Saturday, February 22, 2003

Impatience: So I admit it. I'm often impatient. The fact that we've let events carry us along to delay what we're going to have to do is more than troubling (it's sounding more and more like it'll be mid March at the earliest, rather than the beginning of March. People may indeed die - lives will not be saved, but lost - as a result of the delay. Why? We'll be conducting things in less optimal conditions and with a shorter time window between the start of operations and the onset of troublesome weather. This will make for haste - which is not the same as speed).

But one thing I've been trying - trying really hard - to not get worked up about is the Turkish situation. We have a deal, we don't have a deal. We have permission, we don't have permission. Troops sit in ships off the coast of Turkey because they need to renegotiate. This indeed is one of the things delaying matters (and will, I believe, cost lives). Should we be upset at Turkey for yanking our chain?

*sigh*. I really don't know. I'm not sure that even if the ships had docked when they were originally "scheduled" to dock that we'd be moving any sooner. Because the big cause of delay seems, again, to be multilateral wrangling in the hopes of pleasing those who cannot be pleased, in the hopes of convincing those who will not be convinced.

Even there, I shouldn't let myself get worked up too much - we're doing it because Blair needs it. He's been staunch in support of us. It would be churlish to not reciprocate. Britain cannot be at our side unless we at least try to get a "second" (18th) UN Resolution. Blair had to make that promise to key figures in his own party and to his people (note also that British forces are going to be among those who will suffer more casualties than they likely would have if we started operations in early March instead of mid March. But no one said these there were no hard choices, with only imperfect options to chose from). The Turks saw a window of opportunity and took it, but I don't think that these wranglings are the proximate cause of delay.

It's the diplomatic kubuki.

Lots of people, myself included, are still waiting patiently for Turkey to give Hagia Sophia back. So I can wait patiently a couple more days for approval to be granted for the landing of troops. No, also, the loan guarantees and aid do not bother me much - Turkey's had its chain yanked by the EU for a number of years. It is interesting that it is America that has to pay as a result, but that's how things go. Also, no doubt they're in a mood because of the whole NATO thing. Sure, it was France, Germany, and Belgium that caused that delay, but America is on the hook because Turkey can expect butkis from those countries while they can get something from us for their troubles. It's also true they base this on the economic costs of the previous Gulf War and Iraq sanctions on their country, but by all accounts they've inflated those costs. Still, step back for a second. We know Turkey's economy is in a mess. Much of that is the doing of the (previous) Turkish government. But still, war or no war, it is important to us - in America's interest - that Turkey get back on its feet economically. Liberating Iraq will help. This aid package may also help. I can live with it. It's not perfect - but is likely an improvement on the present and upon alternatives, and much of it is loan guarantees rather than just a grant of cash anyhow. Learn to love it, I always say.

Yes, I know I said "I" more times in this post than one can shake a stick at. I'm trying to persuade myself as much as anyone else this time. . .

By the way; since I mentioned it in this post, I do hope that all my readers, intelligent and well-read as they are, know that "Hagia Sophia" means "Holy Wisdom" and is not named after "Saint Sophie".

Friday, February 21, 2003

Cats and Dogs living together.

I had to say it before Glenn could.
The Chirac-Hussein Connection
A Stratfor report (paid side only. I got it through "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Technical Means"; basically they have this article out there "free" now in an authorized way as a sample. Like it, pay for a subscription to get more info like it if you can afford it). The below is the report in its entirety (not italicized or blockquoted this time because of it's lenght and it would get annoying reading that much italicized script):


French President Jacques Chirac is a pivotal figure on the international scene, whose views on Iraq are of vital concern. Those views are not driven simply by geopolitics, however. The factors that shape his thinking include a long, complex and sometimes mysterious relationship with Saddam Hussein. The relationship is not secret, but it is no longer as well known as it once was -- nor is it well known outside of France. It is not insignificant in understanding Chirac's view of Iraq.


In attempting to understand France’s behavior over the issue of war with Iraq, there is little question but that strategic, economic and geopolitical considerations are dominant drivers. However, in order to understand the details of French behavior, it is also important to understand a not really unknown but oddly neglected aspect of French policy: the personal relationship between French President Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein.

The relationship dates back to late 1974, when then-French Premier Chirac traveled to Baghdad and met the No. 2 man in the Iraqi government, Vice President Saddam Hussein. During that visit, Chirac and Hussein conducted negotiations on a range of issues, the most important of these being Iraq’s purchase of nuclear reactors.

In September 1975, Hussein traveled to Paris, where Chirac personally gave him a tour of a French nuclear plant. During that visit, Chirac said, “Iraq is in the process of beginning a coherent nuclear program and France wants to associate herself with that effort in the field of reactors.” France sold two reactors to Iraq, with the agreement signed during Hussein’s visit. The Iraqis purchased a 70-megawatt reactor, along with six charges of 26 points of uranium enriched to 93 percent -- in other words, enough weapons-grade uranium to produce three to four nuclear devices. Baghdad also purchased a one-megawatt research reactor, and France agreed to train 600 Iraqi nuclear technicians and scientists -- the core of Iraq’s nuclear capability today.

Other dimensions of the relationship were decided on during this visit and implemented in the months afterward. France agreed to sell Iraq $1.5 billion worth of weapons -- including the integrated air defense system that was destroyed by the United States in 1991, about 60 Mirage F1 fighter planes, surface-to-air missiles and advanced electronics. The Iraqis, for their part, agreed to sell France $70 million worth of oil.

During this period, Chirac and Hussein formed what Chirac called a close personal relationship. As the New York Times put it in a 1986 report about Chirac’s attempt to return to the premiership, the French official “has said many times that he is a personal friend of Saddam Hussein of Iraq.” In 1987, the Manchester Guardian Weekly quoted Chirac as saying that he was “truly fascinated by Saddam Hussein since 1974.” Whatever personal chemistry there might have been between the two leaders obviously remained in place a decade later, and clearly was not simply linked to the deals of 1974-75. Politicians and businessmen move on; they don’t linger the way Chirac did.

Partly because of the breadth of the relationship Chirac and Hussein had created in a relatively short period of time and the obvious warmth of their personal ties, there was intense speculation about the less visible aspects of the relationship. For example, one unsubstantiated rumor that still can be heard in places like Beirut was that Hussein helped to finance Chirac’s run for mayor of Paris in 1977, after he lost the French premiership. Another, equally unsubstantiated rumor was that Hussein had skimmed funds from the huge amounts of money that were being moved around, and that he did so with Chirac’s full knowledge. There are endless rumors, all unproven and perhaps all scurrilous, about the relationship. Some of these might have been moved by malice, but they also are powered by the unfathomability of the relationship and by Chirac’s willingness to publicly affirm it. It reached the point that Iranians referred to Chirac as “Shah-Iraq” and Israelis spoke of the Osirak reactor as “O-Chirac.”

Indeed, as recently as last week, a Stratfor source in Lebanon reasserted these claims as if they were incontestable. Innuendo has become reality.

Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who held office at the time of the negotiations with Iraq, said in 1984 that the deal “came out of an agreement that was not negotiated in Paris and therefore did not originate with the president of the republic.” Under the odd French constitution, it is conceivable that the president of the republic wouldn’t know what the premier of France had negotiated -- but on a deal of this scale, this would be unlikely, unless the deal in fact had been negotiated between Chirac and Hussein in the dark and presented as a fait accompli.

There is some evidence for this notion. Earlier, when Giscard d’Estaing found out about the deal -- and particularly about the sale of 93 percent uranium -- he had ordered the French nuclear research facility at Saclay to develop an alternative that would take care of Iraq’s legitimate needs, but without supplying weapons-grade uranium. The product, called “caramel,” was only 3 percent enriched but entirely suitable to non-weapons needs. The French made the offer, which Iraq declined.

By 1986, Chirac clearly had decided to change his image. In preparation for the 1988 presidential elections, Chirac let it be known that he never had anything to do with the sale of the Osirak reactor. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, he said, “It wasn’t me who negotiated the construction of Osirak with Baghdad. The negotiation was led by my minister of industry in very close collaboration with Giscard d’Estaing.” He went on to say, “I never took part in these negotiations. I never discussed the subject with Saddam Hussein. The fact is that I did not find out about the affair until very late.”

Obviously, Chirac was contradicting what he had said publicly in 1975. More to the point, he also was not making a great deal of sense in claiming that his minister of industry – who at that time was Michel d’Ornano -- had negotiated a deal as large as this one. That is true even if one assumes the absurd, which was that the nuclear deal was a stand-alone and not linked to the arms and oil deals or to a broader strategic relationship. In fact, d’Ornano claimed that he didn’t even make the trip to Iraq with Chirac in 1974, let alone act as the prime negotiator. Everything he did was in conjunction with Chirac.

In 1981, the Israelis destroyed the Iraqi reactor in an air attack. There were rumors – which were denied -- that the French government was offering to rebuild the reactor. In August 1987, French satirical and muckraking magazine, “Le Canard Enchaine” published excerpts of a letter from Chirac to Hussein -- dated June 24, 1987, and hand-delivered by Trade Minister Michel Noir -- which the magazine claimed indicated that he was negotiating to rebuild the Iraqi reactor. The letter says nothing about nuclear reactors, but it does say that Chirac hopes for an agreement “on the negotiation which you know about,” and it speaks of the “cooperation launched more than 12 years ago under our personal joint initiative, in this capital district for the sovereignty, independence and security of your country.” In the letter, Chirac also, once again, referred to Hussein as “my dear friend.”

Chirac and the government confirmed that the letter was genuine. They denied that it referred to rebuilding a nuclear reactor. The letter speaks merely of the agreements relating to “an essential chapter in Franco-Iraqi relations, both in the present circumstances and in the future.” Chirac claimed that any attempt to link the letter to the reconstruction of the nuclear facility was a “ridiculous invention.” Assuming Chirac’s sincerity, this leaves open the question of what the “essential chapter” refers to and why, instead of specifying the subject, Chirac resorted to a circumlocution like “negotiation which you know about.”

Only two possible conclusions can be drawn from this letter: Chirac either was trying, in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war and after his denial of involvement in the first place, to rebuild Iraq’s nuclear capability, or he wasn’t. And if he wasn’t, what was he doing that required such complex language, clearly intended for deniability if revealed? No ordinary state-to-state relationship would require a combination of affection, recollection of long history and promise for the future without mentioning the subject. If we concede to Chirac that it had nothing to do with nuclear reactors, then the mystery actually deepens.

It is unfair to tag Chirac with the rumors that have trailed him in his relations with Hussein. It is fair to say, however, that Chirac has created a circumstance for breeding rumors. The issues raised here were all well known at one time and place. When they are laid end-to-end, a mystery arises. What affair was being discussed in the letter delivered by Michel Noir? If not nuclear reactors, then what was referenced but never mentioned specifically in Chirac’s letter to his “dear friend” Hussein?

Whatever the answer, it is clear that the relationship between Chirac and Hussein is long and complex, and not altogether easy to understand. That relationship does not, by itself, explain all of France's policies toward Iraq or its stance toward a war between the United States and Iraq. But at the same time, it is inconceivable that this relationship has no effect on Chirac's personal decision-making process. There is an intensity to Chirac's Iraq policy that simply may signify the remnants of an old, warm friendship gone bad, or that may have a different origin. In any case, it is a reality that cannot be ignored and that must be taken into account in understanding the French leader’s behavior.

Then There's The Strong Belgian Stance: Last night Steven Den Beste published a long post about the underlaying philosophy and intentions of the EU. Some folks may have found it unconvincing. (By the way, this system of government he talks about is a Impersonal Bureaucracy. See also here). Well, today the Prime Minister of Belgium has an article in the Financial Times, expressing his views on Iraq and the urgent need for a European Foreign Policy and military to back it up. Lets start with this:
This is not to say I feel any sympathy for Saddam Hussein. He is a villain, a threat to his own people and a substantial factor behind instability in the Middle East. If we do not stop the Iraqi leader, he will go on trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Oh, strong words, right? What's the pay off?

Nothing. The Colossus of Belgium concedes that Saddam is continuing to try to acquire such weapons in the above paragraph. This is in continued (or, rather "further") material breach of Iraq's post-Gulf War cease fire obligations. Under 1441, which the Frankenreich claimed to champion and which they negotiated the language of last fall, it's Saddam's obligation to comply.

Clearly the Iraqi leader is not complying, and Our Hero sees that. His response is, as with all the other scions of the Restored Carolingian Empire and their apologists, is to engage in sleight of hand, shifting the burden from where the text of Resolution 1441 puts it (on Iraq to comply, fully and immediately, without reservation and gamesmanship):
neither Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, nor Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, have yet found a smoking gun.
With allies like that on "our" side, it's no wonder Saddam sees no pressing need to comply.

The article then goes on into what might otherwise seem like a digression - it proceeds to discuss the need for a European Foreign Policy and a European Military. Peel away the platitudes about how this would help sustain the alliance and look at the underlaying message: opposition to the U.S.

He doesn't outline this European Foreign Policy so much as a means of cooperation with America (again, despite the platitudes), but so as to be able to get more influence to promote divergent policies. (Aside: again, there's nothing intrinsically inappropriate with that. But neither is it inappropriate to see this for what it is and for Americans to respond appropriately. Nor do I think it's inappropriate for them to determine that they don't feel threatened and thus they don't want to participate in efforts against Iraq. But it is inappropriate, as I've said before, for them to impose their interests upon those who are more threatened; the Restored Carolingian Empire's position seems to be "we don't feel threatened by Saddam. In fact, he's always been a good trading partner for us. Thus those of you who are threatened should do nothing, because our interests trump yours." As I said repeatedly last fall, I have no problem with them not participating. My problem is with their efforts to tell us we can't secure our interests, so that they can secure theirs).

Who's going to determine the European Foreign Policy and essentially control the European military? It's pretty clear what Verhofstadt, Chirac, and Schroeder have in mind:
The common position of Germany, France and Belgium - three of the six founding members of the European Union, three of the west European countries most ravaged by war - is no coincidence, nor is it a one-off event. The three are already joining forces within the Euro Corps. We greatly favour a real European defence policy. We want a European military capacity. . .
Primacy will be given to "The common position of Germany, France and Belgium, three of the six founding members of the European Union. . ." and "nor is it a one-off event".

He goes on to write:
European security and defence policy is not directed against American predominance in the world.
However, everything else he writes, when it comes to setting out the policies that will be promoted by this European Foreign Policy and it's military, are clearly directed at containing America - not helping or in partnership with America.
But in spite of all the ties that bind us to America, we Europeans should continue to shape our own opinions and our own vision of the future.

Indeed, Europe is developing its own priorities and focus. Increasingly, the EU is seen as a model of multilateral co-operation, as a mediator and peace keeper in complex conflicts, as a continent sensitive to social and ecological challenges. It is a continent that realizes that its own wealth remains fragile as long as most people in the world are hungry. That is why Europe needs its own foreign policy. Yet that will only be credible if it is based on a European defence policy. This is the paradox we must face in the years ahead: the more people march in our streets in favour of peace, the more urgent it becomes to develop a true European defence.
  • "Europe is developing it's own priorities and focus." Those would be by definition different from America. The quandary is then how to get their way? Certainly not with "countries with shattered defences" and policies (such as EU countries signing letters of support for America) determined by individual countries.

  • "Increasingly, the EU is seen as a model of multilateral co-operation," - The EU is, under the aegis of the Restored Carolingian Empire, by definition "multilateral" (15 - soon 25 - states, all with one policy and philosophy, determined in Brussels), whereas if the U.S. pursues its interests (it's "own priorities and focus") without the nod of the EU, then it is "unilateral". Thus we can see why "unilateralism" is being promoted as the new Crime Against Humanity.

  • "a mediator and peace keeper in complex conflicts" - Clearly not a "peacekeeper" in the sense that it will use this new European military to go after those who threaten the peace, like Saddam (Guy doesn't feel threatened by him. So that begs the question. If for Verhofstadt, people like Saddam are not the threat - and clearly not Arafat, either; Arafat is the recipient of EU aid, not opprobrium, then who or what is the threat that this joint structure is needed to combat, or at least restrain, contain, and thwart?)

  • "a continent sensitive to social and ecological challenges." - A euphemistic expression of what will be the guiding philosophy of the Frankenreich's EU - Transnational Progressivism. Clearly, he is implying a distinction between the U.S. (which in this world view, does not care about social and ecological challenges. This is why his next sentence can be "It is a continent that realizes that its own wealth remains fragile as long as most people in the world are hungry.", which is intended to distinguish Europe from that other continent-spanning power, despite the fact that it is the U.S. that provides nearly two thirds of the world's food aid).

  • "That is why Europe needs its own foreign policy. Yet that will only be credible if it is based on a European defence policy. This is the paradox we must face in the years ahead: the more people march in our streets in favour of peace, the more urgent it becomes to develop a true European defence." Again: where they marching with signs depicting Saddam as a Hitler? Tarik Aziz as a Goebbels? With banners calling on Iraq to disarm and comply with UN Resolutions?
No, of course not. They were in the streets expressing their opposition to American policy. Thus here in the Belgian Prime Minister's article a strange twist on the Vegitus quote that, when expressed by Americans, usually leads to disagreement and demurral from Europeans. Vegitus' "if you want peace, prepare for war" becomes "the more people march in our streets in favour of peace, the more urgent it becomes to develop a true European defence." So they can stand beside American soldiers, shoulder to shoulder, facing off menaces to peace posed by the likes of Saddam and Kim Jong Il? No.
As long as we Europeans feel threatened, the use of war and weapons can more or less be justified. . .But now that the cold war is over, we can express more freely our differences of opinion. And one of those differences of opinion concerns the fundamental question about the use of war as an extension of politics.
But they do not feel threatened by Saddam (America might, but the use of war and weapons is only to be justified when "we Europeans" feel threatened. Not when others are). He refers to Saddam as "a threat to his own people", but does not refer to Saddam as a threat to his Europe.

One thing's come through loud and clear over the last several months. Both in the behavior of the French, German, and Belgian governments and in the expressions of their populace (either on the streets or through polling data): they believe America is a greater threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein is.
the more people march in our streets in favour of peace, the more urgent it becomes to develop a true European defence.
Urgent need for what purpose? That purpose is becoming more and more clear.

Update: A. M. Rosenthal writes that protestors ignore Saddam's fascism. They seem to accuse the U.S. of fascism often enough (and not just a few select oddballs, either; it's a re-occuring theme rather than an exception).
German Help in Afghanistan is often pointed to by those saying "what breach in the alliance"?

Well, it appears they're making a less-than-veiled threat that this help is contingent upon America letting their client and commercial partner, Saddam, off the hook.

Either that or it's an example of "when the going gets tough, the Europeans bail".

Thursday, February 20, 2003

What The Protestors Never Protest Against: Christopher Hitchens, writing in the Mirror, points out that:
I HAD hoped that it would pour with rain during last Saturday's march for "peace".

Why? Exactly a week earlier in northern Iraq, a brave minister of the autonomous Kurdish government was foully done to death by a bunch of bin Laden clones calling themselves Ansar al-Islam.

Shawkat Mushir was lured under a flag of truce into a dirty ambush, in which he and several innocent bystanders - including an eight-year-old girl - were murdered.
I doubt that, amid all the signs depicting Blair and (especially) Bush as new Hitlers on the world stage, that any of the "peace" protestors carried a sign or banner condemning these killings.

The rest of the article is worth a read, too.
Echos of Time Past Alistair Cooke's Letter.
Like Deja Vu All Over Again: The Jonathan Rauch writes in Atlantic Monthy on UN follies, past and present, regarding France and the subject of Iraq:
Consistently, France's approach has been to offer Iraq pre-emptive concessions in hopes of spurring cooperation.
Well, I'm not even sure that "spurring cooperation" is all that important to Chirac. Well, perhaps it is - depending on how one defines "cooperation" (cooperating in signing lucrative oil deals with French companies, importing French weapons, etc. Iraqi cooperation with respect to compliance with obligations embodied in UN Resolutions? No, not important to Chirac).

This comment regarding 1999:
by calling for the U.N. to back down, France encouraged Saddam to hold out.
Is exactly pertinent to the present.
By the end of the last decade, a kind of French-Iraqi codependency had evolved. France's demands for concessions encouraged Iraqi defiance, and Iraqi defiance brought more French demands for concessions.
Lots of people are starting to suspect that's by design rather than by accident. Intentional rather than unintentional. More on that in a future post if I can get ahold of a certain Stratfor article on the Chirac-Hussein connection (on their paid side only).

Jonathan Rauch's Atlantic piece goes on:
Faced with this rather obvious criticism, the French have always replied with the same one-word answer: unity. Unity can contain Saddam Hussein. Without unity, all is lost. Etc., etc. As Villepin said on February 5, "France is convinced that we can succeed on this demanding path [peaceful disarmament of Iraq] if we maintain our unity and our cohesion." Or again, French President Jacques Chirac, in December 1999: "We have to find a solution that in some way forces Saddam to accept a resumption of inspections. And the only possibility of doing this would be a resolution adopted unanimously by the Security Council." Or yet again, the French foreign ministry in a 1999 policy document: "The return of inspectors cannot be imposed by military action. It will be obtained only through the restored unity and authority of the Security Council."

So there you have it. The plan is to threaten Saddam Hussein not with force but with "unity"-specifically, unity behind France's determination not to use force. Neither Saddam nor my 3-year-old niece would feel scared of that threat. Moreover, "unity," on closer inspection, turns out to mean agreement with France. In 1999, when the French were in the minority, they walked away and said it was a shame that the Security Council had failed to achieve unity.
But you have to understand that it's all the fault of America and it's "poodle", Britain, regardless.

Rauch has a good shot at France towards the end, too, calling them a "free rider". Could apply that to Germany, too.

As George Will puts it:
Today the U.N., toyed with by France, is making more likely a war that might not be impending if the U.N. had not been so involved in dealing with Iraq 12 years ago.
Will asks:
Has France considered the consequences of making the United Nations and NATO redundant evidence of the mortality of organizations?
And follows that with these observations:
NATO's primary function is no longer collective security; it is to give collective weight to European nations in their dealings with America. The U.N.'s crucial function is to enmesh America in inhibiting procedures. Hence the diminution of NATO and the U.N. will further emancipate America while miniaturizing two stages on which France struts.
However, this second section answers his question, if in a roundabout way. As Steven Den Beste has pointed out, it is plausible to believe that France views the U.N. and NATO as worthless unless they can use those institutions to bind, constrain, and obstruct the U.S.

If they aren't able to accomplish that now, on an issue of apparently inordinate importance to them (or at least to Chirac, who started his Ivory Coast adventure with none of the UN wrangling that characterizes his expectations of the U.S.), then those institutions have already failed in French eyes. Just as, in American eyes, they will have failed if they do not authorize action to back up these Resolutions soundly concurred to. Thus the inevitable impasse.

Will closes his article with several pithy paragraphs on the fecklessness of the UN. But I've been there, done that, will no doubt do it again, so I'll just conclude this post.
Yah, What I Said: Angela Merkel writes:
Rarely do we have the experience of witnessing firsthand the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. But this is exactly what people all over the world are now living through.
I talked about this here and here.

Merkel goes on:
It is true that war must never become a normal way of resolving political disputes. But the history of Germany and Europe in the 20th century in particular certainly teaches us this: that while military force cannot be the normal continuation of politics by other means, it must never be ruled out, or even merely questioned -- as has been done by the German federal government -- as the ultimate means of dealing with dictators. Anyone who rejects military action as a last resort weakens the pressure that needs to be maintained on dictators and consequently makes a war not less but more likely.

This is a grave matter: Peace is a supreme good, for the sake of which every effort has to be made. But it is also true that responsible political leadership must on no account trade the genuine peace of the future for the deceptive peace of the present. The determination and unity of the free nations will, in the Iraq conflict, have a decisive effect not only on the outcome of the crisis but on the way in which we shape the future of Europe and its relationship with the United States. They will have a decisive effect, too, on how we guarantee peace, freedom and security, and how we find appropriate answers to the new threats of our time. Will it be alone or together, with determination or in despair, with our partners or against them?
We'll have to see. She goes on to say that she's convinced that a common security alliance between Europe and the U.S. will persist. But while it doesn't take two to fight, it definately takes two to make for an alliance.
A couple of days ago, an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany's major national newspapers, carried the headline "The End of a Friendship." It included the following passage: "For Germany, a permanent break with America would probably be not much of a liberation but a return to an ugly old-new reality, to the completely disillusioned world of the old Europe with its narrow-mindedness and disloyalty. Gratitude, friendship with America: in future these could still prove to be reasonable feelings."
Given that, Rumsfeld's much-criticized reference to certain countries behavior represented "old Europe" seems less a "gaffe" and more. . .precient.
Zell Miller to Co-Sponsor tax cut plan.
American Imperialists Go Home! Uh, ok.
More on E-Bombs and their likely use in the comming conflict.
By the By, that North Korean ship that delivered Scuds to Yemen some time ago? It returned to North Korea, by way of Germany, with a cargo hull full of German chemicals for making chemical weapons.

But Germany and France are the good, peace-loving guys. Right.
The Aniversary of the Brutal Murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, who went to talk to Jihadist Islamists to get their side of the story and was viciously murdered as a "reward" for his openness to hearing their point of view.
Opposition to War not driven by opposition to America? It is in France:
Offered a choice of three reasons to best explain why they opposed going to war, 76 percent of the anti-war camp said they "dislike they way the United States is behaving in the crisis".

Just nine percent said the were mainly against military action because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was not a threat to international security and 13 percent chose to explain their view by saying the crisis did not affect France's interests.
So next time someone suggests they agree with the French position but object to it being characterized as anti-American, remember these figures and rebut them.

Also remember how France is behaving in this crisis if they suggest that the French are right to object to how America is handling the Iraq matter. The French (and their UN puppets) are pressing for what amounts to nothing less than "regime change" in a country where the current regime is the result of a legitimate election. They want Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to reward violent revolution (attempt to overthrow the elected government by force) by giving the rebels control over the armed forces (Ministry of Defense) and police (Ministry of the Interior), and are going about it in a bullying fashion that would be deplored catagorically if the U.S. were the one exerting the pressure.

Perhaps, though, those who think the way the U.S. is behaving is wrong and France's behavior is the model to follow are refering to these kinds of dealings with dictators. Yes, they represent the more moral approach to international relations, don't they?
Gosh, What a Surprise Apparently Iraq is failing to follow through on promises of increased cooperation with inspectors.
"We have not seen any positive moves on the part of Iraq," one U.N. official in Iraq told The Washington Post, while another said, "They are not fulfilling their promises."
I'm sure he was as surprised by this as you are. Well, actually - I bet they are surprised. These guys are always surprised.

But of course it's all America's Fault, according to the Russians - you know, for wanting the inspectors to actually try and find what Iraq is hiding:
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Thursday that U.N. weapons inspectors were being pressured to provide a pretext for war on Iraq.

Ivanov did not say who was applying the pressure, which he said aimed "to provoke them to discontinue their operations in Iraq ... or to pressure them into coming up with assessments that would justify the use of force."
So you see the goal of some countries is as I said it was: have inspectors in place as a means of blocking action, but for gods sake don't try and find anything! Their concern isn't with getting Iraq to comply; inspectors are just a useful tool to prevent anything substantive. So this doesn't bother the Russians (or the French, or the Germans - you know, the countries that traded most heavily upon bonds with Saddam's regime) much.
After Falling Unexpectedly last month, jobless claims are back up. Economy remains "mixed".
Crushing Dissent: Whenever someone gets up at a podium somewhere (either at a protest march or as a paid speaker on a college campus and whatnot) in America and claims that they're dissenting views are being supressed, crushed, laugh at them.

This is a minimum threashold of what constitutes the supressing of dissent. But note that Hugo Chavez is one of the Left's fair-haired boys. So don't expect to see many "progressives" objecting to, much less protesting, this.
One Thousand and One Posts: I've learned that this post was the thousand and first post of this blog.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Some Thoughts on a Possible Positive Future for the EU, from Andrew Sullivan.

It depends on two things: the successful prosecution of the War to Liberate Iraq, and upon Blair.
Comming to a Country Near Youre heart. Criminalization of dissenting opinions. But not the ones you may have been lead to believe. Those doing the criminalizing are those who point fingers at the "crushing of dissent" in America. The outlawing of bad attitudes and crude, ignoble thinking proceeds apace in the EU:
In a few years, you could be subjected to the new European arrest warrant. Under legislation going through Parliament, it might soon be possible to have you extradited to the Continent for "racism" and "xenophobia" [report, 18 Feb].

Impossible, you say. I'm just a bog-standard Eurosceptic who wants to preserve our system of government. That sort of thing is for neo-Nazi Holocaust-deniers who violated the Draconian domestic laws of France and Germany - not the likes of me.

Don't bank on it. The problem is that, even now, the EU does not adequately define "racism" or "xenophobia". Its treatment of Austria after Jörg Haider's electoral successes suggests that it was at least as worried about his attitudes towards Brussels as his views on immigration per se.

Indeed, some EU funded bodies, such as the European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia, have now identified a new form of bigotry - "monetary xenophobia", or opposition to the euro.
Caution! Reading this Weblog Could Land YOU in a European gaol!
The EU as an Anti-American Institution: via Steven Den Beste a bunch of revealing news stories. One stand out is this, wherin Romano Prodi (EU Commissione Capo di Tuti Capo) is quoted:
European Commission President Romano Prodi said he was saddened rather than angry with the candidates because their pro-Americanism was a signal they had failed to understand that the EU is more than a mere economic union.

"I would be lying it I said I was happy," he told reporters. "I have been very, very sad, but I am also patient by nature, so I hope they will understand that sharing the future means sharing the future."
To which Steven aptly asks the rhetorical question:
Why would a public expression of friendship for the US indicate failure to understand the EU? Unless anti-Americanism is a cornerstone of EU policy, and a requirement for entry?
But of course it is. Has been for at least a decade.

This asside by Steven is good also:
Maybe there's a reason why the European politicians are so insincere: if they all frankly expressed what they really think of one another, there would be another war in Europe.
Almost certainly true.
If You Can't Get Enough discussion of international law, morality, and the ICC, then check out this lengthy but good post by the Buggy Professor.
Meet the Man Behind the Money: Exchanges with a Nigerian banking magnate.
A New Low: No, not Bender finding out he got to work first.

The BBC has felt the need to teach it's readers how to love the U.S..

My favorite bit:
British prisoner of war Desmond Llewelyn - later famous as Q in the James Bond films - was liberated in 1945 by American troops keen to root out Nazis hiding in his camp. Asked how long he had been held captive, Llewelyn replied: "Five years." "The war's only been on three years," he was told.
Actually, that bit made me love Britain more than I already do. I hadn't known Desmond Llewelyn was a POW.

A lot of the examples (especially in comments) seem trivial or, rather, prosaic. But that's how people live their lives and this country has contributed a lot to the improvement of the lives of most people.

But it's pretty pathetic that people have to be reminded that maybie, just maybie, America isn't so bad after all.
Join the EU so that others will decide what priorities are best for you, based mainly on what they think is best for them.
The Mother-in-Law of All Battles has begun:
Iranian-backed Iraqi opposition forces have crossed into northern Iraq from Iran with the aim of securing the frontier in the event of war, according to senior Iranian officials.

The forces, numbering up to 5,000 troops, with some heavy equipment, are nominally under the command of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, a prominent Iraqi Shia Muslim opposition leader who has been based in Iran since 1980 and lives in Tehran.

A US State Department official said he was aware of reports that part of Ayatollah Hakim's Badr brigade had crossed into northern Iraq but declined further comment. Analysts close to the administration of President George W. Bush said the US was concerned about the intentions of this new element in an increasingly complicated patchwork of forces in northern Iraq.
Well, I'm sure.

Clearing out Iranian proxies will be complicated, but might also give a casus beli for toppling the Mullahs in Iran as well, in due time.
New Uses for some items.

  • Doorstops

  • Paperweights

  • Stone-toss

  • Ballast

  • Lawn ornaments

  • Counterweights for really big cukoo clocks
If you think of any, feel free to let me know and I'll pass your ideas on to the Pentagon.
A New Conflict between Bush and Saddam.
Why Are Some Blogs far more popular than some others that might be equally good? Clay Shirky has some economics based analysis that are well worth reading. It's only going to become more exacerbated as time goes on.

Posting this doesn't assert anything about the relative merits or demerits of this site vis a vi it's audience size

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Headlines: I mean, I'm glad they did it and all. And I don't mean to be the pig at the cotillion. But, ok, here's the headline:
EU issues 'last chance' warning to Iraq
How many times have I mentioned this "endless 'last chances'" thing? Here's a Google search results page that lists only some of them.

The EU is sort of the Cardinal Ximenes of "Last Chances".

I mean, I know it's ungenerous of me in the face of a fairly good Joint Statement. But we've had "fairly good Joint Statements giving one last chance" before, too.
Thoughts on the Moralism of the Anti-War Protestors, and their ink-drenched sages, such as Harold Pinter, from Mark Steyn, commenting on the looking glass they see the world through:
It's not Saddam who's the thug, it's Tony. It's not the Baathist killers from Tikrit who are the bunch of criminals, it's the Republican Party. It's not the million-man murderer of Baghdad who's the new Hitler, it's George W. Bush. It's not the Iraqi one-party state with its government-controlled media that "crushes dissent," it's the White House. It's not the Wahhabis who are the fundamentalists, it's Bush, Blair and the other Christians. It's not Osama bin Laden who's the terrorist, it's American foreign policy. Supporting the continued enslavement of the Iraqi people is "pacifist," but it's "racist" for America to disagree with the UN, even though it's Colin Powell and Condi Rice doing the disagreeing and the fellows they're disagreeing with are a bunch of white guys from Europe.

The new Universal Theory, to which 99% of Saturday's speakers and placards enthusiastically subscribed, is that, whatever the problem, American imperialist cowboy aggression is to blame.
I'm sure some will say it's not an accurate description of them. But for all too many, it's a very accurate description. After all, hardly any of them (I know of none) were out there with banners showing Saddam as a despot or calling on him to comply with his commitments for the sake of peace. No, they were, 99% of them or more, blaiming Bush, Blair, and the like for everything.

It doesn't make much sense to engage these sorts in an intellectual debate on the merits and try to convince them on the basis of arguments pertaining to the real world, either,
as Colin Powell and Jack Straw have surely learned by now, there's no real point doing the patient line-by-line rebuttal: Nobody's interested in French oil contracts or German arms sales or even Saddamite corpse tallies because it doesn't fit into the Universal Theory which insists that everything can be explained by the Evil of America. On the other hand, the indestructible belief that "over 4,000" civilians were killed by U.S. bombs in Afghanistan is impervious to scientific evidence because it accords perfectly with the Universal Theory.
Which again is all to true, and in my opinion points to an intellectual disease among the Left that only they can really work their way through. Until then, they can whine all they want about being "shut out" of the discussion, but there's a reason why they can't be taken seriously as participants in the debate on how to handle important policy questions - whether it's Iraq now or Globalism tommorrow or environmental problems, or, well, nearly everything. They're free to express their point of view however they want, as loudly and as often as they want, but there's a reason why serious people don't take them seriously.
Some Thoughts on the Franenreich's pretentions to authority and on the whole EU project.
EU UNITES: I really didn't think it could happen, divisions are fairly deep. But I think Chirac helped push the EU together - they united in opposition to Iraq and in no small part in opposition to petulant French tantrums.

Someone should ask him if he likes "pommes". When he answers, ask him how he likes les pommes.

Update: The UN Follies continue. A 18th Resolution to be proposed by the U.S., perhaps this week.

Don't let anyone get away with calling it a "second Resolution", either. This will mark the 18th.

As Max Boot writes:
The UN provides a useful forum for palaver, but as an effective police force it is a joke, as shown by its failure to stop bloodlettings in Bosnia, Rwanda and elsewhere. It is almost impossible to get a consensus among the UN's member states, even when it comes to a threat as well documented as that posed by Saddam Hussein.
He argues the world needs someone willing and able to act. Guess who that is?
Free Speech Europe: Not if the EU has anything to say about it:
Legislation now before Parliament will make "xenophobia and racism" one of 32 crimes for which the European arrest warrant can be issued without the existing safeguard of dual criminality. This requires that an extraditable offence must also be a crime in the UK.

Alongside the arrest warrant, EU ministers are negotiating a new directive to establish a common set of offences to criminalise xenophobia and racism.
This is sort of the other side of Tony Blair. There's the Blair we praise in foreign policy. Then there's what Labour is doing to British law (and government, &tc, &tc).
New Sport Sweeps Across World, gaining rapidly in popularity. Perhaps it will be added to the Olmypics in 2008 or 2012.
Meet the New Boss: So there's a buzz going around that some in government want to replace Saddam with a more pliable dictator, in the name of "stability". It's, at least so far, entirely generated by an article in the Observer.

The story. . .troubled me. But I didn't comment on it till now because I don't think it's going to work out that way (more on that later). But I do believe the Observer has sources and that there are people who would like to see just what they describe.

I often wonder why some have the idea that the State Department is the home of the "good cop" in America's government (there's a big overlap between the people who have that view and those who get warm and fuzzy feelings at the mention of the phrase "United Nations"). The State Department has a fairly long tradition of preferring nice (well, not even nice), "reliable" dictators that "we can do business with" over representative regimes. I mean, look at it through their eyes: one guy gives the nod to a deal, they think it can be relied on to happen (you know, cut a deal with Kim Jong Il, it doesn't really have to go through a parliament. One guy says yes to the deal, and you know that it will be ratified. Whether it's kept or not is unimportant to the "success" of diplomacy).

To put it this way, the State Department inclines towards a preference for (I'm trying to avoid being overly categorical and harsh) autocratic rulers for the same reason that foreign governments find it troublesome negotiating treaties with the U.S. (they negotiate something with executive branch officials and then have to hope the Senate ratifies the treaty and that Congress as a whole enacts the enabling legislation without amending it too much).

Dictators are, in this sense, more predictable. What folks at the State Department seem never to learn is that they are predictable in the sense that they can be predicted to cheat and screw you over (sure, even a republic does that, but not as reliably as dictatorships do).

Lexington Green and some others are troubled by the Observer article. I have no doubt that there are at least some at the State Department who are proposing just that (under the guise of "we need a strongman to keep Iraq together. Only rule by a strongman can prevent Iraq from fragmenting and creating" - wait for it - "instability in the region").

I don't worry too much about that becoming policy, though. I think it's politically unacceptable, I think neither Blair nor Bush are inclined in that direction.

What I worry about more is the "Karzai Solution" - I mean, ok. That was fine with respect to Afghanistan, and it was at least two steps forward in the direction of representative government. But. . .well, lets just say I was dissatisfied seeing the guy who became leader of the "provisional government" ratified as leader of the government, and there's something about Karzai that - well, this is probably unfair (he might be a very decent fellow and by all appearances certainly is trying, but IMO he has some authoritarian inclinations that are unhealthy), but he reminds me of nothing else but that guy in The Man Who Would Be King who Daniel and Peachy first use as the front man of their. . .enterprise. You know the guy - the one who eventually becomes the ball in a game of polo.

The "Karzai Solution" was fine for Afghanistan - and there's nothing that anyone can (yet) point to and really say it's a disaster yet. It's actually, despite some carping from a few Leftist critics, a fair accomplishment. But it will not suffice for Iraq.

What I would rather see, if there is a "provisional government" established in Iraq after Saddam is removed, an announcement that whoever serves as head guy cannot succeed himself into office when the regular government is (re-)established. I know this means that the head of the "provisional government" is likely to be a non-entity (because anyone with any ambition will avoid the job if he has no shot at becomming President or Prime Minister or whatever in the real government), but that's ok. For the first period Iraq is going to be under de facto rule by the occupation forces, anyhow so it won't matter as much if the head of the ProvoGov is a cypher. Let the other guys campaign for the job of forming the post-provisional government. I also think de-Ba'athization of Iraq is very important (not just removing a few guys at the top, but eliminating the Ba'athist hacks at all levels, as much as can be accomplished). This will be more difficult than it sounds - it's been 30 years, not 15 years (as in Germany) of Ba'athist rule. A balance will have to be struck (it's inevitable) between purging the National Socialists and insuring a functioning bureaucracy remains to keep things working.

But I don't really worry about a transition from one dictator to a more "acceptable" dictator. I fear instead a sort of twilight situation; a guy plausibly selected in a representative way, but who has authoritarian inclinations (and it will be difficult for us to interfere too much and still say that whatever results is the "democratic choice of the Iraqi people". I'm not sure it's fair to blame us too much for what the outcome will be in Afghanistan because there is a balance here and no matter what we're open to criticism - interfere too much, and we'll get slammed on that grounds. Interfere too little then we'll get slammed for letting whatever happen, happen if it goes even slightly wrong).

For this reason I also worry about the exact opposite that some people worry about when talking about the Iraqi opposition groups. Many raise the specter "they aren't united. They aren't in agreement on everything." Well, duh. Do you all want a pluralistic, multi-party system, or one-party rule? I like the fact that their is a variety of opinions among these guys and think that should be encouraged, and worry that it's being discouraged. As long as the working out of those disagreements stay in the realm of peaceful political processes, that is exactly what we would hope to see.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Long But Excellent Post by Collin May at Innocents Abroad.
Illigitimi Non Carborundum Est: So the Good People (feel their goodness wash over you in a wave) are out there showing how much more humane, civil, and thoughtful they are than those who don't share their world view, by sending hate mail to those who disagree with them.

Of course you must understand that since these people are defined (or, rather, self-defined) a priori as the "good guys", you have to understand that anything they do is justified to advance the progressive cause.

So it's not surprising that this "weekend of peace" has been filled with the most vile sorts of charges directed at those who don't agree with them - accusing various people of being NAZIs, or "spokesfaschists" (btw, I don't remember Thomas Friedman self-professing to be the "arch priest of the new world order" - but then, putting words in the mouths of opponents and then discrediting their by with things they never said is a trick the good "progressives" mastered long ago).

This invective is the substitute-for-argument style all too common among this branch of the ideological spectrum. It's as much a part of the ritualistic nature of things as the protest culture is (see my post sunday). Calling proponents of using force (war) to remove Saddam and disarm him since he will not comply with UN demands that he disarm "insane" (one of the more polite epithets among the progressive arsenal) is a substitute for grappling with the facts of the matter at hand.

Yes, these are by definition the "good people", as we all agree. But they follow the fallacies of moral aestheticism, moralism, and moral relativism - highly selective moral indignation - condemning "hate" while filling their writings with hatred for those who dissent from their world view (as with the Russia Journal article I linked to, above. But I could have linked to countless articles from countless "progressive" publications from nearly any country, or just quoted from e-mails such as the ones Megan and Glenn mentioned).

Or, to quote from the Times article (linked to above):
The demonstrators were not people who had opposed Saddam’s refusal to disarm under the terms of the UN ceasefire in 1991. They were not people who had marched against Iraq’s treatment of the missing hostages seized in Kuwait, or of the Iranian prisoners of war, or of Iraqi dissidents, or of the Kurds and Marsh Arabs. All of these things had passed them by. When the United States decided to act to enforce the UN resolution on disarmament, or to remove the regime, then, and only then, they decided to protest. Subjectively the march was for peace; objectively it helped Saddam Hussein. He knows that; the march was shown for seven hours on Iraqi television.
These are the caring people willing to consign millions to life under despotism because, mainly, of their blind animus towards the West (and America in particular) leads them to oppose what they usually champion when it is in the realm of the abstract (or in the concrete form of an untoward word to a co-ed on an American college campus or embodied in the form of a "spokesfaschist" like Sean Hannity speaking from a perspective they despise): the liberation of people from despotism and oppression.

On that basis, one has to ask who is insane here, if anyone? One can ask if they have an alternative - and they will give you an answer (various generally unworkable schemes largely designed not to insure Iraqi compliance with the terms of the Gulf War cease fire and the various follow up resolutions that they have agreed to, much less liberty for the people of Iraq; but designed to keep the Ba'ath National Socialist Party in power in Iraq. One has to conclude on "an enemy of my enemy is my friend" grounds. Sure, they'll say they don't like Saddam. But it's clear who they reserve their real opposition, dislike, and, yes, hatred for: you don't see them waving signs showing Saddam as a NAZI, nor do they send mails to people describing the Tikriti mob governing Iraq as Fascists, nor do they pen articles referring to Tarik Aziz as a "spokesfascist.") There's a reason why you don't see them out there with signs calling on Saddam to step down or calling for things this Iraqi hoped they would.

However, to people like Megan, targets of the torrent of venom from the "good progressive people", I say Illigitimi Non Carborundum Est.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

NATO Absent France finds a way out of impasse regarding positioning support for Turkey.

Mere accident that without France present, something was worked out?
L'enfant Europa: Nelson Ascher writes from Paris (via e-mail):
I've watched yesterday from my window while for 3 hours or so the peace protestors went on toward the Place de La Bastille. It wasn't very impressive really: just a mix of mainly middle-aged middle class people and many Arabs. I'm glad to say that neither the slogans nor the signs they carried were too aggressive: most were about peace, down with the war, no blood for oil and so on. Obviously one of the favorite slogans was Busharon murderer(s). I've seen, however, no swastikas juxtaposed to the star of David or to any American symbol. Neither was the whole thing too noisy.

Nevertheless I'd say that maybe 1/4 or 1/5 of the things shouted or shown were anti-Israeli and anti-Sharon, something that, when dealing with a war in which Israel's role is at most very marginal, gives food for thought. Curiously, I've seen nothing anti-British or anti-Blair and, considering that Britain is America's main partner in the war, that makes this absence as curious as the insistence in talking about Israel.

As I'm used to this kind of thing ever since the 70s in my country, I estimated that the size of the protest was around 150.000 people, and that's what the press has generally been saying. My estimation was also helped by the fact the this protest seemed to be roughly of the same size as the main anti-Israeli one during operation Defensive Shield last year. The difference between both protests, however, is that the first was much more militant, aggressive, angry and well organized. Yesterday's looked either much less organized or maybe even more spontaneous. As I've said above, besides the Arabs, its participants were basically, how should I put it, "decent" people.

Immediately after, it looked as if it had never happened. And here's an intriguing point about this way of making politics. What's the real effect, the real importance of this, besides the pictures on the front page for a day or two and the TV footage? Is it all as meaningful, even for the participants, as the ideologues would have us believe?

I can take seriously one kind of protest: when people go out to the streets not only against their own government's wishes, but also risking jail, death, whatever; the kind that happened in Hungary in 56 or East Germany, Bucharest and Prague in 89 or Belgrade a couple of years ago. But those protests were not one time events. People took to the streets and stayed there insisting on immediate, substantive and radical changes in their very towns and countries. Those, unlike what took place yesterday, were not feel good events backed by the government, the press and the official institutions.

It should also be remembered that even the angrier protest here in Paris against Israel last year failed to get any result. There was no real follow up: the next protests were few, they attracted less and less people and, in the end, they couldn't put real pressure on Israel and its army. If such a protest couldn't stop the army of a small, besieged, not exactly rich and very unpopular country, why should the US care for something that, if it had approximately the same size, was surely less deeply motivated?

My feeling, and I don't think it is exclusively subjective, is that middle-aged people were behaving like, well, rather well-behaved teens. But even this seems to have been happening in a somewhat peculiar way, because, after all, who were they exactly protesting against? In the end, teens, even nice teens, protest against their parents: that's human nature. Thus, our protestors should have been marching against their government, right?

Now, consider the following. My wife has two kids who are grown up now, but when they were teens the high school they attended was a fashionable lefty one. The teachers' game there was to back them against their parents, allowing them do do anything the parents tried to forbid. They then developed a strong loyalty toward those teachers because they seemed so much more sensitive, open-minded, understanding and so on than their own parents were.

My impression of France and of most of Western Europe sometimes is that they are a kind of huge high school, or rather, lycée. That has in a way become the, so to say, paradigmatic institution, instead of, for instance, the workplace, the army or the church. This also helps to explain why Europeans in general expect from their representatives, ministers, presidents that they at least look and behave like intellectuals: they're teachers after all. It surely explains why intellectuals in general and specially academic intellectuals love the European way of ruling and making politics so much.

It's not hard to guess that I reserve for America the parental and bill paying role, but I'd like to stress that I'm not taking this in a psychoanalytic, Freudian way. I actually think that the educational system, as it is, has shaped these societies in a very deep way. I still remember my time in the student movement during the late 70s and what strikes me is how much the kind of action I've just witnessed below my window resembles student politics: it is much closer to it than to what many among us consider real politics. Utopianism, lots of theorizing, a lack of rootedness in pragmatic reality, the love for empty abstractions and impossible principles, romantic revolutionary posturing, voluntarism, the belief that all the evils in the world come from the cynicism and materialism of the grownups, sentimentalism and so on are traditional marks of student movements anywhere, except, of course, in dictatorships and tyrannies. And that's fair enough, because that's a reflex of the powerlessness of early youth.

Making a long story short, yesterday's protest was, partly at least, a public demonstration of the complete infantilization of the Western European street.
I think there's something to that, perhaps. I think there is also a "life as art" aspect to this (see also here), and self-gratification (again referring to Armed Liberal's "War on Bad Philosophy" discourse). That's why there's a carnival and street theatre aspect to so much of this. It is also why, while they might claim otherwise, it's clear that the primary point of all the slogans and rhetoric is not to persuade others, but a form of self-congratulation (and also, by this point, one has to recognize their highly ritualistic nature, repeating the same mantra from protests past; "The Movement" as secular religion). Thus the banners, slogans, and speeches at demonstrations often seem very disconnected from reality to outsiders (this is not necessarily the case with respect to anti-war blogs and articles, but is invariably the case with respect to demonstrations, which have become little but religious pilgrimages and which content and form does not vary regardless of the issue at hand. This could be an anti-globalization demonstration or a Earth Day demonstration just as easily as an anti-war demonstration). That is because, for the spokesman and many of the participants, it's more important to maintain a connection to "The Movement's" legacy from decades past than to make arguments fitted to the present issue-at-hand. That issue must be shoehorned into the dialectic of "The Movement", regardless of whether it fits (thus the emphasis on neo-Marxist materialist explanations such as "it's about oil", for example).

But no doubt there is a lot of adolescence involved in doing it this way rather than really engaging the issue and trying to persuade.
Blair Overcomes his own worst fault.

Tony Blair, in a speech this weekend (via Andrew Sullivan):
I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honour. But sometimes it is the price of leadership. And the cost of conviction.
Paul Johnson, writing in an article and quoting Blair ("Tony Award"):
Once, when we were discussing faults, I said that my worst one was impatience and asked him [Blair] to name his. After some hesitation, [Blair] said: "Not doing the right thing for fear it would make me unpopular."I believe that to be true, and it was candid and brave of him to admit it.
He seems to have overcome his own worst fault to rise to the occasion.

Two years ago I never would have thought he had it in him. I was wrong.
AMI GO HOME!: A week or so ago when several of the units America has stationed in Germany got deployment orders, Rumsfeld commented that this wasn't due to any friction between Germany and the U.S., just part of the deployment to the Gulf.

That's true, as far as it goes. But it's unlikely they'll ever be returning to Germany. "Ami Go Home"?