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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Quick note on Rice

I've got lots of stuff on my plate this week, so this will be quick:

As everyone knows by now, Condi Rice is going to testify to the 9/11 Commission. It should be noted that the separation of powers argument was always a ruse. She already testified for four hours in February -- in private. Thus, the claims about executive-legislative power are false.

The entire controversy has really been about public accountability. Will Rice have to answer questions in a public forum, so that you and I can consider her responses to the questions we want answered? Up until today, the Bush administration has tried to avoid just that accountability.

And today, they may yet have achieved victory.

As Paul Sperry notes, the deal the Commission made with the White House includes a lot of concessions that actually hurt transparency and public accountability.

Rice will be the final Bush administration official to testify in public. She cannot be recalled and no one else can be asked to explain anything else from now forward. Every process needs an endpoint, but this seems like a bad deal.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney are also going to testify together, in private, before all the commissioners.

They will not be under oath.

Why not?

I suspect the White House has concerns about the Clinton precedent. The Special Prosecutor ended up going after Clinton for alleged lies under oath -- not for other specific crimes committed as President. That's largely why impeachment failed. The public thought his behavior was bad, but not impeachable.

In any case, without taking such an oath, the current President and Vice President are freed to bend the truth and "forget" potentially important facts.

Think I'm being paranoid?

On March 22, 2004, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy story detailing how "some official accounts of Sept. 11 are incorrect, incomplete or in dispute."

Despite what the President said, he did not personally put the nation on higher alert that morning.

The President claimed to have seen a video of the first plane striking the World Trade Center even before he read to the classroom full of students that day -- but this was impossible. Despite his personal anecdote about seeing a "bad pilot," no tape was available until the night of 9/11.

Uncut videotape reveals that the President was not immediately pulled from the class when informed of the second attack. He remained in the room for at least 7 additional minutes. White House officials claim to have acted within seconds.

There was no threat to Air Force One, despite the fact that Vice President Cheney has claimed there was. There were no remaining jets in the sky that would have posed lingering threats to air safety, as has been claimed by the White House.

The FAA alerted the military immediately when it knew it had hijackings underway that day, but the jets remained on the ground. Nobody can really explain why.

Read the WSJ piece, it raises additional doubts about the official story.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Updates on Clarke

From Mark A.R. Kleiman, I learned that Senator (and Majority Leader) Bill Frist said some things last week about Richard Clarke's congressional testimony that were not true.

As I noted, Frist came close to accusing Clarke of perjury -- but Frist may have committed a similar offense within a few minutes of making his statement in Congress (since it was on the floor of the Senate, he cannot be prosecuted for a crime):
Frist later retreated from directly accusing Clarke of perjury, telling reporters that he personally had no knowledge that there were any discrepancies between Clarke's two appearances. But he said, "Until you have him under oath both times, you don’t know."
If Frist had no idea whether Clarke told a different story, why did he say it?

Salon has a great interview with Clarke, by the way. First come the questions from Joe Conason (in bold) and then Clarke's replies. This exchange is interesting, to demonstrate how the administration has politicized 9/11:
[White House spokesman] McClellan also said that although you criticize the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the book, you had attempted to become the No. 2 in that department and were passed over -- and that's yet another reason why you wrote this critical book.

They're trying to bait me, and they're trying to get me to answer all these personal issues. You know, the fact is that Tom Ridge opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. George Bush opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. And then one day, they turned on a dime and supported it. Why?

As I said in the book, the White House legislative affairs people counted votes. Senator [Joseph] Lieberman had proposed the bill to create the Department of Homeland Security -- and the legislative affairs people said Lieberman has the votes; it's going to pass. They said, "You've got the possible situation here, Mr. President, where you're going to have to veto the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. And if you don't support it now, if you don't make it your proposal, not only will it pass but it will be called the Lieberman bill."

The Lieberman-McCain bill.

The Lieberman-McCain bill, in fact. So that there were two outcomes possible. One in which we have this Frankenstein department, created during the middle of the war on terrorism, reorganizing during the middle of a war. That was possible. It was also possible that a second thing would happen, and that was that Lieberman would get credit for it. And therefore the president changed his position overnight, and became a big supporter of the Department of Homeland Security.

Did you see a memo to that effect? I wondered about that when I was reading the book, because you don't say how you know they gave the president that advice.

No, I don't say ... It was from oral conversations in the White House.
There's a lot more good material in that interview. Here's the bit comparing the Clinton and Bush policies on terror:
It's possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn't know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many. The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States, through military intervention. It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States, through covert action. It stopped the al-Qaida attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia. It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium. It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. embassy in Albania. And it began a lethal covert action program against al-Qaida; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaida. Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn't notice.

[P]rior to 9/11, the Bush administration didn't have an approach to terrorism. They'd never gotten around to creating an administration policy. It was in the process of doing so, but it hadn't achieved that. And it was clear that the national security advisor didn't like this kind of issue; she didn't have meetings on this issue. The president didn't have meetings on the issue of terrorism.

Now the White House is saying, oh, they had meetings every day. But let's be clear about what those meetings every day were. Every day George Tenet, the CIA director, would do the morning intelligence briefing of the president, and he would raise the al-Qaida threat with great frequency. That's not the same as having a meeting to decide what to do about it. That's not the same as the president shaking the lapels of the FBI director and the attorney general and saying, "You've got to stop the attack."

Apparently on one occasion -- of all these many, many days when George Tenet mentioned the al-Qaida threat -- the president on one occasion said, "I want a strategy. I don't want to swat flies." Well, months or certainly weeks went by after that, and he didn't get his strategy because Condi Rice didn't hold the meeting necessary to approve it and give it to him. And yet George Bush appears not to have asked for it a second time.

In fact, he told Bob Woodward in "Bush at War" that he kind of knew there was a strategy being developed out there, but he didn't know at what stage it was in the process. Well, if he was so focused on it, he would have kept asking where the strategy was. He would have known where it was in the process. He would have demanded that it be brought forward. He had a fleeting interest.
Among other bloggers, Digby has been making this point.

This is a story that I'll continue to watch.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Draft

Some time ago, I referenced the basic "military math" that slows further implementation of the Bush Doctrine. Put simply, the US doesn't have a sufficiently large armed force to carry out additional Iraq-like invasions and occupations. Most of the force is already deployed somewhere important, and the rest is either training to deploy or resting from a recent deployment

Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that re-enlistment rates may be down as well, which will further limit the President's apparent aspirations.

Conscription, of course, could alter this equation -- though it would take awhile to draft and then train new (likely much less motivated) soldiers.

In any event, I recently read an interesting piece on AlterNet by Conner Freff Cochran suggesting that a draft is coming. Don't expect to hear the Republicans talking about this before the election.

Cochran discusses some behind-the-scenes moves taken by the Selective Service System that could both hasten a draft and make it more effective:
Despite statements to the contrary, quiet preparations for the return of the draft have been under way for some time. The Selective Service System's Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2004 -- despite a ton of obfuscatory jargon, acronyms, and bureaucrat-speak -- can't quite manage to bury all of its bombshells.

Strategic Objective 1.2 of the 2004 plan commits the Selective Service System to being fully operational within 75 days of "an authorized return to conscription." Strategic Objective 1.3 then commits them to "be operationally ready to furnish untrained manpower within DOD timelines." By next year the government intends to turn the ignition key on a mobilization infrastructure of 56 State Headquarters, 442 Area Offices, and 1,980 Local Boards. There's even a big chunk of funding this year to run what's called an "Area Office Prototype Exercise" which will "test the activation process from SSS Lottery input to the issuance of First Armed Forces Examination Orders."

Strategic Objective 2.2 is all about bumping up the Selective Service System's High School Registrar Program. What's that? It's a plan to put volunteer Registrars in at least 85% of the nation's high schools, up from 65% in 1998. Consider these the SSS's "troops on the ground," making sure that the smallest possible number of eligible draftees manages to slip through the net.
According to Cochran, the SSS 2004 plan commits them to report to the President by March 31, 2005 that a draft could be ready for activation in 75 days.

By this math, the US could hold its first draft lottery since Vietnam on June 15, 2005. Congressional action would be required, but even NY Democrats Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. Charlie Rangel have publicly supported a draft -- so this is certainly within the realm of the possible.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Republicans Suddenly Embrace Transparency

Yahoo News has a new AP wire story on-line entitled, "GOP Moves to Declassify Clarke Testimony."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) claims that Richard Clarke told a very different story about Bush administration counter-terror efforts when he testified before congressional intelligence committees in July 2002 than he's telling now.

To prove this, various Republicans are seeking to declassify his testimony. Frist implied that perjury charges could lie ahead for Clarke "if it is found that he has lied to Congress."
"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor.

The Tennessee Republican said he hopes Clarke's testimony in July 2002 before the House and Senate intelligence committees can be declassified. Then, he said, it can be compared with the account the former aide provided in his nationally televised appearance Wednesday before the bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Frist, without elaborating, said Clarke's testimony in 2002 was "effusive in his praise for the actions of the Bush administration."
I'm pretty skeptical that such declassification could help the Bush administration all that much. Most importantly, a huge point of departure for Clarke is his opposition to the war against Iraq and the argument that it distracted (and made more difficult) the wider war on terror.

Thus, I can't really see a "gotcha" moment if this testimony merely points to the admininstration's anti-terror achievements during the months after 9/11. Everyone knows they sent the military to Afghanistan, toppled the Taliban and destroyed al Qaida camps.

In August 2002, of course, George Herbert Walker Bush's National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft authored a critical op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal that is just as damning as Clarke's book in terms of the horrible consequences attacking Iraq would have for the war on terror. I quoted a lot of it before, but let me repeat this:
"An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken.

But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism....At a minimum, it would stifle any cooperation on terrorism, and could even swell the ranks of the terrorists."
Earlier this week, someone leaked to Fox News a background brief Clarke gave in early August 2002. It generally supports the administration on the war on terror -- but Iraq is never mentioned.

Ironically, the White House has repeatedly linked the war in Iraq to the war on terror, but they are focusing all their attention on Clarke's claims about early 2001 -- that the incoming Bush administration was weak on terror from the beginning.

In the long run, that stuff may all wash out and the Iraq argument will prevail. So far, the White House doesn't seem to have a response for it.

Globalization of Baseball

Last year, the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners were supposed to play a short series of baseball games in Japan to kick off the new season. Because of the Iraq war, however, baseball officials decided to cancel those games.

At the time, I thought it was unnecessary. Iraq had no weapons that could reach Japan and had no allies. The risk of a terrorist strike against a Japanese target seemed pretty low, especially since Iraq and al Qaida are completely separate entities. Granted, I thought jihadists might be angered by the US launching war in the middle east, but it seemed very unlikely that they would pick these events for a terror strike. There wouldn't have been much time to plan, for example.

In any case, baseball decided to be safe.

Fine.

This year, baseball is beginning its season next Tuesday, with a short series in Japan between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Each team will prepare for these games that count in the AL East standings by first playing a couple of exhibition games against Japanese teams.

So, instead of seeing the return of Ichiro, Japanese fans get the return of Matsui.

It would be great if Matsui does well, but I've got to root for the Devil Rays in these games. Who wants to see the Yankees succeed all the time? Not me.

They are the evil empire, after all.

Someday, I'm going to do some halfway serious work on the globalization of baseball. Major League Baseball is obviously trying hard to globalize its fan base -- and labor pool. The marketing effort may already be paying off.

Last year's World Series achieved higher ratings in Japan that it did in the US. And MLB has sold the Japanese TV rights to the next 6 baseball seasons for $275 million. That is up about 15 times the prior agreement!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Band of Brothers II: The US Senate

I know everyone is talking about "star witness" Richard Clarke, who testified before the 9/11 Commission Wednesday. Since I wasn't able to watch and haven't yet read the transcript, I'll reserve comment for now.

Apparently, however, Clarke continued to attack the Bush administration for minimizing the terror threat in 2001 before 9/11 and for undermining the war on terror by attacking Iraq.

Interestingly, while Bush is being attacked for being soft on terror, some Republicans are defending John Kerry for his record on security policy.

Last week, fellow Vietnam veteran Republican Senator John McCain (Arizona) defended John Kerry's voting record on defense:
Discussing the Bush campaign charges, McCain told the "Today" show on Thursday, "I do not believe that he is, quote, weak on defense. He's responsible for his voting record, as we are all responsible for our records, and he'll have to explain it. But, no, I do not believe that he is necessarily weak on defense."
McCain, the straight talker, apparently wanted to set the record straight.

Sunday, in a chat show appearance that I missed, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (Nebraska) seconded McCain's analysis:
Hagel joined fellow Vietnam veteran Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in criticizing ads sponsored by the Bush campaign that call Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts who also is a Vietnam veteran, "weak on defense."

"The facts just don't measure [up to]the rhetoric," Hagel said on ABC's "This Week."

"You can take a guy like John Kerry, who's been in the Senate for 19 years, and go through that voting record," Hagel said. "You can take it with … any of us, and pick out different votes, and then try to manufacture something around that."
For example, Kerry voted for one version of the $87 billion for Iraq when it was funded by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He voted against it when the funding amendment failed.

Were Republicans against a Homeland Security Department...if unionized? Yes. It's the same deal.

Thanks to Mark A.R. Kleiman for the links to the LA Times story.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Incredible

Former CIA Director James Woolsey is on Lou Dobbs (CNN) as I type asserting a link between al Qaida and Iraq.

Woolsey says that the US needs to take a good hard look at the possible connection -- and he throws in a possible connection to Iran as well.

He's a true believer in the thesis and often references the wacky theories of Laurie Mylroie.

Just incredible.

International relations theorists often admit they don't have much to say about terrorism because they study state-to-state relations and terrorists are not state actors. Here's what the University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer had to say back in 2002:
what does a Realist theory of international politics have to say about terrorists? The answer is not a whole heck of a lot. Realism, as I said before, is really all about the relations among states, especially among great powers. In fact, al Qaeda is not a state, it's a non-state actor, which is sometimes called a transnational actor. My theory and virtually all Realist theories don't have much to say about transnational actors. However, there is no question that terrorism is a phenomenon that will play itself out in the context of the international system. So it will be played out in the state arena, and, therefore, all of the Realist logic about state behavior will have a significant effect on how the war on terrorism is fought. So Realism and terrorism are inextricably linked, although I do think that Realism does not have much to say about the causes of terrorism.

Now, the final issue that you raised is the question of what I think of about how the Bush administration is waging the war on terrorism. My basic view, which may sound somewhat odd coming from a Realist, is that the Bush administration's policy is wrong-headed because it places too much emphasis on using military force to deal with the problem, and not enough emphasis on diplomacy. I think that if we hope to win the war on terrorism, or to put it in more modest terms, to ameliorate the problem, what we have to do is win hearts and minds in the Arab and Islamic world.

There's no doubt that there are huge numbers of people in that world who hate the United States, and a significant percentage of those people are willing to either sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers or support suicide bombing attacks against the United States. What we have to do is we have to ameliorate that hatred, and we have to go to great lengths to win hearts and minds. I don't believe that you can do that with military force. I think some military force is justified. If you could convince me that Osama bin Laden and his fellow leaders are located in a particular set of caves in Afghanistan at this point in time, I would be perfectly willing to use massive military force to get at those targets and to kill all of the al Qaeda leadership. But I think, in general, what the United States wants to do is not rely too heavily on military force -- in part, because the target doesn't lend itself to military attack, but more importantly, because using military force in the Arab and Islamic world is just going to generate more resentment against us and cause the rise of more terrorists and give people cause to support these terrorists. So I'd privilege diplomacy much more than military force in this war, and I think the Bush administration would be wise if it moved more towards diplomacy and less towards force.
Of course, Mearsheimer became a major public critic of the move against Iraq.

Mearsheimer's colleague, Dan Drezner, blogged today that rational Bush supporters know that the Iraq war was about regional transformation so as dry terrorism up at its source.

As someone who recently had public engagements with neocons Tom Donnelly and Robert Kagan , I think this is genuine.

Ultimately, the Bush people were marketing a war based on the security arguments that would sell, but apparently had a far more radical counter-terror plan that they didn't think would sell.

This explains why Bush administration people keep pointing out that a bad man has been deposed and that the Iraq people are "free" (from Saddam's rule, presumably, because they now live under military occupation).

Democratization of Iraq is their "big picture" counter-terror policy and war critics need to take it very seriously.

This means, of course, that the significant distortions about traditional security threats emanating from Iraq prevented the real debate from occurring before the war. Opponents, whether John Mearsheimer or street marchers, were focused on the lack of evidence about nuclear threats and the weakness of Iraq after 12 years of sanctions.

The real debate remains, involving significant questions:

Can a nation like Iraq be democratized by toppling a despotic regime and "building" a new nation from the rubble?

Was military force the best way to do this?

-- Did the attack set a dangerous precedent and potentially legitimize similar uses of violence by other states that will make the world a much less safe place?

-- Will the use of military force without wide international support create so much backlash throughout the Islamic world that the forces of terror are substantially strengthened by this move?

How long will it take to democratize Iraq?

Can a democratic Iraq trigger a democratic domino effect throughout the region?

Why begin with Iraq? What if the US had put strong (non-violent) public pressure on other states -- like Saudi Arabia? Or Egypt?

I know other bloggers have addressed some of these concerns, but in the coming weeks I'll try to address them too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Attacks from the Left

A month ago, I blogged about "progressive internationalism," and noted that far left-leaning critics of John Kerry accuse him and other "mainstream" Democrats of having the same foreign policy goals as neocon Republicans. The differences, according to these critics, are cosmetic and provide only a thin veneer of legitimacy for a host of dubious practices.

Mark Hand, the author I criticized for making this claim, has responded on his blog, Press Action. His article is "The Vital Center Taunts the Disenfranchised Left."

I don't have time to rebut everything he writes -- and readers may want to review his original piece -- but I will advance several counter arguments.

My taunt, as it happens, was a simple repeat of Kerry's standard stump line directed at Bush: "Bring it on." It was nothing personal. Indeed, the blog post began with a note about Ralph Nader potentially drawing votes from Kerry in 2004. I really do not want to see that happen (again).

Regarding Hand's depiction of the Washington elite:

In the House, Democrats opposed the Iraq war resolution 126-81. In the Senate, it was 21-29 in the wrong direction. Still, it is misleading to pretend that this was a war wholeheartedly supported by the Democrats in Washington. Too many voted for it, but it was clearly not a consensus of the "vital center."

I'm quite confident John Kerry would not have gone to war in March 2003. Indeed, very few Democrats would have given the changed context. The inspectors were back in Iraq, had been met with complete cooperation, and had found nothing -- and were even reporting that Iraq had no nuclear program.

The "New Democrat" manifesto on "progressive internationalism" that Hand quotes is not the same one referenced in his earlier article that Kerry signed. I quoted the one Kerry signed verbatim in my reply. It predates the 2000 election and is hardly menacing or indicative of current debates.

The "new" manifesto on "progressive internationalism" is a document advanced by some Democrats, but the electoral platform has not yet been agreed (that occurs at the convention this summer) and there is no specific endorsement by Kerry to my knowledge. I tried to find such an endorsement when I blogged about this topic.

Hand quoted me accurately as saying that I can imagine carefully crafted humanitarian intervention to halt genocide (can't everyone?), but he misleadingly interprets that as my finding "little fault" with the Democrats generally.

Incidentally, just because the Bush administration is trying to reframe Iraq as humanitarian intervention (HI) doesn't make it a legal or legitimate case. Bush campaigned against the Clinton Doctrine in 2000 and sold the latest war in terms of WMD and proliferation. HI is associated with very specific international legal understandings. Iraq was not a nice place to live under Saddam Hussein, but he was not actively engaged in either genocide or crimes against humanity.

Hussein's past apparently included these crimes, but that authorizes international legal action -- not war, which is legal only when necessary to save those facing ongoing killings. Rwanda would have been the best contemporary use of force had it been used to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

I've been blogging since only September 2003 and I don't think many of my readers would call me a hawk. Hand asserts that I am hawkish because I endorse Kerry (now that he is the candidate) and mainstream Democrats. My readers know that I directed a lot more attention at Dean, Clark and even Edwards through the primary season (and even earlier). Dean and Clark were widely viewed as the anti-war candidates.

Finally, to be fair in Hand's overall assessment of the 2004 candidate, I think he has to note that John Kerry did play a major role in protesting the Vietnam War once he returned stateside -- and voted against the Persian Gulf War.

There are real differences between the Democrats and Republicans in 2004.

For example, did everyone notice the 50% increase in defense spending since the Bush era began?

Kerry, of course, is pretty clear left of the Clinton administration and I am hopeful that his presidency will turn out to be a lot better for the average American. His voting record is better than even Kucinich's by some measures (Kucinich often voted against abortion rights, for example) and I see no reason to elect Bush in 2004 by voting for Nader.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Clarke Bashes Bush

Richard A. Clarke is a career bureaucrat, serving Presidents Reagan through Bush II. Most recently, he spent a decade directing the federal government's counterterror efforts. He left that post 13 months ago...just before the US attacked Iraq.

Oh, and he has been a registered Republican, at least as recently as the 2000 presidential election, and is hawkish on terrorism.

In his brand new book, Clarke says Bush was soft on terror before 9/11 and has been horrible for the past 18 months because of his decision to focus on Iraq instead of al Qaida.

Clarke has been giving a number of interviews, most prominently on CBS television's "60 minutes" program and will undoubtedly be in the press for the foreseeable future. Here are some choice words from tomorrow morning's Washington Post story:
The president, he said, "failed to act prior to September 11 on the threat from al Qaeda despite repeated warnings and then harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks." The rapid shift of focus to Saddam Hussein, Clarke writes, "launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide."

Among the motives for the war, Clarke argues, were the politics of the 2002 midterm election. "The crisis was manufactured, and Bush political adviser Karl Rove was telling Republicans to 'run on the war,' " Clarke writes.

"I'm sure I'll be criticized for lots of things, and I'm sure they'll launch their dogs on me," Clarke told CBS's "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast last night. "But frankly I find it outrageous that the president is running for reelection on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism."
Essentially, this is the same argument that Democratic hawks like Wesley Clark have been making for many months.

Clarke says the administration completely missed the boat on the threat from al Qaida -- and bought Laurie Mylroie's wacky theories that Iraq was behind all the major terror of the 1990s.
Like former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill, who spoke out in January, Clarke said some of Bush's leading advisers arrived in office determined to make war on Iraq. Nearly all of them, he said, believed Clinton had been "overly obsessed with al Qaeda."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, Clarke wrote, scowled and asked, "why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden." When Clarke told him no foe but al Qaeda "poses an immediate and serious threat to the United States," Wolfowitz is said to have replied that Iraqi terrorism posed "at least as much" of a danger. FBI and CIA representatives backed Clarke in saying they had no such evidence.

"I could hardly believe," Clarke writes, that Wolfowitz pressed the "totally discredited" theory that Iraq was behind the 1993 truck bomb at the World Trade Center, "a theory that had been investigated for years and found to be totally untrue."
I've blogged about this repeatedly.

Clarke also echoes many others who say that DoD leaders Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were itching for a fight against Iraq from the moment the World Trade Center was attacked.
In the first minutes after hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, Rice placed Clarke in her chair in the Situation Room and asked him to direct the government's crisis response. The next day, Clarke returned to find the subject changed to Iraq.

"I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq," he writes.

In discussions of military strikes, "Secretary Rumsfeld complained that there were no decent targets for bombing in Afghanistan" -- where al Qaeda was based under protection of the Taliban -- "and that we should consider bombing Iraq."
Ouch.

Worse, Bush bought it hook, line and sinker:
"Any leader whom one can imagine as president on September 11 would have declared a 'war on terrorism' and would have ended the Afghan sanctuary [for al Qaeda] by invading," Clarke writes. "What was unique about George Bush's reaction" was the additional choice to invade "not a country that had been engaging in anti-U.S. terrorism but one that had not been, Iraq." In so doing, he estranged allies, enraged potential friends in the Arab and Islamic worlds, and produced "more terrorists than we jail or shoot."

"It was as if Osama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting 'invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq,' " Clarke writes.
Republicans spent much of the 1990s arguing that using military force to topple dictators didn't automatically improve American security. Bush campaigned on that topic in 2000.

Now, however, we're expected to believe that toppling Saddam improved US security even though it meant shifting the war on terrorism. Lots of special units and other real military assets were moved from Afghanistan to the Iraq diversion.

And now, we have 130,000 American troops bogged down with no draw-down date in sight. Even more forces are training for Iraq or recovering from recent deployments.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Montreal ISA: Day Four

I'm back home, but this morning I had a panel on "Assessing the 'American Imperium': Historical and Analytical Perspectives." I primarily focused on the limits of the Bush Doctrine -- the US is very unlikely to launch another preventive war any time soon.

On that note, Don Daniel, Pete Dombrowski and I just learned that our piece, "The Bush Doctrine: Rest in Peace" will appear in June's Defence Studies. Since not many will see it there, I thought I'd mention it on the blog. I should have a copy of the manuscript on my academic website next week.

The other panelists included Dan Nexon (he organized it), Alex Cooley, Paul MacDonald and Torbjørn L. Knutsen.

Each panelist presented interesting arguments, though I cannot readily recount them here right now. I especially enjoyed the Q&A time after the presentations, when panelists focused on land versus sea empires, contemporary policy implications and other interesting topics.

Friday, March 19, 2004

One Year Anniversary: US Friends Still Angry

The US started its latest war against Iraq one year ago today. In this morning's Global and Mail, which bills itself as "Canada's national newspaper," former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Paul Heinbecker has an op-ed piece explaining his country's opposition to the war.

Heinbecker stepped down as UN Ambassador January 2004, so his perspective is truly first hand. He led a last ditch effort to find a compromise between the US and most of the rest of the world at the United Nations. The Canadian proposal would have set some specific tests and deadlines for Iraq to meet. He failed to convince the US to go along.

In any event, Heinbecker argued that Canada's refusal to join the war effort has been "quickly and thoroughly vindicated." Actually, he says a lot of stuff that fairly implicitly supports John Kerry's recent claim that much of the world would like to see him beat George W. Bush in November. Here are some highlights:
No weapons of mass destruction have been found, despite the best efforts of more than a thousand American weapons inspectors with free rein. No connection to al-Qaeda has been established. No persuasive argument endures about the urgency of the U.S. need to act.

Most, including me, disbelieved the allegations emanating from the White House about Iraqi nuclear weapons. Few were persuaded by the "intelligence" presented to the UN Security Council and to the world by the U.S. Secretary of State and the director of the CIA.

The most obvious consequence is that the United States and its posse are caught in a morass. They cannot end the occupation precipitously without triggering a civil war and undoing the good they have done in removing Saddam Hussein. They cannot stay in Iraq without losing more soldiers and more money. Echoes of Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Iraqi toll also rises. As one Arab ambassador at the United Nations put it, the Americans have swallowed a razor and nothing they do now will be painless or cost-free.
Heinbecker references the recent Pew Research Center study on the rise of anti-Americanism around the world -- especially in the Arab/Muslim countries -- as well as a report by the US Advisory Group on on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World.

Two-third of Canadians believe that President Bush "knowlingly lied to the world" about Iraq, according to a Global and Mail/CTV News poll!

At the end of the piece, Heinbecker describes some lessons for Canadian foreign policy. The third is perhaps the most interesting:
the Iraq war demonstrates the limits of intelligence. The U.S. administration and others made intelligence pivotal to their decision-making. The Canadian government used it as one input among many. One government is embarrassed and the other is not. Time, and enquiries, will tell whether the intelligence in the United States and Britain was just catastrophically bad, politically manipulated or both. The Canadian analysis was better.
Some of the neocons similarly argue that intelligence information should not carry the day because of the "big picture" issues.

Of course, absent threats confirmed by intelligence, wars become matters of choice and the US public (and Congress) probably would not have supported the Iraq war.

Keep this in mind next time some Bush official says that had the US listened to the rest of the world, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Absent the urgency, pro-war neocon chickenhawks supported war to topple Hussein in 1991, in 1998, in 2002, and on most dates in between. What did the US lose by waiting? What has it gained by attacking?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Montreal: Snow, not spring is in the air

Montreal, day 2: I firmly wish that I had remembered Chapstick and a hat. It has been cold, with an icy wind, and this morning it was snowing. Great. It's really hard to plan an on-line fantasy baseball draft under these conditions.

The NCAA tournament has started and I'm glad Maryland (PhD '89) has a win already. Kansas, my undergrad school ('83), plays Friday against University of Illinois, Chicago. Louisville plays Xavier at just about the same time and I don't yet know if either game is going to be televised in upstate NY (Montreal cable systems receive those broadcasts).

I reluctantly went with Duke in my pool. After I decided Kansas could beat Kentucky, it was easy to put them in the Final Four -- but I have them losing to Oklahoma State. I have Stanford (CISAC Fellow 1987-88) losing to Duke in the other bracket. Most of the people in my "office" pool picked Kentucky to win it all.

Ha! They'll all look bad once the Jayhawks prevail in that game!

Most unusual pick: one guy in my pool named Wisconsin the eventual national champion!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Montreal: Day one

This morning's panel went fine. I found a few things to talk about -- and disclosed to the audience of maybe 15 academics that I blog.

Nobody really reacted to that -- of course, I was the discussant.

Later, I hit the book room, picked up a free copy of the Carnegie Report on WMD, and headed to some panels and poster sessions in the afternoon. Somehow, I forgot to each lunch. That never happens with me.

Tomorrow, late morning, I deliver my paper on "Neorealists and Foreign Policy Debate: The Disconnect Between Theory and Practice." For anyone really bored by their own lives, I recommend my ISA paper (warning: pdf file)

Feedback is welcome.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Montreal

I'm in Montreal, attending the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association. At 8:30 tomorrow morning, I'm the discussant on a panel featuring a number of specialists on international ethics and political philosophy: James Bohman, Molly Cochran, Nayef Samhat and Martin Weber.

The papers mostly focus on the development of a transnational public sphere, with some leaning to a Habermasian perspective and others to Dewey's pragmatism.

Let's hope I have something interesting to say about their papers.

Montreal is a great locale to talk about transnational identity and communication. And one of the papers discusses the role of the internet in fostering deliberative democracy.

Unfortunately, to fly to Montreal, I had to land in Cleveland.

Actually, I've got nothing against Cleveland, it's just that the weather caused our little regional jet to sit on the runway for 90 minutes, return to the terminal for fuel, and then undergo a second round of de-icing. We were on the plane for four hours, even though the flight itself was only about 60 or 70 minutes.

My hotel has free high speed internet access, though it isn't the fastest connection I've ever had. Still, I should be able to do some blogging over the next few days.

Stay tuned for ISA updates!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Land Mine Ban Update

Blogger Mark Kleiman recently argued that the Bush administration's Land Mine policy revision is good -- not a setback, as I previously reported.

In support of his position, Kleiman references an authority. Weapons expert Richard L. Garwin had a piece in the LA Times arguing in support of the US technological solution, which mandates use of self destructing land mines. Thanks to a timing mechanism that has worked extraordinarily well in testing, the US will be able to clear both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines quickly after a conflict ends.

The Mine Ban Treaty Bans only the former type of mine. Thus, Garwin reasons that the US has the morally superior position.

There are several problems with this analysis.

First, other than the US, what states will have the technology to use self-destructive mines? In the Mine Ban Treaty, 141 states have agreed to ban mines. Another 9 have signed, but not ratified. Given the US past record of keeping relatively advanced defense technology to itself for some years of exclusive use, I doubt the US is about to share this techology with the rest of the world any time soon.

Second, when would mines be removed via self-destruction? Most "wars" these days are civil conflicts, not traditional interstate wars. Mines are thus not used for traditional military reasons. States and opponents alike use mines in order to terrorize and separate civilians -- the mission is not really military. The US technological solution might work just fine if an advancing army puts down mines and then blows them up soon afterwards. But when will any party in a civil war decide that his or her own side is sufficiently safe that it won't need mines?

Mine expert Ken Rutherford told me two weeks ago that ethnic "borders" are demarcated throughout the former Yugoslavia with land mines. The parties there have no interest in de-mining those lines.

Of course, the current anti-personnel Mine Ban Treaty strictly limits the global supply of mines. Many states that might otherwise sell them are now obliged not to participate in the global marketplace. If the US is selling mines, of whatever technical capability, the market is going to be open. Both Russia and China refuse to join the Mine Ban Treaty in part because the US will not.

To tie this to my first point, how long will it be before Russia or China have self-destructive mines?

Third, what happens until 2010? The US is still using the traditional type of land mine in Korea. Since it is not a member of the Treaty, the US could simply reverse current policy pronouncements and use old-fashioned mines wherever it wants. The US could decide tomorrow to deploy mines in Iraq, for example. This would set a terrible example for a world moving toward an outright ban based on the immorality of the weapon.

Garwin doesn't devote space to explain why the US actually might need mines for traditional security reasons. As I said before, quoting Rutherford, the overwhelming majority of victims of mines are civilians, not soldiers, and they occur after the war, not during the fighting.

Why are these land mines needed, whether low or high tech?

Would Kleiman and Garwin alternatively support an additional treaty banning anti-vehicular mines? Would the US?

Perhaps that is the morally superior position.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Spain: March Madness

Every now and then, some conspiracy-minded blogger (or commenter) worries that Bush can win the 2004 presidential election thanks to an "October surprise."

After Saddam Hussein was arrested in December, Bush's poll ratings went up for a brief period -- perhaps just enough in a close election to make a meaningful difference. Thus, one worry is that the administration might "find" Osama bin Laden just before the election.

Another concern is that the US might suffer another homeland terrorist attack just before the election, causing nervous voters to "rally 'round" the President.

Well, Spain just had a major terrorist attack, then an election just a few days later -- and the voters unexpectedly ousted the government that had backed Bush in Iraq.

The Washington Post has this on Monday's front page:"Spanish Socialists Oust Party of U.S. War Ally."
Spaniards voted Sunday to remove the party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar from power, apparently blaming his staunch support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq for the bombing attacks that killed 200 people in Madrid on Thursday.

While opinion polls taken before the bombings had given Aznar's Popular Party a comfortable lead, voters overwhelmingly endorsed candidates from the opposition Socialist Party, whose leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has promised to immediately withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq, redirect Spain's foreign policy away from the United States and restore good relations with such European allies as France and Germany that had opposed the Iraq war.
The evidence more-and-more suggests the terrorism was the work of al Qaida, and voters appeared to reject the conservative government because it had made Spain a target of terrorists.

Finally!

After a very long wait, State University of New York Press has published Democratizing Global Politics; Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community, by Rodger A. Payne and Nayef H. Samhat.

Amazon has it for sale, though as a hardback, it is a bit pricey.

This is from the back cover:
Historically, international institutions have been secretive and not particularly democratic. They have typically excluded almost all interested parties except the representatives of the most powerful nations. Because of this "deficit of democracy" international organizations and regimes have found themselves the target of protest movements and lobbying campaigns. Democratizing Global Politics finds that, in response to this mounting legitimacy crisis, international organizations and regimes are beginning to embrace new norms of participation and transparency, opening the decision-making process to additional political and social actors and creating opportunities for meaningful external scrutiny. Two case studies examine the construction of such "discourse norms" in the Global Environmental Facility and the World Trade Organization. The authors conclude that these normative changes not only legitimize international institutions-they also promote the development of political community on a global scale.
I wish I knew how to include the book cover photo.

So, readers, two technical questions. First, any idea how I can include a photo on a basic blog? Second, completely unrelated to that, anyone know if google changed something that made my search box ineffective? I cannot seem to search my own archives anymore. And that's frustrating.

Update: Hey, someone actually reads this blog! Thanks, Micah, for telling me how to do this:

Friday, March 12, 2004

New Visuals

The Presidential race is heating up early this cycle. President Bush has already made the news twice this past week for his controversial advertisements -- one using images of 9/11 (including actors as firemen) and one featuring an apparent Arab terrorist.

Billmon calls the man in the ads "Muhammad Horton" since the image echoes Bush Senior's famous Willie Horton ad. Actually, Atrios uses this tag too...

In any case, Digby points to a website that has a great archive of presidential ads. View some of the old ones to get a good idea of whether this year's efforts are any better or worse.

I watched several of the 1988 Bush-Dukakis ads (you know, a Bush versus a guy from Massachusetts...and a Bush won) to get a feel for what this year's campaign season might be like.

Check it out.

Oh, speaking of visuals, someone with photoshop has been reworking the President's image. I realize that men and women react differently to the two major parties (the "gender gap" has been real for many elections now), but this is ridiculous. I got the link from Mark Kleiman.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Empire

I've got to go to Lexington this afternoon to give a talk on American primacy and empire. It's for a "Worldview" conference, co-sponsored by the Rotary and University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

President Bush says the US is not pursuing empire:
We have no territorial ambitions, we don't seek an empire. Our nation is committed to freedom for ourselves and for others. We and our allies have fought evil regimes and left in their place self-governing and prosperous nations.

And in every conflict, the character of our nation has been demonstrated in the conduct of the United States military. Where they have served, America's veterans are remembered by civilians with affection, not fear.

One veteran recalls the closing days of the second world war. In the spring of 1945, he said, "around the world, the sight of a 12-man squad of teenage boys armed in uniform brought terror to people's hearts. But there was an exception: a squad of GIs, a sight that brought the biggest smiles you ever saw to people's lips, and joy to their hearts. GIs meant candy and cigarettes, C-rations and freedom." "America," he said, "has sent the best of her young men around the world, not to conquer, but to liberate; not to terrorize, but to help."
I plan to take the President seriously and argue against the idea even of American primacy. The US should work with its allies to resolve common problems, whether they are nuclear proliferation, global terror or global warming.

Apparently, I speak right after Tom Donnelly, a neo-conservative from the American Enterprise Institute. He recently wrote an op-ed piece on American primacy, but part of it is heavily dependent upon a piece written by someone I've known since we both spent a year at Stanford back in 1987-88, Bill Wohlforth.

In any case, Donnelly argues that September 11 awakened a sleeping giant, American primacy contributes to the creation of a durable peace, and coalitions among states are of limited utility. Since the Bush adminstration apparently recognizes these facts, Donnelly reckons this is all good news for democracy (in places like the Middle East) and bad news for China, which has long been a neo-con concern:
Still, the decision to remove Saddam Hussein and to build something more decent and democratic in the regime's place does mark a new, third epoch in the "unipolar era." Moreover, this break has been reinforced by President Bush's recent speeches vowing to "transform" the politics of the greater Middle East and questioning the United States' previous willingness to tolerate a variety of autocratic local allies in the name of narrow "stability" or Cold War, balance-of-power habit. What has begun is the real test of the Pax Americana-the active employment of American power to promulgate liberal political principles and thereby fashion an enduring peace...

This final point seems as obvious today as in 1999; yes, Chinese economic and military strength has continued to grow. And, especially in the particular case of a decapitating strike on Taiwan, the People's Liberation Army can make a U.S. response very challenging. But the overall strategic balance between the United States and China is probably shifting away from Beijing. In a "globalized" world, the distinction between regional and global power is increasingly illusory, making it difficult for Beijing to maintain its own private sphere of influence independent from the overarching Pax Americana.
More on my response when I get back.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Tenet rebuts Cheney

Yesterday, CIA Director George Tenet testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. When responding to questions from some Democratic Senators, Tenet acknowledged that the White House had mischaracterized intelligence evidence about Iraq WMD and/or links to terrorism and that he had privately corrected them.

Jonathan Landay filed the story for Knight-Ridder newspapers.
CIA Director George Tenet on Tuesday rejected recent assertions by Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq cooperated with the al-Qaida terrorist network and that the administration had proof of an illicit Iraqi biological warfare program....

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you what my interaction was ... and what I did and didn't do, except that you have to have confidence to know that when I believed that somebody was misconstruing intelligence, I said something about it," Tenet said. "I don't stand up publicly and do it."

Tenet admitted to Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's senior Democrat, that he had told Cheney that the vice president was wrong in saying that two truck trailers recovered in Iraq were "conclusive evidence" that Saddam had a biological weapons program.

Cheney made the assertion in a Jan. 22 interview with National Public Radio.

Tenet said that U.S. intelligence agencies still disagree on the purpose of the trailers. Some analysts believe they were mobile biological-weapons facilities; others think they may have been for making hydrogen gas for weather balloons.
That's good stuff -- though it is kind of late. This has all been public knowledge for some time.

Tenet also shot down the material compiled by Doug Feith, leaked to The Weekly Standard and previously disavowed by the Pentagon:
Levin also questioned Tenet about a Jan. 9 interview with the Rocky Mountain News, in which Cheney cited a November article in the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, as "the best source of information" on cooperation between Saddam and al-Qaida.

The article was based on a leaked top-secret memorandum. It purportedly set out evidence, compiled by a special Pentagon intelligence cell, that Saddam was in league with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. It was written by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, the third-highest Pentagon official and a key proponent of the war.

"Did the CIA agree with the contents of the Feith document?" asked Levin.

"Senator, we did not clear the document," replied Tenet. "We did not agree with the way the data was characterized in that document."

Tenet, who pointed out that the Pentagon, too, had disavowed the document, said he learned of the article Monday night, and he planned to speak with Cheney about the CIA's view of the Feith document.
Finally, Landay also brings in the role of Iraqi defectors in fostering intelligence falsehoods:
Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the military's main intelligence arm, said that "some" information provided by defectors had checked out, but that they also gave material that was "fabricated or embellished."
Previously, I noted that the Pentagon found major problems with the overwhelming majority of evidence provided by the defectors -- especially on WMD.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Florida: for Kerry?

A recent poll showed John Kerry leading George W. Bush in Florida and a lot of bloggers have been discussing this the past couple of days. Josh Marshall, for instance, says that Bush will likely lose the entire election if he loses Florida, while Kerry can win without it -- by winning Ohio, for example.

The New Yorker has an article that addresses this topic, called "The Cuban Strategy, Can Jeb Bush deliver the Florida vote in November?" by William Finnegan.Finnegan argues that Jeb Bush is very popular among Cubans (and other Latinos), but that his brother might not get the full benefit.

On-line, the New Yorker also has an interesting interview with Finnegan. He was asked: Is Florida up for grabs?
It does seem to be. Jeb Bush won reëlection as governor fairly easily in 2002, but he is popular among a number of groups that aren’t nearly as fond of his brother. Non-Cuban Latinos, for instance, tend in Florida (as elsewhere) to be Democrats. There are more than a million of them in the state—Dominicans, Mexicans, Nicaraguans, and, most numerously, Puerto Ricans. Jeb and his family have a strong cross-party appeal among these folks—Jeb’s wife, Columba, is from a small town in Mexico, and their son, George P., is a talented, attractive campaigner. Then, there’s Jeb’s fluent Spanish. But the war in Iraq has not been popular among these voters. Nor have the President’s tax policies or his economic management. Other groups who have tended to vote for Jeb, such as white veterans in the Panhandle (most of whom are registered Democrats), may vote for Kerry. Meanwhile, traditionally Democratic voters who still feel that the 2000 election was decided unfairly will be strongly motivated to go to the polls this year.

Finally, there are the Cubans, who are unlikely to vote for Kerry in very large numbers but who may not turn out heavily for Bush, either. Any significant incursion made on their support by the Democrats can certainly swing the election—when Bill Clinton got more than thirty per cent of the Cuban vote in 1996, he won Florida. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in Florida, but that gap is narrowing. This election should be close.
The Democratic groups who might be especially motivated include African Americans (many were purged wrongly from voting rolls or intimidated by dubious election-day practices, and Palm Beach residents -- remember the butterfly ballot?). That last link is to a pdf file.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Al-Qaida-Iraq Link Further Debunked

Friday, I found an excellent article by Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott of Knight-Ridder that pretty thoroughly debunks the links between Iraq, 9/11 and al Qaida. It is devastating:
Nearly a year after U.S. and British troops invaded Iraq, no evidence has turned up to verify allegations of Saddam's links with al-Qaida, and several key parts of the administration's case have either proved false or seem increasingly doubtful.

Senior U.S. officials now say there never was any evidence that Saddam's secular police state and Osama bin Laden's Islamic terrorism network were in league. At most, there were occasional meetings.

Moreover, the U.S. intelligence community never concluded that those meetings produced an operational relationship, American officials said. That verdict was in a secret report by the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence that was updated in January 2003, on the eve of the war.

"We could find no provable connection between Saddam and al-Qaida," a senior U.S. official acknowledged. He and others spoke on condition of anonymity because the information involved is classified and could prove embarrassing to the White House.
Here's the bottom line, which should be no surprise to regular readers of this blog:
A Knight Ridder review of the Bush administration statements on Iraq's ties to terrorism and what's now known about the classified intelligence has found that administration advocates of a pre-emptive invasion frequently hyped sketchy and sometimes false information to help make their case. On two occasions, they neglected to report information that painted a less sinister picture.
The story goes on to discuss a variety of specific claims made by administration officials that apparently linked Iraq and al Qaida.

Tim Dunlop of The Road To Surfdom used the information in the story to focus on the alleged terror camp at Salman Pak (in Iraq), which has not received much attention lately. Dunlop references his own pre-war blogging that thoroughly discussed the camp and other evidence.

Surely everyone remembers this camp? It is the place in Iraq allegedly hosting the fuselage of a Boeing 707 where Saddam supposedly allowed terrorists to train for potential hijackings.

Of course, Laurie Mylroie and other Iraq war hawks made a big deal about this facility.

Yet, Strobel, Landay and Walcott talked to a lot of senior people in the intelligence community. They were told this: "The U.S. military has found no evidence of such a facility."

The facility didn't exist!

As Dunlop points out, this is a particularly egregious finding, first because DoD still lists the capture of the camp as one of its war accomplishments and second because the current head of the Iraq Survey Group (Charles Duelfer, who took over from David Kay) claimed that he saw the camps when he was a UN weapons inspector. Dunlop points out that no such claim is reported in the UN reports about Iraqi weapons.

The media could play a central role in assuring public accountability. Dunlop notes that someone should ask Duelfer about Salman Pak.

Good idea.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Private censorship of political speech

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell works against limits on campaign spending and often argues that this is a first amendment issue. Individuals, groups, and candidates ought to be able to spend money to disseminate political views.

What happens if (a) media oligopoly reduces the number of channels for distributing political views; and (b) media corporate policy aligns with one political party or faction in head-to-head conflict with another party?

I'm still in Missouri, and an old friend told me today about Viacom blocking access to Missouri Democrats who wanted to place political ads on billboards!

I found the story on the St. Louis Post Dispatch website:
The Missouri Democratic Party is sparring with one of the state's biggest billboard owners, who rejected the party's plan to erect an anti-Republican message on billboards in predominantly African-American areas in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Viacom Outdoor turned down the Democratic ad, which features the face of an African-American man next to the words, "Missouri Republicans Have A Plan. You Are Not Part Of It."
Like the CBS decision not to broadcast the MoveOn ads during the Super Bowl, this is a large media corporation limiting the dissemination of political speech.

Like the decision by Clear Channel this past week to fire Howard Stern, it also looks like the media corporation is claiming to impose decency standards to cover its censorship:
Carl Folta, a spokesman for Viacom Outdoor, disagreed and called the ad "deceptive" and "not in good taste." Among other things, he said the firm took exception to the use of a black person in the ad.

[Missouri state Democratic Party chairwoman May Scheve] Reardon noted that other local Viacom billboards promote gambling, beer and sex.
I guess skimpy bikini ads for beer are in good taste?

Update: Viacom, of course, owns CBS -- so this corporation seems to be making it very difficult for those from one political party to voice political opinions through its media outlets. Do you suppose Fox is worried about the competition?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Crony Capitalism Opportunity

Oops, I forgot to add the Halliburton angle to the last post.

Yes, the US leads the world in spending cash for land mine de-mining purposes.

Ken Rutherford said today that there are perhaps as many as 100 million land mines in the world. It costs $300 to $1000 to take out a single mine.

Do the math.

That's $30 to $100 billion that needs to be spent de-mining the world.

Increasingly, private corporate entities are moving into the de-mining business.

Suddenly, the US motives look less humanitarian.

Land Mines and Human Security

I presented my talk on "Human Security and American Foreign Policy" this morning about 9:30 am. It went fine, but the real highlight of the day was listening to the story of Ken Rutherford. His talk immediately followed mine and was quite engrossing.

Rutherford lost both of his legs from a land mine in Somalia (where he was doing humanitarian work) and in 1995 he helped co-found the Landmines Survivors Network. The group played a key role in the global campaign to ban landmines because they presented human faces to go along with the statistics.

And the statistics are frightening. Landmines kill far more children after wars than they do soldiers during wars. Over 20,000 people a year are injured by mines and over half of them die from their injuries. More than 90% of the victims from mines are innocent civilians.

Rutherford has traveled all over the world telling his story. On the web, I found a picture of him sitting with Princess Diana, who was a proponent of the Mine Ban Treaty. He knows all the key figures from the campaign and still travels extensively giving talks. Sir Paul McCartney will attend the signing of his new co-edited book in LA in April. Monday, he is speaking to 20 soldiers about to head off to Iraq, who will be engaged in de-mining.

If you don't know much about the Mine Ban Treaty, it was concluded quite quickly in 1997 after years of effort by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy was the central hero of Rutherford's talk, as he took Canadian foreign policy in an unprecedented diplomatic direction.

The US, of course, is one of the key states that is not a party to the treaty (more than 140 states now are) and my paper argued that America's focus on traditional national security conflicts with the Canadian vision of "human security."

On the other hand, the US pays for more de-mining than all of the treaty members combined and hasn't used mines in war for years. Rutherford theorizes that the US refuses to join the treaty because the Pentagon doesn't want international lawyers scutinizing the non-humanitarian effects of its weapons systems.

Rutherford got his PhD from Georgetown University and now teaches at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield. He has written a number of academic articles (including one for the prestigious academic outlet World Politics) and has a couple of edited books on the topic. His own book is apparently about to be picked up by MIT Press.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Good News

I have frequently used this space to complain about things that bother me -- the Bush administration, stupid baseball management decisions, SUVs, etc. The list could go on and on.

As I prepare to head to Missouri to give my "Human Security and American Foreign Policy" paper in the morning, I'll simply use today's short blog entry to congratulate Marc Lynch, a political scientist at
Williams College, who was recently granted tenure! He often reads this space.

Here's the scoop:
Lynch studies the role of deliberation and public spheres in international relations, focusing on the Middle East. His most recent article, “Taking Arabs Seriously” was published in Foreign Affairs, one of the most influential foreign policy journals in the world. Lynch is the author of State Interests and Public Spheres: The International Politics of Jordan’s Identity. Another book, Iraq and the New Arab Public Sphere, is forthcoming. Lynch received his B.A. in political science from Duke University in 1990 and his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1997.
As a Jayhawk basketball fan, that Duke part is hard to take. Actually, I've noticed in my travels around the country that virtually everyone who likes college hoops hates Duke, whether from UNC or other ACC schools, Kentucky, etc.).

Since I'll be gone for a few days, expect light blogging.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Blogging in the News

Today's front page of my local newspaper, the Louisville Courier Journal, included a fairly long story about political blogging. You can read it on their official webpage.

The writer focuses a great deal of attention on the political blog written by Justin Walker, a Louisvillian who attends Duke University -- and who has been hitting the campaign trail this year. The webpage has a picture of him interviewing Dennis Kucinich.

In other words, the traditional media outlet focused on a blog that is much like the traditional media. Walker's blog seems to be published on the official Duke website and includes reports from all over the country. His most recent entry is from Minnesota (which votes today) and discusses how he spent the day as part of the "official press corps" traveling with the Edwards campaign.

The story includes a sidebar that links to a number of blogs -- including several major ones I read regularly (Atrios, Daily Kos, Josh Marshall, and Calpundit), some I don't (Andrew Sullivan and Instapundit) and the official campaign blogs of the remaining major Democratic candidates (Kerry and Edwards) and Bush.

Yawn.

At least the story briefly mentions the way the Dean campaign was fueled by bloggers, quotes Josh Marshall, and notes the cash Ben Chandler raised from blog ads.

If I were doing a story on blogging, I'd additionally read some smaller blogs to get a feel for the great diversity in the blogosphere.

It might turn out that that some halfway decent ones are local.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Human Security Update

I'm about to go to a conference on Human Security in the New Millennium at the University of Missouri. Note: I've been working hard to finish my paper, which partially explains the light blogging over the past few days (plus it was a beautiful weekend and I rode my new bike a couple of times).

My paper focuses on the apparent US antipathy towards human security -- and the potential implications for the "western security community." Does it matter that long-time friends and allies disagree so fundamentally about threats and solutions to those threats? How does it affect the international normative structure?

Finding: Do a google search for "human security" on the White House webpage. I got ZERO hits. For "national security," I got more than 20,000! Canada, by contrast, has all kinds of human security material on their DFAIT webpage.

A major topic at the conference is likely to be the global movement against land mines. Canada and other states interested in human security point to the Mine Ban Treaty as one of their major successes. Ken Rutherford, a genuine expert on that topic, will be there talking about the movement to ban mines.

While researching for updates on the Mine Ban treaty, I found a recent Washington Post story on the latest Bush administration policy on mines. That link is gone, but the Boston Globe had the same story. The US has now moved ever further away from the world, in some ways, but is trying to frame its position consistent with their concerns:
The new policy, to be announced today, represents a departure from the previous US goal of banning all land mines designed to kill troops. That plan, established by President Bill Clinton, set a target of 2006 for giving up antipersonnel mines, depending on the success of Pentagon efforts to develop alternatives.

Bush, however, has decided to impose no limits on the use of "smart" land mines, which have timing devices to automatically defuse the explosives within hours or days, officials said.
The US plans to use dumb bombs only in South Korea and hasn't used any in war since the first Persian Gulf war in 1991.
A senior State Department official, who disclosed Bush's decision on condition he not be named, said the new policy aims at striking a balance between the Pentagon's desire to retain effective weapons and humanitarian concerns about civilian casualties caused by unexploded bombs, which can remain hidden long after combat ends and battlefields return to peaceful use.

The safety problem stems from dumb bombs, which kill as many as 10,000 civilians a year, the official said. Smart bombs, he added, "are not contributors to this humanitarian crisis."
NGOs, who are also hot on this idea, are not happy about the Bush move:
Bush's decision drew expressions of outrage and surprise from representatives of humanitarian organizations that have pressed for a more comprehensive US ban on land mines. They say the danger to civilians and allied soldiers during and after a war outweighs the benefits of such weapons. They also dispute the contention that unexploded smart mines are safe, saying there isn't enough evidence.

"We expected we wouldn't be pleased by the president's decision, but we hadn't expected a complete rejection of what has been US policy for the past 10 years," said Steve Goose, who heads the arms division of Human Rights Watch.

"It looks like a victory for those in the Pentagon who want to cling to outmoded weapons, and a failure of political leadership on the part of the White House. And it is stunningly at odds with what's happening in the rest of the world, where governments and armies are giving up these weapons."
The US funds more de-mining activing than any other state and the Bush budget calls for a 50% increase in support for it.

Bottom line: the US explicitly rejects the international normative standard (the Mine Ban Treaty), arguing that it needs mines to protect South Korea. But, it embraces the humanitarian claim and funds lots of de-mining.

There are similar human security-related disputes over the ICC, the CTBT, even Kyoto. That's what I'm exploring in my paper.