to our current world, which Balkanizes minds even as it grows more unified in its implements, than an impatient divine investiture."

This is the great divide between neoCons and the Left today. Debray is correct in saying, "Whence this paradox: the new world of President Bush, postmodern in its technology, seems premodern in its values. In its principles of action, America is two or three centuries behind 'old Europe.'"
Neo-Conservatives absolutely have more in common with the imperialists of the 19th century than the socialist activists of the 1960s. Yet although 1960s postmodernism might be more philosophically advanced than the American burden position of the right, I doubt the people of Iraq will object to the supposed backwardness of American thought once they are freed from Hussein's tyrannical rule.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed

More thoughts on JPII's anti-war stance, this time on ibidem:

"You know there´s been a lot of comments lately about how Pope John Paul II is sticking his nose in where it´s not needed with respect to Iraq.
Just a small comment on my part. I´m proud of Pope John Paul II and I´m proud that I belong to a Church that believes in peace.
It amazes me that people somehow expect that it should be different. To that I say, wouldn´t it be a bit strange if it were otherwise? Wouldn´t it be bizarre if the Vatican said 'let´s roll, let´s attack?'"


A very good point that lends credence to the notion, as I alluded to previously, that the Pope's anti-war stance is less of a direct policy statement and more of a counterweight to the extreme hawks as well as a tool to attempt to compel Iraqi compliance with the Security Council.
I never liked Jack Straw much before 9/11 but lately he's become the most articulate advocate (or maybe second to his boss) of the Anglo-American position on Iraq. His comments today in Brussels regarding a second resolution were typically brilliant and to the point:

"Tonight in New York the U.K. will be tabling a Security Council resolution declaring that the Iraqi regime has failed to take its final opportunity to comply with the United Nations' resolution 1441.
The U.S. and the Kingdom of Spain are co-signatories. We are taking these steps because words must mean what they say. Security Council resolution 1441 is very clear on the obligations it places on Iraq and equally clear about the obligations it places on the security council.
So far we have only had substantive non-compliance. It's been only the credible threat of force which has moved Iraq from total and complete refusal even to engage the
international community, to the present position where they are seeking to comply on process.
If we hesitate, then Saddam will conclude that this threat of force isn't credible. We've been incredibly patient and will continue to press Iraq to comply peacefully if we can.
The chance is Saddam's -- he has to take it and he has to take it quickly.
They have to have overall active and complete cooperation. It is for him to prove that he has divested himself of all these weapons and material. He could easily do so but he has failed to do so so far.''
The Problem with France:
Today's Journal (subscription required) runs a front page story lamenting the sadness that the residents of Normandy are feeling about the anti-French rhetoric coming across the Atlantic. Normans, the article contends, are not anti-American and certainly not forgetful of American sacrifices to liberate France. It biographies Charles de Vallavielle, a local farmer who inherited a museum of the invasion on Utah Beach that his father built to honor the Americans. French Senator Jean Francois-Poncet summarizes the feelings of locals presented, saying:

"Yes, France owes a debt to the U.S.," [but] "The question is: Should this debt influence our foreign policy if we think U.S. policy goes against interests of the U.S. itself, and against Europe's interests?"

The problem with this article, however, is that it addresses an issue that is not the centerpiece of American hostility towards France. Sure many of us have made comments about French ingratitude but, lets be honest, I think it's more of a cheap-shot than the focal point of our anti-Gallic anger. No one is honestly saying that France should tow the American line on foreign policy simply to repay a debt to the thousands of Americans buried in Europe. Instead, returning to Francois-Poncet's point, the problem with the French is that their position is not based on an honest assessment of the "interests of the U.S." and Europe but instead on how they can best limit American dominance abroad. Remember this poll that I noted last week? The French have a great desire to limit America's international hegemony despite the fact that they continue to benefit greatly from our power. The French are weasels not because they fail to show the proper gratitude for actions taken over 50 years ago, they are weasels because they recognize (or should recognize) that American is in the world's best interest and yet are still work to undermine our actions.
And so the diplomatic endgame draws near: The US and Britain will propose a second (well, there've been quite a few more than that, but we'll just call it a second) resolution on Iraq at 3:30 this afternoon. According to the BBC, it "will state that Iraq has not complied with Security Council Resolution 1441, passed last November, and will refer to the warning in 1441 that Iraq faces 'serious consequences' if it does not fully co-operate." An unofficial two-week timetable has been set for a vote on the resolution.

In other news, Turkey's government is preparing to ask that country's parliament to authorize American action from bases within Turkey. It looks like, despite a momentary hiccup, plans for a northern front are falling into place. We'll probably never have an answer to this question, but I'd love to know just how hard US diplomats privately pushed an independent Kurdistan to force Turkish action

2/23/2003

Looks like the BBC has started censoring French jokes. The Grille categorically rejects the censorship of Weasel humor and thus gives you what you won't hear on the BBC.

What do you call a Frenchman advancing on Baghdad?
A salesman


Interestingly, the apparently self-loathing BBC left in this British joke:

What do you call a pretty girl in London?
A tourist
Driving through any town in America, you’re bound to see restaurants featuring cuisines from around the world. You might choose to eat Indian or Chinese cuisine, followed by a beer at a British-styled pub and, while driving, you may be listening to Latin music. Once out of the car you’ll meet people with every imaginable ethnicity, from Afghani to Zambian. This, more than anything else, is the essence of American multiculturalism. Yet, and few Liberals would ever admit it, this is simply America’s manifestation of globalization.
Consider the central argument made by right-wing isolationists against immigration, that it’s destroying America’s unique culture. While it’s absolutely true that the south, for example, is a very different place today than it was 50 years ago in a large part due to immigration, few on the left (or the right) would contend that we should push all sushi bars from Atlanta. Yet this is the central contention from the anti-globalist crowd about Africa or even rural France, that American culture is destroying the uniqueness of those regions. But I ask how is this different than the multicultural melding that occurs every day in America?
The best explanation for this inconsistency is simple anti-Americanism. The glorious cultures of the French or the Masai are worth preserving while white Southerners are just inbred rednecks. Moreover, not only would some real culture would do these hicks good, we certainly don’t want to export their attitudes to the rest of the world. How else can one explain why a Chinese restaurant belongs in Jackson, Mississippi while a McDonalds shouldn’t be in Millau, France? Thus it’s important, when listening to anti-globalization protestors, to understand that their angst is primarily based on a hatred for American culture and not on a theoretical desire to preserve the world’s diversity.
"Iraq 'still studying' UN demand." Well I must say I'm surprised, although nothing over 30+ years of Baath rule should have told me Saddam was logical. As I mentioned Friday, I thought the emphasis the international community (ok, the left-wing part of that community) was placing on the destruction of these missiles, calling it a "key test of Iraqi compliance," gave Saddam another excellent stalling opportunity. He was caught red-handed and thus would obviously comply, albeit slowly, with this UN demand giving "proof" of their cooperation with inspectors. Now, though, it seems that Iraq isn't quickly moving to destroy the missiles, and I can't understand why. Come on, Saddam, France and Germany have done so much over the past 12 years to support your regime, can't you do a favor for them by destroying the missiles?
They're creative. I'll give them that.