Friday, January 17, 2003

The UN's Moral Credibility: disected by Austin Bay. His opinion of that august institution, the only body worthy of authorizing any action by the U.S., mirrors mine.
Fisking MoveOn II: So long time readers of this site (actually, you don't have to have been reading for more than a couple weeks) might remember the last time I posted about this front group.

Who knew that just a few weeks later they would produce something others might notice? Now some folks are in a bit of a tizzy because of their new ad, which is a reprise of the "Daisy" commercial one Bill Moyers put together for the Lyndon Johnson campaign in '64, to try and inflame people into waves of hysteria over the possibility that Goldwater might get elected.

The MoveOn version of the ad is more of the same. Indeed, it proves several of the things I've been saying ever since I started this Blog:
  • Saddam wants the bomb in part so he can deter the U.S.

  • Groups like MoveOn are functionally the propaganda arm of America's enemies.
Sound harsh? The ad's essential message is that America should be deterred (if we act, the cute girl with the daisy gets it) and puts Bush in the role of provoking things unnecessarily - the ad takes as a given that the Bush administration is the problem, not Saddam's regime.

That's about all that needs be said. Oh, wait, one other thing: this ad seems consciously designed to persuade the least amount of people - they deliberately and consciously use one of the most notorious and disreputable ads ever employed in the political arena in America as their model. One could almost say it's designed, deliberately, to turn people off. It's thus more of a self-congratulatory pose that helps them confirm for themselves that they're a band of visionaries, a select few able to pierce the veil of propaganda and perceive the real truth, and others don't join them because we're just sheeple. Fits in pretty well with what Armed Liberal has written about the War on Bad Philosophy and how the anti-war movement fits in with other delusional ideologies acting out a form of theater rather than really engaging reality. Even if persuading people matters to them, it's obviously very secondary to self-congradulation and ostentatious theater aimed at confirming their self images and allowing them to relive past glory through current events (It's no accident, as they would say, that their current ad harkens back to an ad from the '60s era, as the anti-war crowd in general strives to recreate The Movement from the '60s).

Either that or they just don't have any better arguments to present.

Probably a bit of both.
U.S. Industrial Production fell last month and the trade deficit rose.

Economic news still remains mixed (but, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out, "sluggish" economy by American standards is "roaring" by European standards).
Probably Light Posting today unless something fires me up.

Meanwhile, I'll just say: people shouldn't let themselves get too worked up over the 122 mm rocket warheads (empty) in and of themselves. Those aren't the breach - they're an example of the breach, which was the incomplete weapons declaration Iraq submitted. Also, it's a see, I told you so: something found, Saddam's minions say "oh, we just forgot about those". Exactly what I said they'd do. Just like I knew there would be efforts to minimize the importance of whatever was found (and, well, in this case, like I said: I'm recommending not getting worked up over the warheads themselves; their significance is just in the context of the already obvious fact that Iraq failed to comply with the Resolution's demand for a complete disclosure of banned weapons - that's the materiel breach).

Meanwhile, the French continue to play both sides, on the one hand preparing to get into the act in case of war ("see, we helped") and on the other hand doing everything they can to save their reliable trading partner, Saddam. Fine. Their choice. Doesn't - or at least it shouldn't - come without consequences. I'm sure they think they're being clever, placing themselves in a "win-win situation", but as long as people like myself both notice and remember this behavior, I'm not sure it'll be that.
Mustard, Not Nerve: Yesterday I wrote "nerve-gas" when I should have written Mustard gas.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Warheads Found in Iraq. But, as with the nerve-gas tipped artillery shells last year
the find is "not a smoking gun" that might indicate Iraq had violated U.N. resolutions.
Because the UN team has as a goal preventing Iraq from being declared in materiel breach, so nothing they uncover will qualify as a "smoking gun" in their eyes (see my posts from throughout the week on this subject).
This Would Be a Step in the Right Direction, if it ever came to pass. Especially this part:
An early version of a future EU constitution, prepared by the former French president's staff and seen by the Financial Times, would forbid the EU from harmonising member countries' laws in areas ranging from industry to employment.
I should hope that includes tax policy, as well (if it doesn't, then that's a huge gap; the main thing the "Harmonizers" want is to compell everyone to have taxes similar to those of France and Germany).

But everything's moving in the opposite direction, and this proposal was greeting cooly at best by the usual suspects:
But Mr Giscard d'Estaing's latest contribution - the first of a series of draft constitutional articles - is likely to face an angry response from many of the 105 members of the Convention, which intends to submit a completed text to national leaders in June. More far-reaching ideas to constrain the EU were rejected last year by Convention members
So it's far more likely that the exact opposite will occur, and "Harmonization" will be mandated rather than curtailed.

Also, if you read the article carefully, the idea that the EU government should be limited is seen as somehow insulting by many of those reacting to this proposal, and that the EU should have wide powers even if (right now) no one intends them to be used. Yet. Quite. . .telling.

Meanwhile, there's also this and I suppose I could make some comparisons with these proposals and the sort of structure it would create and that of another Union of Socialist Republics that collapsed about a decade ago (which had a quite interesting internal structure that was rather designed to be non-functional in areas of democratic accountability, with the real work being done through the nomenclatura), but I'll hold off for now.
If People Think I'm too harsh on the inspectors, well here's a Washington Post editorial from today on their irresolution and fecklessness:
Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix, a Swedish diplomat, can see that his mission is failing. But rather than report that to the Security Council, as required by 1441, he is attempting to redefine both his mission and the resolution. . .

. . .His motive is obvious: He would like to head off U.S. military action at any cost, even though such action clearly has been justified by Iraq's failure to comply.
Which is exactly what I've been pointing out.
Mort Screws the Pooch! on yesterday's edition of "Special Report", Mort Kondracke, otherwise quite able, made a huge blunder.

In criticising Rush Limbaugh's call to have the House "freeze out" Linda Daschle's clients, he inadvertently broke the tacit embargo reputable, mainstream news organizations have maintained regarding Daschle's connections to the lobbying community (that kind of stuff is supposed to be restricted to right-wing wacko venues, Mort!)

I mean, it's one thing to have Frist questioned and his background and ties exposed. But Mort mentioning this might cause people to question the persona that has carefully been constructed for Daschle (by, among others, Mort Kondracke) as the "Last Decent Man in the Senate."

I know, it was intended as a swipe at Limbaugh. But as soon as Mort mentioned "lobbyist", many otherwise oblivious viewers no doubt stood up in their seats and said to themselves "his wife is a lobbyist? Isn't that the kind of one-hand-washes-another corruption that the CFR types and Daschle included have always harped on as distorting, if not destroying, the political process so it works for Fat Cats (like Big Airline) and against the little guy, the working families of America, the regular people?

I know Mort was only trying to do Gods (or at least Democrat's) Work by exposing Limbaugh for the meanie he is, but next time, Mort, be more careful in reading DNC talking points! Some of them aren't well thought out for the strategy! Mort discredited the noble Daschle at least as much as Limbaugh, though I know that was far from his intent.

Mort is usually more careful.
The Moral Glory and High Principle that the UN represents and embodies is illustrated by Libya's impending chairmanship of the UN Commissione on Human Rights.

Only the UN can lend moral legitimacy to an international policy, and they display just why they have earned such high regard through their behavior. Right? Right?
The Interesting Thing about this isn't just the prospects for the German economy, but the chart showing it's anemic (at best) performance over the entire preceding decade. Meanwhile, in other news on the German front. . .
The Internal Contradictions of the anti-American protest movement, not just there, but worldwide.

Satire can be revealing.
Jobless Claims down significantly but CPI up, due to fuel and food. The economy is still sluggish.
Meanwhile, in Russia they're busy patching things up with their good buddy Saddam, and laying claim to as many oil fields as they can. Funny, though. Only Amerikkka ever gets accused of greed. . .
Credit Where Credit is Due: Hans Blix managed to put the burden where it belongs, for once:
To avoid war, Baghdad must provide new credible evidence that it has eliminated its suspected nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes and allow its scientists to be interviewed freely in Iraq or abroad.
However, on this latter thing, I have to say I was wrong.

When the new Resolution was being debated last fall, I thought the provision about interviewing Iraqi scientists outside the countries (with their families accompanying them) would be a very significant provision. However, I underestimated the ability of the UN to collude with Saddam's regime to subvert the Resolution's intent (yep, even I, a huge skeptic of the UN's good will, managed to underestimate their capacity in this respect).

See, I thought they understood what would be required - they would need to go to the scientists, tell them to get their stuff together, they'll be back in a day or so, bring their families along, take them to be interviewed. The Inspectors instead seem to be handling it this way:
Inspector (to their Ba'athist Liaison assigned to them by Saddam): We'd like to interview some of your scientists, preferably outside the country.

Tikriti Mobster: Vell. Ve find zis vedddy troubling. You spy against the Reich! Nevee ze less, ve shall zee if our zientists vish to go, ja?

Inspector: *Shuffles feet* Well, yes, of course. We don't run a kidnapping or defection agency here or anything.

Tikriti Mobster: Zo. Let us go.

*They go to a building where an Iraqi scientist is brought before them in a large room with a single desk, a naked light bulb hangs from the ceiling, the walls painted a dingy white color. An armed guard stands just outside the stout door.

Inspector (to scientist): So, we would like to interview you outside Iraq on your knowledge of Iraq's weapons programs. What do you think of that idea, my good fellow?

Tikriti Mobster (also to scientist): Und Ja. Just vat DO you tink of dis idea? You vould rather stay in Iraq, ja? *Tikriti mobster pats his gun and glares at the scientist*

Scientist: *gulp* Um, er, yes. I would rather stay here under the watchful eyes of Big Brother, so the spies don't try to manipulate me.

Tikriti Mobster: *to the scientist* You are a loyal zitizen of the Reich! Ve commend your loyal zervice!
*to the Inspector, with a smarmy smile* Zee? He, like ze others, does not vish to go.

Inspector: Well, we don't force anyvan - er, anyone.
So that's how that goes down. I was hyperbolic satire for effect, I know. But that is about what's happened so far, as one can tell by Blix musing on what apparently seems to him to be an incredible new idea (you know what UN bureaucrats do with ideas when they find them):
"One way would be to let them talk without any minder present. Another would be to accept that they go abroad, if they want to do so," he said.
Interview them without any minder present! Wow. Why didn't I think of that? Think they might talk a bit more freely without one around? Perhaps?

I guess it'll depend on where their families are, whether the room has been cleared of bugs beforehand, etc. (And no, given what I've seen so far, I'm not at all confident that the inspectors take even minimal precautions against listening devices.)

Classic line from Solana, by the by:
"I share completely this position of Mr Hans Blix...We are demanding a more pro-active cooperation from *snip*
Did he really use the word "pro--active"? You know, Solana does sort of have Dilbert Boss Hair.

Still, the fact that they're putting the burden on Saddam today rather than the other way probably shows that Condi Rice's little chat the other day had some effect. I'll grown if they go back to claiming there "is no smoking gun"; that was always a garbage asertion. As I ICQed to a friend yesterday, Saddam not disclosing things that the UN et all knew Iraq had in '98 or saying what became of it is the "smoking gun" but people who want to be oblivious will be. . .and the UN and international community has been.

Update: Then on the other hand there's this, so perhaps the inspectors have had a fire lighted under them. I still want to see if this is a momentary thing to throw off criticism, or if they will be "more pro-active" on a consistent basis and keep the pressure where it belongs - on Saddam. That also does include keeping the pressure on the fact that Saddam's non-disclosure is in and of itself a "smoking gun".

Also, it remains true that absent luck, inspectors aren't going to find anything. But the purpose of inspections isn't to conduct a search for a needle in a haystack, anyhow. They're simply to verify Saddam's compliance or lack theirof. By leaving out of the report things that Iraq was known to have, and failing to account for their disposition, the inspectors should be - if they were doing their jobs - verifying and certifying Iraq as in materiel breach for failing to comply.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Rich Galen has some mullings on the parties and the race issue. One of which is this interesting item:
fact the Texas GOP has, since 1994, elected five minority candidates to statewide office. For their part, Texas Democrats have elected four minorities to statewide office - since 1872. That is not a typo. 1872 is correct.
George Bush was elected governor of Texas in '94.
As Bush Floats His Tax Plan to general criticism, in California Grey Davis floats his, tax and budget plans, and is generally praised as courageous.

Why? Davis' plan the tax changes hit the poor harder (don't let the mention of "the wealthy" fool you here - the backbone of the proposal, the part that will generate the lion-share of revenues, are the rises on "shoppers" - sales tax and "smokers" -cigarette tax, two taxes that are, in the parlance usually used, regressive. They take a proportionally larger bite out of the pockets of lower income people than upper income people).

Tarrifs on libraries - wonder what the reaction would be if a Republican proposed that? - surcharges on phone calls, new vehicle registration fees, etc - all affect the low income disproportionally.

Also, look at the context, too: at a time when the Democrats and their allies are saying that things need to be done to spur consumption, the 4th or 5th largest economy in the world (depending on who you ask), with the 7th largest government budget in the world (ahead of most European countries), California, is raising the sales tax (taxing consumption).

Davis is also slashing funds for education. Not "cutting the rate of growth" type cuts (as far as I can tell), but actual cuts:
But his plan calls for about $5.4 billion in education cuts over the next 18 months, fee increases at state universities, and a rise in community college fees from $11 to $24 per unit. General fund money budgeted for education in the 2003-04 plan is $44 billion.
But the difference between Davis' program and Bush's? The key difference that means many will call Davis "courageous" while assailing Bush? Davis is raising taxes, Bush is cutting them. Does make me wonder, though, what the reaction of Californians might be. Will they be like the reaction of Germans? After all, Davis is increasingly coming to resemble Schroeder. Perhaps Californians should consider contributing to helping fix Davis' tax woes by sending him the shirts off their backs.

As far as being an anchor retarding economic recovery, California is becoming America's Germany.
Blair Gives another solid speech on his Iraq policy. Skeptics remain unconvinced. At a certain point (which was long ago), one has to say that this says more about the skeptics unwillingness to be convinced than it does about the nature of the arguments made.
More Tales of Woe: the suffering and deprivation sanctions are causing in Iraq.

Ever notice, by the by, that the same people who absolutely insisted on sanctions for South Africa in the '80s and dismissed every argument that they hurt the poorer people more than the elites as somehow tainted with racism are now the ones saying sanctions are horrible? Oh, and remember that these were the very people, back in the early '90s, in all too many cases, who insisted we use sanctions to pressure Saddam to comply with UN Resolutions rather than force?
Do What We Say: As the war against them continues, various people going around telling others how to live their lives exempt themselves (natch) from any sacrifice - they just own multiple vehicles. Why doesn't everyone else do the same?

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Also, I Don't Find Nearly everything in the Financial Times to be risible. This article on Bush's dividend proposals is pretty good:
Sceptics who label the proposal a gimmick, or a tax break for the rich, fail to grasp the benefits of lower corporate taxes for everyone and miss the larger point. A dividend exemption, especially at the corporate level, would have sustained benefits for investors and workers alike. And it might just be a relief for managers, many of whom have felt trapped in a system that creates intense pressures to make questionable decisions.
Just so.

I'll probably blog more on the tax cut proposal at a later date, btw.
Norwegian Blogger Vegard Valberg has another amusing post on an important subject.
Yet for some bizarre reason Europe is thrown into one big pile.
I don't always make the distinction (because sometimes I'm sloppy and forget, and sometimes I think I shouldn't repeat it often), but when I speak of "Europe" in the generic, well I speak of it the way the EU (and EUdulic - EU-dule; venerator of the EU - press such as the FT) wants "Europe" to be spoken of - the EU, and pretty much "Europe" taken as a given to mean the "opinion leaders" and elites of Continental, Western European EU countries. Not the average, typical man on the street in a country in Europe, not Britain, not Eastern Europe, not Scandinavia (you all are kind of getting Rodgered good and proper by the fact that the folks in Brussels and their spokesmen and mouthpieces and ideological theorists have expropriated "Europe" to mean "ourselves", and even accuse Europeans not sufficiently in agreement with them - you know, people that happen to have lived all their lives as residents of a European country for all their lives but aren't fans of EU policies or attitudes, as being "un-European" or "anti-Europe" or "Europhobic". They've even created such things as "Captain Euro" to combat such sub-European attitudes in the populace).

I try not to fall into that, myself, and try to distinguish who in Europe I'm commenting on, but I admit I don't always succeed.

Oh, and I don't take European celebrity-cranks as any more representative than America's. I doubt one will find anything on this particular blog that takes some Euroceleb or even far Left "intellectual" and generalizes their ravings to be the expression of the opinion of Europeans generally. I mean, that's what those dudes want everyone to think - but, again, dittoes America's celebs.
Anglosphere and Empire: An Article by James Bennett (via the usual source. Pretty much covers some ground I went into in private mail with another blogger a few weeks back. One key section:
Subsequent imperial acquisitions were justified on a mix of trade, strategic, and humanitarian grounds. Markets, natural resources, naval bases, and the need to rescue the natives from various situations were all arguments frequently used in various combinations. However, none of these real or imagined benefits ever became proven equivalents to the old agricultural exploitation benefits.

Markets could almost always be kept open by means far cheaper than annexations. Access to resources was dependent more on overall control of the sea than formal control of real estate: Germany's formal control of Cameroon or Tanganyika gave them no benefits in World War I, while Britain was free to import from the rest of the world, because it and not Germany controlled the sea lanes. If colonies provided cheaper resources than free-trading independent states, then the era following decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s should have seen rising resource prices; for the most part, increased competition drove them down, even eventually in petroleum.
The mercantilist fallacy and Colbertism sounds like it should work (in fact, whenever I play a "run a nation" type game, like Civilization or Birthright, I'm always pretty much a merchantilist because such things work well in games). But like all such schemes (including the converse import-substitution development), it never works as well as market competition in the real world, as a Scottish guy named Adam Smith pointed out in a book he wrote in 1776.
Turning to the Financial Times: Whenever nothing comes to mind to blog about, I always turn to the Financial Times. It's always got something in it. It's one of the world's foremost papers, but it's also one of the world's foremost fonts of received conventional elite opinion (or should that be "conventional received elite opinion"?).

Unfortunately, this piece is on the subscriber side. But judging from the teaser ("A cautionary tale for Bush: Without the popular uprising against Milosevic that preceded and followed it, the Kosovo war would have achieved very little."), I can honestly say: Hey, Quentin! Been payin' attention to the world around you lately? If your implication is there's no popular uprising against Saddam, you haven't been. Large parts of the population of Iraq rose against his regime straight away after the Gulf War, and they're still resisting his rule. Try and keep up.

Then there's this piece, which at least has the merits of not displaying the sort of attitude I was commenting on here. But do it's authors really think that Kim Jong-Il will be moved by a UN Resolution? (Btw, North Korea has said that any Resolution passed by the UN would be considered a casus belli).
Political realities dictate that pressure alone is unlikely to dissuade North Korea from proceeding with its nuclear weapons programme or its destabilizing missile trade.
But a UN Resolution, now that will make Pyonyang tremble.
As a condition for such talks, North Korea would be required to reimpose the freeze on plutonium production under appropriate verification.
Which worked so well the last time that the IAEA was completely oblivious to the fact that North Korea had continued its nuclear program even while IAEA inspectors (under the same guy who's now Hans Blix's sidekick in Iraq) were "verifying" that deal.
The writers are, respectively, director and director of studies of the International Institute for Strategic Studies
I think they need to be sent back to the institute and admonished to study more so they won't embarrass themselves in public again.

A little aside: I still remember Mohammed el-Bardei, right before he jetted off to Iraq, writing a piece published in the Washington Post defending the IAEA inspectors in North Korea. One of his arguments was - I kid you not - "people accusing us of letting North Korea develop nuclear weapons under our noses are wrong. They did it in another room." Well, I can tell you, that was reassuring. . .built my confidence in inspections to new lows.

It epitomized right there the view of the world of a bureaucratic functionary: "don't say we didn't do our jobs, don't blame us! Because we did do our jobs. We looked in the places the North Koreans said we could look, didn't find anything there. That was our job. We can't be blamed for the fact that North Korea wasn't developing nukes in the rooms they let us look in!"

One more FT article today. This one may as well have the headline "Fox, Jackal, to Discuss Henhouse".
Many believe that a Franco-German deal on the EU’s future structure will prove decisive in answering the crucial question of who runs Europe.
Those enlightened experts in Brussels administering the continent for the benefit of all, insulated from the governed so that their good work will not be derailed by such things as democratic accountability (the people, you know, just don't understand why certain regulations are absolutely necessary, and can be manipulated by demagogues).
The two leaders hope to reach a deal on whether the EU should get a powerful new president, representing member states.

France supports the idea, arguing that such a figurehead
Interesting (as in telling) choice of words. . .
But many, including Romano Prodi, commission president, have warned that the plan would lead to the creation of two “competing democracies”.
Which is considered by many a feature, not a bug, because "competing democracies" (note not envisioned as a separation of powers, but overlapping powers) will squabble among themselves, and be rendered functionally nothing more than figureheads. Then the real business will continue to be handled by the Permanent Bureaucracy, like it's supposed to be.
Britain, in particular, is anxious at being excluded from the powerful axis. It has signalled opposition to a Franco-German plans for tax harmonization and to give Britain less say in the economic management of the 12-country eurozone.
Remember what I wrote about some of these proposals and Britain's opposition to them? (Hint: Britain should let itself get thrown into that briar patch). Oh, and what I said would happen with the EU's governance this year?

The FT: Something to Blog About Every Day.
British Left: Good for Nothing?: Not quite, writes Nick Cohn:
I expect that some Telegraph readers regard the British Left as good for nothing. In mitigation, I would say that we are world-class nags.
My friend ICQed in response to that line that "Yeah, well they'd be good for something if they werent such hypocrites," and I really can't disagree.

Also, the article mentions another subject in which I'm in agreement with Rumsfeld on, not the State Department.

(Link via Instapundit.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Indicative of the Tensions pulling Tony Blair in different directions, we have this story related to Blair's speech this morning, saying Britain is committed to the UN process and letting it play out fully with no rush, and members of his government seeing Britain's duty in this as one of restraining the U.S.

But on the other hand we have this story, same bat-paper, same bat-day, wherein Blair is ready to act without the UN if needed, supports America's approach, and is willing to rise above the anti-war sentiment in his own party.

Blair has a fairly earned reputation as an opportunist, and in a piece in the Nov/Dec '02 issue of The American Spectator written by the historian Paul Johnson, Blair is candid in admitting that he sees his own worst fault was "not doing the right thing for fear it would make [him] unpopular" (the article, btw, is fairly positive about Blair on the whole).

But he obviously, in my opinion, knows what he should do here, and I think he'll stay solid on it. But he's got the party he has, Labour, which is not a bedrock foundation to pursue such a policy from.
Here's Another Murderous Dictator who's practically a Pol Pot and yet a hero to many because he "stands for resistance against Western colonialist imperialist hegemony".

Nice bunch of role-models some ideologies have. I'll also say we've come a long way from "ain't gonna play Sun City" to now.
And, on the "Measa maksa thesea movies sucka" front, a new character is added to the LotR saga for Return of the King.
While We're At It, there's another point raised by the experts, pundits, and wise souls of the world frequently: "Isn't the U.S. policy inconsistent? Why are they handling North Korea differently from Iraq, huh?" It's become the casual underlaying assumption of so many of the supposedly knowledgeable commentators.

Now, I've written on some of the reasons for a different policy in each case in past posts. But there's another reason why this argument, asserted as if it were decisive and profound, is really. . .well, thoughtless, and only persists because it's never really questioned. Another of it's fallacies (beyond what I've already blogged about) is best illustrated in a rhetorical "Q & A".

Q: Isn't the Bush Administration's policy inconsistent? Why are they handling North Korea differently from Iraq?
So you're saying that the U.S. needs to take the North Korea crisis before the UN and let the UN take the lead in the matter?
Oh, no. No no no no no. The U.S. needs to handle this problem, the UN can't deal with this. The U.S. should listen to its allies, sure. But North Korea a problem that only the U.S. can handle.
Oh, ok. So now I understand you - the U.S. should handle Iraq on its own, it shouldn't wait for the UN to try and deal with it - it needs to listen to allies some, but Iraq is a problem that only the U.S. can really handle.
Um, er. . .no. I don't mean that. The U.S. needs to go through the UN and defer to multilateral institutions on Iraq, but it needs to handle the North Korea crisis without involving the UN, but. . .well, I guess I'm saying that I get to accuse the Bush Administration of hypocrisy for not handling both situations the same way, while simultaneously demanding the U.S. deal with both crises in different ways, so I can score rhetorical points against the Administration by puting Bush in a Catch-22 situation. Yes. That's what I mean.
Ok, thanks for clearing that up.
So Today's Theme is one, I suppose, where I look at arguments that are often presented as and seen as deeply profound, but which I personally find lacking - or even superficial rather than insightful.

This argument is used by many people, but one example was in an anonymous mail sent to Steven Den Beste (what's the etiquette on commenting on mails sent to another blogger? I'm probably violating some netequette I don't know about, again). But, anyhow, that letter writer is only one of a lot of people who all use the following sort of argument:
We say our response to 9/11 is justified, but isn't more true to say 9/11 was the response? The response to the U.S. helping maintain dictators in power in places like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt? Shouldn't we be reflecting on that?
Steven has a lot of impatience with this argument (and I'm in complete agreement with his impatience). In his response to the letter writer, he doesn't really directly address this argument, though (he addresses it in a different fashion. We've all encountered these arguments; one either finds them very profound and persuasive, or tends to dismiss them).

The fact is, however, this is an argument based on a faulty assumption: it essentially assumes that the regimes of Saudi Arabia, and Yemen are all there because of the U.S. and wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the U.S. (they'd be benevolent and irenic social democracies instead, I suppose). But lets look at that argument. The government of the latter being one that hasn't had the best relations over the years with the U.S., and to the extent to which it's thawing, it is simply not the case that America has propped up Yemen's government or Yemen's government is in power because the U.S. put it in power. The Saudis are in power not because the U.S., or even Britain, really wanted them in power (they took over from the Hashemites, which are in general preferred by both the U.S. and were preferred by Britain, which is one reason why Britain - not the U.S. - gave them the consolation prizes of Jordan and Iraq to replace their losses to the Saudis in Arabia).
But this argument over "what the U.S. did wrong" is sort of a "heads I win, tails you lose" argument, anyhow - look at North Korea. Many, many of the same people who fault us for having relationships and aiding these opressive governments are also the ones saying we need to engage with North Korea's government, understand their needs, treat them with respect so they won't feel threatened and hostile, normalize relations with them, and send them. . .aid that will have the effect of proping up the government.

So lets look now in more detail at just one of the examples used by those questioning of U.S. policy and claiming it created the hate that lead to Sept. 11th. Lets look at Egypt.

Egypt's government was essentially created by Nasser. Anwar Sadat inherited it from Nasser. Nasser was a nationalist and a socialist with warm bonds to the Soviet Union and somewhat (though not extremely, given how these things can get) hostile to the United States. Sadat wasn't exactly America's friend, either (but was a degree or two less hostile than Nasser was). How did Egypt's government end up getting a lot of American aid and arms?

Well, Sadat did decide he would deign to negotiate with Israel. Many of the peace-front people look at Jimmy Carter as a man who at least brokered a peace deal between Israel and Egypt. What was the price of peace? Well, the price for allowing Israel to give the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt and keep the Gaza Strip (Egypt didn't want it back) was that the U.S. would agree to give billions of dollars of aid annually to Egypt, treat its government as a respected member of the international community, etc. You know, all the typical stuff the Left wants America to do with regard to kleptocratic third-world thugocracies until we start doing just that, when they then turn around and decry it.

But Jimmy Carter brokered the deal, everyone got Peace Prizes (Jimmy's comming late), and everyone praised the accords and the role the U.S. played in helping bring peace between Israel and Egypt, and we held up our end of the bargain, cozied up to Egypt, gave them ducats and arms which had the effect of helping the regime keep power. But we didn't put Nasser, Sadat, or Mubarak in power there. Yes, a lot of dirty little things no doubt happened as a result - because they were the consequence, soiling ourselves was the consequence - of forging the peace deal in the first place.

Just like we filthified ourselves in sending oil shipments and whatnot to North Korea over the last eight years and will no doubt do so again. Now, a response to that is "well, we did that, but we didn't go beyond that and pretend Kim Jong-Il was a great friend or anything". True, but the situation wasn't exactly identical - part of the price of brokering peace between Egypt and Israel was accepting Egypt as our client. One of the themes here, on this site at least, is that international relations isn't very pretty (which is why all the Panglossianism about the UN and negotiating reasonable settlements with everyone, as if things would be pretty internationally if only the U.S. would behave itself is folly) and we probably did do some things that we shouldn't have to get along with the creeps that rule these countries. However, getting along with the bastards isn't the same as being responsible for the fact that these places are governed by tyrants. They were that way before we cozied up to them. I'm sure we did some things later that weren't required in doing this, but asked to err on the side of sucking up to these guys, we did.

We could always have said, I suppose, that the demands Sadat was making in exchange for letting Israel give the Sinai back to Egypt were too high. But we didn't, and most of the people decrying America's foreign policy as the source of the hatreds against us look back on Carter's peace policies as the model to emulate.

Update: Indeed while many seem to believe that international relations would be naturally benign, with only the baleful influence of U.S. foreign policy preventing that from being so, and also contrary to the impression one may have gotten in IR class (where things are presented as reasonable and rational), international relations is more aptly described as naturally sordid, and if anything the U.S. has had an ameliatory influence, rather than a baneful one, on this sordidness, once everything is brought into consideration over all rather than just concentrating on the low-lights of American foreign policy.
Preventing War: This post is essentially an update to this post.

I have no doubt that people will read where I wrote "the UN sees its job. . .in terms of preventing the outbreak of war" and nod their heads, saying "yes, that's true, but good for them. War should be prevented."

Well, no one (ok, hardly anyone) looks at the prospect of war with any enthusiasm. But reasonable people can believe that there are times when avoiding conflict (or putting it off to a time and manner of someone else's choosing) is worse than the alternative. I've argued that before, here, as have others. I guess I'll not rehash those arguments, except for one.

If I believed that the necessary goals, embodied in the UN Resolutions that the U.S. pushed to be passed, could be reached by some other means - really reached, not "we all agree to pretend that things are going swimmingly", like in North Korea between '94 - '02, then that would be another matter. But like I mentioned in the below, the UN (especially) really doesn't have a perceived need to get Iraq to comply. Saddam clearly doesn't want to (and isn't, even in the face of an obvious military build up where he's faced with a worse prospect than compliance with the Resolutions offers), and as for the international community as a whole, especially the fine fellows in Western Europe, the only thing they have a deep enthusiasm for with respect to Iraq is, evidently, determining how soon they can get sanctions lifted so they can sell Saddam (openly) what they've had to smuggle in with sanctions in place.

The argument that "well, this can be resolved without war" would have a bit more resonance if the people making it seemed at all sincere in resolving it at all, in disarming (rather than helping arm) Iraq, getting Saddam to comply with all the particulars of the Resolutions (which go well beyond "letting inspectors back in" and playing games with them, or even disarming from and eschewing WMD programs). They don't. By "resolving this crisis without war", all too many mean merely "using inspections as a means to allow the Great Satan to cool down till the moment passes, then we can go back to the status quo ante of late '98 and pressing for eliminating sanctions again."

For many of us, that's not a satisfactory resolution of the situation anymore. It was fine for Clinton in '98, but it isn't acceptable anymore. Sorry.

However, all the above said, I still think that even if the allies in the "international community" were really driven to get Saddam to comply with the resolutions, rather than just using inspections as a means to put things off in the hopes that America will be talked down and persuaded to understand why everything should be put back to the status quo ante, we'd still likely have to use force to get compliance, because the problem here isn't American intransigence, it's Saddam's intransigence. He's already shown just how much he values these weapons programs by putting his country through hell so that he could maintain them. He's already shown that he values the pursuit of them more than even the maintenance of his regime in power by failing to seriously and honestly cooperate with the UN in disarming. We're seeing in North Korea just the tip of the iceberg of what we'll all be put through if he succeeds. We see also in North Korea the folly of pretending everything was resolved peacefully and trusting the goodly nature of murderous despots, believing they're honorable and will keep their word. Me, I'm not going to pretend otherwise simply because it is implied that nice, civilized people assert that everything can be resolved in through negotiating and "confidence building measures" and reaching out for mutual understanding and all that. That sounds like a nice world, but it's not the one we're living in and no, it's not America's, or the West's, fault that we're not living in such a world.
Arguments I'm Tired of, Mk MCLXVII: So people are frequently going about now, even Tony Blair in a speech today, saying that we need to "give the inspectors time to do their jobs", no matter how long that might take (note here: if we wait a year, just watch and see what the argument is if there is a campaign in Iraq in early 2004; "Bush using war for political gain! Bush timed war to help Republican electoral prospects!").

The unstated assumption behind the "give the inspectors time to do their jobs" argument is that the inspector's job is to engage in a wild goose chase searching Iraq for hidden weapons.

No. That's not the inspector's job.

The UN Resolutions in question call for Iraq to fully disclose their weapons. The inspectors "job", by the text of the resolutions, is simply to verify the list and check them off as they are destroyed, supervising their destruction.

We know that Iraq has violated this already. How do we know? Because there are things that were known to still exist in Iraq when the inspectors left in '98, which Iraq claims not to have - without even bothering to mention what became of them, how they might have been disposed of, etc. The inspector's "job" in this case is to announce Iraqi non-compliance with the terms of the resolution Iraq agreed to.

They aren't doing that, though. Why? Because the UN sees its job not in terms of compelling Saddam to comply, but in terms of preventing the outbreak of war. (As I wrote last fall, it's not a bad thing that few people think that actually enforcing UN Resolutions is important. Most of the Resolutions the UN passes shouldn't be enforced. But I was also arguing against making the UN the forum for this in the first place, and that was one of my reasons why it was not a proper institution to carry out these things).

Anyhow, one can point out the fact that the UN Resolutions do not define the job of the inspectors in terms of searching for a needle in a haystack, they define the job of inspectors as insuring Iraqi compliance, one can point that out till one is blue in the face but the people who argue that we should "give the inspectors a chance to do their jobs" will still be making the same argument tomorrow. It's the case that some of the people who will make that argument are the inspectors themselves - because they've re-defined their own jobs, and aren't really accountable to anyone who might try to insist they do the job they're tasked with.

I'm tired of this argument because it's BFM - bovine fecal matter - which relies on willfully ignoring the actual mission inspectors are tasked with in the UN Resolutions. But it's not going to go away, for the simple reason that it's useful in keeping the status quo while pretending to be doing something (note also the inspectors continue to "search" in areas where they know they aren't going to find anything significant, and "search" in a perfunctory fashion at that, to make sure they don't accidentally stumble on anything incriminating).
Tolerance.Org: Now, there's nothin' wrong with tolerance. I'll tolerate just about anyone. Well, not really, I guess. This entire blog is devoted to the things and people who assert them that I have no tolerance for.

Still, toleration is a good idea. In general.

But still, that website reminds me of the South Park episode where Mr. Garrison wants to be fired for being gay so he can get twenty five meg in a discrimination settlement, and the boys end up getting sent to Tolerance Camp by their parents. Which hit home for me because I've always called these diversity education seminars that people are not infrequently being sentanced to the "sensitivity re-education gulag".

So, anyhow, here's an article on I think you should show tolerance for the article's author's views. Funny, though, calls for tolerance. . .never seem to extend to certain sectors of the society.

And just to show you how much tolerance I have in my heart for those that are different from me, I think poor Lemmiwinks suffered the most in that episode.

The most funny single-shot in the episode is - well, as Lemmiwinks is deep in the bowels of Mr. Slave (literally), he passes the skeletal remains of some other critter, slumped over a treasure chest.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Blair Backsliding?: So in the middle of the week last week, Tony Blair gave a good speech on Iraq, but in the days since he's suddenly sounded timid and soft, "re-assuring" people that "Hans Blix is in the driver's seat" of this process (causing my heart to sink - if UN bureaucrats are the ones making the determination, then absolutely nothing Saddam does will ever be considered a big enough problem for action to be taken. The goal of the UN is to keep "peace" here - not disarm Iraq, not compel Iraq to fulfil its obligations, not insure that weapons don't reach the wrong sort of people, not prevent Iraq from getting in the position where it can engage in the sort of blackmail Kim Jong-Il is now engaging in, none of that. So the people who believe in peace at all costs are no doubt satisfied with the UN's goals, even though, in the long run, all this will mean is a more - not less - dangerous situation in the future).

Well, I held my tongue on Blair because he's been good on this issue up to now, and I figured that if he was suddenly sounding more reticent about the whole thing, he probably had his reasons. After all, while he started rhetorically beating the "patience, let the inspectors determine the pace of events" drum, Britain has stepped up its mobilisation of troops for war.

My friend Last Toryboy sends me some links, and there are of course reasons why Blair would make such noises. He's got a party full of Bonior and McDermott types to deal with. Guys like this. He's also got a public that, for whatever reasons, doesn't think it should be done, in no small part, I bet, because only 13% think it can be done (which indicates a very woeful lack of awareness of the capabilities of both British and American forces. The fact is, unlike Steven Den Beste, for example, I'm not really a populist. I think the people as a whole can be wrong. I also think it's their right to be wrong, but I have no problem saying the majority of people can reach the wrong conclusions. Here, the British public has gone badly wrong - I think in no small part because the state-run media of Britain, from which most of the British people get their views of the world, the BBC, is wholly in the pocket of the Labourite Left. Not, mind, Tony Blair. But the British version of the Boniors and McDermott's and Idiotarian-in-Tennis-Shoes Patty Murray's. I listen to the BBC Radio news every weekday morning, I know the kind of info they're pumping into the kultursmog of Britain).

But, that aside, the simple fact is Blair has to deal with a misinformed public. When it's all over the British people will have right to look back on the role of their country with pride. But now they're reluctant because they have been fed a misimpression of what it's all about and what capabilities we have - in spite of Tony Blair's personal efforts to put out information to the contrary.

Indeed, as I wrote in my "Year in Preview" post, Blair's party may never forgive him for helping topple Saddam Hussein (just read the Torygraph article on Galloway), and I perceived that he could very well be compelled to step down as PM eventually as a carry-over from the attitude the Labourite Left has towards this (remember: one of the things the Labour Left never forgave Margaret Thatcher for is fighting and winning in the Falklands. Luckily for her, though, her support didn't depend on the opinions of the hard-core Labourites, or Labourites at all; she was a Conservative. But Blair's position ultimately does depend on these cranks).

So if you hear a lot of talk from Blair over the next month or so, keep in mind what he's dealing with.