Saturday, March 15

A ScrappleFace classic: Powell Explains U.S. Belief in Fake Iraq Documents--which was especially funny since today I reecieved an extra-special, and very personal, e-mail from the daughter of Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi, so I can understand the confusion that such documents can cause.
OK, so if the President had "Asked Nice" then everyone in the world would seen the rightness of the war? U.S. Missteps Led to Failed Diplomacy

Also, I tire of the false comparison to the Forty-One admin's coalition--kicking Saddam out of Kuwait was an easier sell. I say this not to diminish the work done by Forty-One's team, but to point out the obvious fact that the circumstances were rather significantly different.

Now, I am not saying that Forty-Three has been perfect, but the arguments in the article, which aren't very new, simply don't impress.

As I Predicted Yesterday: Dixie Chicks Find Home Not So Sweet
Worth a Read: Victor Davis Hanson piece in National Review Online And, indeed:
Nothing is worse for a great power than to ask others far less moral for permission to use its power; and nothing weakens a great power more than intervening and intruding frequently but rarely decisively. Had we simply ignored the U.N. — as Mr. Clinton did in Kosovo — and moved unilaterally last fall (like Russia and France do all the time), Saddam Hussein would be gone, and we now would have more impressed friends than we do disdainful enemies. Instead, we await China's moral condemnation of our unilateral action — this from a regime that in the last 50 years butchered more of its own citizens than any government in the history of civilization, annexed Tibet, invaded Korea and Vietnam, and threatened to annihilate Taiwan. France hysterically alleges that we will harm the city of Baghdad in its liberation, but is silent about the Russian destruction of Grozny in its subjugation. And so on.
Dickens, Spock and my Three Year-Old. A slight digression from the political for a moment. I have to admit that I have never read A Tale of Two Cities and to me it is most famous for being the book that Spock gives to Kirk on his birthday in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (the best Trek flick ever, btw). This is a long way of saying that I am well familiar with the famous starting line of the novel: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Now, I have always been told that this was some clever musing about the state of Europe at the time of the novel's setting. Now, however, I have discovered what the true meaning of the text is: it is about three year-olds (and two year-olds, too). My three year old can be the sweetest, most angelic and most loving entity on planet Earth. He can also be the most hellacious, difficult and frustrating being I have ever encountered. Hence, three years of age is clearly "the best of times and the worst of times." Can I get an "amen" from the other parents out there?

And before the literary folks jump on me for my interpretation, I distinctly remember my AP Literature teacher (who had some post-modern tendencies) saying back in High School: "the author lies" and that we had to discover the meaning of the work ourselves. So there. And no, I don't plan on reading Dickens any time soon. But I might pop Wrath of Khan in the DVD player at any moment...

This is Encouraging: Bush OKs 'Interim Authority' for Post-Saddam Iraq
The transitional authority would include Iraqis from each of the country's major ethnic, tribal and religious groups, and would eventually help draft a new Iraqi constitution setting up an autonomous government.

This is smart and helps clear up some of the criticisms that have beenflying about. Clearly any new government in Iraq is going to have the have take institutional account of the different groups.

Andrew Sullivan's Sunday Times column from 3/10/03 is worth a read.

The key paragraph:

Bush's diplomatic headaches have much less to do with his own poor diplomatic skills than with the simple fact that he is trying ambitious things. Rather than simply forestall crises, postpone them, avoid them or fob them off onto others, Bush is actually doing the hard thing. He's calling for real democracy in the Middle East. He's aiming to make the long-standing U.S. policy of regime change in Iraq a reality. He actually wants to defeat Islamist terrorism, rather than make excuses for tolerating its cancerous growth. And when this amount of power is fueled by this amount of conviction, of course the world is aroused and upset.
By the way--today's the one-month anniversary (there really ought to be a better word for it than that) of PoliBlog.
The True "New" Europe

This story in today's NYT: "Schroder Offers Plan for Ending Germany's Economic Slump" is illustrative of the direction that the western European countries are going to have to go, if they want to become truly competitive with the US. Socialism, even tempered socialism, doesn't work. And countries like Germany and France cannot afford to continue to have permanent unemployment in the double-digits, especially in the context of a welfare state that incentivizes those workers to remain unemployed by providing generous, and permanent, unemployment packages.

Further, productivity will never be what it can if firms cannot fire incompetent workers.

Recalling Lots o' Resolutions

It is nothing new, but in looking for the specific language concerning ballistic missiles this morning, I came across the text of 1441. The first two paragraphs are remarkable in their listage:

Recalling all its previous relevant resolutions, in particular its resolutions 661 (1990) of 6 August 1990, 678 (1990) of 29 November 1990, 686 (1991) of 2 March 1991, 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991, 688 (1991) of 5 April 1991, 707 (1991) of 15 August 1991, 715 (1991) of 11 October 1991, 986 (1995) of 14 April 1995, and 1284 (1999) of 17 December 1999, and all the relevant statements of its President,

Recalling also its resolution 1382 (2001) of 29 November 2001 and its intention to implement it fully...

Gee, that Bush guy is sure in a rush...

And I hope we get that second resolution passed pronto!

Missile Question

Despite the much-ballyhooed destruction of the the al-Samoud 2 missiles in Iraq, it struck me this morning that despite reports that Iraq has deployed Scud missile launchers to western portions of the country to possibly use in a strikes against Israel, that there has been no discussion of the Scud program, or whether such missiles violate UN Resolutions.

According to Resolution 687, "Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of:...All ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and related major parts, and repair and production facilities". Now, the al-Samoud have a range of approximately 150 KM (93 miles) and is in clear violation, although granted, just barely. However, these missiles really aren't anywhere near as big a deal as are the infamous Scuds that now concern the war-planners. Indeed, the al-Samouds have been referred to as "mini-scuds" and, wouldn't be able to hit Israel, even from western Iraq, as they would be out of range:

However, Saddam's Scud aresenal has/had (it is unclear to me, and perhaps even to the DoD as to what he currently has) ranges far in excess of the 150 km prohibited by 687:

Scud Bal HusseinAl AbbasAl Hijarah
Max Range (mi.)
186373+500-560Iraq claimed 466

(source="Information Paper Iraq's Scud Ballistic Missiles"--IraqWatch)

The point of all this is primarily informative--mostly I started wondering about how the Scuds fit into the grander scheme and started doing some research. The upshot for me is that it convinces me that the al-Samoud destruction is a distraction, and it is further evidence tht Blix and Co. aren't really very serious about evaluating Iraqi compliance with UN Resolutions concering disarmament. It also mens that if Saddam is capable of Scud launches in the upcoming war, then the disarmament program was a clear failure.

Now, I am no weapons expert, so perhaps I am missing something, but it seems fairly clear that the provision from 687 cited above was primarily aimed at the Scuds and I am at a loss why the UN inspectors, and the US government, hasn't given those weapons any attention in the past six months.

Friday, March 14

This situation: Dixie Chicks Explain Anti-Bush Comment is most intersting, insofar as the Chicks are in the wrong component of the entertainment industry to make such comments. By this I mean that country music fans tend to be fairly conservative, and, I suspect, pro-war. These particular comments (especially to fans in Texas, who tend to be rather pro-Bush) are likely to offend their direct fan base--something not true in the case of Martin Sheen or Chrissie Hynde, for example. That is to say that a lot of the West Wing's fan trend in the liberal direction, and rock fans are used to rebellious talk from their artists. Neither is true of your typical country music fan.
Slate has the low-down on the MOAB, which is less hyberbolic than the initial reporting.
You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Cameroon's Health Minister notes that 'Urine is bad for you'.

Cameroon's health minister on Thursday warned people against drinking their own urine, believed in some circles to be a tonic and cure for a number of ailments.

"Given the risks of toxicity associated in the short, medium and long term with ingesting urine, the health ministry advises against the consumption of urine and invites those who promote the practice to cease doing so forthwith or risk prosecution," Health Minister Urbain Olanguena Awono said in a statement.

And this is one of the countries whose Security Council vote we covet?

This story is also noted in the NYT's

(Also thanks to the Michael Medved show)

Forget All that Stuff About Power: Let's Watch SpongeBob at the Baghdad DisneyWorld!

New Age guru Deepak Chopra has suggested 10 ways to avoid war in Iraq. Two of my favs:

5. Offer MTV, CNN and Nickelodeon free to any Iraqi household with a TV exposure to the world will make them feel like part of the world.

10. Open a Disney World somewhere in the Middle East, where up to half the population is under the age of 15. These children are in enormous peril, not just from bombs, but from cultural isolation. Let children breathe free air at a place where fun and joy abide. What better way to reduce fear and anger? At the same time, find a way to expose American children to the children of the world.

(A tip of the hat to the Michael Medved show for bringing this to my attention.)

More on Power and the International Arena

This really makes no sense:

"We need to be creating a world that we would like to live in when we're not the biggest power on the block." (Bill Clinton in a speech given at the 92nd Street YMCA in NYC on 3/13/03)

So, while I understand he is arguing that we should respect the UN and strengthen it now, so that when we are weaker that we can rely on it, I would submit that he wholly misunderstands the international arena (or, more likely, that he is being disingenuous for political reason, since as President he was quite willing to ignore the UN and act unilaterally).

Still, the premise is remarkable--the idea that if the US diminishes and a new superpower emerges, that somehow that this new superpower is going to be constrained by how the US acted when it was the power. "Gee, we were going to behave in a hegemonic fashion," says the new SuperPower, "but the US acquiesced to the UN back in '03, so I guess we will, too, even though such an action is against our national interest..." This is utterly ridiculous and ignores the very definition of a superpower. As I pointed out earlier today (see "Power and International Law" below), superpowers act because they can--it is the very essence of what makes them a "super"power. The idea that any new great power in the future will be constrained by what the US does, or does not do, is silly and ignores the way history has progressed to date.

Congrats to OTB! For being referenced in WaPo:
Blogging For War

A powerful component of the pro-war movement is blogs, or online Web logs and diaries. One blog, Outside the Beltway, features a number of stories and postings on the pending war and links to scores of other like-minded blogs...

Congrats to the Skeptician as well!
Power and International Law

The following UPI story raises the question Is a war against Iraq legal?

Several issues occur to me in response to the question posed. The first is: if one is going the international law route it seems to me that 1441 is sufficient grounds for action. Indeed, I think a cogent argument can be made that Saddam's violations of the 1991 cease fire agreements are sufficient grounds for action.

The second, and more fundamental, is that international law is "law" only if those functioning under it agree to follow its tenets. In other words, and to steal from Thomas Hobbes, given that there is no power to overawe those who are supposed to follow international law, following international law is a voluntary enterprise, unlike domestic law, which is wholly enforceable by the police power of the state.

Like it or not, believe it to be right or not, it is uncontrovertibly the case that the main guarantor of international law is the Unites States, given that it is currently the sole superpower in the world. Even in the bipolar world of the Cold War, the US often could (and did) ignore international law with impunity. This is an empirical fact. One can make whatever normative judgments one wishes as to the rightness and wrongness of the actions. Indeed, it is worth noting, by way of example, is the fact that any actual enforcement of the UN’s "will" always relies on the United States.

In sum: the only reason to follow international law (for any state, not just the US) is if following international law is in the national interest of the state in question, or if a more powerful state can force a given state to follow international law. Therefore, it may make for an intriguing intellectual argument to state that any war against Iraq, but it is an argument on paper—it will stop nothing.

May there be consequences of going into a conflict that other states may view as "illegal"?--potentially yes. Other states could be uncooperative, or seek not to do business with the United States, but the question still becomes whether other states can afford to engage in such activities. The bottom line is most states cannot. Again, the power of the US makes it possible for it to ignore international law, if it deems it necessary, and further, the power of the US ameliorates the effects of such actions. As such, the question of whether the action is "legal" or not is largely irrelevant.

Line of the Day: "I can't imagine anyone voting for me at this point," (Talk Show Host and potential Senate Candidate, Jerry Springer). Source

Thursday, March 13

Thanks to Paxety's Pages for recommending PoliBlog.
Evidence that getting the war over with will help the economy: Stocks Rally on Speculation of Short War
You Want Evidence that the UN Simply Wants to Check the US? Here you go: Opposition to Britain's Iraq Plan Brings New Diplomatic Flurry
Indeed: Portugal: U.S. 'best way' to have security
Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz told state radio that if Portugal were attacked, "it would be unlikely France and Germany would come to our rescue."


He said: "Let us suppose Portugal, proper or its archipelagos, faced a threat, who would come to our rescue? The European Commission, France, Germany?

"I think it would be NATO who would come to our rescue, in other words, it would be the U.S (emphasis added by PoliBlogger)., no one else would defend us. For instance, during the 1996 mission in Bosnia, operations took place with the support of 20 satellites, of which only one was European," and the remainder belonged to the U.S.

"If we were attacked, is that what they would offer to defend us? How curious is this: in Bosnia, when we were called to send soldiers urgently to that region, the U.S. had C-17 and C-130 planes, and France leased ferry boats, which during the summer are employed in tourist services to Corsica.

"Is this how we are supposed to project our forces in Europe? Are they planning to defend us with ferry boats? I cannot envisage the European Commission protecting us from an attack in which highly developed weapons were employed," the foreign minister said.

(Another tip of the hat to Random Nuclear Strikes)

Oh, brother: NYC Council Approves Anti-War Resolution
The City Council in the place hit hardest by the Sept. 11 attacks approved a resolution Wednesday opposing war with Iraq except as a last resort.

The 31-17 vote came after months of debate over whether New York should stake out a position.

"If we're going to be looking for a fight, let's fight poverty, let's fight firehouse closures, let's fight racism and sexism," said Yvette Clarke, a Democrat who supported the resolution

I have always thought it rather silly when city councils weigh in on topics of foreign policy. And I must remind Councilwoman Clarke, that we fought a "war" on poverty, and apparently lost.

(A tip of the hat to Random Nuclear Strikes)

Utterly bizarre: 'Vice' or price? TV star Don Johnson car-shopping with $8 billion to spend. I heard the story on Fox News yesterday, and a tip of the hat to Dave Berry's blog for reminding me.
Thanks to DaghtatorBlog for Blogrolling PoliBlog.
Save Me from Historians Who Think They Are Political Scientists

The following transcript comes for the Media Research Center's CyberAlert daily e-mail.

"MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down some of the comments
made by Goodwin on the March 12 Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC:"

Don Imus: "According to Maureen Dowd this morning, Ari Fleischer, in a White House press briefing, suggested that if the United Nations didn't get on board here, that they would be replaced with another international body."

Goodwin: "Oh yeah, that's wonderful, I mean, FDR's dream coming out of World War II to create the United Nations, which is such an important institution -- I mean, it's just going to sound to the world like we're bullying…

PoliBlogger: You know, whether FDR had a dream or not, that does not convey moral authority to the institution. It seems that often historians, especially presidential historians, fall in love (after a fashion) with their subject of study and romanticize their policies and goals. Of what possible relevance is it that FDR wanted X or Y? It is a non-argument. And even if the world thinks we are bullying, that doesn't get to the heart of the matter either--again, it is a non-argument.

Back to Goodwin: "...what happens when the war becomes a crusade, you know, it becomes right and wrong. Lincoln understood, even in the Civil War, that God was not so intimate to our will, you know, that somehow, even though we believed in God, you couldn't be sure God was on your side, as it seems that Mr. Bush is...

PoliBlogger: Again with the historical references as if such a reference constitutes an argument. And I am also tired of the argument that somehow Bush is making policy from some voice in his head. Just because someone believes in God, and believes that there is right and wrong in the universe as a result of said belief, does not mean that they believe that they are acting as God's agent and that God endorses all that is done. Indeed, the general discussion of Bush's religiosity has been rather ad hominem in that it really does not get to the issue of whether Bush is correct about their being good and evil, but rather simply suggests that the President is a bit kooky.

The only times that President has, to my recollection, made claims about God's perspective on these issues, it has been to say things like God wouldn't endorse suicide bombing, or flying airplanes full of civilians into buildings full of the same. He has hardly come out and said that in God's Names we go to war. That would be the Islamofascists.

Back to Goodwin: "It's scary to think about the war, the Civil War too, because of all these predictions that we have now that it'll be over in a couple of days and the rosy picture that Mr. Bush has created of what will happen in the Middle East, the Secretary of State under Lincoln predicted that the Civil War would last 60 days, and of course it lasted four years with more than 600,000 lives, which is equivalent to five million today. So I take these predictions with a grain of salt....

PoliBlogger: This is an excellent illustration of historians playing political scientists on TV—the parallels between the two wars go no further than this: they were both wars, and both had predictions made about them. That's it.

May it be so:
U.S. officials told CNN Wednesday that "secret surrender" negotiations have begun with key Iraqi military officials in hopes some military units will not fight U.S. and coalition forces should there be a war.

Although one wonders if this is the kind of thing we want in the press. Although I suppose that it could be a way of communicating with other commanders who might be interested in switching.

And gee, I wonder who this is referring to?

Communications with these Iraqi military officials are not being handled by the Pentagon, but instead by other "elements" of the U.S. government, the officials said.


Speaking of Time, their profile of General Tommy Franks is worth a read. It is surpringsly positive, given that Time hasn't exactly been pro-war. Although there are some digs at Rumsfeld.
What must 215 be Like?: Time magazine has a small snippet in the latest issue which notes that Baghdad ranks 213 out the 215 best cities in the world (Zurich was #1).
Thanks to Judicious Asininity for Blogrolling PoliBlog.

Wednesday, March 12

David Frum of AEI asks a relevant question, and makes some key points:
Why, after all, do French opinions about Iraq matter more than those of, say, Italy or Brazil? If wealth is the measure of national importance, France ranks behind the State of California; if it's military strength, France barely makes it into the top 10, rather behind Israel. Americans are transfixed by French opinions only because the United States submitted its case to a body where, by an accident of history, the French happen to wield disproportionate power. If France wields that power in a hostile manner, no American president will ever return to that body again.

I am especially taken with the phrase "accident of history" as on many levels, there is no logical reason, aside from history, for France to be in the position it is in. Japan, for example, is a more significant power in the world than is France. For that matter, I would rather see India on the council instead of France (as per Thomas Friedman's suggest in the NYT on February 9, 2003).

Source: AEI - News & Commentary and a tip of the hat to Judicious Asininity, where I first saw the ref to the story.

I must admit, I wholeheartedly agree with Andrew Sullivan on this.
My thanks to politX for the link.
Line of the Day 2: "The American people, not the United Nations, is the only body that President Bush has sworn to represent."--Senator John McCain today's NYT

(A tip of the hat to Max at Common Sense and Wonder)

You know you have had trouble in tha past, when this is a national headline: Broward Co., Fla. Sees Smooth Local Vote
Here's an interesting commentary from a professor in South Africa. It argues that it is in South Africa's interest for the Security Council to find a way to agree on the Iraq situation. Indeed, one would think that it is in the interest of various countries of the world to pressure France and friends into a compromise with the US, because this impasse is going to damage what little power the UN has, and, by extension, the influence of lesser powers. It is clear, as William F. Buckley's recent column points out the UN does not have the power to check the US, so the route that France is currently pursuing is going to simply curtail its own long-term power and influence, as it will demonstrate the utter impotence of the Security Council (indeed, I made this point myself over a week ago here.)

I continue to marvel at the French position—why not just stand aside and declare basic neutrality on the issue? Why force this confrontation with the United States? Why place themselves in the position of furthering the goals of Saddam?

I can hardly wait. Can I pre-order the DVD now? Travolta Talking 'Harvey' Remake
Even though a director has not been set, the studios have begun talks with Travolta to play the role of Elwood P. Dowd, an amiable drunk who pals around with a 6-foot-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey.
The Parade of Futility Doth Continue...

Well, in the ongoing (and I supect, futile) quest for a UN resolution, the British have proposed some new conditions for Iraq:

_ A television appearance by Saddam renouncing weapons of mass destruction.

Um, how would this help? Didn't the Iraqi parliament already outlaw WMDs? Didn't Saddam proclaim that everyone should cooperate with the inspectors? Didn't Saddam tell Rather that they didn't have any such weapons?

_ Iraq's permission for 30 key weapons scientists to travel to Cyprus to be interviewed by U.N. weapons inspectors.

Ok, but what about their families? And aren't they supposed to be doing this anyway?

_ The destruction "forthwith" of 10,000 liters of anthrax and other chemical and biological weapons Iraq is suspected of holding.
They claim not to have this stuff—and wasn't full and immediate disclosure the point of 1441?!?

_ The surrender of and explanation about biological weapons production.
Wasn't that essentially the whole point of 1441 and that bogus declaration last December?

_ A commitment to destroy proscribed missiles.
The Iraqis will claim that they are doing so.

_ An accounting for unmanned aerial vehicles.
Aren't they supposed to be doing this? And hasn’t it been demonstrated that they have been actively hiding such programs?
Line of the Day: "Walk away, Mr. President...You can convert to Islam in a Parisian mosque and it won't prevent a French veto."--Charles Krauthammer, WaPo, 3/12/03

Tuesday, March 11

This headline is fairly amazing: Iraq Urges UN States to Head Off Looming US Attack. So now the job of the UN is to check the US, at the behest of Iraq. Remarkable.
Really, this is getting ridiculous: U.S., Britain May Extend Iraq Deadline
I know this is widespread in the Blogosphere, but I have to admit, I love the name: US Tests 'Mother of All Bombs' in Florida
The Limits of Multilateralism...

Kofi Annan says that "an attack on Iraq would be a violation of the U.N. Charter if it does not have the support of the Security Council" (according to CNN)

Oh my, I guess that means that force will have to be used against the US, to make them comply. Call up the UN troops...What's that? The US historically supplies all the force behind the UN? What a conundrum!

Line of the Day:
"I'd ask folks to think about the Marshall Plan a bit and get back to me."
Rejoinder by actor Vince Vaughn, to those he encountered in England who denounced America (Source: Media Research Center).
Indeed: "A man with an $27m bounty on his head tends to choose his friends carefully."

And you have to love this:


Thanks to Beatniksalad for the link.
One does begin to wonder if there is a method to this madness or not: Bush Will Push U.N. for Iraq Vote This Week
Classical Liberal Freedoms and the Iraqi Experiment: A Brief Essay

The war that is coming has within it a test of the fundamental tenet of classic liberalism: that the natural state for human beings is liberty. Rousseau wrote that “man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains” (The Social Contract) and while I have issues with his solution to this problem (I would argue that Rousseau’s work has totalitarian overtones), I would concur with the basic idea that the natural state of humanity is one of freedom and liberty. As Locke noted, men are born into “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man” (The Second Treatise of Government). These types of assumption, often unconscious, under gird American political culture and American political thought. And while I will freely grant this is not the primary purpose, nor the main motivator for the conflict, as national security lays claim to those titles, I would point out that the calls for the liberation of the people of Iraq are not hollow sloganeering. We do, fundamentally, believe that humans ought to be free..

Indeed, success in this war is based on the core belief that human beings, including the citizen of Iraq, desire freedom, and that freedom is the birth-right of all. There is a belief at the center of policy-making in Washington that the US military will be greeted and celebrated by the Iraqi people as liberators, not conquerors. Success, after the bombing stops, is based on this assumption that the people of Iraq want to be free, will welcome being free, and will able to act freely once the tyrant has been removed.

As such, the coming conflict is a great experiment in the question of what human beings are born to. It is a grave experiment, one that will be furthered by violence, and hence not to be taken lightly. This is not a sterile, controlled event that can be reset if problems arise.

Of course, freedom has its own problems, not the least of which is that humans are self-interested, and often use freedom to seek after the wants of self, rather than of the community (see Hobbes and Hume, amongst others).

And democracy, per se, does not solve all these problems. Mill notes (in On Liberty) that: “[t]he will of the people , moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people: the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority…” and those in such positions can abuse power as easily as a tyranny of one.

So, even if the experiment in liberty is successful, a second experiment will unfold, and that will be finding a way to structure the relationships among free peoples, Kurds, Shiites, Sunni and so forth, in an institutional structure that both promotes freedom and dulls the impulse to solely self-interested behavior.

This entire affair is, as Thomas Friedman has noted, a major gamble. I concur it is a gamble worth taking, and one that has potentially very positive results. However, it is a monumental undertaking, the scope of which has not been fully appreciated by many observing the events that are unfolding. The events of the next several months are going to set the stage (indeed, the turmoil in the UN is already setting the stage) for international relations for decades to come.

Interesting: Growing Number in U.S. Back War, Survey Finds. The part that catches my eye is growing impatience with the UN:
The poll found that 58 percent of Americans said the United Nations was doing a poor job in managing the Iraqi crisis, a jump of 10 points from a month ago. And 55 percent of respondents in the latest poll would support an American invasion of Iraq, even if it was in defiance of a vote of the Security Council.

And, given the economy, this is also interesting:

But with Mr. Bush continuing to enjoy a relatively high approval rating in this poll --56 percent-- it is clear that his presidency is being judged largely by his conduct of foreign affairs and the potential war.

And while a majority, 52%, still think the inspectors should be given more time, that number is down from 62%. It is amusing, however, that the NYT story mentions this data twice in the text:

  • But a majority of respondents, 52 percent, say inspectors should be given more time to search for evidence of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons on the ground in Iraq.
  • Although a majority of respondents still support giving weapons inspectors more time, that number has decreased to 52 percent from 62 percent two weeks ago.

And statements like this make me realize that some folks live in FantasyLand:

"As far as the United Nations goes, I feel it is the last hope of our humanity, our last hope of order," said Allan Gold, 81, of Lynbrook, N.Y., a Democrat. "I think they have to be in charge of our decisions. If the weapons inspectors have more time, they may uncover something dangerous."

For one thing, the inspectors have uncovered "something dangerous" and it is clear Saddam is trying to hide other dangerous somethings. Further, how (and this is the key question) is the UN going to maintain order? Further, I would argue that this war has the potential to foster long-term order, while sitting around hoping for the best will likely foster long-term chaos.

Monday, March 10

Comedy of an Era

The fact that this entire affair has somehow come down to Angola, Cameroon and Guinea (at least on one level) is remarkable in its ludicrousness. While it is evident that there will be war regardless of the vote (assuming there is one at this point), it is a spectacle of the post Cold War era that these thing countries are relevant in any way to vital US foreign policy.

The very fact that we are going to these lengths to play the international law/multilateral game ought quash all arguments that Bush is a reckless cowboy.


Ugh--I just heard audio of yesterday's 60 Minutes segment with Clinton and Dole, and "moribund" would be too cheery a word to describe the presentation. I hope CBS enjoyed the ratings this week, because I can't imagine that they will last.

Of course they wouldn't burn the oil field, I mean where would we get that idea?
"Iraq is keen to defend its oil wells and it is illogical that we burn our oil wells with our own hands," Oil Undersecretary Hussein Suleiman Al-Hadithi told Reuters.

Source: U.S. Sees Signs Iraq Has Explosives at Oil Fields

Saletan's piece in Slate is quite good. And, indeed:
Should the United States yield to the United Nations? The question makes no sense. The United States practically invented the United Nations. Franklin D. Roosevelt coined its name. The U.N. charter was drafted and debated here. We host the organization's headquarters and fund the lion's share of its budget. Other members are important, but the United Nations needs us a lot more than we need it. Fischer is asking us not to put our national interests ahead of an organization we built to advance our national interests.
The Formerly Bow-Tied One Hath a Point
George Will said, "France has stopped being an ally."

"Their foreign minister is in Africa working up opposition to an American policy," said Will, referring to French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin's trip to African Security Council members Guinea, Cameroon and Angola. "That's not what an ally does."

Source: : Analysis: High Stakes at the U.N.

Line of the Day: "Unfortunately, there are some members of the council, and many people in the world, who thought that 1441 was just words. It wasn’t words. It was a statement of principle. Saddam Hussein is guilty."

--U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell (MTP, 3/9/03)

The Wit and Wisdom of Peter Jennings
"We're going to begin this evening with the Bush administration and its allies. It is quite clear in Washington tonight that the administration is prepared to jeopardize its relations with several of its oldest and best friends in order to get its way about Iraq."

--ABC's Peter Jennings introducing the February 19 World News Tonight.

I find it more striking that many of our oldest allies are willing to endanger their relationship with us to protect (even if that is not the stated goal, it is the result) a totalitarian (not a word I use lighlty) dictator.

Source: Research Center

Gee, I'm sorry I missed it.
I suppose that this story (U.S. Says Iraq Retools Rockets for Illicit Uses) illustrates that perception is affected by preconceived notions. Were I a weapons inspector in Iraq, finding hidden missiles designed to deliver chemical or biological weapons would give me pause, especially considering, as the story points out, that they were either hidden from inspectors during the prior inspection regime, or developed since 1998. However, to Blix, France, and friends, they are relatively harmless violations. This disconnect is startling.

And, really:

According to the detailed report by the inspection team, which was circulated at the United Nations during the Security Council's debate on a new resolution to authorize the use of force against Iraq, Baghdad has a long history of exploring novel approaches for chemical and biological weapons.

If the weapons are just defensive, and meant to deter the aggression of others, then keeping them secret is hardly helpful, so it makes one wonder why the Iraqi would want these weapons. It appears to me to indicate aggressive intentions. Hiding such devices hardly qualifies for innocent mistakes in inventory. If the Iraqis are simply interested in being able to defend themselves, then the logical thing to have done would have been to fully cooperate, use the monies dedicated to these chemical and bio weapons on conventional arms, and then, once the UN was fully off its back, do what they want. Instead they obfuscate and obstruct.

Sunday, March 9

Hmm, I think that I could think of a few things...
Iraq Doing Utmost to Avert War, Official Says The Iraqi government believes there is nothing more it can do to avert a war with the United States, Iraq's chief liaison to the U.N. weapons inspectors said tonight.
Meet Gary Hart, master of the false dichotomy (indeed, dichotomies, as he presents several in the first portion of the column. Not to mention that he clearly doesn't have cable, the internet, or a newspaper subscription at his current residence, as he has missed all the recent, rather intense, al Qaeda-fighting (and victories) the past week or so.

If this is a prelude to a presidential bid, let me save Mr. Hart time and money and give him some free advice: you aren't going to win the nomination, let alone the presidency, so best to find something better to do with your time.

Is this the very definition of chutzpah, or what?
Glossing over the negative aspects of the latest report by the weapons inspectors, a government statement issued from a meeting presided over by Saddam Hussein and editorials in the government-controlled press all reached the same conclusion: that Iraq had been declared sufficiently free of weapons of mass destruction to warrant the cancellation of sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

And further, does this not demostrate that the obstructionism by France and friends is actually bolstering the confidence of Saddam, rather than promoting peace?

Some would decry this as an example of the unfair monopoly of power by the major parties:
The New York Liberal Party, billed by members as the longest existing third party in the nation, has shut down after nearly 60 years of helping to elect candidates from John F. Kennedy to Rudolph Giuliani.

The Liberal Party failed to collect the 50,000 votes it needed in November's gubernatorial race to maintain its status as a recognized party. As a result, the party lost its automatic ballot slots in New York.

But if you can't manage the 50,000 votes needed in a state the size of New York, then that tells me that the party doesn't have enough support to warrant its own existence. And really, the party only has existed as long as it has because New York state allows vote-pooling, so to be nominated by the Dems and the Libs meant all the votes counted together, so the degree to which the Liberals were a true third party in those elections in which is nominated the same candidate as the Dems (or, the case of Giuliani, the Reps) is questionable.

Intriguing: Election in Turkey Clears Way for Erdogan to Take Formal Control
Governing party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a seat in parliament by a huge margin Sunday, a crucial victory that opens the way for him to become prime minister and strengthens his hand in uniting the government behind deployment of U.S. troops for an Iraq war.

And especially interesting is the fact is that that Erdogan's party, the Justice and Development Party, is an Islamic-oriented political movement, which demostrates that 1) those whose religion is Islam can function in a democratic civil society, and 2) an Islamically-oriented political party can work in alliance with the United States.

Doing for sports what The Onion does for news: it out.