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Friday, April 30, 2004

Webb Jumps Ship

Hey, I get to link to my old college town paper, the Lawrence Journal World. Former Navy Secretary to Ronald Reagan, James Webb, gave a talk earlier this week at the University of Kansas and sounded off on Iraq.

He's a pretty strong critic of the war -- like Generals Zinni and Clark.
The Vietnam War was "more justifiable and more defensible" than the war in Iraq, Webb said Wednesday night.

He called the ongoing war "a palpable strategic error" and "a strategic mousetrap" that arose from "a breakdown in group ethics."

It's disingenuous, Webb said, for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to say that problems in Iraq weren't foreseeable. Webb alleged the Pentagon ignored or brushed aside qualified aides who painted a realistic picture of the problems of occupation.

"There is literally nothing happening in Iraq that was not fully predictable," Webb said.

Webb cited two main problems with the war. One, he said, was that instead of focusing separately after Sept. 11 on three important issues facing the country -- terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict -- the Bush administration mingled them in the public mind with the war against Iraq.

Another problem, he said, was that the invasion put the military into a weaker position. Too many U.S. soldiers are either in Iraq, preparing to go there or coming back from there, he said.

"This endangers our posture elsewhere," he said.
Webb refers to Dick Cheney as "The Godfather" and says the neocon "minds were programmed" to attack Iraq before 9/11.

There's really nothing new here, but the message may seem more credible to the average Joe coming from the mouth of a Republican. Webb is quite concerned that the administration has no idea of how troops could be withdrawn -- no "exit strategy," as the Powell/Weinberger Doctrine used to call it.
"What are the conditions?" Webb asked a crowd of more than 300 people in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union. "If you can't answer the question, then you shouldn't have been there in the first place."
Too bad we can't have a mulligan and move on.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Record book has a lengthy excerpt from Jeffrey Record's new book, Dark victory. Record, some may recall, was the visiting research professor at the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute who attracted a lot of attention for his study "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism."

In that piece, Record argued that the Bush administration had erred by attacking Iraq -- diverting resources from the war in Afghanistan, blurring distinctions between rogue states and Al Qaeda, setting dangerous precedents, etc.

Since SSI is the Army's think tank, Record's criticisms attracted a lot of attention. While his views did not reflect the views of the Army, Record is a long-time defense analyst. He used to work for Senator Sam Nunn and has tours at both the Brookings and Hudson Institutions. Presumably, he'll be returning to his regular job soon at the Air Force's Air War College, where he is a professor of strategy and international security.

The excerpt provides 7 lessons from the Iraq war. I recommend reading the whole piece as a prelude to buying the book. Salon also has an interview with the author that is worth checking out too.

Here are some things Record says in the interview about security and political legitimacy in Iraq versus security and political legitimacy in Vietnam decades ago:
More troops generally will provide you with more security. It allows you to do more things, such as buy time so you can get the Iraqis sufficiently trained. I've been working on a study comparing Iraq and Vietnam. In Vietnam, in addition to half a million American troops, we had a South Vietnamese military establishment numbering anywhere from about 800,000 to over a million, depending on what year you're talking about. And even though they weren't crack, elite troops, they did provide a lot of static defense and soldiers and things like that that allowed some American forces to do the other operations. We don't have anything like that in Iraq, so in some respects we are worse off now than we were in Vietnam, even though the scale of fighting and the number of people killed in Iraq are much lower. Vietnam we failed to create a legitimate government in South Vietnam, and I think we face the same challenge today in Iraq under circumstances that are much more difficult.
As Billmon wrote yesterday, Iraq is starting to look in some respects like Vietnam on crack.

Record, however, generally doesn't think Iraq and Vietnam are military comparable -- there are important differences strategically and militarily. Politically, he sees parallels:
From a strategic and military standpoint, there are no meaningful comparisons between the situation in Iraq and the situation in Vietnam in the '60s and the '70s. The nature of the war, the scale of the fighting, the scale of the losses, the size of the contending forces, the quality of the enemy that we faced....

I see only two dimensions of the Vietnam conflict that ought to be looked at to provide some instruction for what we face in Iraq. One is our failure to create a legitimate, indigenous government in South Vietnam despite an enormous effort over a long period of time.

The other is the issue of the domestic sustainability of this entire enterprise. We ultimately got out of Vietnam because it became domestically unsupportable from a political standpoint. We're not there yet with Iraq for sure -- it took us seven years to get out of Vietnam. Reasoning by historical analogy is generally dangerous, and these wars are very remote from each other in time, place and strategic circumstances. So you can easily say, "This is not Vietnam." But are there dimensions of the Vietnam conflict that may have some parallels to the problems we face? Yeah, I think there are.
Of course, Record doesn't think the reconstruction of Japan and Germany provide good analogies either.

Like me, Record says we are over-extended thanks to Iraq and may be hurting our security. But instead of summarizing all of it -- let me recommend you read the interview too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

My Baby Thinks She's French

Anyone watch "Hardball" yesterday? After being questioned about the accusation from Commerce Secretary Don Evans that he looks French, John Kerry told Chris Matthews that Karen Hughes was born in Paris.

I wonder if W has ever sang this song to her:
...My Baby Thinks She's French

Well its Paris this
And its Paris that, it makes me cringe
She thinks she's French she likes to kiss and kiss
Her Flame is hard to quench!

My Baby Thinks She's French
My Baby Thinks She's French
She reads Madamoselle
and when the clock strikes twelve
she wants to give me a pinch.....
My Baby Thinks She's French

She's a Texas doll
She likes shopping malls where the mood is French
With a southern drawl
They say come back y'all
and they never even flench!

My Baby Thinks She's French
My Baby Thinks She's French
She wants to start a fire
In the Eifel Tower
She's lost all common sense!!
My Baby Thinks She's French
Note: These lyrics are excerpted from Joe Ely's song, "My Baby Thinks She's French."

Legitimacy of resistance

‘‘Look, it can’t be fun to be occupied.’’

-- Paul Bremer, quoted on October 27, 2003

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

-- The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Reuters is reporting an interview Al Jazeera television broadcast today with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the interview, Assad said the Iraqi resistance is legitimate:
"Certainly, what has happened on the popular level gives legitimacy to the resistance and shows that the major part of what is happening is resistance," Assad said in comments aired on Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera.

"You are talking now about resistance which is against the occupation forces," Assad said. Asked if the resistance was legitimate, he said: "Well, of course, it's understood that way."
Assad is not alone. University of Illinois Law Professor Francis Boyle has been making this argument for awhile:
The Iraqi people have a right to use military force to resist US occupation consistent with the laws of war. I mean, they can’t target civilians but other than that they can certainly use military force to this illegal, criminal invasion.
Boyle has served as an attorney for the Palestinians in their legal struggle with Israel. Former Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle has previously agreed with Boyle that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone."

There are echoes, of course, of this "right to resistance" in the US Declaration of Independence:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Personally, though I recognize that self determination is a powerful motivating political force, I would strongly prefer that the various parties in Iraq work towards a non-violent solution to the civil and political breakdown.

President Bush seems to think that the Iraqi resistance is a perfectly natural response to their situation. Bush, recall, made a comment not all that different from Assad's in his April 13, 2004, prime time press conference:
they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either.
Right now, no one is happy.

To summarize: thousands of Iraqi innocents are losing their lives, they have no true liberty under occupation, and the President agrees they are not happy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Steal this post

Dammit. Blogger just ate my post. I have a lot to do today (and this week), so this will have to be the condensed version:

Kevin Drum agrees with my post from yesterday.

John Kerry is having trouble wounding George Bush on foreign policy because their positions are starting to sound alike. Drum refers to:
an article by Farah Stockman in the Boston Globe today that highlights a key Kerry problem: as Kerry moves rightward after the primaries, and as Bush becomes more receptive to ideas that Kerry has long championed — giving the United Nations a far greater role in Iraq, emphasizing the importance of welcoming NATO to Iraq, and beefing up the number of US troops in Iraq — Kerry loses any chance of distinguishing himself from Bush over foreign policy.

This strikes me as a serious problem. National security is almost certain to be the defining issue of the campaign, and there's just no way for Kerry to get any traction there if his positions aren't clearly distinguishable from Bush's. And despite the pro-war partisans' continuing fantasy that George Bush is dedicated to the same kind of vast war of civilizations they are, the fact is that Bush has adopted an awful lot of Democratic positions in the past year. Aside from rhetorical tone, it's getting harder and harder for Kerry to find points of disagreement that are more than just nitpicking.
So what can Kerry do?

Drum says that "if John Kerry wants to win, he has to figure out some genuinely bold and popular foreign policy initiative."

I'd recommend Kerry look into "borrowing" from the so-called "Blair Doctrine."

The UK Prime Minister has often spoken of a "doctrine of international community" that emphasizes genuinely multilateral approaches to shared global problems. This includes not only fairly traditional security threats like WMD and terror, but "human security" problems like global warming and humanitarian emergencies.

Kerry is a strong environmentalist and multilateralist. He's neither a hawk nor a dove. While owls may be wise, they can nonetheless have a hard time explaining their positions in short TV commercials.

Who knows, maybe Kerry could even arrange a meeting with Blair sometime during the hottest part of the summer to call for action on Kyoto.

Of course, calling attention to multilateral processes and climate change is going to be difficult if the US starts losing 100 troops per month in Iraq on a regular basis.

Under those circumstances, however, Kerry could credibly (and boldly) turn further away from Bush's war. If the US loses 3 to 400 soldiers between now and the convention, even as it fails to find WMD, the Democrats can more prominently challenge the wisdom of the entire enterprise.

Kerry will need help from people like Wesley Clark (potential Secretary of State or Defense?) to craft the message carefully for the national stage.

Think bold.

Update: See also Pandagon, Priorities & Frivolities, and Speedkill.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Another image

David Weinberger pointed me to an image that I'd forgotten about when I blogged the other day about the casket photos from Iraq:

That image is from George Bush's early March TV advertisement.

Yes, the President used an image of a fallen firefighter from 9/11 in his own political ads.

Weinberger said this about the hypocrisy:
I don't have a problem with using images of fallen heroes in campaign ads. I do have a little problem with censorship for rank political aims.

Kerry's Plan for the Purple States

"Liberal media" polling analyst William (Bill) Schneider of CNN is actually a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, which is home mostly to conservatives and neoconservatives.

Lately, Schneider has been explaining why the Bush campaign is doing fairly well -- despite just having had a horrible several weeks in the news. Leah at corrente excerpts some of his recent analytical dialogue with Wolf Blitzer at CNN. She quotes (and highlights in yellow) this key passage:
SCHNEIDER: Despite the losses, what Americans think two words, Bush in Iraq, they remember something the United States won. They went in with overwhelming force, they got rid of Saddam Hussein regime and Saddam Hussein is now in captivity. So, the view is if you want someone that can handling a situation like that, a man of strength and decisiveness and resolve, Bush is your man.
Leah goes on to quote some other Washington talking heads who are openly criticizing Kerry for a number of campaign blunders, including the vote against the $87 billion.

I found another interesting Schneider piece, apparently from the National Journal last week, but published on the AEI website. In this piece, Schneider explains why Kerry isn't able to wound Bush's candidacy on the issue of Iraq.

Essentially, Kerry is overtly trying to reach swing voters. Good idea, right? Well, as Schneider says, "They're the ones who think that the United States was right to go to war with Iraq but that the Bush administration isn't conducting the war properly."

Kerry and Bush seem to be saying similar things about fixing the problems in Iraq -- more troops and a greater role for the UN. Thus, Kerry cannot easily distinguish his arguments when Bush is making the same ones. It reminds me of an off-color slogan involving Nixon's re-election campaign in '72. You can find it in the first comment here.

Anyway, for Kerry's base, this "pro-war" approach is potentially disastrous. True blue Democrats don't really want to fix Bush's mistake in Iraq and might be tempted by an anti-war candidate (like Nader) if Kerry persists in advancing a defense wonk's agenda for addressing the Iraq problem.

One more Nixon reference: In 1968, he let it be known that he had a "secret plan to end the war" in Vietnam.

Maybe Kerry should try that instead.

Update: I've been doing a little reading and can point everyone to a piece in the SF Chronicle from April 25 (yesterday) arguing that Bush and Kerry are "notable as much for agreement as differences" on foreign policy. Ouch.

The piece quotes Rand Beers, who left the Bush White House to work as Kerry's chief foreign policy advisor is quoted as saying,
"Bush is the wrong messenger. We will go to the European powers at a higher level to get cooperation from NATO. We will get cooperation to share the burden because we take a different approach than this administration."
The Europeans may be ready to shoot the messenger, but I'd guess they also want a different message.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Fantasy Ad

[October 19, 2022 -- this April 2004 post was flagged by Google for violating its Malware and Viruses policy. 

In response, I've removed all links. They were already dead, but may have been the source of the risk. I've provided sources that might be available on a web archive. The remainder is merely text so it should be safe.]

None of the blogs I regularly read has yet mentioned the latest column from Matt Miller. As anyone who watches TV knows (and it is probably repeated every couple of minutes on talk radio, but I don't listen), the Bush campaign has tried to make an issue of John Kerry's vote against the $87 billion supplemental request for Iraq. For comic "waffling" effect, they also note that Kerry also voted for the $87 billion. Hmmm. 

Matt Miller Online (dead link from removed in 2022) has the syndicated columnist's "fantasy ad" for Kerry, explaining these votes -- and using them to define the difference between the President and the challenger. "If I were Kerry," opines Miller, "I'd use this fight over the funding for Iraq to showcase the difference between his values and the president's on a choice where the vast majority of Americans would side with Kerry." 

It's good:
"Here are the facts: George Bush is having our children pay for Iraq. He has put $160 billion so far on our kids' credit card to pay for a war we chose to wage. We are running record budget deficits of over half a trillion dollars a year because George Bush says our children should pay for their parents' war. "My plan was different. My plan was to pay to finish the job in Iraq by repealing some of the tax cuts that George Bush gave to the best-off Americans. "Every well-off American I've asked has told me they would have gladly supported such a plan. They feel, as I do, that it is un-American to stick our children with debts for today's wars in order to preserve big tax cuts for people at the top. It's just wrong. "So I voted for my plan to pay for our own choices today, and against President Bush's plan to slip our children the bill so that he could give tax cuts to the wealthiest. I can't think of a clearer way to show you how my values differ from those of this White House. You'll be choosing between these values come November.
Miller then imagines Kerry challenging Bush to abandon the "hit-and-run" sound bites to explain why his administration's approach is better than Kerry's would be. 

 A pro-Bush blogger named Oberon (link to the rjwest archive removed because of possible violation of Google malware policy) says "No way dude," but I think he (or she?) underestimates the American people's intellect. 

Was Kerry voting against the troops? No, he voted for the troops -- right? Even the Bush people say so. The vote against one version of the $87 billion was precisely the kind of gamesmanship that Congress engages in all the time. Bills are forwarded from committees and amendments are typically offered on the floor. This pits two or more versions of a bill against one another. Usually, the alternatives address the same issues, but are different in some important way. 

It's a basic truth of Congress. With the Republicans in power, the Democratic-preferred bills virtually never pass, but that doesn't mean they haven't proposed better ideas. In 2002, the Republicans used the Homeland Security Department bill as a weapon against Democrats like Max Cleland. Dems had pushed the agency, but wanted a bill that assured union rights. The administration actually originally opposed the new department, but worked to frame a bill that Democrats would have to oppose because it spit in the face of one of their core constituencies (labor). Republicans play these games too. 

As Kerry said the other day (dead link to a Guardian article removed), the President threatened to veto the $87 billion for Iraq "if it included money to pay for health care for reservists and required Iraq to pay back some of the money set aside for its reconstruction." Neither Oberon nor I quote the last line from Miller's fantasy ad:
"I'm John Kerry and I approved this message because one of the choices you face this fall is whether you want a leader who will finally trust you with the truth - or one who can only achieve his goals by misleading you or insulting your intelligence."
Surely what Miller and I argue here is readily understood. Elections are about choices, but the "drive by" false choices are a poor way of thinking about them.

Yesterday, I wasted 90 minutes watching Chris Rock's movie "Head of State" on HBO. The southern white candidate for President runs an ad pointing out that his black opponent (Rock) didn't speak at an anti-cancer forum. Conclusion: his opponent is for cancer. Idiocy.

I think the American public can figure it out, especially if Kerry did something like what Miller suggests.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Purple states

Ruy Teixeira's blog, The Emerging Democratic Majority WebLog - DonkeyRising, has some interesting news about the so-called "purple" states (the swing states, which are neither red nor blue).
Kerry is ahead of Bush by 4 points in the battleground states (50-46). He's even ahead of Bush by 2 points in these states with Nader thrown into the mix and drawing a ridiculous 7 percent.

Note also that Bush's approval rating in the battleground states is 49 percent, 2 points under his national rating and that his approval rating on the economy in these states is just 41 percent, 3 points under his national rating.
Teixeira also points out that the most recent Gallup poll shows Bush down by 6 points in the battleground states since the March 26-28 survey. Gallup finds Bush and Kerry tied in those purple states, though Bush leads by 5% overall nationally.

Since the election is going to be won or lost in the swing states, the national lead really doesn't matter that much. Al Gore could tell Bush that.

Here's Teixeira's conclusion:
Instead of getting more votes where he [Bush] needs them--in the battleground states--his posturing is mostly driving up his support in the hardcore red states, where he doesn't need them. If that's true, Democrats should definitely not be intimidated by recent poll results. Bush is preaching to the converted--which can make him look better in a national poll--but he's not winning many new converts where it counts.
Hopefully, this interpretation is on point.

Note: As another blogger recently wrote in regard to all these polls, "I'm too lazy to link to them."

As usual, Billmon (at the Whiskey Bar) has an interesting take on Kerry, Bush, and the polls. He really is required daily reading.

Friday, April 23, 2004

The caskets

Some time ago, I vowed to blog about images -- especially involving US foreign policy, Iraq, the war on terror, etc.

By now, I presume most readers know about the front page photo in last Sunday's Seattle Times:

Today, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune, the woman who took the picture in Kuwait, Tami Silicio, has been fired from her job loading cargo planes . Silicio's husband was also canned by the defense contractor that employed them, though I do not see anything in the story that would justify his dismissal per se.

Not that I think she should have been fired either. Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed out the obvious:
Silicio's photograph "was not a breach of national security," he said. "This was a breach of the Bush administration's notion of public relations."
The DoD, of course, has denied resposibility for Silicio's firing.

Her only "crime" was violating DoD's censorship of these photos.

Meanwhile, additional photos are surfacing. Anti-war activist Russ Kick filed a Freedom of Information Act request for photographs and he has apparently published them on the internet. These photos come from the military's stateside mortuary:

This month, more than 100 soldiers have died in Iraq, bringing the war's total to over 700.

Obviously, the photographs of soldier caskets potentially makes the war more real for Americans. For supporters of the war, these images are a reminder of the sacrifices made by real human beings. At the same time, war opponents will undoubtedly be galvanized by these images.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Test: Comments?

I'm back from my trip. The talk went fine, I thought.

Hopefully, this post marks the beginning of comments on this blog. I don't know how it will influence the traffic -- but it certainly makes this space something more closely approximating a public sphere.

Please, no spamming -- and try to be civil with one another.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Public diplomacy talk

I'm heading east later today in order to give a talk on "Public Diplomacy and the Bush Doctrine" tomorrow.

Basically, I will be arguing that the US cannot view "public diplomacy" as linear communication. Treating it like advertizing may work in the short term to "sell" foreign policy -- but it will not be successful in the long term either for winning "hearts and minds" around the world or for maintaining domestic political support for policy.

Ordinarily, political legitimacy cannot be garnered via repeated communication of a simple political slogan.

So what does the US need to do instead?

Well, given that political communication always occurs in a wider context, the US must account for that context. Given globalization, the 24 hour news cycle, the internet, and the increased democratization of states and international organizations (via inclusion of NGOs and transparency norms), the US must treat the public sphere almost as if there's a worldwide need for democratic accountability in its foreign relations.

Domestic opponents are going to raise objections, even on "high politics" questions like security. Even friends and allies may have concerns that they are willing to voice in a global public arena.

Thus, the US has little choice but to act as if it communicates in a global public sphere. This means embracing something akin to a discourse ethic. It must be willing to listen to the voices of others, respond to their concerns with empathy, and perhaps most importantly, show a willingness to be convinced to think and behave differently.

That is the secret to meaningful communicative action. Dialogue is not one sided.

To those who would say, "but we cannot undercut our own security by giving in to the demands of others," I would say (a) the US must provide a genuinely convincing argument that the security stakes are high; and (b) the US must think about formulating truly collective security to address shared concerns. This means making the concerns of others our own, and vice versa.

In the case of Iraq, the US failed to convince some of its closest friends (Germany) and neighbors (Canada) that war was necessary. As a consequence, the US still finds collective security options elusive.

That is the price of acting without legitimacy.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Terror

The Bush administration is conducting a "war on terror," but policymakers and scholars do not have a simple consensus definition of terrorism.

Nonetheless, a few dimensions of terrorism are widely agreed, including the intentional use of violence against "noncombatant targets."

While the US State Department views terrorism as an act committed by non-state actors, the term originally referred to violence by states -- terrorizing their own polities:
Interestingly, the American definition of terrorism is a reversal of the word's original meaning, given in the Oxford English Dictionary as "government by intimidation". Today it usually refers to intimidation of governments.

The first recorded use of "terrorism" and "terrorist" was in 1795, relating to the Reign of Terror instituted by the French government.
September 11, 2001, was tragic, in large part, because of the death of nearly 3000 innocent noncombatants.

Why am I bringing this up?

Well, in the US, there has been surprisingly little public discussion of the innocent civilians killed in Iraq. They are quite significant, however. The Iraq Body Count project estimates that, as of today, at least 8900 civilian Iraqis have died as a direct result of the US military campaign. The same source gives a maximum number of 10,740.

The recent attacks on Fallujah (a city of 250,000), which some call reprisals for the deaths of four American contractors, apparently resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. The Christian Science Monitor reported "a US assault left 600 dead last week. The victims include hundreds of women and children, according to hospital and clinic records in Fallujah."

In any case, approximately three times as many innocent civilians are dead as a direct result of this part of the President's "war on terror" as occurred on September 11, 2001.

I know, these deaths, while unfortunate, are not always the result of targeted action. Many are "collateral damage."

Still, the main purpose of the "war on terror" is to protect innocent civilians and the perverse outcome is that it is killing innocent civilians.

Moreover, media reports are starting to suggest that the US military may be using disproportionate force that results in indiscriminant targeting. Last week, in a report originally appearing in the British newspaper The Telegraph, a "Senior British commander" was quoted anonymously from Iraq:
Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are."

The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used on targets in urban areas.

British rules of engagement only allow troops to open fire when attacked, using the minimum force necessary and only at identified targets. The American approach was markedly different, the officer said.

"When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

"They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage, but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later."
The article notes that "The phrase untermenschen - literally 'under-people' - was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slavs and gypsies."

As I've blogged before, this is not the first time the US military has been accused of using excessive force in Iraq -- perhaps as a result of counterinsurgency lessons learned from Israel.

Question: How many innocent noncombatants must die from brutal violence in the name of protecting innocent civilians from terror?

I think this echoes John Kerry's questions from his famous testimony, April 22, 1971:
"We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? But we are trying to do that, and we are doing it with thousands of rationalizations..."
Before anyone tries to change the subject to alleged Iraqi WMD, keep in mind that the US isn't even guarding Iraqi nuclear facilities. Maybe I'll consider that soon.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Another Critical Army War College Study

In December 2003, a study "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism," by Jeffrey Record, a Visiting Research Professor at the Army War College, received a great deal of press attention because it was fairly critical of the Bush administration's war on terror. Record was at the Army's Strategic Studies Institute when he released his report -- and this is essentially the US Army's think tank.

Record concluded that "the war on terrorism--as opposed to the campaign against al-Qaeda--lacks strategic clarity, embraces unrealistic objectives, and may not be sustainable over the long haul." He called "for downsizing the scope of the war on terrorism to reflect concrete U.S. security interests and the limits of American military power."

Potent stuff. The blog world noticed, of course.

Last week, another study "Toward an American Way of War," by Antulio J. Echevarria II gained a great deal of international publicity. While Echevarria's tone seems more measured, at least in its summary form, his study too is being framed by the global media as quite critical of the administration's war on terror.

And it is fairly critical. The author calls for some "fundamental rethinking" of "the practical resources necessary to translate military victory into strategic success." Echevarria criticizes the US for trying to change Iraq's regime "quickly and on the cheap."

Here's how Reuter's covered the study, which reflects the author's views and not those of the War College or the Department of Defense:
The Bush administration went to war in Iraq with a flawed strategy that sought victory "on the cheap" and is now paying the price in the form of a growing insurgency and doubts about its goal of building a democracy, a top U.S. Army analyst says in a recent report.

Lieutenant Colonel Antulio Echevarria, director of national security affairs at the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, said Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other administration officials rejected as "old think" early calls for more troops from senior commanders.

Instead, the administration hoped to address any military and financial shortfalls in Iraq through anticipated support from NATO and the United Nations.

"It low-balled the total number of U.S. troops and other personnel that might have to be put in harm's way to get the job done, and how long they might have to remain," Echevarria said in the report titled, "Toward an American Way of War."

Echevarria said the administration's Iraq strategy was flawed because its goal of regime change in Iraq required a labour- and time-intensive effort. But the administration instead wanted "to win the war quickly and on the cheap."

"While this emerging way of war looked to employ new concepts, such as shock and awe and effects-based operations, designed to win battles quickly, it had no new concept for accomplishing the time-intensive and labour-intensive tasks of regime change more quickly and with less labour," his report concluded.
Funny, I thought Rumsfeld recognized the war would be a "long, hard slog."

This study is getting a lot of attention around the world. I used and discovered hits in Pakistan, Bahrain, Iran, South Africa, India, Canada, and the UK. covered it too. Most seem to use the Reuters story I quoted.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Another terror attack?

Yahoo News has an AP story today entitled, "U.S. Bracing for Terror Before Election."

Condi Rice is quoted this morning saying that the Bush administration thinks there's a good chance of a terror attack before the election later this year:
The opportunity for terrorists to try to influence the election, as was the case last month in Spain, appears to be an opportunity that would "be too good to pass up for them," Rice said.

"I think that we do have to take very seriously the thought that the terrorists might have learned, we hope, the wrong lesson from Spain," Rice told "Fox News Sunday."

"I think we also have to take seriously that they might try during the cycle leading up to the election to do something," she said.
That would be some October surprise.

Perhaps this admission will invigorate the debate about anti-terrorism. What should the US be doing? Perhaps more attention to port security? Shoulder-fired missiles? Emergency response?

Iraq has been a significant and unfortunate distraction for a very long time now. Its future is now vitally important, of course, but the events there really don't have that much to do with al Qaeda, which has got to the be most likely group to strike the US.

The administration has taken the view from the very beginning of the "war on terror" that states are the appropriate central targets of US actions. Thus, the Bush administration dispatched troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.

But 1000s of terrorists may be dispersed across the world, receiving almost no support from any state. Finding them and preventing their deadly acts requires improved intelligence, law enforcement, government regulatory authority (banking laws) and interstate cooperation (on law enforcement, intelligence and even banking).

Of course, if the administration wants to talk about states between now and November, I nominate the discussion begin with a healthy critique of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Europe Unhappy with Bush Administration -- Again

A lot of bloggers, including Abu Aardvark, have noted the very serious implications of the Bush deal with Sharon the other day. Basically, the US is tossing aside decades of policy and writing off Arab public opinion.

The deal conflicts with longstanding international understandings about occupied territories. Shared norms have long precluded states keeping territory acquired in war.

International norms matter -- the US and Israel cannot simply decide by themselves that Israeli settlements built on occupied territory are legitimate and can remain in place. Other great powers might not be keen on the precedent -- and of course there are competing claims for the land.

Today, the European Union has declared that the so-called "roadmap to peace" remains central so far as the EU is concerned, and they wish to see issues such as the occupied territory and the "right to return" negotiated by all the parties -- including the Palestinians.

Clearly, as many of its members did in regard to Iraq, the EU again intends to challenge American unilateralism:
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten warned the world community had to repair "an awful lot of damage" arising from a historic US policy reversal announced by President George W. Bush this week.

And French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier warned Bush to "respect" Europe, saying the quartet was not a "one-man show".

Bush dropped a political bombshell by backing Sharon's plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip -- coupled with the retention of permanent settlements on the West Bank.

The president's declaration reversed three decades of US foreign policy, which had consistently labelled the Israeli settlements an obstacle to peace.

"The Union reaffirms its belief that the roadmap represents the only route to achieving such an outcome," said a statement issued at the end of a two-day meeting.

Bush also endorsed Sharon's contention that Palestinian refugees driven out of their homes when the Jewish state was created in 1948 had no right to return.

But in their statement, the EU ministers recalled that the bloc "will not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders (created by the Six Day War) other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties".

"The Union emphasises that no declared views on the possible shape of a final settlement can pre-empt the negotiation of that settlement."

The ministers added that a Middle East settlement "must include an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to this question" of refugees.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw claims that the Bush administration remains committed to the roadblock, but lots of people now doubt that after the deal this week.

Bush foreign policy really is disastrous. The US has unpredented military power, but that does not afford it the right to assert anything it wants in world affairs. As Iraq demonstrates daily, using that military force to achieve desired goals can be quite difficult. And other great powers can make life miserable for the US when they are sufficiently perturbed. After all, the US wants their cooperation in the UN on Iraq over the next six weeks.


Friday, April 16, 2004

"Surprise, surprise, surprise"

Forty years ago, Jim Nabors played the lead character on "Gomer Pyle, USMC." The show was something of a success since it ran until 1970 and was in the top 10 in the ratings for five years.

For those not familiar with the show or acronym, USMC stands for United States Marine Corps.

Yes, it was a comedy about stateside military life, with the title character "a sweet but not too smart Marine from Mayberry, North Carolina...Gomer's innocence, naivete and low-key demeanor often got him into trouble, most frequently at the hands of his loud-mouthed superior, Sgt. Carter. "

For those not up on television trivia, Gomer had appeared for two years on "The Andy Griffith Show," playing the guy who ran the gas station.

Gomer's main catchphrase was "Surprise, surprise, surprise." Innocent that he was, Pyle was often taken unawares by events.

Why am I writing this, you ask? Well, in some ways, the show is a perfect metaphor for the Bush Presidency and Iraq.

The show, like the Bush adventure in Iraq, appeared within two years of a major national crisis. Bush had 9/11 (the Iraq War started March 2003, about 18 months after 9/11), Gomer had the Cuban Missile Crisis (the show began September 1964, about 23 months after the October 1962 CMC).

The reason Gomer joined the Marines sounds eerily familiar to anyone who hypothesizes that Bush went after Saddam to complete his Dad's unfinished business. Gomer actually joined the Marines in episode #107 of the "Andy Griffith Show," and this was his rationale:
Gomer: Know what my daddy told me a long time ago? I’ll never forget it. We wuz sittin’ out on the front porch in the summertime. It was so hot we couldn’t sleep, and he said, “Son, some day, when you’re growed up, they gonna test ya to see how much of a man you are. And you’re gonna have to make it ON YOUR OWN, ’cause I ain’t gonna be there to help ya.” That’s what my daddy said, and here’s where I’m gonna get tested – the United States Marine Corps!
This is what Bush said the other night about his test:
Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver.
Gomer, like Bush, appeared regularly on TV. Gomer and his buddies never talked about the ongoing disaster that was Vietnam. The writers behind the curtain never mentioned the war. It was as if they were in deep denial and wanted to keep Gomer funny and light. Eventually, the Gomer character started to sing regularly on the show. It was a distraction. Bush talks about the war, but not in a way that sounds anything like we see on TV.

How far can we extend this metaphor? Apparently, "Gomer Pyle, USMC" was cancelled when CBS decided to "modernize its programing and get rid of shows that appealed mainly to poorer, rural audiences."

Perhaps the American public will arrive at the same decision vis-a-vis Bush in November.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Abandoning the UN -- Again

It has been widely reported this week that career diplomat John D. Negroponte, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will be leaving his current posting to become the American Ambassador to Iraq.

This is another clear signal that the Bush administration's worldview is topsy-turvy.

In most administrations, the UN role is a Cabinet-level post that would only be vacated by someone moving out of government or up in the hierarchy. Madeline Albright was made Secretary of State in the Clinton administration after serving first as UN Ambassador.

Ask any career US foreign service officer. Would they rather be US ambassador to a specific country or US ambassador to the UN? I'm guessing that well over 90% would say the UN -- and I'm hedging only because (a) the post is political; and (b) some careerists might prefer London or Paris over NY.

Negroponte's leap to Baghdad from NY headquarter says a lot about the Bush administration's priorities. The UN is viewed as a virtual backwater, Iraq is ground zero of "high politics." Winning the peace in Baghdad is central to the administration's strategy in the war on terror -- sort of a perverted Kantian/Wilsonian vision that ostensibly values democracy within states very highly even as it significantly downplays the virtues of multilateralism. In their view, who needs international restraints on power?

To make clear the elevated new status, maybe Bush is going to nickname Negroponte "Viceroy"?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Buying an Election

The Los Angeles Times had an interesting story today about the Bush campaign scaling back its ads.

Already, however, the Bush team has spent a lot of cash. No, really, more than you think.

They apparently spent at least $40 million on ads to date -- with little to show for it. Consider these paragraphs from Ron Brownstein's story:
Pointing to recent polls that generally show Kerry at least even with the president, these Democrats say the Massachusetts senator has taken what could be the Bush campaign's hardest punch and is still standing.

The reelection team spent so much so soon "with the intent of putting this thing away early, and it didn't happen," said Erik Smith, executive director of the Media Fund, a group formed by leading Democrats that is running ads in support of Kerry.

Independent analysts agreed with that assessment.

Anthony Corrado, an expert on campaign finance at Colby College in Maine, said that since March 4 — just after Kerry in effect wrapped up his party's nomination — Bush has bought about as much television advertising as past presidential candidates purchased for the entire general election campaign.

"And frankly," Corrado said, the president's campaign "didn't move the [poll] numbers that much."

He added: "The Bush campaign came out heavy, both in terms of volume and with some of their strongest attacks, and they didn't get a knockout."
There will be more to come, of course, but the Kerry people have to feel like they've survived a heavyweight tuneup fight and have lived to fight the champion.
But extensive polling by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey found that Kerry's favorability ratio was virtually unchanged from the start of March until its end in the 18 states where the Bush campaign has advertised. And the Bush advertising apparently has done little to affect the president's standing with the public.

The Annenberg survey found that Bush's favorability rating in the 18 states did not change during March.

A survey last week by Democratic pollsters Stanley and Anna Greenberg for the Media Fund found that Bush's job approval rating in the contested states was 51% — virtually the same as before the advertising began. And a majority of those polled still said the country was moving in the wrong direction, the survey found.
Who knows, Kerry may yet be the favorite in November.

The story suggests that conditions in Iraq and the 9/11 Commission investigation have a lot to do with Bush's inability to hurt Kerry.

The article also notes that Bush has raised about $180 million. About $80 million will go to "basic operations" for the campaign, so the President's campaign will still have something like $60 million to spend on TV before November.

Yikes. And they are still fundraising.

Addressing Threats

My family flew on the 4th of July weekend in 2001 and I specifically recall heightened security concerns -- fears of terror attacks and talk of hijacking. It was public knowledge. Indeed, sitting around a pool, I recall casual talk of these warnings.

Of course, this didn't mean the US was on war footing. What should the US have been doing in summer 2001?

Last night, the Fox News reporter asked the President this important set of questions:
Q You have been accused of letting the 9/11 threat mature too far, but not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough. First, could you respond to that general criticism? And, secondly, in the wake of these two conflicts, what is the appropriate threat level to justify action in perhaps other situations going forward?
This came right after the President refused to say why the President and Vice President are meeting with the 9/11 Commission together "rather than separately, which was their request."

I'm not going to discuss Iraq in this entry. There's plenty on that here.

What did we know about the pre-9/11 threat? What did the President know?

Well, on April 18, 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration put the airlines on "high" alert for hijackings.
"The FAA does not have any credible information regarding specific plans by terrorist groups to attack U.S. civil aviation interests ... Nonetheless some of the current active groups are known to plan and train for hijackings ... The FAA encourages U.S. carriers to demonstrate a high degree of alertness."
They repeated this warning on July 31, 2001. Indeed, the FAA issued 15 warnings in the months leading up to September 11.

The State and Defense Departments, as well as the FBI, also put out a number of warnings through the year 2001:
Four Defense Department alerts between June 22 and July 20 alerting U.S. military personnel that ''bin Laden's network was planning a near-term, anti-U.S. terrorist operation.''
OK, so the US and its military was on "high alert" in 2001 for hijackings and/or other threats.

What about the use of planes of weapons? Did policymakers know? According to a New York Times story from earlier this month, they did:
A Congressional inquiry into intelligence activities before Sept. 11 found 12 reports over a seven-year period suggesting that terrorists might use airplanes as weapons.
And as everyone knows, the FBI in Arizona was already worried about Arab men training in US flight schools.

Would the attack come in the US? The CIA warned that it would, as the now-declassifed August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing warned. The BBC has a text version of that document:
For the President Only

Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate (Osama) Bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Laden implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America".
World Trade Center. America.

The NYT reported that stronger warnings came earlier in the year, as the congressional inquiry found:
In March, the C.I.A. said that "a group of bin Laden operatives was planning to conduct an unspecified attack in the United States in April 2001. One operative allegedly resided in the United States," according to the Congressional report.

The C.I.A. warnings created what the Congressional report called "a stressful summer." Between May and July, the National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on communications around the world, reported 33 communications suggesting "a possibly imminent terrorist attack," according to the Congressional report.
"Imminent." What an interesting word.

As the year passed, greater attention was directed at US targets abroad -- there was a lot of worry, for example, concerning President Bush's visit to Genoa, Italy during ther summer. The LA Times had a story on September 27, 2001, that indicated the nature of this threat:
U.S. and Italian officials were warned in July that Islamic terrorists might attempt to kill President Bush and other leaders by crashing an airliner into the Genoa summit of industrialized nations, officials said Wednesday.

Italian officials took the reports seriously enough to prompt extraordinary precautions during the July summit of the Group of 8 nations, including closing the airspace over Genoa and stationing antiaircraft guns at the city's airport....

The Genoa warning was disclosed last week by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini. In remarks on a television talk show reported by the Italian news agency ANSA, Fini said: "Many people were ironic about the Italian secret services. But in fact they got the information that there was the possibility of an attack against the U.S. president using an airliner. That's why we closed the airspace and installed the missiles. Those who made cracks should now think a little."

In an interview published Sept. 21 in the French newspaper Le Figaro, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said his government provided information to the United States about possible attacks on the Genoa summit by Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden. "There was a question of an airplane stuffed with explosives. As a result, precautions were taken."
Bin Laden crashing planes into a buildings?

Did the White House know about all this? Condi Rice told reporters on March 24 that Geoge Tenet briefed Bush at least 40 times about the al Qaeda threat.

The day after receiving the PDB on August 6, 2001, President Bush left for a one month vacation in Crawford, Texas. Even at the time, the length of this vacation was newsworthy.

In fact, since his presidency began, George Bush has taken a lot of vacation time. And people have noticed -- it was the #1 question on yahoo last year.

I'm in favor of giving him a really long one, starting January 2005.

Update: Back in September, Open Source Politics had a much more detailed threat timeline for 2001 than I've provided. Note that their entry for August 6 includes the title of the PDB that everyone seemed surprised to hear.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Update: Russia and Kyoto

In December, Russia seemed to flip-flop on the question of Kyoto ratification. One official reported that Russia was unlikely ever to ratify the global warming pact, another claimed that Russia was "moving toward ratification."

This is important because the Bush administration's rejection of Kyoto puts Russia in the driver's seat. Canada, the EU, and Japan have all joined, but the treaty cannot go into effect without either the US or Russia.

Russia easily meets the treaty's terms because factories from the cold war era have been closed and its greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced from the 1990 treaty base year. Thus, Russia has little reason to oppose the accord. Indeed, Russia could earn billions of dollars by selling emission quotas.

In October, I guessed that the EU might offer something valuable to Russia in return for its ratification.

Last week, Anders Åslund provided specificity to my claim. Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Åslund suggested that Russian and EU officials could strike a deal as soon as their next meeting in Moscow April 22, or perhaps at the EU-Russia summit scheduled for May 21.

Basically, the EU could agree to support Russia's entry into the WTO in exchange for President Vladimir Putin's support of Kyoto. Åslund does not offer evidence that this deal is likely to be concluded, but it seems logical -- and EU concerns over Russian natural gas export prices are a key remaining barrier to Russian entry into the WTO.

If Russia and the EU strike this deal, the Kerry campaign might be able to leverage Kyoto as an environmental issue against Bush this summer. Of course, high gasoline prices might mitigate this somewhat, but really hot weather and drought could make the topic quite newsworthy.

"Talk like an Egyptian"

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with President Bush in Crawford, TX yesterday. In anticipation of that meeting, the Dreyfuss Report speculated that Bush would be leaning hard on Mubarak:
Chances are, Bush will deliver a lecture on democracy to the Egyptian leader, who’s sitting on top of a powder keg of Islamic fundamentalists and Muslim Brotherhood fanatics.
Dreyfuss wondered if Mubarak might likewise lecture Bush on Iraq, as it was the Egyptian President who predicted last year that the war in Iraq could produce "100 Osama bin Ladens."

Did everyone read the op-ed on Egypt in the Washington Post last Wednesday, April 7? I found a copy on an Africa website that may have a more permanent link. Who wrote these words?
The Egyptian elite should make room at the table for reformers and other activists who have a stake in development assistance, and it should share foreign assistance dollars more equitably with indigenous and international nongovernmental organizations. We already know from last month's conference in Alexandria that Arab civil society has concrete -- and forward-leaning -- positions on freedom, human rights and the status of women. These voices must be heard, and their counsel heeded....Because civil society plays an important role in determining progress, the Egyptian government should encourage the participation of indigenous nongovernmental organizations in the identification -- and achievement -- of these [significant economic and political] reforms.
Sure sounds like they could have been delivered by somebody from the UN, or the NGO community, or perhaps a European Foreign Minister.

If you said Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, reward yourself today -- eat some extra carbs or something.

Of course, while McConnell wrote those words, he was urging Bush (and Secretary of State Colin Powell) to lecture Mubarak about democracy -- and to threaten Egypt's foreign aid account with the US. This is a very significant sum of cash:
While Egypt has been a partner for Middle East peace and in the global war on terrorism, cooperation with the United States has come at high price to the American taxpayer. Since 1948 Egypt has received more than $59 billion in U.S. foreign assistance. For fiscal 2005, the foreign aid budget request for Egypt alone tops $1.8 billion.

Apart from cooperation on certain mutual security interests -- but not the liberation of Iraq -- what has U.S. foreign assistance secured in Egypt?

Not greater freedoms. According to the State Department's 2003 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Egypt remained a repressive country where citizens "did not have the meaningful ability to change their government" and where the government "significantly restricted freedom of assembly and association."

Not greater tolerance. The Middle East Media Research Institute, which tracks the Egyptian press, cites a Jan. 2 editorial in the Egyptian government daily Al-Masaa praising suicide bombers for attacks in Israel. It also cites an Oct. 14 article in a religious weekly that is published by the official Egyptian daily Al-Gumhuriya by the former undersecretary for religious affairs that fans the flames of anti-Semitism by stating that "trickery is the nature of the Jews."

Not greater economic opportunity. According to the World Bank, Egypt's average annual per capita income is $1,490, and the official unemployment rate is 9 percent (although the actual rate is thought to be higher)....

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell should use the occasion of President Mubarak's upcoming visit to cement Egypt's commitment to implementing much-needed political and economic reforms....

Should Egypt fall short on its commitments, the United States must retain control of foreign aid dollars so that funds can be shifted to other development sectors -- or returned to the U.S. Treasury. Such a "use it or lose it" approach might provide necessary motivation for the Egypt government to accelerate much-needed political and economic reforms.
I think there's wide agreement that Egypt should become more democratic. The question is whether we can trust the Bush administration to employ the appropriate diplomatic skill to accomplish anything meaningful -- or will it merely threaten in a heavy-handed way to cut off economic assistance if Egypt does not shape up pronto?

As former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in March, the Bush administration's "democracy initiative" was revealed in a patronizing manner and is widely viewed as a justification for not pushing Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. Vice President Cheney called democracy a prerequisite to peace in the region and many scholars of the region, as well as national leaders in both the Middle East and Europe, think that the US is trying to compel states to accept its view of democratic reform.

As Dreyfuss wrote, "Having mangled Iraq, there’s a chance that President Bush might start doing the same to Egypt."

Monday, April 12, 2004

Again: Legitimacy Crisis? (R)

I feel badly for not writing a word over the past week about the violence in Iraq -- even as I've blogged about trivial matters such as my fantasy baseball team and the Vice Presidency. What do I think? I agree with this:
Self determination is a very powerful idea in politics. Political scientists have often demonstrated that even the poor and weak will resist their subordination. Terrorism is a classic weapon of the weak.

Thus, it should not be surprising that the situation in Iraq seems to be deteriorating.

While there are a lot of proposals floating around that would place Iraqis in much greater positions of power in Iraq, Paul Bremer is running the country -- and he reports directly to the Pentagon.
That excerpt is from one of my first pieces for this blog.

This is how I concluded:
The American/British occupation of Iraq has got to end soon, to be replaced by UN-directed nation-building and some form of legitimate Iraqi governance. An American general might oversee the troops on the ground, but there's a decent chance he's going to be wearing a blue helmet.
This is a repeat episode from September 5, 2003.

Following the money

The internet is working to promote campaign finance transparency! By simply typing in a name or address, the curious web surfer can unearth the names of contributors to the 2004 presidential election campaigns -- and discover how much each individual gave.

I actually learned of this website on a baseball research list -- so some of my time spent on the sport has practical benefit. Someone on that list posted the contributions of various team owners (overwhelmingly, they gave to Bush).

The list only includes donors who gave more than $200 in the first two months of 2004. Also, donors who give directly to political parties (DNC) or organizations like MoveOn are not listed. All of my donations are under the radar, so far as this listing is concerned.

In any case, spend a few minutes at the FundRace 2004 website and you can learn -- or merely confirm -- all sorts of things about campaign finance.

For example, I was not surprised to learn that Kentucky US Senator Mitch McConnell and his spouse, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, each gave two grand to the Bush campaign. It was interesting to learn that many of their neighbors contribute to Democrats (you can search by address too).

Enter zip code 90210, and discover the candidates favored by the rich and famous. Maury Povich, for example, gave $2000 to Bush. David Cross, of Fox's "Arrested Development" gave $1000 to Howard Dean. Carl and Rob Reiner both gave two grand to Dean -- though Rob also gave $2000 to Edwards. Actress Melanie Griffith favors John Kerry, as does Normal Lear ($2000 each).

Try not to become addicted. I now know that the spouse and son of one of my colleagues gave a fair sum to Howard Dean and that an old friend from college gave a big check to Bush.

As I've noted before, Republicans tend to have a much larger number of affluent donors, as well as other huge advantages, so I encourage everyone reading to kick in a few bucks to help topple Bush in 2004.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Weekend update

Sorry, readers, but I spent Saturday drafting a second fantasy baseball team and have not had time to think much about politics, globalization, or Iraq. The 12 owners in my "Hardy House" league (AL only) employ an auction that always takes 6 to 8 hours, not counting the hours of preparation time. I've been meeting annually with some of these guys since 1989, when many of us were students or young faculty at Northwestern. That year, Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen and league MVP Robin Yount led my team to its first title.

The day is fun, but every auction can be frustrating. It's a market, but prices have been distorted by cheap "keepers" -- players that each owner retains in advance of the draft because he had the luck or foresight to pick them when they were undervalued in one of the past two seasons. Plus, as the draft proceeds, scarcity starts to play a role affecting prices. Talent becomes increasingly scarce, and some owners face spending limits.

Yes, unlike the major leagues, we operate like most fantasy leagues do under an equal salary structure. Each of us has the exact same material resources with which to assemble a team.

I'm an opponent of salary caps in real baseball, but I do think there's a decent argument for greater revenue sharing among owners. A great part of the disparity among major league teams derives from TV revenues that baseball generates mostly from "local" TV contracts. Back in 2001, the New York Yankees received almost 10 times as much from local TV as did my KC Royals.

The NFL, by contrast, equally splits an enormous network TV deal and there are very limited local broadcast revenues. Incidentally, I think the disparities are getting worse. I've seen estimates suggesting the Yankees may now be receiving something like $90 million annually from broadcast revenues. It's hard to determine because teams have incentives to hide revenues (showing profits in corporate partners; George Steinbrenner owns both the Yankees and the YES broadcast network).

Back to my Saturday. Ultimately, many of the players I wanted to buy were bid up past what I wanted to pay. Of course, I was unable to bid more because I quite early dropped a lot of pretend cash (we don't play for money) on Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano.

Stuck with my high-priced stars (ironically, I bid them up because I thought they were too cheap), I was left with little choice but to pursue some relative unknowns later in the draft. Suffice to say that I'm now a big fan of youngsters Michael Cuddyer , Lew Ford , Kevin Mench, Reed Johnson and Eric DuBose.

Owners in my league are pretty sharp, so young players tend to sell for higher prices than the fantasy baseball guidebooks suggest. Because we use a keeper system, older players at the end of their careers are discounted and young players future value is very much factored into their current price.

Still, I got all five of those young players together for exactly the same amount I paid for Soriano alone.

Real baseball would probably be a different game if it worked more like our league. Young players would not be locked to their teams for so long at artificially low prices. Some of the game's best players make near league minimum, while they easily outplay older guys making millions. Players agreed to this structure in the collective bargaining agreement, and salary arbitration helps resolve many of the disparities after three years' service in the league.

While fans might worry about too much turnover from a system that would work more like a market, our league suggests that this might not be a huge problem. I regularly release and then re-purchase the same players year-after-year. Just about every owner in my league has favorite players and will attempt to buy them at the draft if available. One guy used to buy Paul O'Neill every year because his wife really wanted to root for him.

At yesterday's draft, I obtained Kyle Lohse and Erubiel Durazo who I cut only last week -- and Jeter is very frequently on my team.

Well, that's probably more than anyone wants to read about my fantasy baseball team. Hopefully, the non-fantasy elements made it worth reading.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Fixated on McCain


I'm the one fixated on McCain. I keep searching Google News for recent stories.

Today, I found an interesting interview the Senator gave to the Detroit Free Press. As usual, the "straight shooter" had some candid moments.

First, he put to rest the McCain for Kerry Veep talk:
I will not leave the Republican Party and I don't want to be vice president of the United States.

...I have disagreements with the Republican Party on environmental issues and a number of other issues. But I'm of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. I respect the Democratic Party, but I just don't share their philosophy and views on many fundamental issues. It's just a reality....

Q: Can you give us a frank assessment of how you think they [Bush and Kerry] stack up against each other?

A: That's hard for me to do. One of my major reasons for supporting President Bush's re-election is that I believe he led this nation after Sept. 11 with strength and did a really fine job in leading the country in a time of real crisis. I have had differences of viewpoints with the president -- tax cuts, and a number of other issues. But I have agreed with him more that I have disagreed with him.

If you probably put my voting record up against John Kerry's, I've probably disagreed with him more than I have agreed with him. But we are of different parties....

But if I had to say who do I agree with more on issue, I'm sure it's President Bush.
That seems pretty clear.

McCain, by the way, provided a reasonable explanation of why the Iraqi intelligence commission hasn't yet met:
Q: You are a member of the commission on Iraqi intelligence. Have you met yet?

A: Yes. We met last week for the first time. One of the reasons why commissions take a while to set up is because of security clearances. I was the only member of the commission that had a security clearance. It takes many weeks to complete a security clearance for access to that level of classified materials. It is unfortunate. It's hardly likely that the president of Yale University is a spy. It just takes a great deal of time.

I expect us to get moving within the next two to three weeks. And I won't bother you with the details, but there is one aspect that is a little bit interesting.

You could staff up immediately with guess what? Detailees from these different agencies -- the CIA, the NSA, all of these different agencies. But those detailees are going to go back to their agencies. So you have to make sure that you have at least some people who are there who don't come from the organization you are investigating.

We could staff up tomorrow. Say have the CIA send us 10 people. But you have to have at least a certain number of people in there who are independent and who have credentials but yet are not tied to these very same agencies we're looking at.
He did say that some congressional staffers would be part of the team.

Oh, and here's another one of his "Band of Brothers" quotes about a fellow Democratic Senator:
I'm a great admirer of Carl Levin's. He's one of the most thoughtful and intellectually capable members of the Senate on national security issues.
It is a long interview and McCain talks about his views on global warming, tax cuts, campaign finance reform, homeland security, etc.

McCain certainly comes off as fairly thoughtful and frank. He may be my favorite Republican member of Congress.

Not that there's a lot of competition.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Framing the "War on Terror"

Let me explain why I could not watch Condi Rice's testimony today.

I tuned in a couple of times, read a news story or two about it, and watched some of the analysis on CNN afterward -- but it all seemed pretty pointless.

Essentially, Rice was addressing questions that are secondary to the bigger critique of the Bush administration's war on terror. She argued, from what I have seen, heard, and/or read, that the Bush administration took terrorism seriously -- and that no specific measures could have been taken to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

Since she was testifying before the 9/11 Commission, I guess this particular framing was to be expected.

However, the most potent critique of the "war on terror" concerns what the administration did after 9/11. Critics like Richard Clarke, Wesley Clark, and John Mearsheimer have argued that the war on Iraq had almost nothing to do with fighting al Qaeda and distracted from the ongoing fighting/searching in Afghanistan.

In other words, could Rice have readily defended the administration's policies had the entire event been framed around the question of Iraq? Read Rice's opening statement and note that she certainly didn't discuss Iraq in this manner.

Rice says Clarke is wrong, that the President did not push him to link Iraq to 9/11 -- but ultimately, who cares? Take the Bush people at their word. The President acted without a link between Iraq and 9/11. The decision simply reflected a very poor judgment call -- and something of an intelligence failing (though this is yet to be determined by a different Commission).

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Iraq: A UN Trusteeship?

Josh Marshall and Abu Aardvark have recently noted some odd political ideas coming out of the Bush administration. No, I mean really odd -- as in counter to their usual thinking.

Marshall, for example, references the President providing an odd answer to a press question about the future of Iraq:
I believe we can transfer authority by June 30th. We're working toward that day. We're, obviously, constantly in touch with Jerry Bremer on the transfer of sovereignty. The United Nations is over there now. The United Nations representative is there now to work on the -- on a -- on to whom we transfer sovereignty. I mean, in other words, it's one thing to decide to transfer. We're now in the process of deciding what the entity will look like to whom we will transfer sovereignty.
Marshall writes that he is "genuinely unsure what to make of that."

I'm starting to wonder if the Bush administration is thinking of transfering political sovereignty to an international body, rather than to Iraq. This would give the "UN seal of approval" to the handover, get the US off the hook, and allow for continued US military presence to provide security.

Abu Aardvark noted a similar report about internationalization that
appeared in today's generally pro-American newspaper al Sharq al Awsat and about which I have seen nothing else anywhere. But the story goes like this: a "high ranking Israeli source" told al Sharq al Awsat that the United States was about to propose turning Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan into an international plan with the EU and the UN, as well as Egypt and Jordan and in coordination with the PA.
These sound kind of similar, don't they?

Less than a year ago, Yale historian Paul Kennedy wrote a piece for the Japanese Daily Yomiuri that proposed internationalizing Iraq. He discussed reviving the Trusteeship Council, or a contemporary equivalent:
The Trusteeship Council is an odd bird. It is listed in the U.N. Charter as one of its so-called principal organs, alongside, for example, the Security Council and the General Assembly. It was created to supervise colonial territories that had been administered as League of Nations mandates, such as German East Africa (now Tanzania) or island groups in the central Pacific. Ironically, one of the first mandates of the League was British-administered Iraq, until it came into its own in the late- 1920s. Because of that earlier history, the Trusteeship Council suffered from two major weaknesses in the post-1945 age. First, so many colonial territories became independent, and so swiftly, that it soon had very little business. Second, to many developing nations it smacked of out-of-date imperialism and patronage. From time to time it was proposed that the council be abolished, but the United Nations' collective lethargy meant that such proposals were never acted upon.

Thus, it exists to this day, as Chapter XIII and Articles 86-91 of the U.N. Charter. The Trusteeship Council had to contain the Permanent Five veto members of the Security Council--which should keep Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and Beijing happy--plus those states involved in administering the lands in question, plus an equal number of outside states representing the world community. The council was empowered to make its own rules and to avail itself of other U.N. bodies and specialized agencies (for example, the World Bank) when appropriate. Originally, it was to report "on the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants of each trust territory"--and the report was to go to the General Assembly, a body that has been totally sidelined by the current Iraq war, but still remains the only forum for world discussion and comity.

But if it has colonial overtones to many developing countries, it would not be hard to change its name: the Council for Reconstruction and Development, perhaps, or the Council for States Needing Help. Its membership could be statutorily fixed--the permanent five, plus perhaps another 20 members, representing in turn the world's regions. Once a conflict was over, the Security Council could hand the war-torn country over to the new body. It certainly should not try to micro-manage the rebuilding of society and democracy; more likely, it would appoint a special administrator and staff to work with local political parties, and to coordinate the international efforts to help the nation regain its full sovereignty as soon as possible. Since reconstruction is not a matter of war and peace, there should be no veto powers exercised in the council. And by reporting to the General Assembly, it should assuage the fears that this was disguised colonial tutelage.
It doesn't take much searching to find support for this idea in the Arab media as well.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

2004 NL Final Standings (projected)

Just another attempt at public accountability. Check back in September/October/November.
NL East

1. Philadelphia Phillies 95 - 67
2. Atlanta Braves 85 - 77
3. Florida Marlins 83 - 79
4. Montreal Expos 79 - 83
5. New York Mets 75 - 87

NL Central

1. Houston Astros 94 - 68
2. Chicago Cubs 89 - 73
3. St. Louis Cardinals 87 - 75
4. Cincinnati Reds 74 - 88
5. Milwaukee Brewers 68 - 94
6. Pittsburgh Pirates 66 - 96

NL West

1. San Diego Padres 87 - 75
2. San Francisco Giants 84 - 78
3. Arizona Diamondbacks 81 - 81
4. Los Angeles Dodgers 77 - 85
5. Colorado Rockies 72 - 90

NL Champions: Houston Astros
NL MVP: Jim Thome (Phillies)
NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt (Astros)
NL Rookie of the Year: Kaz Matsui (NYM)
Thome has been on one of my fantasy baseball teams since he was in AAA.

Force and Democracy

Monday, I caught a bit of the President's brief press conference. He said something pretty amazing, considering what the US is trying to do in Iraq.
Q Mr. President, are you concerned at all that events like we've seen over the last week in Iraq are going to make it tougher to meet that deadline, or increase pressure from the U.N. or anyone else?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there's -- my judgment is, is that the closer we come to the deadline, the more likely it is people will challenge our will. In other words, it provides a convenient excuse to attack. In this particular incident, with Sadr, this is one person who is deciding that rather than allow democracy to flourish, he's going to exercise force. And we just can't let it stand. As I understand, the CPA today announced a warrant for his arrest. This is one person -- this is a person, and followers, who are trying to say, we don't want democracy -- as a matter of fact, we'll decide the course of democracy by the use of force. And that is the opposite of democracy.
I've added the emphasis.

Monday, April 05, 2004

McCain-Kerry thoughts

The blogger once known as "Calpundit," Kevin Drum, joined the fray yesterday and speculated about John McCain as John Kerry's running mate.

Rather than again speculating about the political possibilities, I decided to think about the implications of such a choice. There would be many, I think, and some would be bad -- despite the view expressed by columnist Joe Klein that this would be a bold and "ideal step" by Kerry, though Klein concedes the move is a "fantasy."

Obviously, picking McCain would be a huge story for the news media. McCain would provide Kerry with a very powerful national voice to counter Bush and Cheney. The Arizona Senator is viewed as a "straight talker" who was quite popular with the media in his own 2000 primary campaign.

McCain's party switch would also send a strong signal to potentially dissatisfied Republicans -- or at least Republican-leaning moderates -- out there: "It's safe to vote for Kerry."

Furthermore, such a move would probably seal Arizona for Kerry (a state he might win anyway). If Kerry could carry all the other Gore states, he would thus win the 2004 Electoral College vote 270-268. See for yourself with this helpful map.

Still, McCain is a longtime Republican and his conservative voting record would likely not sit well with most Democrats. Kos had the details on McCain's voting record Saturday. Drum says this isn't that big of a deal since McCain is "practically a Democrat already" on certain kinds of issues (the budget deficit, Kyoto) and Kerry is likely to govern as a centrist on Iraq and would have little control over Republican base issues like abortion policy. Timothy Noah had a piece in 2002 in Slate arguing that McCain is really a Democrat, so this is not an entirely new idea.

I'm nonetheless guessing that at minimum, the Nader-leaning, Green, lefty Democrats would very strongly dislike such a move. Even a common goal -- beating Bush -- might not be enough justification for it. After all, the Veep gets to vote in tied Senate outcomes and would succeed the President in case of death or incapacitation.

Plus, McCain's strength is precisely the Democrats' fear. What if McCain speaks out against some core Democratic issues, just because he is McCain and does this sort of thing? Any close election requires very strong party discipline and the Dems cannot afford either to tick off their base or push away Democratic-leaning independents.

Conceivably, McCain on the ticket might depress Democratic voting in a state or two they will need in 2004 -- like Oregon. Arizona has 3 more electoral votes than Oregon, but Democrats need to keep Oregon and add states if they want to win. This swap isn't enough.

Bottom line: Kerry should not pick McCain unless he gets a firm commitment from the Senator to toe the Democratic party line through November. He needs to be an outspoken critic of Bush and Cheney and keep quiet about his disagreements with Democrats.

He probably also has to switch parties formally in order to run as a Democrat on many state ballots.

Question to ponder: could Kerry achieve the benefits of roping in McCain by announcing in a couple of months that the Senator would be his Secretary of Defense?