Tuesday, April 22, 2003
GIVE NICHOLAS KRISTOFF HIS DUE: I like it when public commentators admit it when they were wrong (and Lord knows, I have to do it all too frequently). Not because it humbles them, but because it sends an important signal of credibility. It tells me that their theoretical take on the world is not rigid to the point where it distorts their empirical assessment of the world.

Which brings me to Kristoff's column today. Here's his opening:

Last September, a gloom-and-doom columnist warned about Iraq: "If we're going to invade, we need to prepare for a worst-case scenario involving street-to-street fighting."

Ahem. Yes, well, that was my body double while I was on vacation.

Since I complained vigorously about this war before it started, it's only fair for me to look back and acknowledge that many of the things that I — along with other doves — worried about didn't happen.

He covers a lot of the same ground that I posted about two weeks ago. However, it carries more weight when a dove admits it.

Of course, that doesn't I think Kristoff is right in this conclusion:

The hawks also look increasingly naïve in their expectations that Iraq will soon blossom into a pro-American democracy. For now, the figures who inspire mass support in postwar Iraq are Shiite clerics like Ali al-Sistani (moderate, but tainted by being soft on Saddam), Moqtadah al-Sadr (radical son of a martyr) and Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim (Iran's candidate), all of whom criticize the United States.

As in revolutionary Iran, the Shiite network is the major network left in Iraq, and it will help determine the narrative of the war: infidel invasion or friendly liberation. I'm afraid we infidels had better look out.

We'll see whether Kristoff is correct. However, approximately 40% of Iraq are not Shi'Ite, and I'm betting that a healthy fraction of the Shi'ites don't want to see an Islamic Republic.

The key will be to see the proliferation of Iraqi media. The more people that see moderately large Shi'ite demonstrations for an Islamic republic, the more it will mobilize alternative social movements who will oppose such actions. The fundamental question is, at this point, whether hard-line Shi'ites will then choose to moderate their tone to stay in the political game a la Tajikistan, or choose secessionist or rejectionist strategies.

Developing...

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has more on Kristoff and the future for democracy in Iraq.

DON'T TREAD ON ME: So I'm scrolling down InstaPundit when I come to his Monty Python Test. So I take it. The result?

rabbit
Mean lil fellow, arn't you?


What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

See, this is why I don't have a comments section. I'd just go medieval on everyone.

I hope this doesn't imply that I'm just a dumb bunny.

UPDATE: Alan K. Henderson has a good roundup on the rest of the Blogosphere's Monty Python doppelgangers.
Monday, April 21, 2003
MUST-READ FOR THE DAY: It's actually from last month -- a New York Times translation of a Der Spiegel interview with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. It's extraordinary for several reasons. The first is Fischer's claim about the neocon vision of a post-9/11 world:

FISCHER: Ever since September 18th or 19th, 2001, when Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in Washington roughly outlined for me what he thought the answer to international terrorism had to be.

SPIEGEL: And?

FISCHER: His view was that the US had to liberate a whole string of countries from their terrorist rulers, if necessary by force. Ultimately a new world order would come out of this - more democracy, peace, stability, and security for people.

For the record, Wolfowitz vehemently denies he said this to Fischer. He wrote a letter to the editor in which he states, "I have never held the view the Foreign Minister attributes to me and did not express such a view in our meeting of Sept. 19, 2001, as the official notes of that meeting make clear." Given Fischer's apparent preference for public dissembling and private truth-telling, I tend to believe Wolfowitz on this one.

Then there's this exchange:

SPIEGEL: The neo-conservatives who are in charge in Washington will probably write off your constant insistence on international regulations and institutions as Old European thinking.

FISCHER: The American political scientist Robert Kagan has developed a bizarre image: Europeans come from Venus and indulge in the dream of perpetual peace, while Americans are from Mars, and faced with the hard realities of the wolf's den of international politics, they stand and fight, all against all. Anyone who knows European history knows about the many wars we've had here. The Americans had no Verdun on their continent. In the US there is nothing comparable to Auschwitz or Stalingrad or any of the other terrible symbolic places in our history.

SPIEGEL: All of them were catastrophes in which the Americans were on the right side.

Really, I recommend reading the entire article -- the Der Spiegel interviewer gives Fisher a pretty good grilling.

I came away from the read depressed about Europe's map of the future. Fischer admits that "Europeans at their end started to hold strategic discussions too late. We have to catch up now." However, I can't divine any underlying social purpose behind Fisher's call for a strategic vision beyond constraining American power.

IRAQI WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND A CAUTIONARY NOTE: Josh Chafetz links to this New York Times report explaining the dearth of WMD caches in Iraq:

A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.

They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs.

The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said.

The Americans said the scientist told them that President Saddam Hussein's government had destroyed some stockpiles of deadly agents as early as the mid-1990's, transferred others to Syria, and had recently focused its efforts instead on research and development projects that are virtually impervious to detection by international inspectors, and even American forces on the ground combing through Iraq's giant weapons plants.

I can't count the number of times someone in the Blogosphere (myself included) has posted initial reports of this variety and have them turn out to be either overblown or just plain wrong. There's an additional strike against this story -- the conditions under which it was reported:

Under the terms of her accreditation to report on the activities of MET Alpha, this reporter was not permitted to interview the scientist or visit his home. Nor was she permitted to write about the discovery of the scientist for three days, and the copy was then submitted for a check by military officials.

So why am I posting it?

Because the Times reporter is Judith Miller. She's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and has authored/co-authored books on biological warfare and Middle East extremism. So I'm thinking the probability of her jumping the gun on a story that turns out to be a bust is unlikely.

That said, take this information with a grain of salt.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus offers additional reasons for why we should keep our skepticism in check regarding this story. Of course, he also offers a link to a Los Angeles Times story that would confirm Miller's version of events.

Saturday, April 19, 2003
RUMSFELD'S DILEMMA: Gideon Rose's latest essay in Slate discusses the Defense Department's current challenge for post-conflict situations. A key graf (you should really read the whole thing):

Much has been made of the Rumsfeld Pentagon's determined and well-considered efforts to "transform" the war-fighting abilities of the U.S. armed forces, making them smarter, quicker, lighter, and more nimble. What has not been generally appreciated yet, however, is that it is now just as important to bulk up their other abilities as well—whether or not this fits the military's view of its appropriate duties. As Rachel Bronson of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote last fall, Washington needs to develop "a greater appreciation for the fact that intervention entails not simply war-fighting, but a continuum of force ranging from conventional warfare to local law enforcement." That means creating plenty of units in unsexy job categories such as civil affairs and military police—the sort of folk we could use to run Baghdad today.

This challenge is particularly acute if the administration wants to minimize the UN's role in postwar Iraq.

Will the DOD rise to the challenge? Signals are very mixed. On the one hand, there's this Chicago Tribune report from today:

The United States military can expect to face more Iraqi-style reconstruction projects in the future and should adjust to better prepare for that role, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.

While denying that the U.S. is involved in "nation-building" in Afghanistan or Iraq, Rumsfeld said the military can provide crucial order in the vacuum-of-power period after a regime falls and before a new government forms.

"Somebody has to try to create an environment that's sufficiently secure and hospitable to that kind of a change, but . . . without doing it in a manner that creates a dependency. Is that likely to be a role that the United States will play from time to time? I think yes," Rumsfeld said, speaking at a question-and-answer session with Pentagon employees.

"I don't think of it as a nation-building role, because I don't think anyone can build a nation but the people of that nation," he said.

On the other hand, there's this Chicago Tribune report from four days ago:

Even as the U.S. military grapples with the largest peacekeeping effort in a generation, the Army is shutting down its only institute devoted to such operations, prompting protests from inside and outside the Pentagon.

Since its creation in 1993 at the Army War College, the Peacekeeping Institute has struggled against a military culture that sees itself as a war-fighting machine that should leave peacekeeping to others....

The Peacekeeping Institute, in Carlisle Barracks, Pa., will close Oct. 1. A Jan. 30 Army news release said its functions and mission will be absorbed at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Ft. Monroe, Va.

A spokesman for the training command, however, said Monday that it has no plans to accept the institute's charge.

"I can tell you that no functions from the Peacekeeping Institute are being transferred to the Center for Army Lessons Learned, nor are they being transferred to TRADOC," said spokesman Harvey Perritt.

Lt. Col. Gary Keck, a Pentagon spokesman, said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld supports closing the institute. He added, however, that the decision to close the institute was the Army's.....

An Army spokesman denied that the shutdown signals any reduction in the importance placed on peacekeeping but said it is emblematic of the "hard choices we have to make" in operating in as efficient a manner as possible.

Out of a $81 billion annual Army budget, the Peacekeeping Institute ran on $200,000 a year. (emphasis added)

To be fair to Rumsfeld, he's fighting a deep antipathy among the service branches to functions other than warfighting (click here for more background).

Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear choice. It can outsource peacekeeping functions to the United Nations or close allies, at the cost of some constraints on foreign policy implementation. It can minimize the U.N. role and develop/train its own peacekeeping force. Or it can do neither and run into trouble down the road.

Developing....

THE SYSTEM WORKS: Last week, Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey banned Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from appearing at a 15th anniversary celebration of the greatest baseball movie ever made, Bull Durham. Petroskey Fedexed the pair a letter arguing that comments made by the actors "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger." He went on to note: "Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon have every right to express their opinions. But The Baseball Hall of Fame is not the proper venue for highly charged political expressions, whatever they may be." For more backstory, click here.

Needless to say, this was an asinine decision for three reasons. First, neither Sarandon nor Robbins said anything that put troops in danger. Yes, they opposed the war, but last I checked they weren't transmitting information to Baghdad or anything of that sort.

Second, if their behavior at the Oscars was indicative of anything, it was that neither of them had planned pull a Michael Moore or anything at the Hall of Fame Ceremony. Sarandon was quoted as saying:

This was just a celebration, a chance to see some friends from the movie and make what's become almost an annual trip with our boys... As far as I knew, we weren't speaking. I wasn't even planning to wear makeup. And to politicize baseball is to violate the spirit of what it's all about.

Third, never, under any circumstances, do anything that permits Sarandon or Robbins to feel righteously indignant. It's just grating. Petroskey's move validated the claim by a lot of Hollywood types that their public opposition to the war was somehow being censored.

Fortunately, Petroskey's decision resulted in a deluge of letters and editorials (click here and here too) denouncing the decision. A lot of the Blogosphere was pissed too -- click here, here, and here. And this week, Petroskey did something very rare -- he issued a genuine apology. Here are the key grafs:

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a very special place - a national treasure - and my responsibility is to protect it. Politics has no place in The Hall of Fame. There was a chance of politics being injected into The Hall during these sensitive times, and I made a decision to not take that chance. But I inadvertently did exactly what I was trying to avoid. With the advantage of hindsight, it is clear I should have handled the matter differently.

I am sorry I didn't pick up the phone to have a discussion with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon rather than sending them a letter.

According to the AP, Robbins responded with a statement observing, "Because Petroskey's actions resulted in a bipartisan, nationwide affirmation of free speech and the First Amendment, he has inadvertently done us all a favor."

This may be that once-in-a-decade moment where I am in agreement with Robbins on a matter of politics.

Friday, April 18, 2003
WHY I LOVE DENMARK: There are two reasons. First, there's their commitment to open government, which is about to embarrass the European Union, according to this FT story:

What does Germany really think about Turkish membership of the EU? How did Gerhard Schröder nearly wreck the EU enlargement deal? And what does Vladimir Putin privately think about Russian journalists?

The answers are in a "warts and all" television documentary telling the inside story of the Danish EU presidency, which culminated in the Copenhagen enlargement summit last December. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark's prime minister, honoured his commitment to open government by giving rare access to a camera team during the tense talks leading to the deal allowing 10 new members to join the EU.

Not everyone is as happy as Mr Fogh Rasmussen to feature in the film, to be broadcast in Denmark on Thursday. It has caused fury across Europe, and even some Danes think his candour has gone too far. The biggest controversy surrounds claims that Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister, privately tried to find ways to stop Turkey joining the EU, while publicly supporting Ankara's application....

But it is not clear whether the EU's often secretive culture is ready for a painful dose of openness. Some Danes agree with that view. Niels Helveg Petersen, a former foreign minister, said: "This is a break with proper behaviour, a diplomatic blunder of the highest order."

Read the whole story -- as well as these takes by the BBC and the EU Observer. The latter provides the details of the most damaging part of the documentary:

a sequence displaying a politically charged statement by German foreign minister Joschka Fischer where he revealed his personal views to Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller, on Turkish membership of the European Union.

"I am a good friend of Joschka, and he tells me, that Turkey will never join", says the Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller in a corridor passage which was taped and used in the film.

Needless to say, this is causing a three-way diplomatic row between Denmark, Turkey, and Germany. I actually have some sympathy for Fischer, since he's being damned by hearsay. If it's true, however, then shame on Germany for trying to screw the Turks over, and good for the Danes' commitment to open government.

Essay question to the Eurocrats:

"An American-led invasion of Iraq that removes a totalitarian dictatorship will increase hatred of the West among Muslims. EU discrimination against Turkey will decrease Muslim hatred of the West."

Can those two statements be logically reconciled? Discuss.

[What's the second reason you love Denmark?--ed. Last month the Danish weekly Weekendavisen translated and published one of my New Republic essays. I may not speak a word of Danish, but it looks pretty damn cool.]

HE'S RIGHT -- PROBABLY: Josh Marshall has a level-headed post today in response to today's Baghdad demonstration demanding an Islamic state in Iraq. It closes this way:

none of this is going to be settled by one day of good or bad photo-ops. The die is cast. Like it or not, the fate of America and Iraq are now fastened together for at least several years. I don't pretend to know how it's going to turn out. But the one thing I think we can be confident of is that none of us are going to emerge from this with our hubris intact.

As someone who occasionally pretends to know how things will turn out, I think Marshall is right.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more to say on this:

This is a very long term project we're involved in, and the ups and downs of daily events really don't mean much. It will be months, maybe years, before we know what the real reaction of ordinary Iraqis is to our invasion. I suspect that in the long run it's going to be more negative than positive, but at any rate — and to coin a phrase — it's sure not going to be a cakewalk.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
IN MY NAME: What Josh Chafetz said here, I wholeheartedly endorse.
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Blogging is light today because I'm continuing my tour of Midwestern colleges with a talk on globalization at Beloit College.

True story -- after I'd attended a senior seminar, my host explained to one of his colleagues that I needed to get to an Internet station -- because it had been some time since I'd updated the blog.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA: Via Glenn Reynolds, I read Justin Weitz's discussion of sanctioning Syria (you'll have to scroll down). In the post, Wietz mentions, "Syria's close relationship with terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hezbollah."

Now, this was the first time I had heard about any connection between Al-Qaeda and Syria, and I didn't like the assertion without any backup. Weitz, however, could point to this September 2002 post which linked to this Ha'aretz article chronicling the relationship between Syria and Al Qaeda. The article is sourced to various intelligence agencies as opposed to specific individuals, which makes me antsy for some reason. That said, here are the key grafs:

Much evidence now shows that before 9-11, Syria was a stomping ground for Qaida operatives, considered a place where they could move around in relative freedom. The country served as transit point for them and Qaida had an infrastructure there. They were able to operate with relatively few of the restrictions that other Arab countries, like Egypt, put on them.

After 9-11.... as American rage grew and the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan began, the Syrians changed position, and said they were ready for intelligence cooperation with the U.S. on the Qaida issue. But there are now clear indications that it was tactical and only partial cooperation.

Readiness for cooperation mostly came via information about Qaida cells in other countries and not what Qaida representatives were doing in Syria. Important information came from Syria, for example, on Qaida cells in Germany. That apparently is what kept Syria off President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" list.

Now there's this Los Angeles Times story:

Syria has functioned as a hub for an Al Qaeda network that moved Islamic extremists and funds from Italy to northeastern Iraq, where the recruits fought alongside the recently defeated Ansar al Islam terrorist group, according to an Italian investigation....

Two weeks ago, Italian police arrested seven alleged Al Qaeda operatives. They were charged with sending about 40 extremists through Syria to terrorist bases operated jointly by Al Qaeda and Ansar al Islam, whose stronghold in northeast Iraq was recently overrun by Kurdish and U.S. troops.

Transcripts of wiretapped conversations among the suspected operatives and others paint a detailed picture of overseers in Syria coordinating the movement of recruits and money between Europe and Iraq, according to court documents obtained by The Times....

Italian investigators say that they have no evidence that the Syrian government was aware of the network or protected it, and that they hope to get help with the case from Syrian authorities. Still, the activity of the alleged terror network raises questions because the Syrian government has aggressive security services that would likely be aware of extremists operating in their territory.

And finally, this Straits Times lead:

The United States tightened the screws on Syria yesterday, claiming that it was harbouring a high-ranking Iraqi intelligence official with Al-Qaeda links.

A US official alleged that Faruq Hijazi, ranked third in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's intelligence service, flew into Damascus aboard a commercial jet on Tuesday, seeking refuge after the fall of the Baghdad regime....

According to media reports, Saddam also sent Hijazi to Afghanistan in 1998 to establish contacts with Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terror network.

Some European newspapers even insisted that Hijazi met the alleged ringleader of the Sept 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, before the terror attacks on the US.

But Washington has not confirmed that the meeting took place, and Hijazi is not included in the Pentagon's 'deck of death' cards which feature the 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials.

If you read everything, I'm still not sure it adds up to a conscious effort by the Syrian government to assist Al Qaeda. I see a lot of suppositions and fewer facts.

However, this post was originally going to blast Weitz for making the link between Syria and Al Qaeda without any basis in fact. Obviously, it didn't turn out that way.

What do you think? Let me know.

UPDATE: Todd Mormon posts some new information suggesting that the Syrian government has been eager to cooperate with the U.S. on Al Qaeda. And it's worth quoting at length from Lawrence Kaplan's TNR article on Syria:

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, Assad provided the United States with what one administration official describes as a "treasure trove" of intelligence on Al Qaeda activities among Syrian nationals—principal among these Mohammed Haydar Zammar, an Al Qaeda commander living in Germany, and Mamoun Darkazanli, one of the organization's alleged financiers. Assad even sent President Bush a letter proposing that the two countries "establish sound bases of worldwide cooperation ... to uproot terrorism in all its forms." Before long, Syrian intelligence operatives were meeting with the CIA and passing along warnings replete with details about likely terrorist targets. Even the administration's Syria hawks concede that one such warning, which alerted American policymakers to a plot against American forces in the Gulf, "saved American lives."

Food for thought.

WHAT ARE MY COLLEAGUES WORKING ON?: The University of Chicago has acquired a long-standing reputation for being concerned primarily with abstract ideas. With the possible exception of our political philosophers, this is largely a canard -- what my colleagues excel at is marrying larger theoretical concerns to practical, real-world questions.

Which brings me to this University of Chicago Magazine cover story on our faculty's "unexpected areas of expertise." Law professor Mary Anne Case is investigating a subject near and dear to women's hearts across this land -- the inequities of public toilets:

Lines for public bathrooms, one of the last supposed vestiges of “separate but equal,” regularly show the facilities are anything but. “What’s most often equalized is square footage,” Case says. But because urinals are smaller than stalls, “men are almost always offered more excreting opportunities than women,” which likely accounts for longer women’s lines—not women simply taking longer. And more of the space in women’s bathrooms, she notes, is filled with vanity tables, fainting couches, and baby stations.

The project—after several years she’s collected hundreds of surveys for a planned law-review article—was spurred by Case’s research into the history of constitutional arguments for equal protection of the sexes. Believing the law rarely should distinguish between males and females, she advocates “a model akin to the typical airline toilet,” providing ultimate privacy without segregation (though she’s learned that many women prefer a same-sex environment).

The survey also gives men and women “a sense for how the other half lives,” Case says. For instance, when she visited a New York children’s museum, a male companion saw a poster in the boys’ room asking, “Who can ‘go’ faster? It takes men about 45 seconds to urinate (pee). It takes women about 79 seconds to urinate. How do you compare to the average? Ready, Get Set, GO!” No such poster, Case confirmed, was in the girls’ room.

Click here if you'd like to contribute to Case's database by filling out a copy of the aforementioned toilet survey.

I suspect some may find this kind of research trivial -- and I would vehemently disagree. This is an eminently practical question, and I suspect there is a dearth of literature on the topic. Good for Case.

P.S. The story links to other interesting avenues of research -- Roman Weil's analysis of the ever-increasing quality of wine, or Richard Epstein's research into parking and squatter's rights.

WHEN DRUDGE HYPERVENTILATES: Matt Drudge's latest "flash" story is about how Sharon Bush -- Neil Bush's ex-wife -- plans to write "a tell all [book] on the Bush family". What are the juicy details? Here are some snippets:

"She believes, and is prepared to reveal in her book, that the Bushes are far more pragmatic and calculating than has ever been seen before. She will show that the family orchestrates its public image from top to bottom. She will reveal that the family is in essence a political operation."

Oh, dear God, no!! Not "pragmatic and calculating"!! And the family cares about its public image? Wow, this is going to be pathbreaking stuff. Wait, there's more:

"In the book, she hopes to show that Barabara Bush has exercised a good deal more control over the family than previously revealed. She also wants to show that the relationship between the Bush brothers, as well as relations between the President and former President, have been more fraught and complex than previously known, her associates say."

Well, there will certainly be an uproar when the American people find out that the matriarch of the Bush clan has influence over her family members. And "fraught and complex" relationships between family members will certainly be a novel theme in American politics. You'd never see that kind of behavior among the Kennedys, Gores, Doles, Rockefellers, Clintons, or Daleys.

I understand why Sharon Bush's lawyer wants to attract publicity. I can't understand why Drudge would think that a book that spills Neil Bush's dirty laundry and implies that the other Bushes have political sides to their personalities is particularly salacious.

Not developing....

SO WHAT DO THE NEOCONS WANT?: In the past month I've received a lot of e-mail flak for one of two posts -- either this one touting Josh Marshall's Washington Monthly essay as a "must-read", or this one pooh-poohing the notion that Jim Woolsey speaks for the Bush administration when he says we're starting World War IV. Critics of the first post say I'm buying into wild conspiracy theories; critics of the second post think I'm naive and uninformed about the way Washington really works.

Here's my answer to both sets of critics.

Part of the problem is that the neocons have hardly made up their minds on this question. There's this Washington Post story suggesting Syria's next on the list -- at the same time, Lawrence Kaplan writes in The New Republic that Syria isn't even on the radar screen (subscription required).

This Reuters report suggests that all of the neocons are ready to march throughout the Middle East. But chief neocon theoretician Robert Kagan opines that some humility is in order right now, and it’s going to be tough to proffer an olive branch to Europe while coercing Syria with military force. Even Josh Marshall is skeptical that military action is imminent – his description of what’s going on right now is note-perfect:

“I doubt very much that we're about to move militarily against Syria. This strikes me as a brush-back pitch. It is critical to our efforts in Iraq that Syria not try to Lebanize Iraq. Those are the minimum ground rules. And we need to make that crystal clear to them right now.”

So, why did I think Marshall’s article was worth reading? Because I agree with him that a few neocons are willing to deceive in order to achieve their desired – and arguably desirable – ends. I've spoken with or listened to a fair number of the chief neocons. Most of them are intellectually rigorous and smart as hell. But some of them – who until recently held positions of influence in the Bush administration – will change their arguments on a whim, or make wildly erroneous assertions, or ignore contradictory evidence, to get what they want. And I care enough about how the process of U.S. foreign policy decision-making to oppose those tactics, no matter how desirable the perceived ends.

What could be interesting in the next few weeks/months is whether the neoconservative movement splits – between “pragmatic” neocons (Kagan, Wolfowitz) that recognize the limits of what can be done right now, and “movement” neoconservatives (Woolsey, Perle) that want to start World War IV.

Developing….

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
TOUGH TIMES FOR FRENCH LEADERS: Like a bad hangover, the French obstructionism of February and March is coming back to haunt the Chirac administration. [Hey, doesn't this support your argument about the limits of anti-Americanism in established democracies?--ed. Huh. What a felicitous coincidence.] The Guardian reports:

"Nearly half the French electorate believes that France was isolated diplomatically because of its opposition to the invasion of Iraq, according to an opinion poll yesterday....

In the poll, in the newspaper Libération, 46% of those questioned said President Chirac's attempts to block Anglo-American moves to topple Saddam Hussein had isolated Paris, although 59% still thought the war was wrong.

The poll also contained the first signs of a slide in Mr Chirac's popularity, which dropped by four points to 70% from a month earlier. Since that survey, leading members of his party, the UMP, have criticised the president for failing to congratulate British and American troops."

A slide from 74% to 70% ain't that big of a comedown. The key thing, however, is that French elites are just starting to criticize Chirac for his position on Iraq. Consider this from the Voice of America:

"Some French media have also cautioned the government against following a confrontational diplomacy - most recently by insisting that the United Nations, not Washington, should assume interim administration of Iraq. An editorial in Le Monde called on Paris to work with Washington in finding a diplomatic solution.

Other experts, such as Philippe Moreau Defarges, Special Advisor at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, believe the anti-war coalition, which includes Germany and Russia, may soon crumble, leaving France isolated.

'It's clear this coalition between Paris, Berlin and Moscow was really an artificial coalition,' said Mr. Defarges. 'It's certain that Russia and Mr. [Vladimir] Putin will want to play its own game and to reconcile with the United States. Particularly, but not only, because of Iraq and the oil contracts. Concerning Germany, it's clear the German chancellor is not a very strong man, and he will try at the end of the day to reconcile with Washington.'"

You know France is screwed, however, when Tom Friedman writes this paragraph:

"For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for."

Ouch.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more on France's current woes.

E-MAIL POLICY: As this blog has climbed in popularity, so has my e-mail traffic [Any hate mail?--ed. Knock on wood, no. I've received some angry e-mails, and some that are spoiling for an intellectual fight, but all of them have been polite. Must be my Moynihan-like image in the Blogosphere. UPDATE: Exactly one month after I wrote this, I got my first piece of hate mail. Oh, well -- I had a good run.] With the demands of the day job not going away, I'm just going to apologize now to those of you who don't receive a response. This doesn't mean I'm not reading your mail. It means I just don't have the time to write thoughtful responses all the time, and I'm leery of writing quick, flippant replies. So, my e-mail policy is simple:

1) I read every e-mail sent about the blog.
2) I won't necessarily reply to every e-mail message.
3) The likelihood of my replying has a lot more to do with how busy I am than with the content of your message.
4) I'm truly sorry for the non-responses.
5) Unless otherwise indicated, I will not attribute any quote from any e-mail on the blog.

UPDATE: I feel a bit churlish posting this, since compared to InstaPundit my e-mail traffic is small potatoes.

On the other hand, Glenn Reynolds has tenure; I do not. At best, this blog -- and anything else I write for a public audience -- will be a nonfactor in Chicago or any other university's decision to grant me tenure. At worst, it will probably be seen as a debit against my scholarly research. So, polite as I'd like to be, please understand that blog queries are rarely going to result in long replies.

TOTALITARIANISM IN ZIMBABWE: Last month I blogged about authoritarian crackdowns during Gulf War II. Since then, Mickey Kaus has been all over Casto's crackdown in Cuba (as well as what happens when Lennonist contemplate schmoozing with Leninists). However, this New York Times story suggests that Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is rapidly catching up to Castro or Hussein in terms of totalitarianism:

"Human rights groups report a violent crackdown by President Mugabe against the opposition that forced nearly 1,000 people to flee their homes. An opposition representative in the Zimbabwean Parliament arrives in Johannesburg showing reporters how he was tortured by Zimbabwean security agents with electric shock. Three Zimbabwean women who had participated in a rally here against President Mugabe report they were later raped by Zimbabwean agents operating in South Africa. A popular Zimbabwean cricket player flees to South Africa saying he received numerous death threats after wearing a black armband — a symbol of mourning for what he considered the death of democracy in his homeland."

The focus of the Times story is actually on Mugabe's creation of a corps of young loyalist thugs who benefit from the current system:

"The young men, who range in age from 18 to 22, explained that they are runaways from Zimbabwe's National Youth Service, whose graduates are known and feared as the "green bombers," a nickname that comes from the group's military-style uniforms and capacity for devastation.

Human rights groups and Western diplomats accuse President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe of turning the recruits into violent thugs and unleashing them on political opponents. President Mugabe, who has governed since the end of white rule in 1980, dismisses the accusations. He has said that he established the youth league three years ago as a kind of poor boys' Peace Corps, enlisting his country's sizable 18-and-under population for desperately needed community service projects.

In an interview today, Makhosi Ngusanya, 19, said he answered President Mugabe's call to service when his teachers filled his head with visions of a noble way out of poverty.

'They told us that if we became good green bombers then they would make us soldiers and give us land,' Mr. Ngusanya said. 'But they didn't give us anything. And all they taught us was to kill.'"

Is the Bush administration looking the other way, or rather, looking at Syria? Not exactly. This Australian report suggests the administration is trying a "North Korea" strategy of having Zimbabwe's neighbors take the lead, quoting a "senior official" in the State Department as follows:

"What we're telling them is there has to be a transitional government in Zimbabwe that leads to a free and fair, internationally supervised election.... That is the goal. He stole the last one, we can't let that happen again.... It has to be internationally supervised, open, transparent with an electoral commission that works..... "

Will this strategy work? The U.S. official spins a positive reaction, saying: "The neighbourhood is starting to realise that there is a downside to giving aid and protection to Comrade Bob," the official said, using a derogatory nickname for Mugabe.... There is stuff happening, there is stuff happening behind the scenes."

Well, maybe. The Times story makes it clear that South African President Thabo Mbeki is reluctant to criticize a fellow African leader, especially in response to Anglosphere pressure. So does this story on negotiations within the Commonwealth on Zimbabwe:

"Zimbabwe has failed to respond to appeals for reform from the Commonwealth and its situation has worsened since suspension from the group of mainly ex-British colonies, according to a report leaked today.

'Overall the general political, economic and social situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated since March 2002,' said an internal report by Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, obtained and published by Britain's opposition Conservative Party....

The Commonwealth split over Zimbabwe has appeared to pit white nations against African and Asian ones in the seven-decade-old group which joins almost one third of the world's countries with 1,7 billion people.

On one side, African heavyweights South Africa and Nigeria, for example, believe Mugabe's government has recorded enough progress over the past year in land reform, human rights and democracy to warrant re-admission to the Commonwealth.

But Mugabe's opponents such as Australia say that stance is a betrayal of Commonwealth principles, pointing to the treason trial of opposition figures and harsh media and security laws." (emphasis added)

Developing... and not in a good way.

THE SCHIZOPHRENIC ECONOMIST: Kevin Drum has the goods on contradictory statements coming from the august British publication, or, as Kevin puts it, "the pro-war, pro-Bush, America-friendly, center-right Economist:"

Kevin, you should have followed up that statement with, "not that there's anything wrong with that!"
Monday, April 14, 2003
I'M NOT A LAWYER, BUT I KNOW BULL#$%T WHEN I SEE IT: The San Francisco Chronicle has a story on one man's effort to revolutionize international law:

"For five years, [human rights lawyer Kirk] Boyd has devoted his life to researching and crafting a document he says will revolutionize the way the world treats its citizens.

His may seem like a Sisyphean task, but Boyd -- a human rights lawyer who lives in Mill Valley -- believes the time is right for an International Bill of Rights that guarantees free speech, freedom of religion, access to free or low-cost health care, shelter, education, fair trials and a host of other 'absolute' priorities.

When he addresses the United Nations Human Rights Commission Tuesday in Geneva, Boyd will -- for the first time -- publicly argue for implementation of the International Bill of Rights."

What to know what your International Bill of Rights looks like? Here's the document. To Boyd's credit, it's not written in legalese. To Boyd's debit, it's so contradictory and pie-in-the-sky that I can't believe he's devoted five years to it.

[What's specifically wrong with it?--ed. To begin with, a third of the countries in the world could not afford the public goods required of it. The restrictions on representation include this contradictory sentence: "Only individuals, not corporations or other entities, shall be allowed to contribute money or other assets to candidates or ballot measures, but individuals may combine to contribute as a group." The enforcement mechanism gave me a good chuckle.]

I don't mean to be cruel. It seems clear that Boyd has honorable intentions. But the legal and political foundations of the document and his strategy for implementation (internationalize the European Court for Human Rights) are laughable.

I'm sure the Libyan chair of the Human Rights Commission will give Boyd a full hearing.

Dan's Assignment Desk to Eugene Volokh: How did this guy get funding and institutional support from the University of California?

UPDATE: Will Baude has some additional thoughts on Boyd's attempt to draft a freedom of speech clause.

MORE ON UMM QASR: The New York Times reports of an open town meeting in Umm Qasr:

"For the first time anywhere in Iraq since the war started, the people in this port town gathered tonight for a remarkable democratic display — a town hall meeting.

As the sun set, turning the cloud-covered sky a dusty orange, the townspeople took turns talking about the problems they face and deciding who among them would help lead the community in the future.

However, as has been the case in interviews in cities from Safwan to Zubayr to Basra, people were too fixated on their present condition to think about what was to come. They want to know what is being done about the lack of water, security and jobs — three things they say they had under Saddam Hussein's rule."

Ah, the sounds of citizens wanting more from their government.

Meanwhile, this report suggests that the humanitarian effort to repair damage from the war will pale in comparison to the humanitarian effort needed to repair damage from the economic sanctions of the past decade.
ETIQUETTE QUESTION: It appears that Tikrit has fallen. CENTCOM spokesman Vincent Brooks was quoted as follows:

"This morning the attack entered Tikrit, securing the presidential palace there and also beginning the search for any remaining regime supporters."

And this is really the only significant combat action that occurred within the last 24 hours... There was less resistance than we anticipated."

Later on the article states: "Some officers are suggesting that this battle could be the last major engagement of the war."

This news, combined with mounting evidence that the "looting phase" is over, poses an interesting question: at what point should the "No War" buttons be removed from clothing?

My guess is that they're going to be there for a while. The prominent antiwar groups are casting about for some way to keep their movement alive. We'll see if they succeed.

Developing...

NICHOLAS DE GENOVA SPEAKS!: The Filibuster links to this Chronicle of Higher Education interview with Nicholas De Genova, his first public comments since his letter to the editor of Columbia's student newspaper.

Read the whole interview to get the entire context. I found the entire exchange hysterical -- it basically consists of the interviewer asking reasoned questions, De Genova popping off an irrelevant or incoherent answer, and the interviewer having to gently re-ask the question. Two examples:

"Q. Your comment about wishing for 'a million Mogadishus' has attracted the most attention. I read your letter in the 'Columbia Daily Spectator,' which gave some more context, but I have to confess I don't see how the context changes the meaning of that statement.

A. I was referring to what Mogadishu symbolizes politically. The U.S. invasion of Somalia was humiliated in an excruciating way by the Somali people. And Mogadishu was the premier symbol of that. What I was really emphasizing in the larger context of my comments was the question of Vietnam and that historical lesson. ... What I was intent to emphasize was that the importance of Vietnam is that it was a defeat for the U.S. war machine and a victory for the cause of human self-determination.

Q. I'm a little hazy on the rhetorical connection between Mogadishu and Vietnam.

A. The analogy between Mogadishu and Vietnam is that they were defeats for U.S. imperialism and U.S. military action against people in poor countries that had none of the sophisticated technology or weaponry that the U.S. was able to mobilize against them. The analogy between Mogadishu and Iraq is simply that there was an invasion of Somalia and there was an invasion of Iraq.

Q. Just so we're clear: Do you welcome or wish for the deaths of American soldiers?

A. No, precisely not."

Then there's this closing exchange:

"Q. If you had it to do over again, would you make the same remarks?

A. There is a lesson here for all of us, far and wide, beyond my immediate circle of colleagues and this particular university. There is a message for all people who affirm the importance of free speech and the freedom of thought and expression. ...

Q. I guess my question is, would you have attempted to be clearer?

A. Had I known that there was a devious yellow journalist from a tabloid newspaper among the audience, I certainly would have selected my words somewhat more carefully. But I would not have changed the message. Unfortunately, that message has been largely lost on people who were not at the event."

Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. It's safe to say that Nicholas De Genova is the living embodiment of that cliché.

P.S. I must give some props to the Filibuster here. I knew about this story from an independent source and expected to be the first in the Blogosphere to comment/link to it. Because they are actually up at 2 AM, they beat me to it. A tip of the cap and a place on the blogroll to them.
Sunday, April 13, 2003
ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Trent Telenko has some interesting commentary and links on successful U.S. Army efforts at statebuilding in Afghanistan, and how NGO groups have mixed feelingsa about it.

Daniel Urman has a point about the asinine hypothesis that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have somehow undermined our troops in Iraq by opposing the war.

Oh, and Eugene Volokh has some thoughts about vibrators.

NORTH KOREA UPDATE: The Bush administration strategy on North Korea -- which bears some resemblance to what I had suggested in this space in January -- is now reaping potentially significant dividends, according to today's New York Times:

"In a policy shift, North Korea said today that it would negotiate its nuclear program without sticking "to any particular dialogue format" if the United States changed its stance on the issue.

The new policy signals an end to a six-month insistence on two-way talks with the United States, and comes days after the fall of Iraq's government, a part, along with Iran and North Korea, of what President Bush has called an 'axis of evil.'....

In Washington, a senior official who deals extensively with North Korean issues said today that while the statement was still being evaluated, it appeared that pressure exerted by China had compelled the North Koreans to change their position. 'This means some kind of discussion can go forward but in the past the North Koreans have been known to drop out of talks if they don't like how they are going,' the official said.

As recently as Friday, American officials said there was still activity at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, although no evidence that North Korea had yet begun converting its 8,000 nuclear fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium.

North Korea's shift may be a result of diplomatic pressure from Russia and China. On Wednesday, both nations, historic allies of North Korea, blocked the adoption in the United Nations Security Council of any statement critical of North Korea's nuclear program. It is possible that with the United Nations action out of the way, the North Koreans saw their moment to move.

On Friday, a top Russian official said Russia would reconsider its longstanding policy of opposing sanctions against North Korea if it developed nuclear arms." (emphasis added)

It's not just China and Russia -- this week, ASEAN will probably send the same message.

What has been the effect of Operation Iraqi Freedom on North Korea? It would be safe to say that the North Koreans are rattled, in a potentially good way. This Friday Washington Post interview with the South Korean President opens with the following grafs:

"South Korea's new president, Roh Moo Hyun, said today he believes North Korea is 'petrified' by the American success in overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but he disputed the contention of some U.S. officials that North Korea already has a nuclear weapon.

The former human rights lawyer said in an interview that despite concerns in Washington that he wants to chart a course of independence during a nuclear weapons crisis with North Korea, 'there will be no change in the fact that the United States will remain our closest and most important ally.'"

This New York Times story buttresses this statement:

"American and South Korean officials saw the prospects for negotiations as resting in large measure on how both the United States and North Korea interpreted the lessons of the war in Iraq.

The North Korean party newspaper Rodong Sinmun summarized the fears of North Korean leaders, saying the United States was 'keen to ignite another Korean War after concluding the Iraqi war.'

A senior South Korean official, asking that his name not be used, said North Korean intentions were likely to become clear 'after North Korea has had time to assess the significance of events in Iraq.' The official predicted, however, that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, 'will be more on the rational than on the irrational side.'"
Friday, April 11, 2003
DOES VICTORY IN IRAQ DEFEAT THE ANTI-WAR ARGUMENTS?: Michael Kinsley's latest Slate essay strikes back at a lot of the pro-war commetariat -- including key players in the Blogosphere -- that are having a good time gloating at the expense of anti-war pundits. The subtitle of the piece -- "Victory in the war is not victory in the argument about the war." -- nicely sums up the argument.

Is Kinsley correct? Yes and no. He's correct that many of the anti-war arguments had to do with issues beyond the question of how the war would play itself out. The realist argument against the war was that Saddam could be deterred without the use of force. That counterfactual will be tough to check either way. The liberal argument against the war was that the costs of frayed multilateral institutions and estranged allies outweighed the benefits of regime change. We're about to find out whether that's true. The pragmatic argument against the war was that when you prioritize the threats against the United States, other menaces -- Al Qaeda, North Korea -- are more important than Iraq. Again, we're about to see whether the nine months devoted to Iraq will cost us in these areas of concern.

However, Kinsley is also being more than a bit disingenuous. All of these arguments are decision-theoretic -- they weigh the costs and benefits of different strategies. And what all of the anti-war arguments have in common is that their estimates of the costs were vastly inflated. Consider:

1) The human costs of war. Many antiwar advocates argued that Operation Iraqi Freedom would lead to a humanitarian disaster. This antiwar site has the following two paragraphs:

"It is estimated that civilian casualties could be far greater than in 1991. In the Gulf War, 110,000 Iraqi civilians, including 70,000 children under the age of five and 7,000 elderly, died in the first year of war as a result of 'war-induced adverse health effects' caused by the destruction of infrastructure.

Estimates of civilian deaths range from 48,000 to 261,000 for a conventional conflict; if there is civil unrest and nuclear attacks are launched, the range is 375,000 to 3.9 million. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 100,000 direct and 400,000 indirect casualties and that 'as many as 500,000 people could require treatment to a greater or lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries.'"

The website's source for these numbers was this document, which contained this additional warning: "The UN estimates that 2 million persons will be internally displaced, including 900,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries." (All of these figures, by the way, come from this leaked UN document).

It would be safe to describe all of these projections to be way off. Iraq Body Count -- which we would expect to overestimate the loss of life -- currently has a maximum of 1,413 deaths. Each one of those is tragic, but it's less than one percent of what was projected. The UN also states that there have been no refugee flows.

One of Kinsley's questions is: "What will toppling Saddam ultimately cost in dollars and in lives (American, Iraqi, others)?" The answer is: a hell of a lot less than you or most other antiwar critics believed.

2) The economic costs of war. William Nordhaus wrote an essay last fall on those costs (here's a nice summary table). His main findings:

“Returning to the metaphor of war as a giant roll of the dice, we might say that the US could end up paying the "low" costs of around $120 billion if the dice come up favorably. If some dice come up unfavorably, the costs would lie between the low and the high cases. However, if the US has a string of bad luck or misjudgments during or after the war, the outcome, while less likely, could reach the $1.6 trillion of the upper estimate….

Even the upper estimate does not show the limit of fortune's frowns. The projections I have described exclude any costs to other countries, omit the most extreme outcomes (such as chemical or biological warfare), and exclude Perry's ‘worst’ case in oil markets. Moreover, the quantified costs ignore both civilian and military casualties suffered by Iraqis and any tangible or intangible fallout that comes from worldwide reaction against perceived American disregard for the lives and property of others.

It seems likely that Americans are underestimating the economic commitment involved in a war with Iraq.”

Other economists envisioned even gloomier scenarios. Janet Yellen -- a respected macroeconomist at Berkeley who served in the Clinton Administration -- predicted doom and gloom a week ago.

Given that the war will likely be completely over in 60 days (the upper limit of Nordhaus' “best-case” scenario); the northern and southern oil fields were captured without significant damage [UPDATE: the last oil fire has now been extinguished]; oil markets have been unruffled; and none of the worst-case scenarios have come to pass, it would be safe to say that the dice came up favorably. However, both press reports and antiwar activists played up the potential trillions in economic costs.

As Nordhaus put it, "the record is littered with failed forecasts about the economic, political, and military outcomes of wars."

3) Regional fallout and "worst-case scenarios". The reaction of the "Arab street" was greatly feared during the build-up to war. Fragile regimes in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc., were projected to fall because of outrage over an American invasion of Iraq. Clearly, this hasn't happened. As one Arab journalist notes in the Washington Post:

"Indeed, despite a war raging in one of the most important Arab capitals, there have been no reports of actual violence against American soft targets in the Middle East. We have not heard about Americans being killed or injured in Casablanca or Amman. This is a significant sidebar to this war that has attracted little comment. Dire predictions notwithstanding, Arabs did not rise up to destroy American interests in the Middle East."

(To be fair, this Washington Post update of Pakistan isn't brimming with optimism either.)

Here's what else hasn't happened: Israel wasn't attacked with weapons of mass destruction. Coalition forces weren't attacked with weapons of mass destruction. Turkey wasn't compelled to wipe out the Kurds. Al Qaeda hasn't attacked the United States.

United Nations officials, respected mainstream economists, Washington think tanks -- I'm not citing the fringe anti-war people here. All of these well-reasoned arguments were made in opposition to the war. And they were wrong.

To repeat, not all of Kinsley's or others' objections to the war were based on the immediate costs of the conflict. But a lot of the objections were based on comparing the costs of war to the other alternatives. And the antiwar estimates of the costs were -- just to repeat -- wrong.

UPDATE: Brand-new blogger Larry Maggitti offers a rebuttal.
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM, CONT'D: I didn't mention Asia in my New Republic online essay on the limits of Anti-Americanism, but this New York Times story on media coverage/commentary of the war in Pacific Rim countries with significant Muslim populations suggests that there is not much anti_americanism to dissipate. Some key grafs:

"The press in Islamic Indonesia and Malaysia has been almost uniformly critical and often derisive about the war. The tone has been the same in the Philippines, a Roman Catholic nation with close American ties and a significant Muslim minority.

But the opposition has had a half-hearted, been-there ring to it, lacking the intensity and the calls for jihad that accompanied America's attack on Afghanistan more than a year ago and that still run through the Arab media in the Middle East....

'Even in so-called Islamic media, the tendency has largely been toward not portraying this war as a religious one,' said Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, chairman of Indonesia's independent Press Council. "Iraqis have been fleeing to Indonesia for years, and refugees usually flee countries with oppressive policies."

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, are 'related to the survival of Americans decades ahead, while we can only think of planning for tomorrow.' He added: 'I don't quite like the arguments, but they have their own reasons, not just to hit at suggested terrorists.'....

Public protests have been carefully appropriated by the Malaysian government for maximum political gain as it looks toward parliamentary elections in the coming year. The point is made repeatedly that the criticisms are antiwar rather than anti-American."
THE CHALLENGE TO PEACENIKS: One of the reasons I supported going to war with Iraq was my confirmed belief that it would, in the long run, spare more lives than it would extinguish. I blogged about this point here, here, and here.

Now William Saletan makes a similar point -- and levies a pointed challenge to pacifist groups (link via InstaPundit):

"Now that Baghdad has fallen, here’s my question to peaceniks: Are you against killing, or are you against war? Because what happened in Iraq suggests you may have to choose....

Simply put, the number of innocent people who are dead because we ousted Saddam is dwarfed by the number of innocent people who are dead because we didn’t. The use of American force is on one side of the ledger, and mass killing is on the other. Trends in military and media technology make this dilemma increasingly likely where belligerent murderers rule. You can keep your hands clean, or you can keep many more people alive. It’s up to you."

My suspicion is that most of the committed anti-war types loath American power so much that they'll choose to keep their hands clean.

I will beg to differ.
MAYBE TOM BROKAW HAD A POINT: Remember the late nineties, when Tom Brokaw wrote The Greatest Generation and men of all agies were weeping over Saving Private Ryan? I loved the movie, appreciated that the W.W. II generation was receiving its due, but then my own generational pride kicked in and suspected that it was all perhaps overblown.

Then I read Neal Steinberg column in today's Chicago Sun-Times, entitled, "With us just 3 weeks, but already getting old." Read the whole piece to get the full flavor; here are the parts I choked on:

"Don't get me wrong, I was very, very pleased. (I'm not one of those lemon-faced NPR liberals wringing their hands over the uncertainty of the weeks and years to come.) That misses the point. We won. We did it in high style, with a minimum of civilian casualties. Yes, we committed one gaffe: That soldier putting the American flag over the face of the statue of Saddam, which I guess is our atrocity for the war." (emphasis added)

Steinberg is paid for his lexicographical skills, so I think it's worth questioning his use of "atrocity." Filling a children's prison is an atrocity. Forcing pregnant women to be suicide bombers is an atrocity. Gassing your own population is an atrocity. I'm going to go out on a limb and describe this phrasing as "unbelievably offensive."

Later on, there's this:

"So I was happy at the moment of apparent victory, but... it was a weary kind of happiness. All war, all the time starts to grate on you. It gets repetitive. I don't know how our parents got through nearly four years of World War II, because after three weeks of war, I'm ready to move on. I mean, there must be other news happening in the world, right, news we don't learn about because the war sucks up all the available attention. How could it not?"

OK... someone needs to turn off their cable TV, get off their couch and actually search for what else has been going on. I've heard about this neat invention called the Internet that might be useful for this sort of activity.

As for the war being grating after three weeks, I know what he means. After reading Steinberg's column for three minutes, I wanted to move on.

Finally, there's this:

"Perhaps, to be honest, I'm also a little leery about all this mock excitement over our liberating the Iraqis. Again, hooray for Iraqis living in freedom, but I'm not such a hypocrite as to claim to care. Do you? That's funny, you didn't care when they were living under the boot of Saddam since the Carter administration. It seems odd to care now, a feigned, passing interest. Have you checked in on the Afghans lately to see how they're doing since we freed them? Me neither."

I don't think I'm going to be checking in on Steinberg's column anytime soon.
NEED SOME LAUGHS?: Andrew Sullivan links to this Donald Rumsfeld sex advice column in Esquire.

And Josh Chafetz links to this site devoted to the Iraqi Information Minister (anyone know where he is?). My favorite part of the site is this page devoted to what the Minister would say at some of the famous battles in history -- including one in a galaxy far, far away...
Thursday, April 10, 2003
THE LATEST HOFFIES: Andrew Sullivan had clearly been saving up commentary predicting quagmire and failure in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, in his own "shock and awe" campaign, Sullivan unleashes a barrage of quotations filled with wrong-headed analysis. Click here and here to see his Von Hoffman nominees.

I think they should be relabeled the "Hoffies" so that it ends with an long "e" sound like other awards.
PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT: As I said before, military victories in Iraq must be followed up with humanitarian victories. Umm Qasr, because it was liberated first and should therefore have the fewest security problems, is the harbinger for how things will proceed in the rest of Iraq.

In the 48 hours since I've blogged about it, how are things going? Actually, they're improving. Reuters reports that Umm Qasr is now open to merchant ships.

This Boston Globe story makes it very clear that CentCom knows perfectly well that they need to rebuild the infrastructure in the town. Some excerpts:

"The Seabees, as soldiers from the 1st Naval Construction Division are known, came to Umm Qasr to help make the port usable. They have now moved on to some goodwill projects, designed to improve quality of life in small but important ways in this, the US-led coalition's most secure nook in Iraq.

So far, the results are... successful up to a point, yet marked by difficulties...

During the Sunday visit, some of the locals complained adamantly that Umm Qasr's medical clinic lacked doctors, apparently because Ba'ath party-affiliated personnel had fled the town. But they thanked the Seabees for providing the children, many of whom were barefoot, with a place to play.

'All of these people in Iraq port Umm Qasr thank the soldier America and British,' 40-year-old Ibrahim Salman said in English. 'This is very, very good.'"

Buried in this CNN report about aid groups complaining about chaos in Baghdad is this Don Rumsfeld quote:

"'With the humanitarian aid now entering the country, he [Rumsfeld] said, 'that doesn't mean that the situation's worse -- that means it's better, and it is better.'

As an example, Rumsfeld cited the southern port city of Umm Qasr, which he said is beginning to flourish because of aid and border activity.

'Water supply is above prewar levels, a combination of U.K. pipeline and trucking,' he said. 'Electricity has been restored by U.K. engineers, sufficient food is readily available, medical facilities are sufficient and operating, UNICEF is providing supplies.

The port's cleared of mines and opened to limited operations, the channel needs dredging, [the] railway station is cleared by explosive ordnance detachment, [the] rail line is intact from there to Nasiriya, and they intend to open a line within seven days, which will allow movement of bulk water up the Euphrates Valley.'

Rumsfeld said he could give examples of similar progress in Basra and Nasiriya."

For those readers inclined to doubt Rumsfeld, this UN report on the humanitarian situation in Umm Qasr supports many of Rumsfeld's assertions. The opening graf:

"The first humanitarian assessment missions conducted jointly by UN agencies in the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq have identified a lack of clean drinking water as a matter of primary concern - a problem that predates the war, when the town’s needs were met by water tankers, IRIN learnt on Wednesday." (emphasis added)

Read the entire report. Umm Qasr is hardly a bed of roses. However, things are improving. For more news on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, click here.


DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES!: Last Thursday, I posted the following:

"LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big meme last week was that the Iraqi's unconventional tactics surprised Rumsfeld et al ....

My guess is that next week's meme will be about how coalition forces are adapting to these adaptations."

The following are excerpts from today's Military Analysis column by Michael Gordon in the New York Times:

"If there is a single reason for the allied success in toppling Saddam Hussein's government, it is the flexibility the American military demonstrated in carrying out its campaign.

From the very start the American military had to adapt to fickle allies, changes ordered by superiors in Washington and new tactics by their foe.....

Some changes were forced by the Iraqis. The Iraqis caught American intelligence by surprise when they stationed paramilitary units in Iraq's southern cities. That move was intended to help the government quash any possible rebellions and to put the paramilitary fighters in position to mount ambushes on allied supply lines.

Faced with such attacks, allied commanders changed their tactics as well. When the war started, the allies had planned to bypass Najaf, Nasiriya and Basra and other southern cities. The British were to guard the right flank while the Army and Marines rushed to Baghdad.

But when the paramilitary forces struck, the allied conventional and Special Operations forces began to fight in Iraq's southern cities.....

As they neared Baghdad, the American forces adapted their tactics. Their initial plan called for patiently gathering intelligence and carrying out probes before conducting raids in the city.

American commanders, however, concluded that the Iraqi command and control was weakening and pressed their advantage. After conducting a raid, the Army moved an entire armored brigade into central Baghdad. It stayed the night and Army and Marine columns soon joined the brigade in the city."
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
A SOCIOLOGIST IS MORE LOGICAL THAN A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? INCONCEIVABLE!!: Via Kieran Healy, I found and took the Battleground God test. I did this with some hesitation, since it's been some time since I've pondered my ontological givens where religion is concerned.

The good news: this was my result:

"Congratulations!

You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity being hit only once and biting no bullets suggests that your beliefs about God are well thought out and almost entirely internally consistent."

The bad news: The medal of distinction is not as grand as it sounds -- "46.88% of the people who have completed this activity, like you, took very little damage and were awarded the TPM Medal of Distinction." More importantly, Kieran beat me on the logic score (I flamed out on the last question).

Beaten by a sociologist!! I'm going to need some time to adjust. [Er, what's the big deal?--ed. Among the social sciences, there is a little-discussed but ever-present prestige hierarchy that gives disciplines resembling the natural or physical sciences greater status than those disciplines that more resemble the humanities. Political science usually does better than sociology on that scale. I'm not saying it's logical; it's just the way things are. So sociology is at the bottom of the barrel?--ed. Heavens, no -- that would be anthropology.]

Oh, well -- maybe an economist like Brad DeLong will do even worse.

Kieran responds on the question of the social sciences.
WHEN FANTASY MEETS REALITY: This San Francisco Chronicle account of the celebration in downtown Baghdad contains the following amusing anecdote:

"There was a lot of smiling and laughing. One Iraqi gave out high-fives to passing Marines and reporters.

There were some American and European 'human shields' at the rally, people who had come to put themselves in harm's way in hopes of stopping the shooting. They chastised the Marines for attacking Iraq and promoting war.

That angered some of the men. 'I didn't bury two of my fellow Marines just so someone like that could call us murderers,' said one Marine, angry and teary, referring to an Iraqi artillery attack that killed two of his colleagues on Monday. 'They died for this country.'

Meanwhile, two Iraqis held up a sheet bearing the message: 'Go home Human Shields, you U.S. Wankers.''' (emphasis added)

I swear, you can't make this s#$& up.

UPDATE: Josh Chafetz e-mails that Donald Sensing has pictures of the banner (scroll down a bit)
MEANWHILE, IN PALO ALTO...: I'm just going to reprint this Reuters story (which CNN is also running) on the recent machinations of the Palo Alto City Council in its entirety and let everyone have a good laugh:

"In a bid to improve civility in the town's public discourse, a committee on the city council has spent hours debating guidelines for its own behavior.

'Do not use body language or other nonverbal methods of expression, disagreement or disgust,' a new list of proposed conduct rules reads.

Another rule calls for council members to address each other with titles followed by last names, a formality not always practiced in laid-back California.

'I don't want to muzzle my colleagues,' councilwoman Judy Kleinberg, who headed the committee that drafted the rules, told the San Jose Mercury News. But, she added: 'I don't think the people sitting around the cabinet with the president roll their eyes.'"

[Are you painting a fair portrait here?--ed. OK, for more context -- which does suggest that perhaps Reuters is overhyping the story -- here's a Palo Alto Weekly recap on the origins of this proposal. Was that an eye roll? C'mon, I saw that!!--ed. Too bad we moved away from Palo Alto in 1996]

CELEBRATION ROUNDUP: OK, time to relay the really good news. The New York Times on the fall of Baghdad:

"Residents swarmed out onto the streets today, suddenly sensing that the regime of Saddam Hussein was crumbling, and celebrating the arrival of United States forces.

Throngs of men milled about, looting, blaring horns, dancing and tearing up pictures of Saddam Hussein. Baath party offices were trashed.

Occasional sniper fire continued, but Iraqi resistance largely faded away."

The Washington Post:

"Saddam Hussein's rule over the capital has ended, U.S. commanders declared Wednesday, and jubilant crowds swarmed into the streets here, dancing, looting and defacing images of the Iraqi leader. A Marine tank toppled a giant statue of Saddam in a sweeping, symbolic gesture.

In the most visible sign of Saddam's evaporating power, the 40-foot statue of the Iraqi president was brought down in the middle of Firdos Square. Cheering Iraqis, some waving the national flag, scaled the statue and danced upon the downed icon, now lying face down. As it fell, some threw shoes and slippers at the statue - a gross insult in the Arab world.

The scene was telecast worldwide by CNN and others.

'I'm 49, but I never lived a single day,' said Yusuf Abed Kazim, a Baghdad imam who pounded the statue's pedestal with a sledgehammer. 'Only now will I start living. That Saddam Hussein is a murderer and a criminal.'

Others marked the regime's dissolution more passively, picking flowers from a nearby garden and handing them to Marines. While the capital was celebrating, the fate of Saddam and his sons remained unknown, two days after they were targeted by four 2,000-pound U.S. bombs in Baghdad."

The Christian Science Monitor (with a classic understatement from a U.S.general):

"The battle for Iraq's capital is quickly turning into a rout.
While US military officials stress the war in Iraq is far from over, gains Wednesday in Baghdad suggest Saddam Hussein and his supporters are unable to control the civilian population or mount coordinated large-scale resistance in large swaths of the city.

'The capital city is now one of those areas that has been added to the list of where the regime does not have control,' Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said this morning at the daily Central Command briefing in Qatar.

Shiite residents of the Saddam City neighborhood, long shunted aside by the Hussein regime, danced in the streets and looted property. In scenes reminiscent of Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall fell, Baghdad residents used ropes and a sledgehammer in an attempt to pull down a statue of Hussein in Firdos Square."

The Financial Times:

"Crowds of Baghdad residents took to the streets of the Iraqi capital on Wednesday, destroying and looting symbols of Saddam Hussein's regime after organised resistance to the arrival of US forces in the Iraqi capital evaporated.

In the city's Firdos square, a large crowd watched and cheered as US troops pulled down a monumental statue of the overthrown Iraqi leader, stamping on the bronze figure after it fell to the ground and then dragging its head through the streets.

Elsewhere, crowds looted government and other official buildings, seizing vehicles and dragging off computers, generators and other equipment.

Correspondents for the Reuters news agency in the city reported hundreds of people gathering on street corners, chanting 'Bush, Bush'."

The FT has some great pictures, too.

The Guardian reports that celebrations are not just limited to Baghdad:

"TV pictures showed Iraqis welcoming US forces, and there were also reports of Iraqis celebrating in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

These included the city of Irbil, 220 miles north of Baghdad, and the Guardian's Luke Harding, in Sulaimaniya, also witnessed scenes of jubilation.

'Everybody has poured out onto the street and there are scenes of total chaos and sheer, sheer delight,' he said.

'Thousands of people are in the streets celebrating. They believe Iraq is liberated. They believe that Saddam Hussein is finished.'"

The great thing is that these images are being shown on a fair number of Arab television networks -- though not on state-run TV. The Arab media reaction is mixed -- the BBC report makes it clear that some of the Arab networks are acknowledging that Iraqis are happy to be free of Saddam. On the other hand, this Washington Post roundup highlights a lot of press coberage that is either delusional or defeatist. The Reuters story splits the difference.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM TOM FRIEDMAN: Yesterday I blogged about the need to speed up humanitarian relief in Umm Qasr. Tom Friedman makes the same point in his column for today.

Andrew Sullivan thinks Friedman -- and by extension, yours truly -- are being too self-critical. Perhaps. I'm just keeping my eyes on the bigger prize -- winning the postwar game as well as the war.

I promise to be celebratory in my next post.

UPDATE: Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi is also upset at the slow pace of humanitarian efforts in Southern Iraq:

"While Chalabi offered gratitude to the coalition for Iraq's liberation, he also expressed irritation that the coalition has not provided more assistance in cities such as Nasiriya and Basra.

As long as humanitarian and infrastructure problems in the country persist, Chalabi said, the country will remain unstable, despite the coalition's military progress. Referring to Iraqi's ruling Baath Party, he called for 'de-Baathification' of the country.

'There will be no absolute security with the current situation. The U.S. troops have defeated Saddam militarily. That was never a problem. The issue is the Baath party and the remnants of the Baath party who will continue to pose a threat.'

He asked why coalition officials are in Kuwait when the southern region is in 'great need of assistance.'

'This is true all over the south,' he said.

'It's very important to be in the southern part of Iraq,' he said, because people have become 'dispossessed' and the citizenry needs to be 'empowered.'

'They must feel they are part of the political process,' he said."

Blog Archive