Friday, September 27, 2002

Side-Effects of Malaria Drug might have contributed to "this summer's string of killings and suicides involving Fort Bragg soldiers" according to a UPI report:
In July, Roche [the manufacturer] added a warning to Lariam's official product label of rare reports of suicides and said that mental problems might occur "long after" taking the drug. It also said for the first time that patients should be told to quit taking the drug if they experience mental problems because they could signal the beginning of "a more serious event."

UPI has been conducting an eight-month investigation of Lariam and reported on May 21 that evidence suggests the drug has caused such severe mental problems that in a small percentage of cases it has led to suicide.
Fear of American Power and Up the Revolution Billy Beck takes me to task a bit for my post below.

Yes. I concentrated on the New Left/'68 Generation because they're the people alive today that express this view. There are, I think, some things that differentiate them from those who came before. It is true that this difference in Western Civilization that is played out in these battles, back to Yalta, the Russian Revolution, the '48 Generation (that's 1848), etc all have earlier incarnations and manifestations. One can go back to Babeauf's Conspiracy of Equals or to Rousseau if not before, and the dislike of certain ideas - which became the ideas and ideals that found their fullest expression in America (and are the reason we have excelled while these other experiments have been human disaster areas).

I don't dispute that; but the current expressions of it, and the methods and means by which it is expressed, that Andrew and Glenn, find it's origins in the New Left, and indeed in so many cases the same individuals who were sounding the clarion call of revolution against "American Imperialism" then are the people who are voicing "concerns" over America and it's "unilateralism" and "bullying" now.

One also has to keep one's posts a little brief, especially when that "one" is "me" and I'm at work. So the above is of necessity a little simple and crude in outlining things; as was the below post that Billy Beck was critiquing. In any case, one can go back to at least the '30s and people can make realistic cases for going back further than that. America wasn't always what was feared before then because it hadn't become perceived as the obstacle to the philosophy that undergirds all this. But there have been, in essence, two alternative directions for the West ever since the American revolution took certain ideas and went one way, and the French Revolution took certain other ideas and initiated the concept of a different path in people's minds. There are various branches and strains in this path and the '68 New Left is one of them, and the one I, in my myopia, was invoking in relation to the current "fear of American power". Anyhow, when I start mixing my metaphors that badly, it's probably time for me to stop writing and move on to another topic.
'68 Generation and Germany: Alan sent me an e-mail that has an interesting take on things, and has graciously allowed me to put it up here:

Just a note about the 68 Generation staying in power: I live in Germany and most smart Germans clearly see that Joshke Fisher is best friends with Colin Powell and that Schroeder's so called anti-American stance is ultimately just a way to corral in the world's hard left when it comes time to support the war in Iraq/Iran/Lebanon in the coming weeks. Young German idiots thought last week that they voted to make Germany the replacement for the Soviet Union. Now, they are realizing that they deceived themselves...that Schroeder will suddenly learn that Al Qaeda is in Iraq and go right along with Bush in the end. And guess what? They are relieved to picture this scenario. They know that Amerika-Hass is really their own psychological problems projected on an innocent and successful country. Few people here really want to see America lose. In fact, the biggest anti-Bush critique I am hearing in Germany is that Bush is "talk, talk, talk and no action." Germans are wondering if Bush hasn't already been deterred by private threats from Saddam that he will nuke New York if an attack really happens.
I'm not sure about that last part, but it certainly is true there's a lot of talk. However, mostly what we here in America is that our allies (especially in Germany) seem to want more talk and are leery of action. I'm sure Bush heres that a lot, too. In any case, that's one reason why I found this mail so interesting. Perhaps what is being portrayed for us over here isn't the full story.

There certainly is a sentiment among some, but I mostly thought it was confined to the Middle East, that this will end up being all talk and in the end won't amount to anything. So they feel that if they come out in support of us, they could be sticking their neck out but then the whole matter will fizzle out (again, as in '98) and they'll be stuck holding the bag.

But it probably goes for allies even in Europe. If some of them go along like Britain has so far, but Russia and/or China block anything and we propose and due to Congressional pressure from our friendly Democrats we decide we cannot act without UN authorization (which those two countries just vetoed), then they're stuck out there having antagonized the man they'll have to continue to deal with. I'm sure there's some of that (of course, just as here, there are a variety of reasons for people's outlook).

After all, people can be forgiven for thinking that America is just doing to be a lot of talk and there will be no action. Not only have we been talking about it for almost a year, now, this time. But there was also that '98 thing (see the post just below) where we talked hard and then let the whole thing drop in the end.

One of my points has all along been that if we make it very clear we're going to move, then a lot of countries who are apparently reluctant now will join us. Some of that is starting to happen already. Words aren't going to convince them we're serious (we've used words on Saddam before, it's done a world of nothing). But action certainly will.

I don't mean to ignore the first part of Alan's letter, on the internal political dynamics of Germany. That's also very intriguing, but in many ways it speaks for itself.

Update: Edited rambling, meandering post to try to improve clarity. Oh, and Schroeder is still a Giftwertz. In my opinion.
The Two Faces of Madeline Albright

Madeleine Albright now:
Madeleine Albright, the US secretary of state under Bill Clinton, on Thursday accused some members of the Bush administration of an "irrational exuberance for this conflict" with Iraq.

Speaking before the Senate committee on foreign relations, Ms Albright said: "It is not an American trait to want war.

"And it is not a sign of sound leadership to understate the risks of war or to offer constantly shifting rationales - as this administration has - for undertaking such a venture," Ms Albright said.
Of course, ever since Greenspan uttered the phrase "irrational exuberance", it has been code for "speculative bubble". Albreight, of course, knows that as she invokes the phrase. I wonder if anyone will accuse her of "politicizing the debate over war"?

Anyhow, on to Madeleine Albright then:
During an appearance on "The Today Show" February 19, Albright emphasized that the United States must help enforce the U.N. Security Council resolutions that require Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to allow U.N. inspectors "unfettered and unconditional access" to suspected chemical and biological weapons sites.

"We would like to solve this peacefully," Albright said. "But if we cannot, we will be using force; and the American people will be behind us, and I think that they understand that."
We mustn't politicize this debate by noticing how people on one side of it seem to be taking a different tone now that a Republican is in the White House than they were when their man was in the White House. Therefore, for now, I'll leave the inconsistent statements of various Congressional leaders out of it. But people not in office are fair game, no?
Fear of American Power Andrew Sullivan wonders why and Glenn Reynolds tries to answer.

I think Glenn is off the mark. Look, there were a lot of people, in Europe and at home, that disliked America more than the Soviets even during the Cold War. Sure, many of them would mouth words to the effect that they didn't like Stalinism and whatnot. But they directed their energies and passion in protests not against the Soviets, but against America. They disliked and abhorred Ronald Reagan's rhetoric far more than they disliked and abhorred the rhetoric of Soviet leaders (especially by the time "Gorby" came around; but even before then). "Cold Warrior" became a phrase of opprobrium by the '70s, if not late '60s.

Those accusations of "American simplicity" and the need to negotiate with, rather than confront, enemies is nothing new, either. That attitude was around long before. Indeed, that is why we find so many members of the New Left, all aging now, using the War on Terror as a way to relive their youth.

One of the differences is that today these people (what in Europe is called the "68 generation") are in power, whereas before they were too young or kept out of power by the sensible margin of difference in the electorate. Now, the electorate did change a bit: that critical margin, which before would see the Soviet threat and not entrust power to the people who distrusted America more than they distrusted the Soviets, well with the Soviet Union gone they (somewhat reasonably) don't think the risks are as high in electing these people. But they've always been around and always been a sizable component. People like Bob Scheer and his European equivalents moved out of the "underground"/"alternative" New Left press and into the mainstream press, and have now risen to become its editors. It's a natural progression. Only a few (such as Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens) have changed the prism they view the world through to keep up with the times. The rest are all locked in the same mindset as informed their youth: remember, then, being in the U.S. was being in "the belly of the beast". The U.S. was disliked because its power stood in the way of that humane Socialist revolution which would inevitably follow if it wasn't for the fact that Amerikkka prevented it. The Soviet Union would be able to reform and lead the way, if only the U.S. stopped confronting it and forcing it to distort the Soviet society and economy by creating an unnecessary arms race. This New Left distanced itself from Stalinism, but believed the Soviet Union could be reformed from within (thus many people's instinctive attraction to Gorbachev when he appeared), but in the U.S. a revolution would be required. They sort of grew out of Revolution (most of them, except for the Hard Left), but they never really got over their dislike of the U.S. and it's economic and social structure.

When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union fell apart, many claimed that, well, they finally saw the truth. Or even before then. But in their heart, they knew they were right about the U.S. all along. They've been looking around ever since for a substitute. In Europe, the EU forms that function. They wear suits and cut their hair, but the dislike and distrust they have for American power is not new. It is, far from being something that arose in the aftermath of the Cold War, is a legacy of the Cold War.

Now, this isn't the whole answer (hey, the post is long enough as it is!), and there are many factors that contribute to this Ameripuissianceophobia. But this is the dominant world ideological view that forms how it is expressed.
Economy Not Quite So Bad in the second quarter as previously reported. revised data puts growth up slightly.
Poisoned Relations between America and Germany is the fault of German political maneuvering and won't be forgotten by Bush, writes Michael Barone:
In 1998, then Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, a former leader of Schröder's Socialist Party of Germany (SPD), said, "Iraq should stop refusing to cooperate, and if all the political efforts that are being made do not result in success, a military operation cannot and should not be ruled out in this case. The United States and Great Britain can absolutely count on German solidarity." Scharping told me much the same thing last July 4 in Berlin, while he was still defense minister (he was sacked because of an unrelated scandal in August). Christian Democratic foreign-policy leaders agreed that the SPD government was likely to support U.S. military action and said there was not much difference on foreign policy between the two parties.

Schröder's post-July 4 shift to anti-American rhetoric was all the more infuriating because it was transparently political.
All too many people insist upon putting the blame for this situation on Bush and America. Lets just call that what it is: a bald-faced lie. Barone also makes this point, which I've made myself:
The members of the European legal apparat and chattering classes are unhappy that the United States will not agree to be subject to the International Criminal Court they want to create, a court that will have a roving jurisdiction and will not be constrained by any existing body of law. It seems likely to act much like the much-praised Spanish judge who indicted former President Augusto Pinochet of Chile and demanded his extradition from Britain because of alleged violations of human rights against Spaniards in Chile many years before. It is inconceivable that such a judge would bring similar charges against Fidel Castro or Yasser Arafat or former Eastern European Communists, whose crimes have been far worse than Pinochet's.
The Continental Europeans are mightily vexed that we decided not to submit ourselves to this court's jurisdiction and political show-trials (thus charges of "unilateralism" are often connected to the fact that we wouldn't agree to do what they wanted us to do, which is what "multilateralism" demands). They are probably not going to get over that, just as they are not going to forgive us for our decision that it wasn't in our interest to ratify the Kyoto treaty.
Kuwait and Jordan fear a preemptive strike by Iraq, according to this World Tribune report.

Maybe. But it won't happen soon. That would cook Saddam's goose right and proper. Right now he still has a hope that diplomatic blather and his non-enemies on the UNSC will find a way to prevent the U.S. and Britain from moving against him. So he's not going to take any action that would spoil that - such as attacking anyone right now. He'll only consider that if a) his position becomes a lost cause and it becomes obvious that Iraq's propaganda and diplomatic efforts have failed or b) he gets the bomb, and thus can deter anyone from coming to the aid of his targets. Then he'll feel free to pursue his larger ambitions, confident that no one in the West will want to risk a nuke attack by intervening then.
Pedecaris Alive or Raisuli dead!
Thank You to all the folks who've been mailing with feedback on this site's appearance. I'm still willing to make tweeks if people still find it hard to read the font color.

Thank you to the people who e-mailed me yesterday to help me fix a variety of malapropisms that I committed yesterday, especially late in the day (sometimes one multi-tasks too much and gets hurried, and should just wait to post).

Special Thank You to Nick Denton. I snickered at the idea that anyone could really believe the kinds of things Barbra Streisand asserted in that letter to Dick Gephardt. He sent me a mail yesterday that made me realize I was wrong. I'm always happy to recognize a mistake.
Agitprop Lives according to Dr. Weevil.

Of course, I can't say too much about the spelling errors part (probably grammar, either). I had a pretty bad day on that score, myself. Sometimes a spelling error is a hint to a deeper plot, but other times a spelling error is just a spelling error.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

TNR Rips Gore a New One: Anyone like me who had the misforture to subscribe to TNR during the last Presidential campaign knows just how much Marty Peretz wanted Gore to win. Peretz and Gore go way back. Gore was the sort of Democrat TNR liked best in the '80s and '90s; moderate, neo-, not infected with the New Left's ideology. So it must have been with great pain that they published this admonishment. Give them credit, though; unlike others (Tim Noah, say), they didn't rationalize Gore's speech or try to explain it away somehow.

I've been making this point as frequently as I've had to:
[I]t is far better, in a democracy, for legislators to vote on critical issues before an election--so citizens know where they stand when they go to the polls--than to delay such votes until after an election and thus shield legislators from accountability for their views.
And I've been doing it for longer than two weeks.
All Too Easy: I mean, first Reiner helps Gore out on forming policy adresses, now we have Barbra Streisand advising Richard "Dick" Gephardt (or is that "Gebhardt"? After all, Babs would know how to spell the name of the person she's mentoring on foreign policy, right?) And oh, yah, all those Iraqi forests, ripe for clear-cutting, as Barbra notes. As a mature, responsible weblog, how do we respond to this? We invite our readers to:
Feel free to call Barbra or me at 310-395-3599 if you would like to discuss this further
Anyhow, knock yourself out with phone calls. My guess is the number will be changed post haste, if it hasn't been already.

Update: So, will the new anti-war slogan for this war be No Blood For Trees? They want to stay on the progressive cutting edge, so they can't simply re-cycle their banners from twelve years ago, can they?

Let that be a rhetorical question. In the meantime, Scott Ott has called the number, and "Gebhardt's" office, and files this report on Babs' geostrategic insight.
We're Getting Really Close to Moving, that's my interpretation of administration officials finally openly connecting Saddam to al-Queda and ramping up the opposition's forces. We're definitely going, and it will be sometime this winter. You do this - charge Saddam with complicity - only when you're sure you're going, and soon. Just as we did with Afghanistan last winter.

With the administration very publicly asserting Iraq's connection with al-Queda, there is no going back. After that, credibility in the war on terror is at stake. Either Saddam goes down, or the whole policy of putting everyone who would harbor and aid terrorists on warning of what will become of them loses credibility. Likewise, they can't make these charges if they're unable to provide congressional and foreign leaders with the intelligence info to back them up, for the same reason. They must be very certain, and very ready.

Update: Philip Dennison writes that he noted an interesting change in the chamo on the hummers around the Pentagon building. I also saw on a wire service a few days ago a report about Kuwaitis noticing purchasing changes among the U.S. troops stationed in their country (they were buying up a lot of stuff that's good to have when you expect to be in the field for a long time). Unfortunately, I didn't blog it; at the time I thought it was interesting but not that big a deal - I can't even remember which service I saw it on. I'll try and find it.

Personally, regarding Philip's post, having worked in a support battalion myself, I think that if they were just undergoing regular maintenance, regular rotation would mean that similar (desert chamo) units would cycle through (either that or one would have noticed a fairly regular pattern where there would sometimes be desert chamo and sometimes jungle chamo vehicles, so this wouldn't be out-of-the-ordinary or unexpected. But Philip finds it noteworthy, so it's probably not a typical rotation).
No Blood For Oil: another reason why Russia looks at action vs. Iraq with a gimlet eye is the effect a successful campaign, followed by re-integtating Iraq (openly and fully, rather than via smuggling) into the world's oil markets, is the effect on oil prices this would have:
[T]he only reason why Russia's economy still has a future is because of the supply reduction decision taken by OPEC in March 1999.

After several years of allowing uncontrolled supply growth among its members that brought the oil price down toward $10 per barrel, the decision to cut supply to just below demand and to continue cutting supply over the following three years forced a sharp price recovery, which led directly to both the recovery in the Russian economy and funded the growth in Russian oil production. This growth in oil production has certainly frustrated OPEC, but the war premium (currently about $8 per barrel) in the oil price over the past 12 months has prevented a more serious confrontation between OPEC and Russia. . .
The threat of a second Gulf war, and the political and economic consequences such a war could have for the Middle East and Gulf countries, mean that a lot more is at stake for OPEC than at any other time in its history. It may have to deal with accommodating a rehabilitated "post-Saddam" Iraq in OPEC's quota structure. In addition, Saudi Arabia's attitude toward the United States may have to change to ensure the survival of the ruling House of Saud.
Now, it's no more true that the only reason Russia is reluctant to go along with action against Saddam is only because of oil than it is to say America wants to simply because of oil. But the "anti" side always plays up the purely economic reasons for the "pro" side's position, so it's only fair to point out that everyone involved has incentives and disincentives of their own. What Russia mainly wants is a free hand to deal with Chechen-related groups (many consisting of Saudi Jihadists) around and in Georgia, and guarantees that the next government of Iraq won't DK Russia on its debt & contract obligations.
Hereditary Dictatorship finds another adherent in Egypt as Mubarak grooms his son as his successor.
Iraqi Opposition Forces to be trained by America:
An unnamed administration source told the Los Angeles Times: "We have graduated to the next step of regime change."

The rebels would not be expected to lead assaults or trigger an internal insurrection, but would concentrate on supporting US and allied ground forces, the official said. Training would concentrate on making sure rebels were familiar with US equipment and capabilities.
This is good news to me, because I didn't think they made for the best front-line forces, for a variety of reasons I blogged about early in the summer.
No Wonder Al Gore's speech was such a inconsistent mess full of blather, a tiresome harangue full of every cliche that could be pulled out of the pages of anti-war journals, pasted together with no apparent rhyme or reason, rather than a thoughtful policy adress. It seems he had Rob Reiner help write it:
He wrote it after consulting a fairly far-flung group of advisers that included Rob Reiner, the actor and filmmaker.
Once a meathead, always a meathead. NYT follows the reference to Reiner with this priceless gem:
For all that, some Democrats expressed skepticism that Mr. Gore had enhanced his standing.
I hadn't known that the NYT was adopting a tone of droll sarcasm in it's reports on Dem speeches ("for all that", having Reiner help him, "some" managed to express skepticism anyhow. har har).
Canada supports U.S. position on Iraq at the UN. (Link via Andrew Sullivan).
Expanding Use of the Word "Unilateral" as a code-word for "bad" can be seen in this FT article on the subject of foreign aid. They want people other than those paying for it to "be involved" in making the decision of how it will be spent (by "be involved" they really mean "get to decide").

That reminds me of something Thomas Sowell once said (or was it Hayek? I guess I can't remember who first said it). There are four ways to spend money. One way is when you spend money on yourself: you're more likely to try and find the best deal so you don't spend more than you have to, and get something that you really want. The second is when you spend your money on someone else. You'll try to find the best deal, and you may try to get what the other person wants, but it's harder (as anyone who's ever given a gift they think someone will like, only to find out later that they either had one or didn't really want exactly that, they were thinking of a different color, or size, or whatever). The third way is when you spend other people's money on yourself. You'll get what you want, but you don't care as much how much it costs or where the money came from (anyone who's had kids will know how this works. My mom still remembers something from when I was a little kid, and really wanted something that she couldn't afford. I offered "well, you could master-card it". I hadn't a clue that needed to be paid, too). The fourth way is when someone spends other people's money on a third party. This is by far the worst way of doing things - price is no object to anyone who doesn't have to pay for anything, and the real needs of the recipient aren't always the first thing in the mind of the giver (feeling good about oneself often trumps that), nor is the learning of responsible use of resources on the part of the recipient. That's how, among other things, government welfare programs spend money, and that's the mechanism that some want for international aide programs (the NGOs especially would love to get in on deciding how donor money will be spent in recipient countries. That way they can socially-engineer to their heart's content on someone else's dime).

Donor coordination, which is the trojan-horse under which this argument is being made, is different from making the decisions "multilateral". Donor coordination is a project that has already been undertaken in many ways and is expanding.

Maybe it was Walter E. Williams
Reasonably Ok Economic Data on joblessness and durable goods. At this point we'll take whatever positive signs we can get.
Axis of Evil II: Last friday I blogged about this North Korea kidnapping and murder spree. Here's an update of this unfolding outrage.
Iraq and al-Queda: Many have, in spite of evidence, been denying any connection between the two. They've also frequently claimed that the U.S. government isn't claiming any connection between the two (which has a bit more truth to it, since it has at least been downplayed). But this pushes a big pile into the pot. I hope that, as Rice says, she has the cards to back it up. I believe, given all I've seen and read, that she will, because it is pretty clear that there is plenty of evidence, circumstantial and otherwise, that al-Queda and Saddam have worked together.
Hitchens and Iraq: For anyone familiar with his writings about the last Gulf War ('90-91), this shows just how much has changed. Not just in the world, but in Hitchen's view of it:
Just on the material aspect - I love it when people darkly describe the coming intervention as "blood for oil", or equivalent gibberish.

Does this mean what it appears to mean, namely that oil is not worth fighting over?

I'm pretty sure that if anyone asked him, he'd say he still believes all the points he made about the last one. But the fact that he's not joining his former comrades in making similar (virtually identical) points today is a noteworthy difference. Frankly, I welcome it. Of all the people who were anti-war back then, Hitchens was the one I respected most. I respect him all the more now.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

In An Expert Fisking, Donald Sensing asks Al Gore to Stop betting my life, Al. I wish all the people like Al would stop betting my sister's life while they're at it. I'll join Mr. Sensing in this, too:
Gosh, am I ever so glad that Florida Democrats don't know how to punch a chad.
I think tons of people - including many who voted for Gore - are thinking the same thing now.
Yet Another Format Experiment here, in a desperate attempt to please my reader so he doesn't go elsewhere. Let me know if this is an improvement or not (by improvement I mean more readable with the dark-red-on-white-background than it was with gold-on-dark-blue. The sort of content one will find here will not change).
Too Bad that Christopher Hitchens is leaving The Nation, as Josh Marshall reports. It's readership will miss him. I wonder which magazine will scoop him up. Maybe TNR. Might be nice if something like National Review contracted him - not because he'd fit in with the staff anymore than he fit in with the down-the-line Leftists of The Nation, but because he'd often challenge the readers (which include me) as much as he challenged those of that mag. Won't happen, but it'd be interesting.

(Link via Instapundit).
Someone Ought to Get Tom Daschle a rattle and a bib. After that, ask him why, if the President's remarks are untrue, he's holding the defense budget hostage. Then ask him why he and his buddies think that security issues aren't really a legitimate issue to debate during an election period. Follow that up with asking him which party's members, led by which Senator, were pushing slashing the defense and intelligence budgets over oh so many years so that they could fund other programs they considered more important ("America's real priorities")? Those three things alone show that his feigned outrage is unwarranted. Especially coming from Daschle, who's done nothing but politicize everything available at every opportunity, and his press conferences each day are replete with examples of remarks directed at Bush and Republicans that are at least as bad (plus usually far more demagogically inaccurate) as what Bush said.

Here's a case where Bush is just telling the the truth and they think it's hell. Oh, and yes; I am quite aware that there are a large number of people that think any issue that hurts Democrats is something that shouldn't be discussed as an election issue and shouldn't be politicized. Only issues that help Democrats are considered acceptable subjects of political discussion to quite a lot of people. But that doesn't mean they should get their way. They need to grow up.

Update: Do you think Daschle's lament had at least as much to do with Democrat Senator Zell Miller making the same point about Senate Democrats as Bush was? I certainly do. (Read also here). But of course Daschle doesn't want to piss Sen. Miller off too much, so he directed his ire at Bush.

Additional: Scott Ott has Tom Daschle's press release on the strategy he'll use in his Presidential campaign, should he decide to run. Brother's Judd fix inaccurate WaPo report. Hey, I've read Dana Milbank's work for years, ever since Milbank started writing for TNR (I used to subscribe to the paper version). This kind of inaccuracy and distortion is not something I'd expect from Milbank. But, I guess it's campaign season. TNR writers were well trained to hype things up a notch during campaign season (I learned to add a high discount to the value of whatever they wrote in the few months before a election and pay closer attention to the modifications, "re-evaluations", and clarifications they'd always print in the issues they published after the silly season ended).

Yet Another Update: This one more funny than anything. If you watch the tape of Daschle's harangue on the Senate Floor, during some camera shots you can see Sen. Byrd behind him. Byrd is either sleeping or reading the newspaper (hard to tell which; his head is slumped down, with a newspaper in front of him). Even Byrd didn't think Daschle's remarks were worth listening to.
Gorespeak As reported on Special Report, in his recent speech, Al Gore said he felt betrayed when the first Bush let Saddam survive (and now he's against going after Saddam, natch), saying:
Back in 1991, I was one of a handful of Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in favor of the resolution endorsing the Persian Gulf War. And I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration's hasty departure from the battlefield.
Al Gore is against having left Saddam in power. Al Gore was always against leaving Saddam in power.

But, not so fast. Not everything got slipped down the memory hole for Big Brother Al. We have the Congressional Record from April 13th, 1991, among other things, where Gore stated clearly:
I want to state this clearly, President Bush should not be blamed for Saddam Hussein's survival to this point. There was throughout the war a clear consensus that the United States should not include the conquest of Iraq among its objectives. On the contrary, it was universally accepted that our objective was to push Iraq out of Kuwait, and it was further understood that when this was accomplished, combat should stop.
Al Gore was against "regime change" in Iraq. Al Gore has always been against "regime change" in Iraq.
"Bush Stays Bitter At Schroeder Win announces the the UPI. Hey, I'm not going to forget, either. If this is how to win elections in Continental Europe, then we shouldn't forget. But, no, it's not "America's Fault" that Germans decided not to like America, the country that backed them to the hilt in Unification. As this FT article points out,
For a start one must say that the real victor of the German poll was not Mr Schröder. He very nearly lost it. The hero of the hour was his junior partner Joschka Fischer, the leader of the environmentalist Greens and foreign minister. His good old-fashioned electioneering, combing the country in a battle bus to meet the people, and his politics of conviction not pragmatism, gained the crucial seats needed to win the day for the ruling coalition.Yet from a European perspective there can be absolutely no doubting the fundamentally pro-American stance of the present German government. Mr Fischer may have been a 1968 radical, but he has been converted. He faced down the deep-seated pacifism in his own party to back US action in Kosovo and send German soldiers to the Balkans and Afghanistan to keep the peace. He is both a committed European integrationist and an Atlanticist. He is also the most popular politician in Germany.

In April Mr Fischer delivered a ringing tribute to President George W. Bush's father for the part he played in driving the process of German unification. The US presence in Europe was "indispensable to Germany", he declared, "regardless of the fact that the EU is increasingly developing into a self-confident, independent player".

But he added: "Americans and Europeans share the same values, but do not always have the same political reflexes." That should not be seen as a fault. But if "Americans tend to emphasize the military side of things, and the Europeans the political, this is at times unfortunately misunderstood and overplayed by both sides".
Fischer sounded a far less hostile tone towards America than Schroeder, even while noting differences. He campaigned fairly, while Schroeder took the low road. This is amazing (the Greens were less hostile to America than the SDP!?!) The Greens were the party in the coalition that picked up strength. The SDP's share of the vote fell.

The UPI article displays the author's view; I think that if an American candidate ran on a platform of hostility to Germany, the same author would blame that candidate, not Germany.

Now, in other ways, the Financial Times article is interesting. It says America "needs" its allies. Well, we do. When they're allies. But that statement reminds me of nothing else but the scene in Conan the Destroyer where the thief decides to hang back and guard the camp, but, finding himself all alone, suddenly announces "they need me!" and races to catch up.

America needs lecturing, condescending harangues like we need more nattering, spiteful, surly teenagers (Meadow on the Sopranos). If we want that, we can get that at home; we don't need to go across the ocean for it. There are plenty of Americans that are willing to provide us with the same sort of "support" we get from the likes of Schroeder. We need Schroeder like we need this Lula character in Brazil.

The kind of allies America needs are ones it can count on in the crunch. What we get is far different in many quarters; they're more concerned over a separate EU force than an allied contribution. Allies who will mouth fine words over dinner but will be reluctant to organize even a minimal, 20,000-man force for future crises, aren't going to be very useful. Maybe they can get in a last stab on Dagos with a knife after Conan cuts the monster down, but they won't be providing a critical contribution.

At least Russia is moving in the right sort of direction.
The Post Where Porphy Whines: This site is rarely if ever about me personally and what I feel. There's a reason for that. A lot of folks seem to have the belief, or at least they pretend to have the belief, that those who favor war and removing Saddam by force are just a bunch of ignorant people who think war is cool and death is unreal, like a video game, and want to see things smashed, and don't realize that lives are involved. They think we just don't understand the reality of war (whereas I would guess that, on average, the "pro" side has read more about war, played wargames, watch more films like A Bridge To Far and read the book and understand how tragic loss can happen even in a victorious war, and, most importantly, had more personal and family experience with the military, than the "anti" side).

I'm sad all the time anymore. Oh, sure, one goes through the day with a smile on your face and there are moments of happiness and laughter. But there's a sorrow that's never too far below the surface. I'm sad about what happened, I dread what we'll have to do. But I dread more the possibility that, once again, we will be dissuaded from doing what I really think needs to be done; and that because of that, the problem won't go away and more of us will die than would otherwise die - and I come to that conclusion from my knowledge of war (you do what needs to be done. It's bloody, but getting it over is better than dragging it out. Grant cried - flopped down into his cot and wept - after the Wilderness - or was it Cold Harbor? At the moment, in this stream-of-consciousness, I can't recall which. But he pressed on, and for it earned a reputation for bloody-minded and ruthless bull-headedness). I got an e-mail from my sister last night. She moved to New York - to Manhattan - several years ago after leaving the Army (she had been with the 82nd, a helicopter repairman). It was something she had always wanted to do with here life; a life's dream. She writes, in a mail titled One Year Later:
The city seems to be hanging in there. Fortunately and unfortunately people have pretty much gotten back to normal. The "new" normal that people were speaking of right after the tragedy faded much too quickly. People were actually nice to each other and looked each other in the eye and acted like they cared for a couple months. That went away however and they're back to their rude selfishness for the most part. It's sad really. I worry. You would think people would change permanently. It was such a life altering event. We are recuperating in other ways though. Our new mayor seems to be good. Businesses are reopening downtown. Things are changing at a higher exponential rate than before. It's tough, but this is still a great place with great minds that could do great things. My perspective on life changed. That's why I quit Goldman [Sacks]. I didn't want to work a job I hated anymore. Life could be all too short, why waste it? Things get better and better for me everyday. I love my new apartment and feel so blessed to have my own place in this crazy city (it's a rarity). I miss family and hope opportunities arise for more visits. I hope you are doing well. Would love to have more correspondence. I realize it's hard. It's hard for me to even do once a month or so. love ya.
She's an artistic person, got a degree in performance arts from the University of Boulder. She emerged from the subway, in the downtown financial district, on her way to work at Goldman Sacks a few blocks away, to find debris raining down around her, on the morning of Sept. 11th 2001. We couldn't get ahold of her for several hours. She caught a ferry to New Jersey and was able to call my mother from there. She was on the phone with my mother, looking across the water towards the WTC, when the first tower came down.

I don't long for war. My grandfather was wounded in WWII. My father was in Vietnam for the first year of my life and we've never been close; not as close as he and my sister have been. He didn't miss the first year of her life. My cousin and her husband, both West Point graduates, are in the Army. I don't look forward to it as some neat and cool way to toy with others as if it were a wargame.

Thing is, we're not utopianists. We don't think that if we just make a few changes to American foreign policy and be more understanding of others and negotiate, that somehow things will work out. It is, indeed, precisely our knowledge of history, and with the frailty and flawed nature of people (where mistakes and misunderstandings, along with ambition, pride, envy, greed, and the like, are real and won't go away), that leads us to a "tragic" view of the world, where sometimes there is no easy solution, like in a hour long TV show where some crisis is resolved by people realizing they were mistaken and it all blows over. Real life doesn't work like that; there are no neat and tidy solutions. We do the best we can. Sometimes that best is awful.

When some anti-war. . .person. . .drips with contempt towards those of us on the pro-war side and sneers insults like "chickenhawk", and says we'd think differently if only we knew more or it was our loved ones who were on the line, I take it fucking personally.
Regime Change: Colin Powell asserts that The US continues to believe that the best way to disarm Iraq is through a regime change. Inspections will just be a game of hide-and-seek; Saddam's regime is the problem.
New Blog: John Ray disects Leftism. A lot of red meat here, and he seems to do his research.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Mike Webster, NFL Hall of Fame Center, and Four time Super-Bowl Champion with the Steelers has died. He was 50.

I've read that the life-expectancy of a NFL player is 54.

I forgot to blog Bob Hayes' death. He was a olympic gold-medal sprinter and one of the few, of those who tried, that was able to make the transition into the NFL and become a quality receiver. More than quality, Bob Hayes was a Hall of Famer as well, and a Super Bowl Champion with the Cowboys (normally "the hated Cowboys" to a Packer fan such as myself, but not in these circumstances, and rivalries are between teams, not dislike of players when they have class. No one could have anything but respect for the abilities of either Hayes or Webster).
Spoons Experience has a report on a Newsweeek (Arab-language edition) article saying that getting rid of Saddam would be just the right medicine to bring the Arab world into modernity:
The Arabs need shock therapy, some kind of tremor that would bring them back to reality and away from their political dreamscape. Egypt’s loss in the 1967 war against Israel was the sort of shock that did away with the nationalist slogans prevalent since the July 1952 revolution carried out by Gen. Gamal Abdul Nasser. If the 1967 shock laid the ground for the spread of Islamism as an alternative to the nationalism, the “Saddam Shock” might be what is needed to launch the era of pragmatism.
The whole article is worth checking out. It hits on what a lot of us have been thinking. Oh, and it's written by an Arab, not a "neocon".
Why They Hate Everyone: kind of a a blunt rejoinder to everyone who says they hate the U.S. (specifically) because of U.S. foreign policy. At least they aren't prejudiced. They hate everyone equally.
Multilateralism, the UN, and Unilateralism: I'd like it if anyone reading this post would first read Eric Tam's post, to which this is a reply. Please go ahead and do that first because I'm not going to be quoting extensively from it, I'd rather that readers see his entire post in context, and with the nature of my reply I'd rather make it in a continuous block than in the oft used interlineated style (which has its uses).

One thing I learned after reading his reply is the degree to which the other side, when they're talking of multilateralism, sees it in terms of the UN. I understand now how the U.S., even with a rather large "posse" (to use Al Gore's imagery from his speech Monday) behind it, can be accused of "unilateralism" none the less, often by those (as in the recent German election campaign) who then speak of the "supreme decision making authority of the [UN] Security Council".

When I wrote my post, I wasn't thinking exclusively - or even mainly - in terms of the UN. But Eric's response was almost entirely focused on the UN as the forum for multilateral consensus. This is a different perspective from mine, because I was thinking more in the terms of the U.S. and it's allies, and that they don't have to help this time if they don't want to or see the need to, and the like.

My initial reaction when reading his response was to spend little time on the analogy he uses and focus on the "formal" part of his response, which at first I thought of as the "meat" of his response, but as I thought and wrote about it I realized that the analogy really illustrated the different points of view between the pro and anti sides, and I spent a lot longer on it than I expected.

But before I get to that, let me raise a counter-example to the Westphalian model: the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Here, the European Powers acted to interfere in the internal politics of France, specifically aimed at "regime change" (in the sense of returning to power the authority overthrown by the French Revolution, which had displaced the pevious, Bourbon regime without outside interference, however). In these wars, there were times when Britain alone (unilaterally) fought France. Yes, someone will point out that this was an extreme case, but the point is that even the Westphalian system that is invoked against wars aimed at "regime change" recognized exceptions when it came to regimes that were perceived as a threat to the security of the structure. In this case, that of Revolutionary France, or even of Napoleon - and there were times in the conflict when Napoleon indicated he would be happy if he were accepted in the same manner as any other monarch within the European system of nations, but those overtures were rejected - mainly because few thought the Emperor was sincere in claiming limited ambitions. It would be very interesting indeed if Michael Walzer's position is that the Westphalian structure allows intervention to suppress revolutionary regimes in a country, but not to remove other regimes. (By the by, just an interesting side question: How many of the nations that exist today were signatories to the Treaty of Westphalia? France, Sweden, the Papal States, and who else? Those are the "big three", if I'm not mistaken. I don't think India, China, Brazil, Nigeria, Japan, or the United States were in on negotiating it's terms and ratifying that treaty. Fantasies to the contrary notwithstanding).

Now, as to the analogy, in some ways it is inapt - but in ways that demonstrate a fundamental disagreement between the pro and anti sides in these discussions. When it comes to living arrangements, we usually imagine it within a certain context. We usually imagine, for example, consent - we agree to live in that building, with those housemates. If it doesn't work out, we can move. Eric does his best to move the analogy close to that of international relations (by isolating his housemates on a island without apparent egress), but unfortunately this cannot eliminate the concepts and context we all have in mind when we imagine a situation like this. We don't just imagine other alternatives to living in that house with those people under those conditions, but we think of mediating authorities outside of the household itself, that are more impartial than those we find in the international arena.

Addendum: The existence of alternatives - one can move to another building, another town, another city even, is very important to those with a more "Hayekian" vision of how justice and change is effected. The very fact that people have alternatives has a restraining effect on abuses; if things get intolerable, people will leave. We can't leave earth, yet. So the same conceptual conditions do not apply.

In the countries where we live, at least, we see such living arrangements within the context of a society with the rule of law based on the consent of the governed (I didn't vote for the Treaty of Westphalia, neither did the U.S. Senate ratify it, and we're being told that it's beyond our ability to modify or spurn its terms, for example). Probably one of the key differences between the pro and anti crowd, not just on Iraq but on how to handle Afghanistan last year (where many were calling for what amounted to the initiation of criminal proceedings) is the extent to which we think there there is, or as a practical manner there can be, that kind of rule of law internationally.

George, in the analogy, or at least in the real-world of households and housemates, call the local police and have Saddam arrested on charges of cruelty to animals and conspiracy to commit arson. A prosecutor with no ties to either would try the case before a Judge that would have no ties to either, and to the maximal extent possible no bias when it came to the outcome - the Judge would be expected to recuse himself if he or she had any connection to the parties that might affect the case. The case would be decided by a jury where, again to the best possible extent potential jurors with a bias one way or another would be excused. We don't find that in the Security Council and won't find that in the ICC, either (where judges will be nominated in a process that resembles how the membership of the UN's Human Right's commissione is determined. That doesn't result in outcomes that people who have a real, rather than superficial, interest in justice would consider positive).

So let's take the analogy in the sense Eric meant it. There are no external authorities that anyone can appeal disputes to. They're isolated on an island. Lets say the Saddam in question has already attacked some of his housemates, killing some members of their family in particularly vile ways (he has also killed despised members of his own household, and even those who are reluctant to take the grave step of expelling him believe that the survivors live unwillingly, in a state of terror, under his control). Some of the people threatened by him are suffering from a form of Battered Woman's Syndrome and are reluctant to speak out against him, not because they want him around, but because they fear what will happen to them if they speak up but he survives, again.

Ariel, however, does stand up - like the people who confront their rapist even while others are intimidated into silence. Ariel wants George to act. But in this building, Ariel's opinion doesn't count for much. See, there is a Co-op Council on which some of the residents sit, and it has the pretence of an entity that enforces a code of conduct in the building. George happens to be a member of this Co-op Council, an important one but only one, envied by many of the members and disliked by others, for reasons having little to do with the matter of Saddam's behavior.

But, like all Co-op Boards and Councils, it's rife with internal rivalries and spite, driven by petty politics more than by a sense of shared justice (indeed, many of the members have conceptions of justice that are absolutely foreign, even abhorrent, to other members). The problem, in other words, is that it has the form of being a forum for fair minded dispute resolution without the substance. It calls upon George to convince it that action is warranted, before George can take action. But it does so while paying little heed to the chaos all around, where others (including Saddam) are violating the principles that the Council is invoking to constrain George - others are taking matters into their own hands in other instances, without the Council being all that concerned (pro-forma condemnations are issued and quickly forgotten, nothing like that which they confront George with). Indeed, many are routinely violating the code of conduct the Council claims to exist to enforce, and they often select some of the worst offenders to chair Co-op committees on, for example, how to protect children (the most notorious of child abusers are selected to be the watchdogs of child abuse, &tc). In addition, many of the resolutions the building's "House Meetings" have passed have often been self-serving and displayed horrendous biases, so an external observer interested in justice would be forgiven for looking at things and thinking it would be a terrible thing if all these resolutions on all kinds of matters got enforced, even if this same external observer felt that it would be just to act against Saddam.

Tony and a few others are supportive of George, but several members of the Co-op Council don't want George to act, and it's impossible to say if this is because of the merits of the case. Vlad and Jack, among others, both have lucrative business agreements with Saddam, and seem concerned that the next occupant won't honor these deals. Lee, another member, just seems to have it in for George and in any case doesn't care if Saddam gets away with shit, because Lee wants to get away with shit, too.

So many of the Co-op Council members seem far less concerned with the merits of George's case and are focused on their own interests. Others, like Lee, wouldn't mind if Saddam did something bad to George. Oh, sure, George would then squash Saddam like a bug, and Lee would agree with action then (while crying some crocodile tears over the unfortunate thing that befell George, but adding that of course everyone must also recognize how George's bellicosity towards Saddam caused him to lash out at George). See, Lee doesn't care about Saddam one way or another and couldn't care less what happens to Saddam's neighbors, but thinks that anything that might hurt George will be to Lee's benefit in the long run. In the meantime George's fretting over Saddam keeps George's attentions elsewhere - also good for Lee.

In order to get this assemblage to agree, it would be more appropriate to say that George will have to bribe its members or pay a premium for the support of, for example, Lee, than it is to say that all he needs to do is present a case and they will decide it on its merits. So what we see is, rather than an impartial forum where justice matters and is dispensed even-handedly on the merits of an issue, we find instead a forum driven by naked self-interest, envy, greed, and mutual loathing based on antagonisms and rivalries that are often unrelated to the issue under consideration.

Some have compared this situation to that of High Noon. But in many ways this situation better resembles that of Lord of the Flies (even the Simpsons version where they try Milhouse with Nelson Munz as the prosecutor and Bart as the judge). Hey, it fits here because those kids were all isolated on an island together, too. It took an external deus ex machina to resolve things. A forum of civil decision-making among the kids in the book was impossible.

As for the formal response, much of the issues raised in that are discussed above. Eric's formal response revolves around the conception of "the security council acting as the ultimate arbiter". But the Security Council has no greater formal warrant to such authority than any other entity (state or subset of states), and is at least as likely to abuse it. It is, indeed, in many ways even worse as a vessel for such authority because it has - as in many ways the kinds of arguments raised by the anti side end up showing - the potential to present the illusion of the existence of a deliberative body with sound judgement on these matters, but utterly lacking the substance.

Frankly, it is more likely that an elected President and elected representative bodies, accountable to their people (who aren't such bad people, really), in one rationally acting State, even by themselves, will exercise sound judgement (in no small part because if they abuse it they will be judged and sanctioned by the international community of disparate states, whereas in the case of the "international community" of the UN taking such power into its own hands, there isn't even that level of accountability; no one nation is responsible so no one is accountable for the consequences. That's probably why so much bad junk issues forth from the UN on a regular basis). Indeed, a decisions made by political leaders that are accountable to the people who will be expected to pay the price is quite different from past experience on the issue of accountability when it comes to the UN, where accountability is treated as a dirty word. With all its flaws, even NATO seems better than the UN in this sense, because at least in its case all the members are accountable to voters. But within NATO itself we see how rivalries can obscure the merits of a given issue and that there are very different conceptions of what responsible international behavior requires (for example, it required the Balkans to be turned into a charnel house again before Clinton managed to drag them, cajole them, and shame them into finally taking action). I'm not saying that either NATO's or the U.S. alone would exercise perfect judgement, but I think they're more likely to than the UN, which is more likely to have a corrupting influence (the resolution's passage, if it does pass, will more likely be determined by cutting secret deals on unrelated matters than on the merits or demerits of action).

This is especially true when the issue is a grave threat to a specific nation, or subset of nation's, security - what happens may affect the rest of the world to a lesser degree, and when it comes to making speeches it might be important to talk of the "threat to the world's collective security". But the blunt truth is that the risks aren't borne equally by everyone. China, for example, is under little direct threat from Iraq. Europe shares some of the risk but lets face it, as the biggest guy on the block we're more likely to get hit than they. The fact that Israel faces a disproportionate threat causes those who dislike Israel for reasons unrelated to Saddam to be less concerned than they would be if they were the ones in more immediate danger. If the risks aren't borne by anyone, it must also be pointed out that neither does the UN (or UNSC) share the burden, the costs, anywhere near equally. When we boil it all down, they want the decisions to be made "multi" on how our "uni" resources will be used. Even among those allies who say they will participate in any UN-authorized action, only Britain is prepared to really contribute a substantive contingent. The rest will contain themselves to token components. Indeed, among the Continental European members of the Security Council, there is vast resistance to the proposal that they increase and transform their militaries so they will be better able to respond to such problems in the future - as those who are watching efforts in Poland to convince them to go along with a NATO modernization are seeing. Those nations are the best of the lot; we won't see China contributing anything at all to any enforcement, and few of the temporary members will be contributing anything, either.

We also have to add that other nations don't really, when it comes to their own behavior, see the world through the model where "multilateral" (in this argument meaning "must get UN approval") trumps "unilateral" action. Russia isn't holding itself to that standard with respect to the options it is considered vis a vi Georgia. India gave no indication, when they were seriously considering war against Pakistan, that they felt any need to defer to the Security Council. Indeed, even while various nations worked to defuse the situation no one - not even the BBC - said that India would need to bring evidence of the complicity of Pakistan's government in cross-border infiltration by terrorists before the Security Council, make a case for action and get approval. (Note that the assertion representatives of India most often made, at least on the BBC World Newshour, that the fact that infiltration was occurring was evidence enough that Pakistan was complicit, is insufficient. After all, India wasn't preventing all such infiltration, either, and unless they were conceding their own complicity then the mere fact of failing to prevent crossings is not a proof of supporting such activity. I don't mention this because I'm claiming there was no Pakistani government involvement, almost certainly there was. But it shows one can make it as difficult as one wants for someone to "prove" their case). Note here that arguing contra "regime change" is a different argument from arguing contra "unilateral action", so putting that forward as a distinction between the cases of Russia-Georgia and India-Pakistan on the one hand and the US/Britain/Spain/Italy/Poland/Czech Republic etc. - Iraq on the other hand does not form an argument against unilateralism as such.

People might say that those two examples are not identical to that of Iraq. But if one believes that in those cases the interests of the nations involved differ enough from the situation we find ourselves in with Iraq so that they don't need to get UNSC approval but we do, then it does rather prove my initial point that unilateralism as such is not bad and one has to make more of an argument of why we need UN approval (or multilateral support generally) more than Russia or India would be required to have. Simply invoking the mantra of unilateralism being a bad thing won't do it.

It's also true that a selective application of a principle - the U.S. is expected to get UN approval but Russia, India, and others can behave as they see fit without reference to the "authority" of the Security Council, means neither that principle nor that "authority" can be considered either legally or morally binding. In that case - in the case we actually seem to find ourselves in - this should just be seen as another tool used opportunistically by those pursuing their own interest in the usual manner. Thus it really wouldn't, and doesn't, matter what the Security Council decides. It doesn't bind others so it cannot bind us either. If it refuses authorization, then it certainly doesn't bind Iraq to it's decisions (resolutions; which are far more than just "inspections"), so it cannot be seen as legitimately binding us either.

Many of the people on the anti side indeed are aware that UN resolutions aren't enforced for everyone. Mostly they focus on the fact that Israel is exempt. Well, like I said - my opinion is that it would be positively wicked and unjust to enforce most UN resolutions, and that most of those that pass are hypocritical and one-sided (why does the UN focus so much on getting Israel out of the West Bank but not Syria out of Lebanon? Indeed, why did the UN focus so much on getting Israel out of Lebanon but not Syria? Why isn't there a similar level of attention paid to getting China out of Tibet?) The UN simply isn't a responsible organization, and perpetuating the misguided belief that it is does not help spread "justice", it helps spread injustice and malevolence.

This means that there is, under the terms of the anti-side's own argument, a sense in which Bush's speech and appeals to the threat to the world's collective security is even more apt for them than it is for my case. This is unrecognized in the quickness so many have to criticize Bush. But, ironically, for those who think that disputes should be handled in a forum like the UN and that it will decide matters meritoriously rather than meretriciously, how it responds to this crisis will determine, in large part, whether its structure is a basis for "collective security" or not. Frankly I think that this whole method is fraught with problems so that even if we manage, like last time, to cajole and bribe SC members into passing a strong authorization, it shouldn't be seen as a precedent for the future. Certainly not unless the whole UN and Security Council starts behaving in what would be a very un-UN like manner, as an even-handed and just body invoking things consistently and in a decent manner. I expect to see the Rapture before I think think I'll see that. There is little that is more improbable.

But in any case, even (especially) after having written so much on this one aspect of the issue under dispute, I think the reason the two sides have such opposing views on this, as well as so many other issues (both foreign and domestic) is because there are two very different, competing and largely opposed world-views at work here. That is probably one thing that leads to the fact that both sides have trouble understanding how the other can come to conclusions that each thinks are absurd from the perspective of their own world-view. So I'm not sure that even with lengthy posts like this, anyone will convince the other side.

Anyhow, Eric did make a full argument. I'm not sure it was on why Unilateralism is in and of itself bad. But it was long and well considered. I just disagree, for the reasons discussed above.

Update: Edited some portions for clarity and syntax and added the "addendum".

Monday, September 23, 2002

Unilateralism: Always Bad: Eric Tam took me up on my challenge to show why unilateralism was in and of itself and always bad, in a long and thoughtful post which I just learned about now (through no fault of Eric's - he said he sent me a mail notifying, and with additional stuff, but for whatever reason I never got it; he sent me a mail on another topic today and asked about it, and that's how I found out I hadn't seen it). If I have readers who haven't seen the post, check it out. See if it convinces you. I'll be posting a reply when I get a chance (It's long and deserves a thoughtful reply).
Schroeder's Victory and it's impact on German - American relations is discussed by Steven Den Beste.

I hope Schroeder doesn't think that mouthing a few platitudes will be enough to paper over the rift his campaign rhetoric caused, so that we'll go back to sleep, Bush will forgive and forget, and politicians like Schroeder can keep feeding this attitude in future elections. He'll have to do a lot to repair things.

There are some who want good trans-atlantic relationships but also wanted Schroeder to win to show American leaders how they're disliked in Europe. They seem to believe that, if confronted with the reality that the people we call allies actually harbor ill-will towards us, and that when they compare America's leaders to Hitler, we will blame America rather than seeing it as a pathology in Europe. Far from having a "whip", Bush has simply refused to be whipped - he has never said Europe shouldn't do what it finds in its interest, he has just refused to be nagged into going along with what Europe wants the U.S. to accept.

As for "interference" in German elections, if German politicians want to make the election a referendum on who hates their allies most, then it's certainly fair for those who are targeted by such rhetoric to speak openly - whether or not it helps or hurts anyone in the election. That way the German electorate made an informed decision. Now they can't complain that they didn't know the rhetoric of the parties they voted into power was actually having a substantive - and negative - impact. As I wrote yesterday, Germany got to make its choice. We'll make ours.

Furthermore, it's not just Americans who have taken exception to the way the SDP ran it's campaign. That FT article linked to above expresses it well:
The chancellor's bold stand earned him new support at home, but at the expense of his credibility abroad. "Incomprehension", "bafflement" and "bewilderment" are three of the politer words being used in western capitals to describe the reactions to Mr Schröder's criticism of US policy towards Iraq.
Likewise, our stance towards Europe hasn't been to "hold the whip" over them. When, as they almost certainly will, the European "partners" reject plans for NATO reform, we won't force them - we never have - we'll just plan our own military transformations while they do what they want.

What we have here from Europe is a case of projection - they're not unhappy that we're whipping them into accepting or scrapping the ICC or Kyoto, they're unhappy that they haven't been able to whip us into doing so. Schroeder's victory isn't going to make America's government sit up and say "oh, you know, when they said we're operating like Hitler, they had a point. We're suitably chastened". It is Germany - and Europe - that needs to engage in some introspection here.
Russia is Moving Towards Action Against Georgia, noting the support of Georgian officials for terrorists affiliated with the Chechen rebels:
Friday that Russia gave U.S. officials "incontrovertible data proving links between Georgian official representatives and terrorists in Georgia."
The Russian Duma is debating authorizing military action in Georgia.

Me, I have a question for all of those who have talked about the "supreme authority" of the UN in recent weeks and admonished the U.S. against "unilateral" action (where "unilateral" is defined as "supported by Britain, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, some Gulf states, but not Germany and France"). Do they hold other countries - such as Russia - to the same expectation? Will they be calling on Russia to get authorization from the Security Council? Will Russia be calling on Russia to get such authorization? After all, they should be able to make the case as well as we are - if people are attacking Russia from Georgian territory, they should be able to get a resolution easily. But that's not the question.

The real question is: are those who make such demands when it is U.S. action in question even-handed across the board and hold all countries to the same standard? The answer, of course, is "no".

Update: Oh, this is even better:
""Must we wait for guerrillas to cross our borders and disperse (inside Russia)?" Ivanov asked, adding that Russia had a duty to "take preventive measures to ensure security and the lives of Russian citizens."
Sounds like someone is making a case for pre-emption. Especially in conection with this:
"If the Georgian leadership cannot ensure security along the Russian-Georgian border, if it continues to ignore United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 of 28 September 2001, and if it fails to put an end to bandit incursions and attacks on neighboring Russian regions, then we will reserve the right to act in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter that grants every UN member state the inalienable right to individual or collective self-defense," Putin said.
(Here is another view of U.S. - Russian relations).
Political Rhetoric II: Armed Liberal was kind enough to link to my response. The comments to his post are what are most interesting. They show that people really don't mind too much when "their side" is vicious in political rhetoric (they tend to like and excuse it, and want more of it). They only get outraged when the other side does it. They also seem to be making a strong effort to keep Armed Liberal on the reservation on this issue. In any case, the comments were interesting enough I'm going to reply to several of them.

Firstly, Al Gore ran as brutal a campaign as anyone in recent memory. Revisionists may now try to pretend that he was mr. nice guy, but he was at least as brutal and arguably more dirty than Bush. Certainly, his electoral coalition was. The ad smearing Bush as somehow responsible for killing James Byrd all over again because he simply enforced the law against the perpetrators but didn't go in for "Hate Crimes" legislation was not "nice campaigning". (Clinton era-Democrats were at least as brutal as anything Johnson ran; the radio ad run in Saint Louis on radio stations directed at a Black audience saying that if you don't vote Democrat, more churches will burn, rival the Daisy commercial in demagogy. So Mike really has nothing to fear on that score).

Similarly, William Burton's "parable" is, frankly, so much revisionism. The Harken stuff was gone over during the campaign, as was Cheney's Halburton stock (which the Dems demagogued until he agreed to sell it, now they demagogue him for getting out when he did). Likewise, the Gore campaign had access not to any information on cocaine (there is no credible information to have), but on the drunk driving charge (Bush did his time, Gore family members never do). In spite of the fact that this "issue" had been played to death by that trial lawyer and former (Democrat) candidate and then radio talkshow host in Michigan, a Democrat operative "happens" - just like those two operatives in Florida that "just happened" to get a conversation between congressional Republicans on their cell phone while they were driving and "just happened" to tape ot - to release it to friendly members of the media the Friday before the election, which play along and treat it as if it is new and hype it relentlessly. Bush then handles it horribly, so he deserved to suffer.

Likewise, Gore's Florida tactics were as dirty as anything, claiming to want to "count every vote" while doing everything possible to exclude overseas ballots that he knew wouldn't favor him, and bullying (Democratic) county election officials into changing standards during the recount so they would produce (create) more votes for Gore.

Similarly, Ara Rubyan is only right in one sense in saying Newt represented a "new chapter" - someone actually trying to use the underhanded political rhetoric of Democrats against them. For they, the ideologically driven historians that Ara relies upon will never forgive him, even while portraying Democratic candidates who used vicious rhetoric to smear their opponents with the help of their own media mavens as "hard-knuckled campaigners" and lovable scamps. But it's hard to argue that Newt accused Democrats of anything on the level of what Democrats have frequently accused Republicans of - being fascists, racists, etc. So Ara simply doesn't make an argument or provide any examples. It's hard to point to anything Newt said as the equal of those Democrats who said people who favored tax cuts were the new racists, or the distortion Democrats used against even Newt (claiming he said he wanted Medicare to "wither on the vine", when what he wanted was to provide an option alongside the old bureaucracy-run system that allowed people to make choices for themselves, and he figured the old way of would wither as a result because people would prefer the option that gave them more say; and that's just one example among many).

What Ara says about Rush is pretty much ad hominem and I doubt it's backed by actually having listened to Rush for any length of time. It's also irrelevant sleight-of-hand to distract from the real point.

Unlike Ara, who doesn't want people to think or read to much about this - I suppose because they might discover that things aren't so one-sided - I welcome people hitting the books on this.

Mike just adds more of the same: rather a distraction, since I didn't write that Republicans were innocent, and tends to undermine his argument by engaging in ad hominem political rhetoric himself, calling people he doesn't like liars without any offer of proof. If one wants to go back to the '19th century political rhetoric, Ann Salsbury is much more on point. Similarly, what Mike leaves out of his account on the "bloody shirt" is that the Democrats had run campaigns (especially against Lincoln) playing explicitly on racist sentiments (with such nice themes as overtly portraying a Lincoln victory resulting in Blacks being able to go git white women, &tc). In the post-reconstruction era this tactic continued.

This does rather, in a backhanded way, prove Ara's point, however: historians and academics (like Woodrow Wilson, who encouraged the revival of the Klu Klux Klan that Grant had suppressed) that favored the Democrats and who disliked Reconstruction and romanticized the South did for a long time misportray and demonize Republicans such as Grant (read here and scroll down to Grant; there was also a good "American Experience" two-parter on Grant on PBS last year which I'd recommend to anyone interested in the subject) in a way that will be familiar to anyone who is watching attempts to do the same to modern Republicans. So she may get her wish. But it will involve the usual practice of slipping a lot of the historical record down the memory hole, as they did with Grant.

Update: Ara writes to tell me that I was wrong, Ara listens to Rush once or twice a week. On that I stand corrected. Ara also has a blog.
Blair Briefs Cabinet on Iraq today and warns not to let Saddam Hussein use negotiations as a delaying tactic. "The UN has to be a means of dealing with this issue. It is not a means of endless prevarication".

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Condolezza Rice outlined U.S. goals in Iraq and the Middle East in a FT interview. The goals we have seem fairly similar to some of what has been discussed as solutions by, among others, Armed Liberal. Working to support reformist elements within the region is a key aspect.
Schroeder Wins, narrowly, as I figured he would. Well, Germany made its choice. We'll make ours.
On Distastful Political Rhetoric: Armed Liberal is probably one of the more thoughtful bloggers. But I have to pick a nit about a recent post of his. Firstly, if by "WWF" he meant the World Wildlife Fund, then that's certainly an apt comparison (they have a tendency to demonize and mischaracterize anyone, such as Bjorn Lomborg, that comes to different conclusions based on an analysis of the facts than they do). But I suspect he meant the "World Wrestling Federation". Alas, That WWF is no more. They are now World Wrestling Entertainment, having lost a suit over the use of "WWF" to the Wildlife Fund.

Secondly, the sort of tone that he discussed in that post and attributed to Newt Gingrich (others have attributed it to Lee Atwatter), I hate to say this, as a former Liberal from Madison Wisconsin, that tone has existed among Liberals for a long time. It's one of the things I didn't like even when I called myself a Liberal. It's something that got infused into the politics of the Democratic Party when the New Left came into that party, if not before. It wasn't Goldwater Republicans who were shouting "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today" outside the White House.

My mother, also a longtime Democrat and Liberal (she still considers herself a Liberal but no longer considers herself a Democrat - that's very recent, though), would always say the same sort of things: nasty, thoughtless politics came from the Right. Well, I hate to say that it didn't.

I've been reading a book on the political aspects of World War II, The New Dealer's War (written by a self-described Truman Democrat). This book has a number of flaws. But it does strike me with one thing: the extent to which New Deal Democrats, such as Henry Wallace, were willing to compare their political opponents at home to Hitler, and say that those who disagreed with them represented incipient American Fascism. And we're not talking the Lindbergs of the world, here, we're talking mainstream Republicans. If this tone wasn't present in Blogs until fairly recently, 1) I don't know that to be true (warbloggerwatch is pretty nasty, seems to have always been, seems to have always preferred a distorting statement about views they don't like and a polemical harangue to a reasoned argument, etc). But if it was true for some, IMO it was only a matter of time before this long tradition of rhetorical excess expressed itself. It's not new, I'm sorry to say. It's not one-sided, either, but it's not something that has a neat-and-clean origin and "we're only fighting back" (as many Democrats will claim when they're presented with this). That is simply not the case, however. It was the Johnson campaign that ran the infamous "Daisy" commercial, not Goldwater. Disagree with Goldwater if you will, but his campaign was more philosophical. In a sense, given the rhetoric Johnson's campaign engaged in, it was almost poetic justice that he got hoisted on a similar petard, from the Left, in future years. I say almost. No one deserved that).

It simply is more accurate to say that for many, many years the Republican minority in the house had been happy to smile and be collegial hail-fellow-well-met and get along while, Tip O'Neil (who I still have an inexplicable respect for) let - even at times encouraged - members of his party to engage in the most ruthless, scorched-earth politics in characterizing Republicans. A successive series of Republican minority leaders would just try to explain that they weren't demonic racist Klansmen who wanted to put grandma on an iceberg. In effect that they really had stopped beating their wives, but they simply disagreed with Democrats (and thought Jack Kennedy was right on, for example, taxes and Communism). No one person or party has a monopoly of blame when it comes to vile political rhetoric.