Saturday, March 22, 2003

Radio Silence

I'm going out of town for the week (the family and I are going to Disneyland). Hope the world is still here when I get back.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Dean: peaking to early?

JB Armstrong has some interesting things to say with regard to the question: is Dean peaking to early? I agree with his assessment that Dean's exposure now could allow him to build the kind of national organization he would need to convert a NH win into a juggernaut moving towards the convention. McCain suffered in 2000 for having invested so much into NH that he didn't have much to respond to the Bush smear campaign once he moved on to SC. Dean may already have the strongest grassroots presidential organization of any of the candidates. Possibly even better then George W. Bush, though Dubya can re-constitute his 2000 local organizations at pretty much a moments notice. The next few weeks could be crucial: 1) How does Dean react to the course of the war. If it goes bad, he would be set (just so long as he isn't seen as trying to capitalize on tragedy), but if it goes good he will have a tougher time of it. I think he has done a good job of dealing with this possibility by simply asserting that his criticisms are valid regardless of what happens. This position has the added advantage of being true. 2) How does Dean do in the crucial money primary. The FEC filings at the end of this month could be very telling on this point. If the Dean meetup challenge meets its goal it will be good. If it exceeds it it will be even better and maybe the DNC money people will start to help him out. I think he will be able to meet this goal given the positive response he is getting from the core Democrats. 3) Can Dean's people convert the raw meetup structure and the strong response he has been getting at recent Democratic functions into a REAL organization with emphasis on the word "organization?" I really can't say whether this will happen or not as I know nothing about the people running Dean's campaign. 4) Can Dean deal with the inevitable smear campaigns that will come from being a nationally recognized, top-tier candidate? Will he be able to hold up under intense media scrutiny? Is he truly prepared for what will come his way? I have hopes that he is prepared for this considering how he has responded to the initial attempts to attack him. (aside: I wonder if the RNC oppo teams are scrambling now to figure out who this guy is and what dirt they can get on him.) I also agree with JB's suggestion that Dean could very well be the front-runner by the time the NH campaign rolls around. Especially if Kerry can't figure out a way to deal with Dean's appeal among core Democrats. All of this is, of course, speculative. Dean could disintegrate as a national candidate at any moment and everyone will look back and wonder what all the excitement was about. But for now, I remain hopeful. It's about the only hope I have had in a long time.

More polling

The first post-war poll numbers are coming out and they paint an interesting picture.
Polls: Public Behind Bush on Iraq By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON - About two-thirds of Americans approve of President Bush handling of the situation in Iraq and think he did enough diplomatically before invading, according to new polls released Friday. An ABC-Washington Post poll found the president's job approval rating at 67 percent, up from pre-war polls that showed his approval level ranging from the mid 50s to about 60 percent. A CBS-New York Times poll found that 62 percent say they think the United States did the right thing about Iraq. And slightly more in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, 70 percent, said they agreed this country took military action at the right time. The public rallying around the president is typical in wartime. But the public is viewing the administration's actions in Iraq less enthusiastically than the actions in the Persian Gulf war (news - web sites) by President George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, a dozen years ago.
A few things to note here: 1. Bush's approval rating has only jumped about 10 points. Normally, in times of crisis, Presidents see much bigger jumps. Bush's ratings went up over 40 points after 9/11. I was expecting at least a 20 point jump. So, a 10 point jump is pretty good for the anti-war side and may indicate that the public is no longer buying the "support the President if you support the troops" line. 2. The AP report seems to go out of its way to downplay this jump. They even compare it unfavorably to his father's boost during the first Gulf War. Of course, if the war ends quickly with little American blood then I would expect at least another 10 point jump in his ratings. Possibly even more. Still, all in all, this is better then I expected. Update: Oh, and remember that the jump for Bush 41 didn't keep him from losing to a political unknown.

Just like daddy

Why do I have this feeling that Dubya's involvement in the regular war briefings in the White House probably amount to him poking his head in every now and then and asking if its time for him to give his "Iraq is free the war is over" speech?

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Dean, Kerry about even in latest N.H. poll MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is about even with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in the latest poll of likely voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. In the American Research Group poll released Friday, 23 percent supported Kerry, with 22 percent for Dean. Kerry's support remained steady from a similar poll last month, while Dean's increased from 16 percent. The poll started Sunday and ended Wednesday night, before the war with Iraq started. Participants were split almost 50-50 on whether they support military action in Iraq, but among Dean supporters, 86 percent said they were against the war. Half of Kerry's supporters, 51 percent, said they opposed invading Iraq.
This should increase Dean's national exposure levels. I'm really curious to see how his numbers will change now that war has started.

On polls

Three of four Americans support war: poll The Gallup/USA Today poll showed that 76 percent of Americans supported US President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s decision to launch the war Wednesday. Only 15 percent of the 602 people interviewed Thursday said they strongly disapproved, and five percent disapproved but not strongly. In early February, just 34 percent approved of launching the war without UN backing. That figure rose to 47 percent last weekend. Support jumped to 66 percent following Monday's speech in which Bush gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) 48 hours to seek exile or face war.
The problem with these polls is they don't distinguish between "I support the President because I think he's doing the right thing" and "I support the President because that is what you are supposed to do in times of war". Beacuse they don't offer a clear way for respondents to distinguish between them the latter end up answering yes to the former even though it really doesn't mean what the poll suggests it means. Do they really want us to believe that Bush can give one speech and support for a unilateral campaign against Iraq could go up 42 points over night?

Operation Inflate the Coalition

I asked yesterday if Rumsfeld was engaging in new math when he claimed that the "coalition of the willing" was larger than the coalition that went to war in 1991. Jake Tapper is on the case:
Some critics have questioned how much of a true coalition this is, given that only three countries -- the U.S., U.K. and Australia -- have actually sent soldiers. Asked about this apparent weakness in the "coalition," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Tuesday said that the White House has "all along said, in terms of actual active combat, there will be very, very few countries." Since that admission, the White House has gone on an offensive to prove how multilateral this coalition is. It's No. 1 in the administration's talking points. But they may have gone too far. On Thursday, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that the coalition behind Operation Iraqi Freedom is even bigger than the one behind Operation Desert Storm, even some military leaders and veterans of Republican administrations disagreed and were dismayed at the disingenuousness. Meanwhile, some countries the U.S. counts as among the "willing" are continuing to criticize the U.S. military moves against Iraq, raising questions about how willing they really are.
Tapper has an interesting comment from Thomas Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to the UN during Bush 41:
In an interview with NPR, Pickering recently said that the current coalition was so small because the current Bush team "began the effort saying we really didn't need anybody else's help, and I think that that became the self-fulfilling prophecy, almost as if we didn't want anybody else's help, and that's certainly where we have ended up. "They played the unilateral card too hot, too heavy, too fast and too early," Pickering said, "and then shifted to having a multilateral strategy." Even after that, he said, the current Bush administration "continued to do a unilateral shtick on the issue at every occasion that it found possible to do so."
Pickering gives voice to the idea that is becoming increasingly obvious: the Bushies never wanted this to be a multi-lateral operation under the palaver of international organizations like the UN or NATO. They wanted it to be a US operation from the beginning in order to prove that we could do it without the rest of the world. The subsequent "shift to having a multilateral strategy" was just a cover for the troop buildup. If they had not gotten the UN to pass 1441 it would have been harder to move the troops into place without really turning world opinion against us. Indeed, if we had done so, the UNSC would have probably been convened anyway to discuss how to reign in the belligerent actions of the United States. The "diplomatic failures" of the last few months were not failures at all. It all went exactly according to plan.

"Don't ever take sides against the family"

Tapped points to a Washington Post article (no link) that, once again, proves the Bushies will screw their friends as much as they will screw their enemies. When will they learn never to trust these people?

Tax breaks, journalism, and chocolate pudding

Paul Krugman get's his digs in with his fellow commentators:
The latest official projections acknowledge (if you read them carefully) that the long-term finances of the U.S. government are in much worse shape than the administration admitted a year ago. But many commentators are reluctant to blame George W. Bush for that grim outlook, preferring instead to say something like this: "Sure, you can criticize those tax cuts, but the real problem is the long-run deficits of Social Security and Medicare, and the unwillingness of either party to reform those programs." Why is this line appealing? It seems more reasonable to blame longstanding problems for our fiscal troubles than to attribute them to just two years of bad policy decisions. Also, many pundits like to sound "balanced," pronouncing a plague on both parties' houses. To accuse the current administration of wrecking the federal budget sounds, well, shrill — and we don't want to sound shrill, do we?
Krugman puts his finger on one of the fundamental problems with the establishment media: they are so afraid of being accused of bias that they go out of their way to make arguments from both sides sound equal, even when they quite obviously are not. And, since Republicans are much more likely to squawk then Democrats, the media swings the reporting to the right in a commensurate fashion. I don't know who came up with this analogy, but if a Republican were to claim that a bowl of chocolate pudding was actually vanilla then the news would, at best, respond to this by saying, "some Democrats claim it is brown". It's fucking chocolate okay!

Don't adopt the language of propaganda

I've seen some bloggers who aren't supporters of this war using the term "coalition forces". This is a propaganda term being pushed by this administration and their enablers in the press in order to make it seem like this is not an American attack on Iraq. Don't buy into it.

Says it all for me

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Rich In Security

"There is no security at the top of the world." -- Garet Garret (courtesy Justin Raimondo) That's what it comes down to I think. We want security. But we have been mislead into believing that the path to security is to stand on top of the world and stomp on anyone who thinks to challenge us. Thus the world of foreign policy is reduced to a schoolyard game of king of the hill. I am reminded of something I have said for a long time about the nature of wealth: you are only as rich as your ability to obtain what you want. If you have millions in the bank, but are never satisfied with all the possessions you can buy, then you are poor. But if you have five dollars in your pocket and all you want is a Big Mac, then you are rich. It's as much a matter of wants as it is a matter of means. This is not an argument for asceticism. I am not going to encourage anyone to wear only a loincloth and eat nothing but rice (unless that's what you want to do of course). It is an argument for asking what it is you really want out of life and honestly assessing your ability to achieve it. We can never be truly safe. But we can be safe enough that we can lead our lives without being in constant fear for our safety. Crushing those who might one day hurt us may appear to be the path to safety. But it is only an illusion of security that is quickly dispelled once the old fears overcome the thrill of victory. For the more you defeat the forces of darkness through sheer force, the more you try to dominate the world through strength, the more the world will focus its attention upon you. There is no security at the top of the world. Just remember that the next time you hear Bush talking about how he is doing this in order to secure the peace. And then ask yourself how secure you feel.

Peace Politics

Tapped points to some advice from Timothy Burke on what the peace movement should do now. Tapped's opinion:
One of the problems with these big marches -- impressive as they may be as shows of strength -- is that they have little lasting value. The broad anti-globalization/anti-war movement has tended to disdain actual electoral politics, believing it to be corrupt beyond repair (which is, in its way, the ultimate kind of cynicism). But in the long run, the way you win in a democracy is by winning elections, and you win elections by organizing for candidates and helping them raise money.
Tapped is, I think, making the same comment that Alterman made without being anywhere near as insulting. The marches are impressive, but they are ultimately pointless if they don't transform themselves into long-term, organized, political activity. Unfortunately, there are some who think that the very concept of "organization" is a sellout. We must not allow them to dictate where the peace movement goes from here. Blocking traffic in the streets is just going to piss of the very same people who, a week before, were honking their horns in support. It is those people who are going to make the real difference in the future. But the only way they are going to support the peace movement is if it comes in a form that they can understand: organized political activity. Of all the candidates I think Dean has the greatest opportunity to turn the grass-roots peace movement into a foundation for a political campaign. But we can't let wrangling about which candidate gets the nod to distract from the primary goal of any future political operation: the removal of George W. Bush from power. All other goals are secondary. Update: Here's the Justin Raimondo column that started this whole chain. Read it. Please.

Winning the peace

Tim Dunlop has an interesting post up about Eric Alterman's claim that the anti-war movement was a failure.
To the extent that the anti-war movement was about stopping the war, then Alterman is right. We lost; we were probably always going to lose, and now that the war is on, we can only hope that it finishes as quickly as possible. However, the basic premise in his comment is too reductionist. Those who argued against war were arguing about more than simply no war. The anti-war case was also about the nature of public debate, public policy and the repercussions of war on the lives of ordinary citizens in the West, especially in terms of threats to the very liberties for which we are told we are fighting.
For the last several months my estimates for the likelihood of war never dropped below 95%. Yet I marched anyway because I felt it was important to let the world know that there were people who opposed this action. In that sense, I don't agree with the conclusion that the anti-war movement was a failure. Yes, we didn't stop the war. But I don't think many of those who went to the rallies expected that they would be able to stop it. Most of the people I talked to were even more skeptical than I was. But we did get the word out that there is a significant number of people in this country who are vehemently opposed to the direction Bush is leading this country. He does not have the mandate his supporters and sycophants in the media say he does. We have sent a message to the rest of the people who are also uncomfortable with our present course of action that their discomfort is not isolated and they are not unpatriotic for feeling it. The number of honks, thumbs up and claps I saw from bystanders during the marches far outnumbered the one-finger salutes. These actions can give courage to those who might not otherwise have it, especially the leaders of the nominal opposition. Would Tom Daschle have felt comfortable making his recent comments about Bush's diplomatic failures and standing by them in the face of withering criticism if he had NOT seen the huge crowds of protesters in the streets? Alterman's comment annoyed me because it seemed so dismissive of what has happened already. Far from being a failure, I consider the fact that we mobilized millions of people to get off their butts and publicly protest Bush's war even before a single shot was fired to be an extraordinary achievement. Remember that the Vietnam War had raged for years before the protest levels reached the kind we have seen in recent months. Alterman's comment was insulting at a time when the anti-war movement needs to be applauded.
The antiwar movement was never just about stopping war, though that will rightly be seen as its biggest failure. It was also about holding those in office to account and ensuring those rights to dissent that the hawks were so glad to remind us we had actually meant something. And this is something that can’t just stop because the war has started. Alterman’s call to focus on “building a better future”, he should remember, relies on more of the same, an ongoing willingness to tell the truth and cop the abuse that will inevitably come. The antiwar movement is dead. Long live the antiwar movement.
Here here! The long-term success of the anti-war movement will not be measured simply by the fact that we didn't stop the war. It must now transform itself into a watchdog of the Bush administration that demands that it stay true to its professed reasons for this action AND works to bring them down if they do not. Mr. Bush, Killing Saddam will prove nothing other than the fact that you have a really big gun(penis). You can win the war. We will win the peace.

Are the lies getting blatant?

Did I hear Donald Rumsfeld right? In his press briefing this morning he claimed that the "coalition" attacking Iraq now is larger than the one in the first Gulf War. I've heard that there were about 90 countries supporting Gulf War I. The government has released a list of about 30 countries supporting this effort. 30 > 90? Is this new math?

Dixie Chicks have new fans?

Nathan Newman:
Boy, those rightwingers boycotting the Dixie Chicks have devastated them. Apparently they sold only 240,000 albums last week. Maybe they'll see more of a fall-off this week, but since they've already sold out 51 of 59 concert dates on their coming tour, it's hard to take the boycott fears too seriously
Say, isn't that about the size of the U.S. military force in the gulf right now? Hmmmm...

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Because it is all he knows how to do Senator

"Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?" -- More Byrd Remember, Dubya's role during his father's administration was to be the enforcer. That's still his role. The only thing he knows how to inspire is fear.

The Arrogance of Power

today I weep for my country -- Robert C. Byrd

My God...

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Oliver Willis thinks Dean is acting just like Ralph.
I know he feels strongly about the war and all, but why exactly is Howard Dean acting like Ralph Nader and attacking fellow Democrats by name? Dean is doing precisely what the Republicans want by dividing the party and painting us as the party that's weak on security while the Democrats are the ones who see the true value of international diplomacy. If Howard Dean really wants to be the Democratic candidate, he should stop acting like a GOP attack dog.
I think there is a fundamental difference between what Nader did and what Dean is doing: Dean is doing it from within the party as a candidate for the parties nomination. It's a message that needs to be said in my opinion. The Democrats will never win as long as they continue to roll over for the Republicans. So what do you think? Is Dean just another version of Ralph Nader?

Does "even the liberal" Bill Clinton support George's war?

This column in The Guardian, written by the Big Dog, seems to suggest he does. Certainly some are interpreting it that way. I think it's more complicated than that. If Clinton really did support this war and George Bush's handling of it then he wouldn't hesitate to come out and say so explicitly. Clinton, unlike many of his enemies, can put partisanship aside in matters of war and peace. Yet he never explicitly endorses the coming action. I think that Clinton is trying to make the best of a bad situation. He feels no need to attack Bush openly on his handling of Iraq since, to do so, would just aggravate the situation (after all, this administration is dominated by people who seem to think that what is right is defined to be the opposite of whatever Clinton thinks is right). Besides, there are plenty out there who are already raking Bush over the coals for his bungling. But Clinton does seem to think that Blair is getting a bum rap for what is happening. Thus his column is an attempt to support a friend in a time of trouble. It's called stickin'. I personally think that Blair is getting a perfectly fair rap and thus does not deserve support. But then I am not his friend and feel no need to stick up for him.

Dead-Tree Blogger

Michelangelo Signorile goes after the holy cow that is Howard Kurtz:
[Mickey] Kaus, in an off-the-cuff but quite honest remark at a conference not long ago, admitted the reason why he often refrains from criticizing rabid sensation-stalkers such as Matt Drudge or Andrew Sullivan, even when he disagrees with them: He might not get linked to their websites, which bring Kaus traffic. A similar fear perhaps explains why the wannabe dragonslayers don’t go after Kurtz. The guy spends almost every day copying and pasting large chunks of their and a few other peoples’ work (complete with links to it) in his online column on the Washington Post’s website, and often writes them up positively for his column in the dead-tree version of the prominent newspaper, which can certainly help their careers. He’s highly selective about whom he quotes and whom he doesn’t. Kurtz’s online column in particular is not about the media in the broadest sense of the word; it’s rather about Howie’s World, a small handful of online magazines, newspapers and bloggers who are, for the most part, centrist to far right, with a few left-of-center tokens. He drives traffic to them, not to mention that he might have them on his CNN Reliable Sources show, which can also boost their careers and their publications.
Whoa! It just dawned on me: Howie is a dead-tree blogger! (Yes, I know this may have occured to others before. Maybe I'm just dense.)

When you want a President that will give you minty-fresh breath...

Bush vs. Tic-Tac

Oh! NOW you tell us!

Bush clings to dubious accusations Some U.S. claims about Saddam’s arsenal are hotly disputed By Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank THE WASHINGTON POST

Win Bagdad. Lose the world. What a deal!

New Krugman. He makes a valuable point:
The members of the Bush team don't seem bothered by the enormous ill will they have generated in the rest of the world. They seem to believe that other countries will change their minds once they see cheering Iraqis welcome our troops, or that our bombs will shock and awe the whole world (not just the Iraqis) or that what the world thinks doesn't matter. They're wrong on all counts. Victory in Iraq won't end the world's distrust of the United States because the Bush administration has made it clear, over and over again, that it doesn't play by the rules. Remember: this administration told Europe to take a hike on global warming, told Russia to take a hike on missile defense, told developing countries to take a hike on trade in lifesaving pharmaceuticals, told Mexico to take a hike on immigration, mortally insulted the Turks and pulled out of the International Criminal Court — all in just two years.
The doubts of some Americans may be washed away by a quick victory in Iraq (for a while). But the doubts of the rest of the world will not. They have already learned not to trust George W. Bush. When will the rest of America?

Idiots in abundance

The mighty New York Times is puzzled:
When this administration took office just over two years ago, expectations were different. President Bush was a novice in international affairs, while his father had been a master practitioner. But the new president looked to have assembled an experienced national security team. It included Colin Powell and Dick Cheney, who had helped build the multinational coalition that fought the first Persian Gulf war. Condoleezza Rice had helped manage a peaceful end for Europe's cold war divisions. Donald Rumsfeld brought government and international experience stretching back to the Ford administration. This seasoned team was led by a man who had spoken forcefully as a presidential candidate about the need for the United States to wear its power with humility, to reach out to its allies and not be perceived as a bully. But this did not turn out to be a team of steady veterans. The hubris and mistakes that contributed to America's current isolation began long before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. From the administration's first days, it turned away from internationalism and the concerns of its European allies by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and withdrawing America's signature from the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. Russia was bluntly told to accept America's withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into the territory of the former Soviet Union. In the Middle East, Washington shortsightedly stepped backed from the worsening spiral of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, ignoring the pleas of Arab, Muslim and European countries. If other nations resist American leadership today, part of the reason lies in this unhappy history.
Nah. You think? Maybe people will listen now when some of us say you need more than an attitude and a handful of foreign policy "experts" to lead the greates country in the world.

Do you believe in fairy tales David?

David Broder demonstrates his colossal naivete:
The fact is that Bush has broken a lot of china even before the first shot has been fired. In retrospect, we can see that the mere announcement of the preemption doctrine posed serious challenges to the United Nations view of international law and to the comity of the NATO alliance, which rests on a mutual readiness to respond to aggression, not to launch attacks. What we know is that the imminent prospect of preemptive war with Iraq has damaged U.S. relations with much of the world -- opening rifts with major trading partners such as France and Germany, with Russia and China, and even with neighboring Canada and Mexico. The aftereffects in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world cannot be gauged. This is not what Bush sought or anticipated -- any more than he anticipated, when he launched his course of large-scale tax cuts, the giant deficits that now loom for the United States, threatening the economy and vital domestic programs. The members of Congress who so willingly endorsed his Iraq policy last autumn will be debating his budget this week. It behooves them to consider the consequences carefully this time.
Bush may not have explicitly set out to destroy the UN order the U.S. budget. But the fact that his course of action might produce that result was of no consequence to him and indeed, may be considered by him to be a net positive. That Broder actually thinks this was unplanned just demonstrates that he really believes that Bush has America's best interest at heart. He wants so much to believe that the President is always the good guy that he is willing to overlook the mounds of evidence that suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, Broder is the dean of the Washington press corps. Is it any wonder so many of them suffer from the same delusion? (aside: I suppose we ought to be grateful that Mr. Broder is at least entertaining the idea that Bush is incompetent. It doesn't bring much comfort to me however.)

Short And Sweet

"We cannot base our military strategy on the basis that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a serious threat." -- Robin Cook So. Which is it Dubya?

Inherit the wind

Recommended: The Way We Live Now
The War over Iraq is refreshingly direct. Saddam is a bad man, he ought to be removed, and only the US can do the job. But that is just the beginning. There will be many more such tasks, indeed an infinity of them in coming years. If the US is to perform them satisfactorily—"to secure its safety and to advance the cause of liberty"—then it must cut loose from the "world community" (always in scare quotes). People will hate us for our "arrogance" and our power in any event, and a more "restrained" American foreign policy won't appease them, so why waste time talking about it? The foreign strategy of the US must be "unapologetic, idealistic, assertive and well funded. America must not only be the world's policeman or its sheriff, it must be its beacon and guide." What is wrong with this? In the first place, it displays breathtaking ignorance of the real world, as ultra-"realist" scenarios frequently do. Because it confidently equates American interest with that of every right-thinking person on the planet, it is doomed to arouse the very antagonism and enmity that provoke American intervention in the first place (only a hardened European cynic would suggest that this calculation has been silently incorporated into the equation). The authors, like their political masters, unhesitatingly suppose both that America can do as it wishes without listening to others, and that in so doing it will unerringly echo the true interests and unspoken desires of friend and foe alike. The first claim is broadly true. The second bespeaks a callow provinciality. Secondly, the Kristol/Wolfowitz/ Rumsfeld approach is morbidly self-defeating. Old-fashioned isolationism, at least, is consistent: if we stay out of world affairs we won't have to depend on anyone. So is genuine Wilsonian internationalism: we plan to be at work in the world so we had better work with the world. A similar consistency informs conventional Kissinger-style realpolitik: we have interests and we want certain things, other countries are just like us and they want certain things too—so let's make deals. But the new "unilateralist internationalism" of the present administration tries to square the circle: we do what we want in the world, but on our own terms, indifferent to the desires of others when they don't share our objectives. ... Unless Kristol and his political mentors can explain why an ambitious new American international mission to put the globe to rights is silent on Israel; why the newly empowered American "hegemon" is curiously unable and unwilling to bring any pressure to bear on one small client state in the world's most unstable region, then few outside their own circle are going to take their "mission statements" seriously. Why should the US administration and its outriders care? For a reason that the men who constructed the postwar international system would immediately have appreciated. If America is not taken seriously; if it is obeyed rather than believed; if it buys its friends and browbeats its allies; if its motives are suspect and its standards double— then all the overwhelming military power of which Kristol and Kaplan so vaingloriously boast will afford it nothing. The United States can go out and win not just the Mother of All Battles but a whole matriarchal dynasty of Desert Storms; it will inherit the wind—and worse besides.

Cheering Destruction

Sean-Paul points to a post by Josh at OxBlog in which Josh chides those who cheer at the prospect of the coming war, even though he supports it. I am always boggled at those who would cheer war like they would a sporting event. It is akin, for me, to those who cheer outside prisons whenever someone is executed. Regardless of what you may feel about the necessity of the action, there is no getting around the simple fact that a lot of people are going to die. You can support war. You can support the death penalty. But is it necessary to celebrate these things? I can remember my immediate feeling after 9/11 being one of profound sadness. Sadness that America would have to embark on a course that, even in its most optimistic terms, would result in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. I felt no anger towards the terrorists. Just sadness that people can be so twisted up inside that they would do something like that. I can't help but feel that people who glorify in destruction are all akin, whether they be terrorists are rah-rah-rah-drop-the-bombs-oooh-look-at-the-pretty-lights patriots. In closing, I leave you with this:
For Whom the Bell Tolls by John Donne No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were. As well as if a manner of thine own Or of thine friend's were. Each man's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.

Nader Redux Redux

Matthew recommends a post by Left In The West on the subject of Nader voters. I second that recommendation. I happen to agree with much of the criticisms leveled by the Naderites. The basic problem I have with them is the way they went about trying to change the system. It's hard to conceive of a less effective political strategy than the course they chose. If Nader had really wanted to make a difference in American politics (and not just by being one of many reasons why a close election swung the way it did) he should have run for the nomination of the Democratic party. If he had he would have gotten equal time in the debates alongside Al Gore. He still would have lost, but he would at least have gotten the opportunity he claimed he wanted to confront the establishment on its failures. But, I have this suspicion that the reason Nader didn't do that was because he wasn't interested in defending his position on an equal footing with Gore. He was more interested in being the stone-thrower outside the palace then actually getting into the thick of things and present his opinions alongside those of his opponents. I've always felt there was something authoritarian about Nader. Indeed, he reminds me of Dubya in many ways. What better way to describe the Nader position than "you are with us or you are against us"? Nader didn't want to debate the issues and persuade people over to his side. He wanted to just be able to say what should happen and, voila, have it happen. The unfortunate thing is that Bush, unlike Nader, had the backing of powerful interests who had the ability to put him in the position to actually make that happen. Oh how I wish Bob Dole were President.

Howard Dean's statement on the President's decision to send U.S. military troops into war against Iraq

"Tonight, for better or worse, America is at war. Tonight, every American, regardless of party, devoutly supports the safety and success of our men and women in the field. Those of us who, over the past 6 months, have expressed deep concerns about this President's management of the crisis, mistreatment of our allies and misconstruction of international law, have never been in doubt about the evil of Saddam Hussein or the necessity of removing his weapons of mass destruction. "Those Americans who opposed our going to war with Iraq, who wanted the United Nations to remove those weapons without war, need not apologize for giving voice to their conscience, last year, this year or next year. In a country devoted to the freedom of debate and dissent, it is every citizen's patriotic duty to speak out, even as we wish our troops well and pray for their safe return. Congressman Abraham Lincoln did this in criticizing the Mexican War of 1846, as did Senator Robert F. Kennedy in calling the war in Vietnam 'unsuitable, immoral and intolerable.' "This is not Iraq, where doubters and dissenters are punished or silenced --this is the United States of America. We need to support our young people as they are sent to war by the President, and I have no doubt that American military power will prevail. But to ensure that our post-war policies are constructive and humane, based on enduring principles of peace and justice, concerned Americans should continue to speak out; and I intend to do so."
Strong. Forceful. Unapologetic. Respectful of the military. And topped off with a pre-emptive challenge to opponents not to act like Saddam Hussein by trying to punish and/or silence those who disagree with what we are doing. This is how an opposition party is supposed to act.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Even if the Bushies are right, they are still wrong

John Scalzi's take on what has gone wrong is refreshingly different and, I think, right on the point.
If Bush and his people had the slightest bit of competence in dealing with the rest of the world -- competence that should have begun on January 20, 2001, not just in the last six months or so -- this war would already be over. There would have been no real dissent in the Security Council, no ability for Saddam to play other countries against us, less time for the "no war ever under any circumstances, ever" crowd to build up its head of steam, and we'd have had international support for a war that would be both useful and had the potential to eventually be a humane action. Saddam would probably already be dead (or rotting in a dinky little cell, which I would prefer) and the UN instead of the US would be stuck with keeping the various hate-filled factions within Iraq from gleefully murdering each other. We would have gotten what we wanted, and we would have made it look like a team effort. Then everybody could have had their Coke and gone home. Instead, we have a war which we will win, but at the cost of wrecking much of the apparatus which allowed the United States to wield absolute power under conditions that even our enemies could tolerate. This is why Bush and his people are incompetent. They think they've done us all a favor by showing us that the international game was rigged by the house, but all they managed to accomplish is to make the rest of the world vaguely embarrassed that they don't seem to understand they own the casino. That's a good way to drive away the business. Who knows where that business will land from here.
In other words, pretty much all the criticisms that the Bushies have levelled at the UN are true. But it worked. And if these yahoos had the least bit of competence they would know how to make it work for them. Instead they think it is some great accomplishment to kick the legs out from under the UN and yell that it was rotten to begin with, without realizing that the UN was one of the pillars that our entire foreign policy was resting on. Smooth move guys.

Come back Walter Cronkite!

I was watching this mornings "breaking news" on the various "news" channels. I had to turn it off after a while because watching a bunch of breathless journos running around was to exhausting. It made me long for the days of TV reporters like Walter Cronkite who, even in crisis situations, continued to use a calm, measured voice to present the news. Who can forget Walter quietly reading the news wire announcing JFK's death? There was a man who knew that one of the first jobs of a reporter was to keep the excitement level to a minimum because it could lead to mistakes and just heighten the anxiety of already worried viewers. There was a reason Cronkite was considered the most trusted man in America. It was because he could be relied upon not to frighten you while delivering the most awful news. He's the guy you would like to have tell you that your father/wife/child is dead. Instead we have yahoos who are rushing to your door to ask you how it makes you feel to know your mother/husband/child was cut in half by a combine. Blech!

A Confederacy of Dunces

U.S. Lacks Specifics on Banned Arms By Walter Pincus Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, March 16, 2003; Page A17 Despite the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to give Congress or the Pentagon specific information about the amounts of banned weapons or where they are hidden, according to administration officials and members of Congress. Senior intelligence analysts say they feel caught between the demands from White House, Pentagon and other government policymakers for intelligence that would make the administration's case "and what they say is a lack of hard facts," one official said. "They have only circumstantial evidence . . . nothing that proves this amount or that," said an individual who has regularly been briefed by the CIA. The assertions, coming on the eve of a possible decision by President Bush to go to war against Iraq, have raised concerns among some members of the intelligence community about whether administration officials have exaggerated intelligence in a desire to convince the American public and foreign governments that Iraq is violating United Nations prohibitions against chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and long-range missile systems.
No! Really! Whatever gave you that idea! Surely our President wouldn't do something like that would he? Truly there is no one in charge in this country who is not an idiot.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Portland rally pic

Best picture I've seen so far. The Oregonian tried to say today that the rally was no bigger than the one in January. Liars. Update: Here's some more great pictures

What do Dean supporters call themselves?

A group of us got together to hand out flyers at the Portland rally this Saturday. This idle question came up. The best answer of the lot was, I think, Deanizens. What do you think? (Yes, I know this is a pretty trivial matter to waste time on. But things are so heavy right now a little triviality makes for a nice break.)

Is Dean's anti-war stance based on politics?

Kos concludes his reporting on the California Democratic Convention. He finishes with an interesting conversation with a Democratic strategistic who thinks anti-war is a losing proposition for the Democrats.
Dean (and the rest of the lesser candidates) have made a different calculation -- that war will be too costly in human lives and treasure. Are they correct? No one can say. Not Dean, not your friendly neighborhood warblogger, not me. We can only analyze the military and political landscape and arrive at conclusions.
I think Kos is wrong that Dean has made a political calculation to be anti-war because it will be "to costly in human lives and treasure". My feeling from Dean is that his opposition to the war is sincere and that it is not driven by politics. He knows very well that, if the war goes very well for Bush, he will have a more difficult time of it. The few times I have seen him he appears to be trying to get across the message that this war is wrong regardless of the outcome. Now maybe I'm just being fooled by another slick politician. But, right now, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because the Democratic party desperately needs a candidate like Dean to make a difference.

Will Bush's damage to America be long term?

Matthew doesn't seem to think that Bush has caused or will cause America serious, long-term damage on the world stage.
As I see it, I'm going to do my part to make sure that a Democrat gets elected in 2004, and once we're rid of Bush we'll be rid of most of our inability to get along with out own allies. The problem really is Bush. He should be ashamed of himself, but it also means that he's not going to do any real long term damage. Once we toss Saddam out the people of Iraq will at least be mildly pleased with us (the twelve years of sanctions are going to take a while to get over), and once we toss Bush out the good people of Europe will see that we're nice kids after all. Long term problems solved.
I disagree. First of all it seems naive to equate the Iraqi people's relief with the removal of Saddam with some kind of forgiveness of America. It is possible to hate both your oppresors and your nominal "liberators", especially if those liberators proceed to ignore your future plight. Bush will have two years to fuck up any victory he may get on the battlefield and he is more than capable of doing it in that short a period of time. Repairing the damage with the rest of the world will depend on a lot of factors, the first of which is getting Bush out of the White House by at least 2004 and replacing him with leadership that will soundly repudiate his policies. The first step is doable, sort of. Bush is beatable, but I'm not sure any of the current crop running against him has what it takes to do it. Dean is the only who I think is psychologically prepared to do it, but he doesn't yet have the support of the party (the foot soldier's maybe, but the leadership may need a lot of arm twisting to get them to accept him). But, even if a Democrat were to defeat Bush in 2004, he might not necessarily reverse or repair many of the Bush initiatives that have damaged America on the world state. You see, Democrats have an annoying habit of not attacking their Republican predecessors once they get into power. Indeed, they seem to go out of their way to find ways to save their butts. I've commented in the past that the Republicans' greatest fault is that they keep falling into the very holes they dig for others. But the Democrats' greatest fault is they keep throwing the Republicans the rope they need in order to get out. Bush has not yet caused permanent damage to America, but he is very close. Very very close. Indeed, he has done so much in just two short years that I wouldn't put it past him to cause decades worth of damage in the remaining two years left to him.

On the Nader thing and who is really to blame

I want to make one thing clear here. While I think that many people failed the system in 2000, not the least of which were the establishment press, the Democratic party, Gore, AND the Naderites, there is one group of people who must take the greatest share of the blame. The people who voted for Bush. Thank you very much.