Monday, May 31, 2004

"In the hierarchy of coolness, politics sits at the absolute rock-bottom. I would rather be caught wearing a hooded brown robe and casting a 10th Level Spell of Enchantment against a chaotic good half-elven Ranger, than be standing in a sea of uptight dorks and declaring to the world, "Mr. Chairman, the Great State of Nebraska, home of the Cornhuskers and latent sexual frustration, nominates John Kerry to be the next President of the United States!"

- Sgt. Stryker.

Well said, well said. Hat tip to No Left Turns.

Friday, May 28, 2004

I was struck today by two quotes in The Chicago Tribune on reactions to the Kerry speech:

"Honestly, this could almost be a Bush speech--especially the part about weapons of mass destruction, murder and the Iraq mission,"
Charles Pena, Cato Institute

"There is not a huge difference on using military force and intelligence in the war on terror...There is not yet a big difference on homeland security policy as best I can tell,"

Micheal O'Hanlon, Brookings Institution

Let's take a look at Kerry's " Four Imperatives ":

"First, we must launch and lead a new era of alliances for the post-9/11 world."

This is an obvious nod to John Kerry's philosophical preference for multilateralism and international institutions. Since he is most likely discussing the UN and NATO here this represents a modest tactical and a significant stylistic difference with Bush. It will do nothing to alter the substantive disputes between the U.S. and it's allies over Iraq and the War on Terror.

If Kerry were to forge a new set of alliances based upon a " robust ability " to support intervention with the Anglosphere, Russia, India, Israel and China- then this would be a bold strategic difference. I doubt that is the case however.

Second, we must modernize the world's most powerful military to meet the new threats.

This is the Bush policy ! If Kerry is truly serious he might as well keep Rumsfeld - the Secretary of Defense is hated by the brass partly for his commitment to systemic changes to force structure and the " Revolution in Military Affairs ". The 64 billion dollar question that Kerry has ignored is " Does modernization include a draft ? "

"Third, because our military might is not the only source of power, of our power in the world, we must deploy all that is in the American arsenal: our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and most importantly, the appeal, the extraordinary appeal that through centuries has made us who we are, the appeal of our values and our ideas."

I'm fine with this as I explained in my recent post on the Elites and the Bush Doctrine. Sort of a " Working Smarter " form of Preemption. When Saudi Arabia is funding 14,000 hate-America madrassa schools in moderate Muslim Indonesia alone, we need to do things on the "soft"/ideological/political/memetic side of the equation too. I'd like to hear some more specifics that show some signs of strategic thinking. Judging from the leaked Rumsfeld memo, the Bush administration realizes the need but has done little beyond some incipient and clumsy "Arab MTV " ( Radio Sawa )programs.

Fourth and finally, to secure our full independence, our full freedom, to be the masters of our own destiny, we must free America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil.

This would be a marvelous strategic advantage if/when it exists but this is primarily a scientific question right now and not one of foreign policy. Ideally, this is a commitment by Kerry to invest billions in nanotech engineering, physical chemistry, fusion and alternate fuels research. Or, more likely, this is a trojan horse to institute cherished Democratic proposals for high gasoline taxes, smaller cars, SUV bans and assorted penalties to limit consumption by government fiat with no serious follow through on alternate energy whatsover.

I like Kerry's conversion to " Smart Preemption " - it's a country mile better than antiwar Leftist isolationism - I'm just not sure if he actually intends to carry some of these things out.


Moises Naim claims Kerry will be forced to do pretty much what Bush is doing. Senator Kerry himself has just begun to lay out his own national security and foreign policy vision in a planned series of speeches.

So far, as Kerry is prescribing a more multilateral," soft-power" accented version of the Bush Doctrine, Naim seems to be correct. However people are policy. How a Kerry administration staffed by Samuel Berger, Madeleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Sam Nunn and John McCain would carry out this policy is apt to be very different from a Kerry administration staffed by Warren Christopher, Tony Lake, Strobe Talbot and other internationalist-doves that Kerry has seemed to agree with for most of his career.

The key question is: Did the Kosovo War and 9/11 worked a fundamental change in Democratic Party foreign policy assumptions or is the anti-war, anti-military, anti-DLC, Vietnam syndrome mentality that fueled the Howard Dean candidacy still the authentic soul of the party ?
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I have a copy and will review it soon. Skimmed it already and it's good. No Left Turns also has things to say.

An interesting article by Chester Finn and Lisa Keegan in the Hoover Institution's journal Education Next, positing elected school boards and local accountability as an anachronism that has outlived it's day.

Finn is basically interested in the end of public education or failing that, reform of a radical scope. Some of his criticisms have great merit in a large-picture sense because the public school system is an ad hoc, irrational creature that has evolved slowly...very slowly..over time.

The public is most comfortable when the activity of their schools are familiar ones, regardless of whether they are doing well and tend to oppose innovations - again without examination of the intended reform or potential results. Change is usually opposed simply because it attempts something different from " when WE were in school " or because it affects vested interests - politicians, teacher's unions, administrators, local business. In that sense, Finn and Keegan are quite correct about the public schools being " conservative " in a systemic sense. Scholar Larry Cuban documented as much in his history of American education 15 years ago so this observation is nothing new.

Their other contentions, that school boards are dominated by teacher's unions or are not representative entities are less convincing. No, school boards do not have complete power to fire individual teachers without cause in collective bargaining situations but in my experience the relationship between unions and school boards are generally adversarial. Who is " on top " see-saws with time as it does in any other negotiation involving an employer and organized labor. Even situations where both sides tout " collaborative " bargaining, it tends to be with forced grins.

The claim that few boards are elected by a significant number of voters due to off-year elections is valid - but it applies to most other local and county offices as well. It's an argument essentially against local control of any kind because the voters are apathetic, uninformed ( or self-interested) idiots - again there's some validity here. Look at your local boards and elected officials, commissions and trustees.

However I think Finn's complaint would be addressed less destructively to our democratic system by tackling the size of school districts to assure both democratic representation and accountability. Very large districts like Chicago and very small school districts encompassing only one or two schools are the ones that tend toward the greatest dysfunction, diseconomies of scale and political influence. Going with the quick fix of central control at the state or federal level because the American people are rubes, not to be trusted, is not an argument usually associated with conservatives. Central control, I would argue, has a very bad historical record as a principle of organization at just about anything other than war.

And if that's not enough, just imagine the presidential candidate who you can't stand deciding what all the kids in America are going to be taught next fall.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Go here.

I came across this relatively young think tank by visiting Rebunk the new HNN blog by historian Derek Charles Catsam,Tom Bruscino and Stephen Tootle. FDD bills itself as a nonpartisan, anti-terrorism and pro-democracy institution:

"The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and education on the war on terrorism.

We produce independent analyses of global terrorist threats, exploring the historical, cultural, philosophical and ideological factors that drive terrorism and threaten the individual freedoms guaranteed within democratic societies. FDD is a non-partisan organization."

Having very ideologically diverse " big name " supporters that include liberal progressives, Neoconservatives, Libertarians, Moderates and Social Conservatives, FDD reminds me of the old National Endowment for Democracy that was so vigorous in the Reagan era but has since run out of steam. Hopefully FDD will be able to fill that gap with intellectual firepower and new ideas.


It's interesting that the comprehensive nature of the Bush Doctrine as described by AEI was not really implemented in Iraq where the Occupational authority has shown great deficiencies in strategic political thinking.
Monday, May 24, 2004

Belmont Club, Micheal Totten and Virginia Postrel. Ever notice the prevalence of goatees in blogging ? ( Obviously, I'm not talking about Virginia)

Geitner Simmons nails the German Chancellor's attempt to impoverish New Europe.


Brits turning against EU according to poll.

One man's crusade to revive the dirigible.
Sunday, May 23, 2004

Much hash has been made over the Bush Doctrine of preemption, which flows out of the tenets of the new National Security Strategy of the United States. Even more has been made of the " Neocons" who helped craft some aspects of this new strategy, some of which is valid and some being sinister, conspiracy-theory nonsense of embittered partisans. The actual employment of American power for "preemption" in a military sense was owed more to the terror attacks of 9-11 and the unsolved dilemma of Saddam Hussein than to the abstract musings of policy wonks. The strategy itself has been more multifaceted than it is usually given credit for -or for that matter- the unidimensional way some of the "neocon" officials may have tactically implemented it in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many critics of the Bush administration actually prefer movement toward a transnational-progressive foreign policy for the United States with a value system for international affairs far closer to that of the core EU states of France and Germany. International Law, if some of the critics ruled, would be interpreted and extrapolated in novel ways to find the greatest restrictions possible on " unilateral" use of American power. Action, if no alternatives to force can be found, would be only possible after a slow process of diplomatic consensus and sanction by the United Nations. In other words, much like we saw in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990’s - except more so.

While much of the bipartisan American foreign policy establishment runs on a continuum between these two positions, with a majority closer to transnational-progressivism than to neoconservatism, there has not been such a stark choice of competing visions in over fifty years. I would argue that you would have to go back to George Kennan’s " X" article and NSC-68 and the resultant criticisms made by Walter Lippmann and Robert Taft to find so wide a gulf within elite American opinion. The question is, "Why ?". Why the deep division now when the United States, even with Iraq and the War on terror, stands at the brink of full-spectrum dominance ? Why is there a general sense that the stakes are high ?

I have a simple explanation. The magnitude of change in world affairs is such that there is a considerable and increasing divergence between " rules of the game" conceived in the aftermath of WWII and the early Cold War and the corresponding reality of nation-states as they exist and behave in 2004. This battle is actually a struggle within America’s elite to actually rewrite "the rules" to the degree which American influence can shape such a revision of the world order.

Dean Acheson’s aptly titledPresent at the Creation superbly details the architecture of the "old rules" of Bretton Woods/NATO/Containment/GATT/Truman Doctrine/IMF/World Bank/UN/EEC – the entire superstructure of the West that delivered unparalleled prosperity and victory in the Cold War without having provoked WWIII. The " Wise Men " of that era did their work magnificently in terms of broad strategy – so well in fact that they set in motion forces that changed the world to the point that their successes require the writing of "new rules". Today, the international order faces not one or two major stresses like the Cold War and De-colonization but a host – Centrifugal nationalism/separatism, Globalization, Islamism and Terrorism, Failed States, WMD Proliferation, Supranational Governance/dilution of Sovereignty, - all against a backdrop of American unipolarity. Enough variables for statesmen to juggle that the net effect could easily tend toward an International Anarchy rather than an International Order. Entropy is a less personifiable threat than al Qaida or Joe Stalin but it is no less dangerous to American interests, indeed perhaps it is greater for being less predictable yet diffuse.

What is to be done ? First, the American foreign policy establishment needs to, in my view, cease lamenting the degree to which the world has changed since 1991 and spend a greater effort figuring out where they would like it to go and how that intersects with American interests. They have been ineffective opponents and shrill critics of the Bush administration because they lack a strategic alternative – or at least a coherent one that is politically attractive to the American voter.

Secondly, the neocons, who have a strategy and know where they want to go, need to do the hard work of figuring out where the resources are going to come from to pay for this vision; it’s a good vision for the most part in my view but not one that will come to fruition on the cheap. Niggardliness along with lack of planning has been their stumbling block in Iraq. They must also bend enough or broaden their vision enough to entice the national interests of other states who can make their strategy succeed. The neocons have taken high-pressure tactics and force about as far as they can in securing cooperation from allies and neutrals and they need to start offering carrots or accepting advice. You can be unilateral or you can be at war or you can be miserly but you cannot be all three and expect to succeed.

It might be best for both the neocons and the establishment to take a page from Machiavelli as the nation goes forward into a dynamically changing world:

" You must know then that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men but the second is that of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second…One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that only wish to be lions do not understand this. Therefore a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist."

I'm sure the blogosphere will get around to discussing the 60th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion in two weeks. Even the most eloquent of our amateur tributes will no doubt be inadequate to evoke what the men who waded ashore in the teeth of German fire saw and felt. Still less can we measure the sacrifice of those who did not come home again. It is because of them that men live free.

It's become a trite cliche to call them the greatest generation but in my opinion I doubt if my age cohort could have stepped forward in the same way and made the supreme sacrifice in such numbers( as for the Boomers, the less said the better).

In honor of the veterans still with us and those who are not - some words more expressive than I can muster.

Somehow, if these details are accurate, it's not surprising the mainstream media is not following up on this story any more than on Nick Berg. They want it off the radar ASAP.

Juan Cole chided the Bush administration for not apologizing for the incident. What they should apologize for is being incompetent at getting out information that helps the war effort. It's amazing that an administration that can be so "on message " regarding domestic politics can also show little if any grasp of the need for effective public diplomacy. The media is not going to do it for them - they can count on a particularly negative spin up through November on every issue but on the war most of all.
Friday, May 21, 2004

Iraqi police have arrested the nephew of Saddam Hussein and men belonging to the paramilitary Feydayeen Saddam for the death of Nicholas Berg. The ghastly videotaped murder of the American businessmen had been attributed to the Jordainian al Qaida terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but Middle East experts had noted the " forced " or " strained " nature of the " Allahu Akbar " ( God is Great !) chant, a traditional Islamist rallying call, that the murderers shouted on the videotape.
Thursday, May 20, 2004

This is a lot like if the KGB had been allowed to openly run candidates for office during the late Glasnost years when Gorbachev introduced multiple candidate elections ( actually they did, just not openly because the only popular KGB men at the time were dissidents like General Oleg Kalugin).

This is a very interesting development. A taciit admission that Khomeini's " rule of the jurisprudent " has efectively come to the end of it's political legitimacy. As the shrinking number of ultra-hardliners gathered around Khameini and Rafsanjani cede political authority to an elite but non-clerical organization of thugs,intellectuals, terrorists and spies the end result is an open question. Will we see an Iran drifting toward technocracy and market economic reform as China once mellowed from Maoist totalitarianism ? Or will the drift be toward a menacing Islamist Fascist state that melds religious zeal with an aggressive militarization of all aspects of Iranian society ?

Hard to say. In the 1980's the KGB was a repository of hard-line attitudes but it was also the organization most acutely aware of the USSR's economic shortcomings, the need for real reform and the unrealism of party ideologues on the Central Committee. The Pasdaran sponsored Hezbollah and prior to the rise of the Sunni-Wahabbist terrorism of al Qaida, Iran's Revolutionary Guards were the foremost terror organization on earth but they are now at the center of the regime. Are the Pasdaran chieftains aware of Iran's weaknesses or only it's ambitions to regional greatness and religious revolution ?

The following comments were sent to me by an individual with extensive military experience, currently working with the CPA in Baghdad. He deplored the actions of those he termed " the fools " running Abu Ghraib but he added some important caveats that bear repeating to keep the scandal in perspective. I have emphasized a few of his points:

"MI folks are pretty danged good about sticking to the Geneva Convention, it's a pride thing; most interrogators like to think of themselves as MASTERS of interrogation and they don't need extra abuse stuff. So although the MP folks claim that they were directed to abuse soliders, I highly doubt it...if they were directed to abuse soliders, that's not a defense [that line of argument] didn't work for the Nazis either...The US Army is horrible understaffed,there are 33% of the interrogators in the military as there were 10 years ago and there weren't enough then. The army is short in nearly every manning position so if a commander happens to have an interrogator there is not guarantee that they will be working in that capacity, they may well be a mail clerk because the unit doesn't have enough of them either.

Bottom line, these fools were understaffed, shot at on a daily basis, put under incredible pressue to find out things to keep people alive or support interrogations and obviuosly not well led. There is a vehicle for dealing with bad troops, it's called a court martial...we certainly don't need any multiple star generals briefing congress....who's treating teh Iraqis worse...the 10 people who are making ass pyramids or the 100's that are lobbing bombs and shooting at the prison? ....like for example how about the 40 "BAD PEOPLE" that were released today to help quiet things ? Yep we just released 40 KNOWN criminals
[ because]that's what you have to do to fix things...Crazy...and when some tradgedy happens you know who will get the blame? The Intellingence Community ! Despite the fact that they don't allow us any of the tools that we need to help them and when we do find stuff out action is not taken. "

I had not realized, as it was not in any of the news accounts, that Abu Ghraib had to regularly take hostile fire. That doesn't excuse the abuse but it does add a dimension that helps explain the creation of the reckless mindset that carried it out. I had assumed that Abu Ghraib was a " safe " rear echelon position because historically with field armies, some of the worst behavior takes place among those " in the rear, with the gear " ( what the Germans referred to in past wars as " etappe " - a nifty word combining a number of unsavory aspects comparable to Sherman's " Bummers " in the March to the Sea. ).

I was wrong in that assumption and realize now that there are probably a large number of American personnel who served honorably at Abu Ghraib and will now have their reputations tarnished. It's a shame.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Department of Defense categorically and officially denies the charges made by Seymour Hersh regarding Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approving the expansion of coercive measures to Abu Ghraib.
I had concluded that Rumsfeld was too much an old hand to personally sign off on something so politically explosive and potentially illegal and this gives some weight to my hypothesis. A flat denial indicates that having checked the records, the DoD is confident that the claim will withstand Congressional scrutiny if documents and testimony are subpeoned.

(Hat tip to Milt's File.)
Monday, May 17, 2004

According to The Economist, Hugo Chavez has outmanuvered his domestic opposition and is poised to legally construct at a minimum a leftist authoritarian state and possibly a personal dictatorship modeled on that of Chavez's idol, Fidel Castro.

Foreign Policy has a short post about a new Journal of Military Ethics that contains an article that examines the shifting moral obligations and legal obligations of soldiers engaged in asymmetric wars and ill-defined humanitarian missions that involve force projection.

The United States is going to be positioned to face primarily asymmetric threats for a long time to come. Many states will either sponsor such non-state actor threats indirectly or in the case Russia, China and the EU core- exert diplomatic pressure to try to force the US to accept the asymmetric conflict under the most disadvantageous international law restrictions possible. Sort of a reverse Containment enacted via lawyers, diplomats, journalists and NGO activists.

The United States needs to raise the costs of asymmetric warfare for its supporters even as it counters the strategy of the International Law expansionists.

Brad DeLong discovers how to maximize the effects of caffeine consumption. While I like a good cup of coffee in the morning I keep the caffeine buzz going during the workday by chain-drinking Diet Coke. For fun I'll occasionally pop a few of these as well.


Rob at Business Pundit links here with yet another stimulating beverage...taken with a dose of Zen philosophy !
Sunday, May 16, 2004

An Israeli government report urges regional retaliation in the event of a nuclear or biological WMD attack on Israel by an Arab state or Iran. This would be a posture similar to the " Massive Retaliation " doctrine of John Foster Dulles during the early Cold War. Money quote:

""To meet its ultimate deterrence objectives -- that is, to deter the most overwhelmingly destructive enemy first-strikes -- Israel must seek and achieve a visible second-strike capability to target approximately 15 enemy cities," the report, presented to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said. "Ranges would be to cities in Libya and Iran, and recognizable nuclear bomb yields would be at a level sufficient to fully compromise the aggressor's viability as a functioning state. All enemy targets should be selected with the view that their destruction would promptly force the enemy to cease all nuclear/biological/chemical exchanges with Israel."

Israel does not officially admit to being a nuclear power but mainstream estimates of Israel's nuclear arsenal range from a few dozen warheads ( roughly on par with China's ICBM force) to as much as 200+ nuclear bombs of varied megatonnage (on par or superior to the nuclear strength of the UK or France )

Rafsanjani calaims Iran is near a nuclear breakthrough but disavows any intent to develop a bomb ( everyone who believes the hardline Islamist leader raise your hand .) UN inspectors detect evidence that indicate otherwise.

Many of the new additions to the blogroll are bloggers who themselves have a primary interest in the Mideast. First, noted historian and HNN blogger Judith Klinghoffer of Deja Vu returns - her blog was knocked off Zenpundit by the great Blogrolling crash of '03 and in my infinite laziness I just got around to the restoration. Secondly, is Collounsbury, a Middle East and North African specialist and investor who frequently travels widely in the region, including Iraq. Third is the well-known neoconservative academic and columnist Daniel Pipes whose strongly argued views often provoke commentary.

The other new additions are a diverse lot. I'd like to welcome Andis Kaulins ofLawpundit and also the academic group blog No Left Turns (of whom John Moser had a good HNN article running last week)and the tech oriented Zentelligence. Check them out and enjoy !

I'm giving Zenpundit a bit of a facelift within the limitations of my technical ineptitude. My blogroll has been coded in but has yet to appear for some reason - there will be some new additions to it as well. I'm also toying with a putting up a photograph, certain to elicit a fair degree of ridicule I'm sure. Bear with me as I make these changes today.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

In an earlier post I hypothesized that the elaborate pantomine of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the leaking of photographs was intentional psychological warfare intended to demoralize the Islamist insurgents.

Today, a CBS report lends credence to my theory as to the non-spontaneous nature of the pictures. Moreover, the rate and number of American casualties in Iraq has dropped precipitously since the release of the photographs - although the halting of combat operations in Fallujah must account for some of this effect.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I rarely blog about educational issues. I know them well and I think public education could stand a great deal of reform. That being said, I live in the bipartisanly corrupt and cash-strapped state of Illinois where the Tollway Authority, that by law should have gone out of existence years ago, rolls in billions but any program that does not promise big contracts to the construction industry is on the chopping block. Recently the "education governor" Rod Blagojevic, a creature of Chicago's Democratic machine, decided to kill the nationally known Golden Apple Scholarship program.

The same day, a big push was announced by Mayor Daley for a casino for Chicago. One that will involve millions of public dollars going to subsidize immensely wealthy private gambling interests. Most likely, Daley will get his way or at worst the casino will be located in some Outfit connected, decaying, inner suburb like Rosemont or Cicero.

If only school children, prison guards, police and firemen rated as highly with Illinois politicians as the business associates of the Chicago mob.

I think that makes two of us.

I have not been able to find an online version yet but conservative columnist George Will has apparently written a devastating attack on Donald Rumsfeld and - in the spirit of Paul on the road to Damascus- the entire Iraq policy. The money quote:

"So, forgive the lawyer’s language. But note what it betokens: a flinching from facts. Americans must not flinch from absorbing the photographs of what some Americans did in that prison. And they should not flinch from this fact: ¶
That pornography is, almost inevitably, part of what empire looks like. It does not always look like that, and does not only look like that. But empire is always about domination. Domination for self defense, perhaps. Domination for the good of the dominated, arguably. But domination. ¶
And some persons will be corrupted by dominating. That is why the leaders of empires must be watchful. Very watchful. ¶
Donald Rumsfeld is clearly shattered by the corruption he tardily comprehended.

I don't disagree with Will's revulsion regarding Abu Ghraib, simply his opportunism. Will radiates a palpable desire to return to his 1980's role of king among conservative pundits by giving the administration a devastating shot while the nation's will to pursue the war hangs in the balance. Pat Buchanan may have become an antisemitic crank but his longstanding opposition to the war is certainly pure of any taint of careerism.

If things in Iraq were going swimmingly we would see Will not in the role of critic of Bush but as his courtier.

Hat tip to Geitner for this gem.

The column is available today online.
Saturday, May 08, 2004

Noted military analyst made famous by his original Gulf War television appearances, Anthony Cordesman, is about to become Iraq's version of Walter Cronkite after Tet. Cordesman has authored a report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies that deems the war in Iraq to be lost and warns against assassinating renegade Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

For the CSIS abstract of the report go here ( Adobe)

This will become the preferred strategy for the bipartisan foreign policy establishment - essentially an orderly retreat from both Iraq and from preemption doctrine - and the report will receive a big political push as it filters from the think tanks and seminars to the blogosphere to the mainstream media. Sadly, it is also probably something far more hawkish than we can expect from a Kerry administration


Bush administration critics have used the horrors of Abu Ghraib to demand the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. For most of them, their real beef with Rumsfeld is not human rights violations committed under the auspices of a rear echelon unit commander but the war itself. They want Rumsfeld to go primarily to discredit the war so the United States would be forced to resume the defensive, passive, pre-9/11 posture vis-a-vis Islamist terrorism and rogue state dictatorships. If Rumsfeld directly approved a policy of torture then of course he should go but the likelihood of that having been the case is quite marginal. If sporadic criminal actions by military personnel in an organization of the size of the Department of Defense - more than a million people - during wartime is to be the criterion for resignation then the office of the Secretary of Defense is going to need a revolving door.

Rumsfeld is probably going to be ranked with Henry Stimson as one of the most important and influential " secretary of war" in the last century. Stimson was one of the last to hold the old title and like Rumsfeld held the position twice, serving as an elder statesman and key advisor to a much younger Commander-in-Chief. Stimson, as Geitner Simmons points out, also had his share of military prison camp scandals. Each served during a war that marked a transformative era not just for the United States but for the structure of international relations itself. Henry Stimson successfully helped end Germany's ambitions to be a global hegemon and saw the start of the bipolar nuclear age. Rumsfeld and America stand at the crux of what could be.

If we prevail in this war against Islamist fascism the result could be a liberal, globalized world anchored in the moment of American unipolarity - values such as individualism, liberal democracy, market capitalism and tolerance could become the common property of mankind. If we fail, it is less likely that the Islamists will " win " so much as they will push the world closer to anarchy - failed states spreading chaos and violence like a virus to their neighbors, rich nations sheltering themselves behind protectionist walls and fortified borders, giving up the character of open societies in order to seek ever more restrictive measures to achieve " Homeland Security".

We do not need at " caretaker " Defense Secretary or some silver-haired senator looking to round out his political career with a cabinet post. We need a tough administrator who knows the turf battles and shell games of the brass. We need a Defense Secretary who can run a war and a revolution in military affairs with the vision to understand that the doctrine and equipment suitable to stand against the Warsaw Pact in 1984 will not provide an answer to al Qaida in 2004. Or the challenges of 2024.

We need Donald Rumsfeld.

Reportedly, a major topic of the recent meeting between israeli PM Ariel Sharon and President Bush was an upcoming IDF raid to hit suspect Iranian nuclear sites that may be capable of producing a nuclear bomb in as little as one year. Iranian foot-dragging in talks with the IAEA and other acts of diplomatic intransigence by Teheran combined with an unwillingness of IAEA iadministrators to bring the question of Iranian misdeeds to the frontburner may increase the likelihood of a second Osirak type raid by Israel.

I've held out hope for diplomatic and economic pressure succeeding in curtailing Iraninan nuclear proliferation as that country is far more plugged in to the world economy than North Korea or Iraq under UN sanctions. The wily hardline Mullahs, especially Rafsanjani, may be more interested in running out the clock than in reaching a settlement that keeps Iran out of the Nuclear Club. In such circumstances, the short and medium term fall-out would be worth the price of setting Iran's program back by a decade.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
Go here.

Nathan at The Argus has the details. If the dictator had a horse it might become a member of parliament.

Ralph Luker of the excellent HNN blog Cliopatria has written a hard-hitting post on the conspiracy of silence surrounding In Denial a book by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr detailing the intellectual collaboration with Soviet Communism of Western scholars, a legacy that continues to this day. Luker takes both sides to task in a post that has already stirred a number of comments.
( hat tip to a Geitner Simmons)
Wednesday, May 05, 2004

To be fair, Samuel Berger seems to have moved to the center-right; in fact, I think these positions are well to the right of what a President Kerry would prefer to do if elected. While heavily qualified the article does have elements of realism that will not please the legions of empty-headed, former Dean supporters who are now looking shyly at Ralph Nader.

It strikes me that there are some oddities about the war crimes at Abu Ghraib ( under the Geneva Convention, public humiliation of POWs is not allowed) which makes me wonder if the pictures were not in fact deliberately leaked for the purposes of psychological warfare.

First, the prisoners are all hooded, thus providing their captors with a legal technicality to defend against the charge of war crimes. With identities concealed no particular prisoner can claim to have been held up to being a spectacle. It's arguable of course but it is congruent with a theoretical legal defense and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's hairsplitting answer on the definition of torture -"My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture." ( hat tip Juan Cole).

Secondly, the shocking pictures, for all their political fall out, remediate a deficit American forces suffer in a narrow military sense - outside of actual combat engagements, we are not much feared because by and large we do not commit the usual litany of atrocities of an occupying army. More or less if you are a citizen of a medium sized dictatorship it is better to be invaded by the United States Marines than say the Wehrmacht, the Red Army, North Vietnamese regulars or even France or Israel. When the Soviets marched through Eastern Europe to Berlin they brought mass rape and large scale pillage in their wake. Consider Iraqi behavior in Kuwait in 1990, Serbia in Bosnia, Russians in Chechnya - you get the idea. With most occupying armies, families hide their valuables, with American troops they demand subsidies and riot. Even " tough " American occupation policies will pale compared to the extreme violence that governments in the region of the Mideast mete out on a daily basis.

The pictures released are ones specifically calculated to spread fear in a traditional Arab society, particularly among those most likely to consider taking up arms against the Americans, young Sunni Arab males influenced by Islamist values. After Abu Ghraib, while enraged initially, a new calculation enters the head of the prospective Iraqi insurgent. " What if they capture me ? " It is one thing in such a society to find a glorious death in combat and quite another to appear naked on CNN or al Jazeera, bag on head while female American soldiers jeer and point. The whole affair seems too precisely calculated in a cultural sense for it to be pure chance, normally soldiers who are out of control are far more brutal in terms of physical punishment or torture.

If this pure speculation is even partially accurate it would reveal an occupational force that is compartmentalizing under the stress of the mission and detaching from effective command and control or civilian oversight.

Nobel prize winner tells the West " Don't lend to tyrants ".
Monday, May 03, 2004

Ted Rall. Being against attacking the Taliban is a pretty good yardstick to measure the difference between reasoned critic of the invasion of Iraq and a wingnut. Throw in mockery of a veteran killed in action fighting Islamist terrorists and you have an example of a Leftist who may have secretly felt a rush of triumphant excitement when the towers collapsed on 9-11 - perhaps followed by disapppointment when one of the planes crashed in the woods instead of hitting the White House or killing a few thousand more fellow citizens.

Yes, Liberals, these people do exist, they're on your side and they are pretty damn influential in the Democratic Party ( though some of them may decamp for Nader) - they're the reason your candidate seems intellectually paralyzed on the issue of Iraq. They're the primary reason Bush can lurch from disaster to disaster and still be winning the race - voters don't want anyone with the views of a Ted Rall having the least iota of influence in the middle of a war. When a major party candidate is elected president, that party's nuts get at least a seat at the table. Ted Rall and the ubiqitous Micheal Moore are examples of the extremist baggage that Kerry has weighing him down in the public mind. Right now, they compose a scarier group than the long -familiar GOP extremists the Democrats have been demonizing since 1992. Kerry either needs to distance himself effectively from the Bush is Hitler crowd or they will drag him down and, after he loses, castigate him as a second Dukakis.
Sunday, May 02, 2004

This weekend I calmly walked into Border's with Mrs. Zenpundit with the intention of buying a new road atlas and I left with copies of Zen & the Way of the Sword and Islam and the West...only after forcing myself to put down the Richard Clarke memoir and a book on " great vehicle " Buddhism. This is ridiculous ! I'm still reading the Burleigh book and I have at least ten other books in my " read pile" gathering dust on my nightstand !

As my reading time decreases, my purchases increase. Now I know how Jefferson felt though after surveying the boxes of books piled up in my basement I think his collection was smaller.

Arthur Silber, who is probably more widely read for his anti-war views than anything else, recently wrote a thoughtful essay on the origins of the intellectual civil war that still prevails among the ranks of Objectivists, the followers of the late philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand. Silber, unlike many commentators who venture forth on Objectivism, actually knew Ayn Rand and attended the lectures run by Nathaniel Branden prior to his " excommunication" over the end of the extramarital affair he was having with Rand. It's a good piece with links that will be of interest to libertarians, objectivists and anyone curious about the ideas of Ayn Rand.
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