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On yesterday's Hardball, Democratic Chairman Howard Dean insulted Senator George Allen, saying he doesn't "think [Allen] belongs in public service." The voters of Virginia have disagreed with Howard Dean every time George Allen has run for office, but Howard Dean has made a habit of telling voters who does and does not belong on their ballots.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: When they talk about a "New Middle East," they mean a Middle East that is held captive by America, England, and the Zionist regime. When they talk about a "New Middle East," they do not mean progress, development, independence, or freedom for the countries [of the region].
They oppose independence, freedom, and progress. Look at Iraq, Palestine,Lebanon, and other places. I say to them: The peoples of the region have awakened. It so happens that our peoples are also calling for a New Middle East. The Middle East that our peoples want is a free Middle East, which is not under the control of America and England.
If you want to have good relations with the Iranian people in the future, you should acknowledge the right and the might of the Iranian people, and you should bow and surrender to the might of the Iranian people. If you do not accept this, the Iranian people will force you to bow and surrender.
We all have come to understand that the real power in Iran lies with the mullahs and that Amadinejad's relationship with them is strained, or so conventional wisdom goes.
Of course, when you're on the eve of supposedly signalling you're ready for "serious negotiations", words such is this are hardly useful in setting the tone for those negotiations.
More importantly, his words seem to reinforce something I've been mulling as a result of reading Thomas P.M. Barnett's book "The Pentagon's New Map". Barnett, who btw, is an excellent writer able to put his ideas and concepts together clearly and well, is of the opinion that all of this is really about globalization. And he supports his case well. In fact, he points out that this is actually the worlds third attempt at globalization, or more accurately stated, globalization started in 1870 and continues. The first wave of globalization ran from 1870 to 1914. The second wave from 1945 to 1980 and the third began in 1980 and is continuing.
The breaks came as the rule sets changed and the world attempted to adjust and synchonize their internal rule sets with the external rule sets brought on by globalization. In some cases this meant war. It's obviously much more complex than the short blurb I'm giving it here, but essentially the message is we're seeing resistance from those that are "disconnected" from this third wave of globalization.
The disconnectedness may be a result of many things, but in the case of some it is purposeful. As Barnett points out, "Globalization is a condition defined by mutually assured dependence". It is a process of reshaping an economy and a society to bring it into the mainstream rule sets by which those who already function within the mainstream of globalization comply. And in fact, the changes are so profound and so far reaching they threaten certain types of societies. Again, Barnett:
"That is why globaliztion's progressive advance will trigger more nationalism around the world, not less. This may seem counterintuitive, but as nations join the Core [nations functioning within the scope of globalization], expect their societies (especially their youth) to demand preservation of cultural identity. This is only natural and right but we need to understand such nationalism for what it truly represents: not anti-Americanism per se, but fear of losing identity. Globalization empowers the individual at the expense of the collective, and that very American transformation of culture is quite scary for traditional societies."
What globalization brings with its connectivity is a "content flow" which many societies see as a threat to their existence and well being. It brings ideas, products, services, mass media and other things which the society may see as direct threat to its cultural foundations.
And it is this I think we're seeing in a lot of cases. For instance, Dale points to the case in Germany, where Germans are shocked they're a target. As Barnett points out youth are particularly suseptible to appeals to cultural identity and it is becoming an old story about how good, supposedly acculturated Muslim youth suddenly become "devout" and radicalized.
Another point to be made about Barnett's explanation rests with the result of golbalization - empowerment of the individual and freedom to act. That is a direct threat to authoritarian regimes and cultures. They obviously prefer "upstream controls" over content flow which means, of course, censorship and denial of access. These are not governments, societies or cultures which are necessarily enamored with empowering individuals, so they resist it and they resist it fiercely. Globalization means connecting. And connecting means content flow. And content flow means change, usually away from the traditional.
There obviously is much more to this than the tiny bit I've thrown out here, but I'm on the road and I've got to get going. I want to get much more deeply into this topic and Barnett's theory at a later date. But consider this food for thought.
"While your culture will be added to globalizations ever-evolving mosaic, your society will - in return - be challenged to adapt to an amazing array of content flows (e.g., ideas about the role of women, free speech, "proper" education, etc.) that come with globalization's connectivity. ... Most important, while your influence regarding global rule sets will be small, globaliztion's influence regarding your internal rule sets will be enormous. In fact, your importation and adoption of these global rule sets will be the main price you pay for leaving your disconnectedness behind."
Doesn't the resistance to that description of the price of globalization and connectedness pretty much mirror the words we hear from mullahs, imams, terrorists and, in the above case, the president of Iran?
The Dixie Chicks are in the midst of their "Accidents and Accusations Tour," which supports their platinum-certified album "Taking the Long Way," their first release since Maines' controversial statement.
On previous tours, the Dixie Chicks consistently sold out venues throughout North America. That changed on the band's current tour, when planned shows in several Southern and Midwestern cities were canceled due to soft ticket sales. The group reshuffled its schedule to focus on areas where sales were still strong, including Canada and the Northeastern US.
The Dixie Chicks can espouse any political views they want. But, country music fans seem to follow a certain political view. Showing contempt for that view probably isn't the best way to keep a music career going strong. For some reason, audiences tend to choose not to give their money to performers who hold the audience in contempt.
It's different in rock music. I mean, I still buy stuff by Anti-Flag, Pearl Jam, and the Decemberists. I know what their political views are—damned commies—but I don't particularly care. Rock isn't, and never has been, a hotbed of libertarian or conservative sentiment, so if I chose music based on the politics of the artist, I'd hardly be able to buy any music at all.
Natalie Maines is free to spout off on politics all she wants. But it's foolish to do so in the expectation that it won't alienate a good portion of the country music audience, or that they won't take exception to it, and penalize her by withholding commerce.
But, maybe she doesn't care about that. If not, well, then carry on Ms. Maines.
Germans are shocked, apparently, to be the intended targets of an Islamist bombing plot.
A Lebanese student suspected of planting a train bomb that failed to explode had contacts in Hamburg, authorities said Tuesday, the latest link to the northern port city where three of the Sept. 11 suicide pilots prepared for their attacks.
The planned attack here stunned Germans who thought the country's vehement opposition to the Iraq war would insulate it from becoming a terror target almost five years after the attacks on Washington and New York.
Yes. It's utterly incomprehensible. What possible reason could Islamists have for bombing Germany?
Germany is also seen as being on the side of the U.S. and Britain, despite its opposition to the Iraq war, for helping train Iraqi police and military outside the country, taking a large role in operations in Afghanistan, and making other contributions to the so-called "war on terror," he said.
Ah. Mystery solved. It's Germany's aggressive, anti-Islamic policies that are to blame. I just knew it had to be Germany's fault, somehow.
I have no doubt this isn't what Sen. Larry Craig expected when he decided on a series of 8 townhall meetings in Idaho on the issue of immigration:
A town hall meeting with Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, dissolved into angry shouts and walkouts when Craig began discussing the controversial issue of immigration.
"I am sick of listening to these lies," one woman said, interrupting Craig as she left the Tuesday meeting, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported.
Stan Hess, candidate for the North Idaho College Board of Trustees, screamed at Craig as others booed. Before leaving, Hess yelled at a woman, his face inches from hers, as several people tried to separate them.
So much for civilized debate.
He's promoting a plan that would allow some of the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to apply for citizenship if they meet certain requirements, including having been in the country at least two years and having paid taxes.
"The reality is that there are 2.5 million jobs here that Americans won't do," Craig told the 60 people at the Coeur d'Alene meeting. "For 20 years, immigration laws have failed. We know there's a problem and we're working on it. The first step is securing the border and we're doing that."
Seems there's little sympathy in Idaho for the position which worries about citizenship for illegals.
Now I'm sure that the issue will be played out in a less dramatic fashion in other places, but to me this underscores the passion this subject generates and will continue to generate through '08.
Again, the issue that wins that election is immigration. Not Iraq. Not the war on terror. Not health care. Not the price of gasoline or the corruption of Congress.
So now what? If that is the crux of the issue, and the Iranians have removed it as a negotiable item, what is there to get serious about?
Reading the Atlanta Journal Constitution this morning I ran across this:
"Iran's response indicates the balance has tipped in favor of more moderate voices in Iranian politics seeking a modus vivendi with U.S. power" in the region, said Kaveh Afrasiabi, an Iranian policy analyst who authored several books on the country's nuclear program.
Really? I'm really gratified to hear that, but color me unconvinced.
Let's see, in the previous few days Iran has refused to let inspectors inspect and now is refusing to consider a halt in uranium enrichment and we're supposed to believe that "moderate voices" have not come to the fore in Iran?
However given Iran's expected intransigence (it would be hard for me to believe that any diplomat involved in this process believed this would turn out any other way) how will the world react?
Enter the Lebanon crisis (and a lesson in interconnectiveness). In the NYT, discussing the possiblity now of voting for and passing a resolution on the UN's Security Council, the problem emerges as a possible show stopper:
That will not be easy, in part because the entire United Nations Security Council is supposed to vote on the sanctions package. While only the permanent members can veto, the rising fear, particularly among European diplomats, is that smaller countries on the Council are so angry over how the United States, and now France, have handled the Lebanon crisis that they will give Russia and China political cover to balk against imposing tough sanctions.
China and Russia have only been fairweather friends in this process to begin with and I don't think it would take much for them to find a way out of backing sanctions. If an excuse is necessary to back out, Lebanon will probably do as well as any.
Apparently agreeable to weak sanctions which would be hard to enforce, neither country is apparently amenable to sanctions which might actually cause Iran to comply. The reason? Follow the money:
What is more, China and Russia both have energy companies invested in Iran, and they, along with European countries, would likely think hard before agreeing to prohibit the purchase of Iranian oil or to limit investment in Iran's petroleum industry.
Prohibiting the purchase of Iranian oil is about the only hammer the rest of the world has on that country. When you're a country invested in Iran and have a veto on the UN Security Council, chances are you're not likely to vote to hurt yourself.
And, of course, any disruption in the flow of oil (as we've seen with a simple pipeline shut down in Alaska) sees the price of oil skyrocket. Imagine an embargo of Iranian oil and the effect that would have. It might hurt the West worse than Iran.
So I again ask, now what? Do we have any choice, in reality, but to play the game, pretend to take them at their word and enter "serious negotiations" with them in hope of somehow pulling off a diplomatic coup and actually making progress toward shutting down their enrichment program (at best, highly unlikely)? Or do we try to use the blunt stick of sanctions, something which will probably hurt us as much as them (and something which some of the world views with little favor)?
I don't see a particular position of strength available to the West or the UN which gives them the upper hand here. Frankly it appears Iran has everyone over an oil barrel.
And, of course, the final, unspoken option appears not to really be an option at all, and I'm sure Iran knows that:
While there is no talk among the world powers right now about hitting Iran militarily, European diplomats in particular said they worried about a downward spiral if the sanctions did not work. "They've been dragged into three wars over there by the U.S.," Mr. Parsi said, referring to Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. "They don't want a fourth."
"This potential conflict of interest merits serious investigation," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "If Judge Diggs Taylor failed to disclose this link to a plaintiff in a case before her court, it would certainly call into question her judgment."
An interesting Investors Business Daily editorial on the upcoming midterms provokes some thoughts on the politics of all of this:
The American people may not be happy with events in Iraq. But they do know, especially after events in Lebanon and the foiled British bomb plot, that we're in a war in which failure is not an option and for which repeating "Bush lied" is not a strategy.
Americans will not put in power a party that accepts the proposition that global warming is a greater threat than terrorism, that thinks Wal-Mart is a plague on the poor and that wants to repeal the job-creating, economy-boosting and deficit-cutting Bush tax cuts.
They will not put in power a party that thinks death is a taxable event and that success should be punished. They will not pass the reins to a party that denies us access to energy reserves offshore and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and which thinks energy independence means building windmills and hugging caribou.
This is a party that thinks Dunkirk was a British redeployment and that doesn't understand why Bush doesn't just sit down and make nice with nuclear madmen like Korea's Kim Jong-il and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
The Democrats think this year will be their 1994. As voters read the morning papers on their way to vote in November, and decide who should navigate these unsettled waters, the Democrats may well wake up the next day to find the Republicans still in power and Lieberman getting a congratulatory phone call from President Bush.
I think there is some unsettling truth in all of that for Democrats. Whether voters would ever put it all together as IBD has here remains to be seen, but it is a compelling compilation of reasons not to vote for the Dems and one can't help but feel they constitute a perhaps an unstated (until now) theme which has seen voters hesitate to give them the majority. And, according to a recent USA Today poll, the British bomb plot gave the Reps a bit of a boost.
Otoh, Iraq is being spun as a catastrophe, the administration is being characterized as one which breaks the law and the Republican Congress as perpetuating a "culture of corruption". Add to that a disaffected base and you could see a changing of the guard in the wind.
But that brings us back to the points of the IBD editorial. I'd guess most people feel that if the Dems do take power they will attempt to raise taxes, that any chance at energy independence will probably decrease, and that the rhetoric about pulling out of Iraq will increase. The question is, do they feel those are worth giving the Dems power?
And my guess, especially about the latter issue, is that while the public as a whole may now think our incursion into Iraq was ill founded, they're for finishing the job before leaving. In actuality, that majority I'm talking about may be two different ones, but I think it exists. The fact that a majority thinks Iraq was a mistake does not mean that same majority thinks we should immediately leave or would support such a thing.
So I have to wonder, give this is a mid-term election, if perhaps the mood for major change may not manifest itself this time around. One of the things history does teach us is that the public usually doesn't like big change in leadership during a war. Perhaps, instead, the public will defer until '08 any major change given the sure turmoil such a change will bring (and a desire not to have to suffer through it at this time).
But then again, this is all conjecture and thinking out loud. It is too early to tell. And it is probably a mistake to try to ascribe thoughts and characteristics to the "whole" of voters. Most will pay attention to all of this in late October. Most will pick a couple of key issues and themes to base their vote upon. Most will focus on their local congressional race and local issues their congressman or woman has or hasn't delivered upon. And in the end we may or may not see a significant change in Congress.
On the whole, however, I think IBD captures some of the issues and themes with which Republicans will try to keep the public ill at ease with Democrats. Whether they'll be successful is anyone's guess, but I do believe they are and have been a part of the national conversation for some time.
It is these themes that Cokie Roberts describes as "pushing the party to the position from which it traditionally loses." As we enter the full-bore election season it will be interesting to see if the Republicans can successfully use them to their advantage or whether Democrats will be successful in overcoming them or at least minimizing their impact.
Clay Risen, writing in The New Republic, points out that a good portion of the blame for the collapse of the Doha Round of trade talks can be placed at the feet of the Bush Administration. President Bush always talked a good game on Free trade,
But the administration never seemed to believe its own rhetoric. Despite its success in winning fast-track powers (in which Congress must vote up or down on trade agreements) and signing a series of regional and bilateral trade agreements, the administration never pushed for the sort of sacrifices at home necessary to bring countries on the free-trade fringe into the fold. The steel tariffs and pork-heavy farm bill of 2002 were only the beginning. Seemingly every year, Bush proposes massive cuts in agriculture subsidies in his budget only to retreat quickly from the ire of lobbyists and farm-state congressmen. These things may not get play in the domestic media—Bush selling out to lobbying interests is a dog-bites-man story—but, internationally, they were taken as a startling retreat from his earlier promises.
I have been decrying the Bush Administration's subversion of Free Trade principles since 2002. Outcomes like this are one of the reasons. You can't exercise leadership in Free Trade, while imposing protectionism on Shrimp or Canadian Softwoods. For the US, policy must match rhetoric, if we expect other nations to go along with us.
We simply can't claim to be the leading free trade nation, while imposing protectionism. And other nations take careful note of the chasm between our trade rhetoric, and its reality.
It is hard to think of a time when a nation — and a whole civilization — has drifted more futilely toward a bigger catastrophe than that looming over the United States and western civilization today.
Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran and North Korea mean that it is only a matter of time before there are nuclear weapons in the hands of international terrorist organizations. North Korea needs money and Iran has brazenly stated its aim as the destruction of Israel — and both its actions and its rhetoric suggest aims that extend even beyond a second Holocaust.
Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.
This is not just another in the long history of military threats. The Soviet Union, despite its massive nuclear arsenal, could be deterred by our own nuclear arsenal. But suicide bombers cannot be deterred.
Fanatics filled with hate cannot be either deterred or bought off, whether Hezbollah, Hamas or the government of Iran.
It's not pleasant to think about the implications if what Dr. Sowell says is true. Be we need to be thinking about them nonetheless.
This isn't rocket science. If the Islamists cannot be bought off, or appeased, then what policy option remains?
That's not pleasant to think about, either, is it?
Anew article to be published next month's issue of Geophysical Research Letters indicates weakness in the models of ocean warming. According to the article, taken from Argo measurements, show that ocean temperatures have cooled significantly over the past two years.
This is a very important observational study of changes in climate system heat content. While the models predict a general montonic increase in ocean heat content (e.g. see (Figure 1) ), the new observations in Lyman et al 2006 show an important decrease. The explanation of this temporal change in the radiative imbalance of the Earth's climate system is a challenge to the climate science community. It does indicate that we know less about natural- and human-climate forcings and feedbacks than concluded in the IPCC Reports.
A lot of people continue to claim a greater level of knowledge about global warming than can be reliably supported. It's not enough to know that global warming is happening. Before we begin to entertain policy suggestions to combat it, we need to know whether there is anything we can do to combat it. If we don't even know why it's happening to a high degree of certainty, and our observational data continues to confound the predictive models, then we can't say we know what to do to combat.
Arnold Kling writes that he perceives that there is widening gulf between the opinions of political elites, and popular opinion among Westerners in general.
I suspect that the popular frustration is widespread. My guess is that popular sentiment is turning against elite opinions like these:
* The world's Muslims share our desire for peace and democracy. * Equal-opportunity passenger screening at airports is a better policy than profiling. * The United Nations is the world's conscience and policeman. * The "international community" will deal with Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. * It is possible for the United States to bring about a constructive transformation of Middle East politics, either through diplomatic or military initiatives.
He believes that popular opinion is turning towards two main theses.
My sense is that popular opinion is likely to gravitate toward one of two positions.
1. The Middle East is a hopeless cauldron of hatred. We should focus on homeland security, stay out of the Middle East, and have as little interaction with the Muslim world as possible; or 2. A major war is inevitable, so that we need to get ready for it. Nothing else will stop Iranian aggression, and nothing else will stifle the funding, sponsoring, and glorification of terrorists.
In 2008, I believe that either a Republican running on (1) as a platform or a Democrat running on (2) as a platform could win broad bipartisan support. However, my guess is that the Democrats are likely to come closer to representing (1) in 2008, and as of now my sense is that (1) is more popular than (2).
This seems pretty reasonable. A lot of the conventional pieties that comes from political elites are failing the common sense test. Where the divergence comes in is how to respond to the Islamist threat. I suspect that most people would like to at least try a more isolationist policy, to see if the hatred of the Islamists can be diverted into concerns closer to home.
If that works, then, great. I'm not sure that it will, over the long run. It'd be nice if the Islamists had a live and let live attitude, but that doesn't seem like the main characteristic they display.
But, the thing is, if the Islamists don't leave us alone after we pursue policy 1, public opinion would probably shift to policy 2 pretty quickly.
Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun does a little well deserved chest thumping concerning a recent engagement between Canadian combat troops in Afganistan and the Taliban.
Canada 70, Taliban 0.
From accounts of the battle, the incoming RCR commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Omer Lavoie, worked out a plan with the outgoing CO of the Pats, Lt.-Col. Ian Hope, on what the enemy was likely to do in what turned out to be a nine-hour battle.
The Taliban did exactly as anticipated, and air and ground support was devastating. More significant is that the RCR suffered no casualties - another indication of professionalism that has always been a characteristic of the Canadian military - for those who want to see it.
Some suggest the Taliban in that region have suffered 10% casualties of their active fighters. If so, that would be the dictionary definition of "decimated" - one in 10. A substantial loss.
That's called knowing your enemy, anticipating his actions/reaction to your moves, getting inside his decision cycle and then, well, "decimating" him.
Classic military planning and obviously well executed. That's a drubbing if ever there was one in this particular war.
Allied troops - Yanks and Brits - somewhat to their surprise, have found the Canadians worthy allies and steady under fire.
No surprise to any Yanks, such as myself, who've ever worked with Canadian troops. They're as professional and competent as they come. Small though the Canadian military may be, they're as good on the ground as you'd want. Their problem hasn't been that. Their problem has been what they've been asked to do over the previous decades.
That's right, "peacekeeping". As Worthington aptly describes the job and its effect on the Canadian military:
This may surprise people who had drifted into something resembling melancholy after decades of increasing peacekeeping, where firing a weapon was practially cause for an inquiry, and rules of engagement were such that it took courage to even contemplate shooting back.
Instead, Canada's military is back doing the job it was designed to do:
An effective military wins respect - a far more valuable quality than being loved. And our troops, sadly equipped as they have been over the decades, are proving extremely professional, versatile and resourceful (they have to be to keep equipment that is older than they are running).
Yes an effective military wins respect. But only when it does those things militaries do. When they're a square peg being pushed into a round hole, it doesn't work as well. And the square peg of the Canadian military has been stuck in the round hole of peacekeeping for too long.
Which brings me to a subject for a different post, but worth touching on here. This whole "peacekeeping" thing needs to be rethought. While military units may be the easiest sort of organization to quickly call up and deploy in such situations, are they the best?
Thomas P M Barnett in his book "The Pentagon's New Map" argues that if we are going to embark on a strategic quest to introduce the benefits of globalization to the disconnected portions of our globe (and that may include preemptive war in some cases) we need another portion of our military he calls "systems administrators" (what was sadly lacking in Iraq) - an entity to deal with what is left after the war. Now it is a very good book and my overview very reductionist and simplistic as it goes, but his point is that those who fight the war are not the best organization to administer that which comes afterward. Again, I think Iraq makes the point pretty well.
All of that to bring up the question, doesn't it make sense that perhaps a third type organization is also needed which concentrates on the function of "peacekeeping?"
I've certainly not been that impressed with the efforts at peacekeeping to date in may areas of the globe where military units are introduced and then told "observe, but don't shoot". Perhaps peacekeeping as a role itself needs a through review since I've never considered observation and reporting to be synonymous with peacekeeping.
To me the term implies a law enforcement function, not a military function. I'm not suggesting there is no function for military units, but I am suggesting their role should be a minor one, not the major one. The gun to back up the law, if you will.
Anyway, I'm in this deeper than I want to be at the moment and will hopefully find time to expand on it in a post of its own. But I wanted to end this by saying "Way to go, Canada" to the Soldiers of the Royal Canadian Regiment who proved quite handily to the Taliban that they're not a unit with which to be trifled.
To combat the insurgency, and sectarian and criminal violence in Baghdad, the Iraqi government and Coalition announced Operation Together Forward. USA Today provides a simplified breakdown of the operation. "The offensive is planned in stages and is designed to avoid an all-out attack. In the first phase, launched July 9, Iraqi security forces positioned checkpoints throughout the city. In the second phase, launched last week, Iraqi forces supported by U.S. troops began isolating and clearing parts of the city block by block. Iraqi security forces will remain to provide security once areas are cleared. When areas are stable, the government will bring economic assistance into blighted neighborhoods." This strategy is essentially what the Marines call the "3 Block War."
While many pundits have dismissed the operation as a failure as it did not secure the city within weeks of launch, the Coalition appears to have a longer time line to secure Baghdad measured in months, not weeks. As USA Today reports, the second phase of the operation began in the second week of August.
His point? Ignore the instant win crowd and watch what happens over the next few months. That said Roggio also points out something I mentioned the other day.
Prime Minister Maliki's reconciliation program, which has attracted interest from many Sunni insurgent groups, including two large factions, is also in jeopardy. The longer the sectarian violence goes uncontrolled, the greater the chance for the Sunni insurgent groups to give up on the program.
Or said another way, while there's time to do this, there isn't unlimited time.
The model for this appears to be Tal Afar where we essentially shut the city of 170,000 down, controlled everything going in or out and then, while so doing, rebuilt the place. The same is being done in Ramadi, a Sunni stronghold of 400,000. As you can imagine, that takes even longer and is still underway. Both Tal Afar and Ramadi are, ethnically, pretty homogeneous.
Now apply that to Baghdad, a city of 6 million and multi-ethnic. A far taller order and one which is indeed going to take time. Per Roggio, the plan is to do it within four of the most violent neighborhoods in Baghdad (and there's an inset map at Counterterrorist Blog which locates them):
Operation Together Forward is focusing on four of the most violent neighborhoods of Baghdad: Doura, Mansour, Shula and Azamiyah. These are neighborhoods where the sectarian violence has been at its worst. Coalition forces have begun operations in Doura and Ameriya. In both cases, the neighborhoods were cordoned off, and each building was searched. "Kilometer after kilometer of barriers emplaced, building what some may call the semblance of a gated community, affording them greater security with ingress and egress routes established and manned by Iraqi security forces with coalition forces in support," as the Multinational Forces - Iraq press release describes the operation in Doura.
A great description of how the operation is being run can be found here, and it is actually an article which demostrates some of the potential (and hope) this sort of operation offers. Naturally it was carried on page A17 of Friday's Washington Post.
Both that article and Roggio point to the obvious though:
The strategy isolating neighborhoods from the insurgents and militias and restoring services has worked elsewhere in Iraq, and the question is can it succeed in a large city such as Baghdad. The insurgents, militias and criminals have the advantage of melting away during the major security operations, and infiltrating back in after the clearing operation ends as the entire city cannot be secured at once. This will be a challenge for the security forces left behind to police the neighborhoods, and it is vital the security force is vetted and supervised by Coalition teams and the Iraqi Army.
And that brings us to the elephant in the room and the ultimate confrontation which must take place if this operation is to succeed and the government's ultimate authority established:
Securing Baghdad has its own unique problems other than the size and scale of the operation, as well as the number of forces needed. Baghdad is a multi-ethnic city, with large Shia and Sunni populations. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, is playing a large role in the sectarian violence, as is its sponsor Iran. Sadr's militia has been repeatedly been the target of Iraqi and Coalition operations. And the Shiite dominated police force is not trusted by the Iraqi public. They have been accused of corruption and complicity in the sectarian violence. In some cases, the police stand by as Sadr's militias rampage, and in other instances have actively participated in the murders. The Iraqi police must be reigned in if Baghdad is to be secured.
I talked about this in an earlier post, and, of course, to most who've followed the progress in Iraq, this is certainly no secret. Sadr and his militia must go.
But something to note in the WaPo article which is critical to making that happen - and it can only be characterized as a real effort on the Iraqi government to win hearts and minds - is the hope expressed by the inhabitants of that neighborhood. They see how it can be. They are getting a snapshot of what peace can look like. They are being treated with respect by the government troops.
"Their image has changed," said Ayad, who holds a business degree but is unemployed. "Now, you feel like they are there to protect you. They are not acting or faking. The Americans have them on a tight leash."
While his latter point may be true, it is a result of the training which is taking place. And success breeds success. If they see these tactics work, they Iraqi army is more likely to use them. So this is as much a demonstration to the members of the army as it is to the inhabitants of these neighborhoods.
And it has demonstrated another very important point to the neighborhoods:
The impact on the violence was immediate. Residents said they didn't hear a single gunshot or mortar explosion, and by Wednesday they were experiencing a rare calm.
It demonstrated who is responsible for the violence with which they've had to live. While the insurgents and death squads may indeed be waiting for the soldiers to leave the neighborhoods to resume their activities, they will no longer be able to claim the violence is a result of the government or army. In this sort of war, that is an important point to make.
Will it work?
Hamid Ayad stepped outside his home and said he liked what he saw — a butcher bringing fuel to his shop, people strolling out of their homes. "Life has started to come back to normal," he said. "All I want now is security."
Will the peace last?
"The police in Britain cannot give you a 100 percent guarantee, or in Egypt or in America," said Kahlaiaf. "But Amiriyah will be secured if people cooperate."
Precisely correct and a critical realization. Now they've seen peace is possible, they've seen who made it possible, and they've seen, even briefly, what normal life can be like. Will they cooperate with the government to obtain the security Ayad says they want?
The level of violence in Baghdad has fallen sharply since July thanks to troop reinforcements and the new government's efforts to reconcile warring Shi'ites and Sunnis, Iraq's national security adviser said on Tuesday.
Rubaie declined to give a date for the pullout of American troops from Iraq, saying it would depend on the security situation, but he said it was reasonable to expect that a majority could be gone by 2008.
"The surge was only until mid-July," he said. "The number of attacks is down from mid-July by 45 percent and extra-judicial murders ... are down 35 percent since mid-July. We're there, we're definitely on the mend."
Per the article, the Iraqis are running about 60% of the operations. They're also using a different approach this time:
But Rubaie said the government's strategy of reaching out to those who have taken up arms was working.
"We tried the stick for three years. We need a big carrot and a smaller stick," he said, adding that even "die-hard elements" were now approaching the government with conditions for peace.
He said Iraq had made big strides towards establishing effective security forces of its own, and was aiming to build its army from 138,000 now to 150,000-160,000 by the end of this year.
It's still alive, here in California, although it's not at all well. Today—finally—I got to bring home my new Samozaryadnyi Karabin Simonova M59/66, after a long, ten-day wait.
Right side of the rifle. Each of the floor tiles is 12".
Left side of the rifle
I was surprised to see that this SKS has had night sights installed. Sometime around 1980, apparently, the Yugoslav government investigated the use of flip-up tritium sights for low-light shooting. The night sights in both the front and rear flip up to cover the front and rear day sights.
The rear sight is adjustable for elevation. Each number represents 100 meters, so the elevation is theoretically adjustable to 1000 meters. This is wildly optimistic, to say the least. You'd be doing good to hit a target accurately at 300m with the 7.62x39 round. Immediately behind the rear sight, you can see the front of the bolt carrier, with its stripper clip guides for reloading, and the charging handle.
This is the sight for the integral grenade launcher, which, on my rifle, has been replaced by a muzzle brake, in order to make it legal in California, where grenade launchers are banned. The Yugoslav version of the SKS is the only model with this feature. Immediately behind the sight, you can see a little button on top of the gas tube. This is the top of the gas operation selector lever, which allows the user to block the gas operation when firing grenades. If you forget to set this little lever to the proper position, the SKS turns into a bolt-action rifle.
The is the SKS with the integral bayonet flipped out to the extended position. It's a cool looking bayonet, but it's very dull. You couldn't stop a hamster with it.
I was surprised at the condition of the rifle. A lot of times, surplus rifles are covered in cosmoline. but, the importer apparently cleaned it out when they modified it to make it California legal. It had been excessively oiled, so a lot of dust had been picked up on the outside, and fused with the oil to turn into grime, but the interior parts were all very clean, the barrel rifling is sharp, and the inside of the barrel unpitted, and glassy smooth. The stock had a lot of discoloration from handling over the years, to the extent that parts of it were a chocolate brown, and a there are a couple of dings on the hand guard. For the most part, though, the rifle was in excellent shape, clean, and well-maintained.
I stripped it apart, and soaked all the parts in lacquer thinner, and used the lacquer thinner to clean off the stock as well. The thinner really brightened up the stock with a minimum of buffing, and got all the greasy schmutz off the exterior parts. After that, I ran a bore brush and some patches through her, re-oiled everything, and put her back together.
For just two hours of cleaning, she looks very nice. The stock could use a bit more work, i.e., some sanding and oiling, but the mechanical bits are in excellent shape. I may just replace the stock with a lighter, composite stock, though. I haven't decided. The wood is heavier, but it has more character, and really good feel. On the other hand, a composite stock would have a comfy recoil pad. I haven't decided.
I am very happy with the rifle overall, and I can't wait to take her out to the range later this week, and put a few hundred rounds through her to see how she does.
Democrats have used every opportunity to criticize the Republicans "culture of corruption", and virtually everybody is aware of the unethical actions of Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and others. Many people are also aware of the Democratic Parties own ethical problems, which include Congressional Democrats like William Jefferson, Alan Mollohan, Cynthia McKinney and Patrick Kennedy. Naturally, being out of power, the Democrats currently have fewer ethical problems, but there's no ideological or biological reason that any one Party would be more or less susceptible to corruption. . .so that will change shortly after they regain control of Congress. there's no ideological or biological reason that any one Party would be more or less susceptible to corruption In the meantime, as the 'culture of corruption' theme is flogged, it's worth listening to the words of Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean:
[I]t is galling to be lectured to about moral values by folks who have their own problems. [...] Everybody has ethical shortcomings. We ought not to lecture each other about our ethical shortcomings.
Howard Dean and the Democrats should be reminded of that statement when they flog the 'culture of corruption' theme. If they don't have concrete plans to make major changes to the Institutions, then they have no intention of ending the 'culture of corruption' — they just want a piece of the action. "the truth is, as an American, it's better when parties share power." And should the Democrats regain the House in November — a real possibility — Republicans would do well to remind voters that Howard Dean also said that, "the truth is, as an American, it's better when parties share power." A Democratic majority equivalent to the current Republican majority will be every bit as bad or worse.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to recommend Monday that the rules of engagement of the enhanced UNIFIL force to be deployed in Lebanon include opening fire on Hizbullah where necessary, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Sounds impressive until you read a few paragraphs further into the story:
The question of the rules of engagement was addressed last Thursday in New York at a meeting of those countries considering sending troops to the force, with some of those countries opposed to being able to open fire, concerned that Hizbullah would then shoot back.
Sounds like the last UNIFL except bigger. Apparently however, the force will be given authorization under their Rules of Engagement (ROE) to open fire on Hezbollah. But as the article says "whether they would indeed do so and subject themselves to a firefight with Hizbullah is questionable."
I can't say I'd really, honestly blame them if they refused. Stuck between Israel and Hezbollah trying to enforce what Lebanon's army should take the lead on enforcing, I'm sure I'd have second thoughts about engaging Hezbollah as well. My guess is the unofficial ROE will be "fire if fired upon".
Israel is now trying to convince Italy to take the lead within the force now that France has backed away:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in a telephone conversation in the afternoon with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi on Sunday, said that Israel would like to see Italy lead the force, a change from the widespread expectation that France would be heading it up.
According to a statement issued from Olmert's office, the prime minister told Prodi that Israel viewed Italy's sending troops as "vital" to the implementation of the resolution and that this would be an important contribution to "peace and security in the Middle East."
Olmert told Prodi that it was not only important that Italy lead this force, but also that Rome send troops to monitor the Lebanese-Syrian border to stop the rearmament of Hizbullah.
The last paragraph seems as important as any. If Hezbollah is supposed to disarm (or be disarmed) then it shouldn't be receiving supplies which would help it rearm. Whether the UN will see this as a part of the mandate of the resolution remains to be seen however. In reality it should be the Lebanese military ensuring any attempt at arms resupply is stopped. Somehow I don't see that happening in reality.
Israel, in the meantime, has talked with Turkey and has declared that Turkish troops would be acceptable to Israel on the UNIFL force. However Israel has also said it would not find acceptable the troops of any Muslim country which had no established diplomatic relations with Israel. That would include three countries which have shown a lot of interest in participating: Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Turkey, btw, has not decided yet whether it will participate.
Israel, a little late to the "we won" spin game, is now trying to respin the month long battle with Hezbollah and the result:
"If a multinational force deploys in southern Lebanon, and we find ourselves facing a demilitarized zone, then from our point of view the goals were achieved," Peretz said of the outcome of the war.
Frankly he has a point. If the force is actually deployed along with the 15,000 from Lebanon and the area south of the Litani River becomes a defacto "demilitarized zone" (even if it just means Hezbollah's weapons are hidden and not used), then I'd have to agree that in real terms, Israel wins.
Some of the other spin isn't quite as convincing:
Olmert said that Israel had not been surprised by Hizbullah's capabilities during the war, and knew that it had amassed thousand of missiles over the years.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, there appears to be an almost Alice in Wonderland quality:
The Lebanese defense minister insisted that Hezbollah would hold its fire.
"We consider that when the resistance (Hezbollah) is committed not to fire rockets, then any rocket that is fired from the Lebanese territory would be considered collaboration with Israel to provide a pretext (for Israel) to strike," Murr said.
He added that "the Lebanese army will decisively deal with" any attack on Israel and that anyone arrested for violating the truce "will be considered by the military tribunal as an agent of the Israeli enemy."
I can imagine that potential Hezbollah rocketeers never imagined in their wildest and most virgin filled dreams of being accused of being an Israeli agent if they fired their munitions into Israel.
I'm sure privately Israel is saying "whatever" to this round about way of blaming them for something Hezbollah would do as long as the "decisively deal with" part of the equation is actually enforced. Actions speak louder than words, and decisive action is the best. It is obviously in the interest of Israel to have Lebanon effectively policing southern Lebanon, whether the UN is ever able (or willing) to do so or not.
Lebanese PM Faud Saniora got into the act as well:
Saniora, the prime minister, made his first visit Sunday to Hezbollah's south Beirut stronghold, where air strikes wrecked whole neighborhoods.
"What we see today is an image of the crimes Israel has committed ... there is no other description other than a criminal act that shows Israel's hatred to destroy Lebanon and its unity," Saniora told reporters and television crews invited on the tour.
"I hope the international media transmits this picture to every person in the world so that it shows this criminal act, this crime against humanity," the Western-backed prime minister said.
Yeah, be sure to watch for those pictures, especially if they're like any of those which have been coming out of there lately.
All in all the UN is performing at its usual level, Israel seems to be the one which most benefits by the 30 battle and Lebanon has the chance to redeem itself and take charge of its country.
Hezbollah? Well there's a wild card in every deck and there is no way of telling which way that joker will go.
"We need to know what are the material and legal means at our disposal," the French defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, said Friday. "You can't send in men and tell them: Observe what is going on, but you don't have the right to defend yourself or shoot.''
I have to ask, when would you send anyone in as a 'peace keeper' and tell them "observe ... but you don't have the right to defend yourself or shoot?" I mean unless you were operating under the auspices of the UN.
Much of this hesitation, per the article, stems from other peacekeeping stints with the UN:
Haunted by their experiences in Bosnia in the 1990's, when their forces were unable to stop widespread ethnic killing, European governments are insisting upon clarifying the chain of command and rules of engagement before plunging into the even greater complexities of the Middle East.
How can anyone in the world be considered a 'peacekeeper' if they can't do what is necessary to keep the peace? Since when did "observer" become synonymous with "peacekeeper?"
So I really can't blame these countries when they hesitate:
"In the past, when peacekeeping missions were not properly defined, we've seen major failures,'' a spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, Agnès Romatet-Espagne, said Sunday. "There are the bad memories of Bosnia. This time we want the answers beforehand, so we don't come to the problems when they have happened.''
It just blows my mind, however, that anyone even has to ask about being able to defend themselves. Or even does ask. I'm further mystified by a role which, given the hesitancy evident from the various nations, hasn't a chance of being fulfilled if they don't have permission to do what is necessary to do the job. If you can't use force, even defensively, you can't keep the peace or protect yourself. Why be there? How can you keep the peace? And I think that's what these countries are asking. Of course it would have been nice if this had all been settled beforehand, but then, you'd think, given the role and the UN's experience, that it would have been settled long before now.
Other pollsters are finding that no matter how negative voters are about the Republicans who control both houses of Congress, less than a majority think the Democrats would do a better job of governing. Moreover, many voters who say they will vote for a Democrat in November also say their vote is not definite.
"Only 41 percent of Americans believe that Democratic leaders in Congress 'would move the country in the right direction,' " Mark Preston, CNN's political editor, writes on the network's Web site. That is slightly less than the 43 percent of Americans who believe that Republican leaders in Congress 'would move the country in the right direction.' "
What this means, Mr. Preston said, is that "Democrats need to do a better job of convincing voters they are better equipped than Republicans to lead the Congress."
Pollsters say the election's outcome will be decided by the large number of independent voters, but Mr. Zogby found that most of them still do not know how they will vote.
"Among independents, 32 percent said they prefer Democrats in November, 20 percent said they prefer Republicans and 41 percent said they were undecided," he said.
This all rests on the ability of Republicans or Democrats to make this a national election and referendum on the job the party in power has done to this point (however voters finally decide to define "the job" in the privacy of the voting booth). Frankly it is more of an advantage for the Democrats to nationalize it than Republicans. For the most part I would think Republicans want to keep these district races for the House and State races for the Senate as much as possible. Otoh, nationalizing it might also have some advantages for them, especially pointing to who among Democrats would get leadership and chairmanship positions in a Democratically dominated Congress. That might be effective in turning out disaffected members of the base.
For Dems it's all good in making it a national referendum on the administration. If it is true that undecideds are as undecided as Zogby says (and frankly I have my doubts about that), that theme has more of a chance of converting the numbers Dems need to their side than does hundreds of local district races. They develop a national strategy (which is what this "New Direction for America" is supposed to be) and they sell it through appeals to give them the majority in Congress while sticking the knife in further and twisting it politically concerning the administration. That plays to the "generic Democrat" who's still running strong although Lambro doesn't seem to think that means much (and, frankly, I'm not sure it measures any more than slight preference at best):
In the meantime, despite the emphasis that TV and newspaper polls place on the so-called generic congressional vote — in which voters are asked which party they will support without naming candidates — a Newsweek poll last week found that very little knowledge went into these responses.
"Most Americans aren't paying attention to politics yet; 68 percent of registered voters say they have only given the November elections 'a little' or no attention," Newsweek said.
That's an important point we political junkies need to keep in mind. The majority of Americans may begin to really pay attention to all of this in mid October. Something I'd inject here, however, which seems to be overlooked for the most part. The fact they aren't thinking about or paying attention to the races doesn't mean that a good portion haven't made up their minds, generally, about how they're going to vote. I think this is glossed over a bit when we here things like "most Americans aren't paying attention to poltics yet." That may be true, but that's never stopped them from pretty much knowing who they were going to vote for even if they aren't sure why.
Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what strategy each party has coalesced behind down the stretch and what effect it has in November.
There are a lot of arguments about our effort in Iraq. They center around if it was a good idea (too late to worry about that), if we should stay, if we should go, if we've done enough, if we've still got to finish the job.
Mark Steyn addresses the latter point, and does so by talking about the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and how an angry America was perceived throughout the world and demanded and got cooperation from some unlikely players.
As Steyn points out, many believe that cooperation to be a result of sympathy. But instead, he believes it was the fact that suddenly the world's only superpower became scary. There was certainly an element of sympathy to be sure, but nations such as Russia and Pakistan don't react based solely on sympathy. Fund raisers and political speeches can convey that. Air bases, air space and intelligence cooperation speaks to more than that. We were riled and we made it known that we expected their cooperation or else.
What's the difference between September 2001 and now? It's not that anyone "liked" America or that, as the Democrats like to suggest, the country had the world's "sympathy.'' Pakistani generals and the Kremlin don't cave to your demands because they "sympathize.'' They go along because you've succeeded in impressing upon them that they've no choice. Musharraf and Co. weren't scared by America's power but by the fact that America, in the rubble of 9/11, had belatedly found the will to use that power. It is notionally at least as powerful today, but in terms of will we're back to Sept. 10: Nobody thinks America is prepared to use its power. And so Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad and wannabe "strong horses" like Baby Assad cock their snooks with impunity.
This is the danger we face in leaving an unfinished Iraq. It's not about like or dislike throughout the world. That's relatively unimportant in terms of geopolitics. It's not about whether we should or shouldn't be there. We are. It is about the message those who wish us harm would take from our early withdrawal.
Note the emphasized line above. Geopolitics doesn't usually operate on the emotional level. It operates on a very calculating and rational level. It is like high stakes poker. If we aren't willing to do what is necessary to play at that level, then some will be more than willing to run the calculated high risk bluff and go all in figuring we won't call. As is the way of the world, others will try to take advantage of any perceived weakness.
That's not to say the US should be stomping on and bullying the rest of the world. Or using its military power willy nilly. Superpower status is more than just military power. But if the rest of the world, and especially our enemies, believe that America hasn't the will or stomach to use its power, military or otherwise, even for its own benefit, then you can expect those who wish us harm to attempt to take advantage of that situation. It only stands to reason that ambitious and ruthless actors will attempt to fill a power vacuum voided by a bigger player. It is the way the world has worked in the past and every indication points to it continuing to work that way in the present.
Which brings us back to Iraq:
At one level, the issue is the same as it was on Sept. 11: American will and national purpose. But the reality is that it's worse than that — for (as Israel is also learning) to begin something and be unable to stick with it to the finish is far more damaging to your reputation than if you'd never begun it in the first place. Nitwit Democrats think anything that can be passed off as a failure in Iraq will somehow diminish only Bush and the neocons. In reality — a concept with which Democrats seem only dimly acquainted — it would diminish the nation, and all but certainly end the American moment. In late September 2001 the administration succeeded in teaching a critical lesson to tough hombres like Musharraf and Putin: In a scary world, America can be scarier. But it's all a long time ago now.
Addressing American will and national purpose, the two lines highlighted above are very important. The first talks about the perception that will be taken away by our enemies if we leave Iraq before the perceived job is done. Now, as I and others pointed out, the real final outcome there is in the hands of the Iraqis. Horse, water, drink, etc. But it is critical that despite all the calls for early withdrawal (like right now), we maintain our plan to ensure all elements of the Iraqi security apparatus are good to go and up to the standard we've established and can indeed take over and competently run whatever area they're assigned.
Whether the Iraqis then fail afterward or succeed beyond our wildest dreams isn't as important, concerning this perception I'm talking about, than everyone agreeing that we did our part and did it to its natural completion. Whether Iraq ends up as a basket case of warring factions or a model of Arabic democracy may not be as important in the long run as the perception that the US will do what is necessary to finish a job, no matter how tough, costly or distasteful.
The second line addresses the politics of this situation and the danger posed by thinking like Steyn points too. This isn't about Bush and the neocons anymore. In big picture, geopolitical terms, it wasn't about them the second we invaded Iraq. It was and is about the US and what it has in terms of fortitude and grit. National will and purpose. Iraq may have been a mistake. Iraq may not have been a war we should have fought. Iraq might have been better left as it was.
But none of those things matter now. If you're so inclined, rail against Bush and Company. Call them everything but children of God. Vote out the Republicans and elect a Democratic president in '08.
But for the sake of the United States of America and the future security of its citizens, finish the job in Iraq as well.
If ever a picture immortalized a moment and a cause, it was Joe Rosenthal's picture of the 6 Marines raising the flag on Mt. Surabachi on Iwo Jima in WWII. Mr. Rosenthal defined the term "combat photographer".
Joe Rosenthal died this weekend at the age of 94:
Photographer Joe Rosenthal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his immortal image of six World War II servicemen raising an American flag over battle-scarred Iwo Jima, died Sunday. He was 94.
Rosenthal died of natural causes at an assisted living facility in the San Francisco suburb of Novato, said his daughter, Anne Rosenthal.
"He was a good and honest man, he had real integrity," Anne Rosenthal said.
If only the same could be said for some news photographers today who find manipulating images and thus perception, more to their liking. UPDATE: Since I brought it up (and a commenter alluded to it as well), Joe Rosenthal also had to deal with charges that he staged the Iwo picture. You can read about it here. Rosenthal dealt with it thusly:
As for Rosenthal, he once said that if he had really posed the flag-raising picture, "I would, of course, have ruined it" by choosing fewer men and making sure their faces could be seen."
What makes Rosenthal's picture so hallowed is not only the composition, the starkness and the imagery, but the timing. You have to remember that he wasn't shooting some 10 frame a second digital or a camera with auto advance film which would allow him to sort through a number of versions and pick out the best shot. His was a one-shot wonder, which means he had have everything set up on the camera to begin with, pull focus and decide instantly what the best shot was as the action was unfolding and shoot it.
He did. And he immortalized a moment, a service and a cause - and himself.
French bashing may be fun red meat to throw to the converted, but this strikes me as a much more plausible and intellectual read of the recent, apparent French perfidy at the UN. Essentially, both Israel and Hezbollah made major miscalculations and found themselves engaged in a war in which either could lose, but neither could win. Hezbollah could bruise Israel, but nothing more; Israel could bloody Hezbollah, but—without another disastrous occupation of Lebanon—they could not remove the Hezbollah threat from Lebanon altogether, and they certainly could not eliminate Hezbollah.
As The Glittering Eye puts it — in "game [theory] terminology" — "both Israel and Hezbollah were treating their mutual relationship as though it were a "zero sum game of perfect information" (a set of transactions in which, when one side wins, the other loses and each side knows what the other is doing) whereas, clearly, that was far from the case." But after showing up to fight, neither Israel nor Hezbollah could afford to back down.
In essence, through two consecutive bait-and-switches — first over the wording of a UN resolution, and second over the deployment of French troops to Lebanon — France managed to get both parties to agree to a return to the status quo ante, which is better for both sides (that's why the tricks worked), but that neither side could admit to wanting. That's a pretty good result, especially considering that Chirac spent essentially none of France's resources achieving it.
Now, yes, it's true that it would be nice for some gigantic crew of foreigners to come into Lebanon, disarm Hezbollah, police the border, and create a giant, happy, stable democracy at peace with its neighbors. But nobody really knows how to pull this off. The internal political balance in Lebanon is extremely delicate. Nobody — not Israel, not France, not the United States, not even Hezbollah's patrons — was or is in a position to actually destroy or disarm Hezbollah absent a wider reform of all of Lebanon.
So, France looks foolish to the sort of people who prefer cheap shots at France...and puts brakes on an exit-less war. That's not a long-term solution — and peacekeepers will probably still be necessary before too long — but the status quo ante is quite a bit better than what anybody else had to offer.
If you head over to the search page for QandO, you'll notice that, in addition to the date and database keyword search, I've added the Google search feature to the mix. This will allow you to search for QandO content with more generalized search strings than the keyword search allows.
One of the improvements this allows is that the Google search function includes the comments as well as the entry text, allowing you to find more relevant content than the simple keyword search does.
Apparently John McCain has given his verdict on Iraq:
Asked whether the United States was winning the war, McCain said, "I don't think so, but I'm not sure that it's turned into a civil war ... I think it's been well documented now that we didn't have enough (troops) there from the beginning, that we allowed the looting, that we did not have control, particularly ... (in areas such as) the Sunni Triangle, which led to us paying a very heavy price."
Seems to be the trend on the right. Time, apparently, to call it a day in terms of hopes for victory in Iraq. Time to begin the process of placing blame and gaining distance from those who finally are to be left with that collar.
I'm not saying McCain's assessment of the "whys" of our particular problems and present position aren't accurate (although I don't think it was a matter of not enough troops, I think it was a matter of no plan for after the military mission). Instead it is the suspected reason for the sort of talk we're seeing on the right.
Perhaps it is just my cynicism talking but in Washington DC, politics is king and power is everything. You can talk all day about honor, courage, seeing the job through, America's responsibility and the like. But when all is said and done, none of those things guarantee retaining power. And that is what Republicans are finally realizing is at risk here.
An unpopular President has the country in an unpopular war, and his political opponents have begun to make political capital with the issue. So slowly, but surely the right begins to swing away from supporting the issue. And that includes both the politicians and pundits.
McCain most likely isn't the last Republican politician who will mouth those words or words very similar to those in the remaining weeks before the midterms. Joe Lieberman proved to them that their political position was untenable and their support for Bush damaging to their chances of remaining in office. So the distancing has begun.
For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"
But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."
Joe Scarborough doesn't hit me as the brightest bulb in the pack, and this sort of nonsense seems to underscore that point. But what he's doing is what I think we'll see a lot of in the coming weeks. Bush is now the 'throw away' guy. He's so disliked by a portion of the population that this sort of an attack plays well. If people like Scarborough and his ilk are lucky such attacks will wipe away the support he gave both Bush and the war, or at least so he hopes.
The plans seems to be, at least for Scarborough, the more virulent and juvenile the attack, the more the old words and positions are forgotten. And sadly, in today's polarized and partisan atmosphere, he may be right.
Rich Lowry, otoh, seems to genuinely feel that Bush and company have been horribly inept in, if not prosecuting the peace (nation building), not getting the word out about what progress is being made. I can't say I disagree. Says Lowery:
"It is time for the Bush administration to acknowledge that its approach of assuring people that progress is being made and operating on that optimistic basis in Iraq isn't working," the editorial said. Lowry followed up days later in his own column, suggesting that the United States is "losing, or at least not obviously winning, a major war" and asking whether Iraq is "Bush's Vietnam."
Is it Bush's "Vietnam"? No. It is a sad situation which really didn't need to evolve after the military victory in 2003 had any sort of post war planning been done. But it wasn't, we have the situation we're now in and we have to make some choices. And there isn't much time to think about them and even less to implement them if the administration truly wants a victory in Iraq. But that may be out of their hands now.
Quin Hillyer, executive editor of the American Spectator, cited Lowry's column in his own last week, writing that many are upset "because we seem not to be winning" and urging the White House to take on militia leaders such as Moqtada al-Sadr. Until it does, he said, "there will be no way for the administration to credibly claim that victory in Iraq is achievable, much less imminent."
Civil war? The reason anyone is even talking civil war is because of the militias and death squads. The plan, at least what passes for a plan, appears to be to go after the death squads while avoiding confrontation with the reason for the death squads. Moqtada al-Sadr and other militia leaders.
But there is a Catch-22 now. We insisted on standing up and giving sovereignty to the government of Iraq. It's theirs now, and it is their call as to how al-Sadr should be handled. All indications are that they're no more willing to confront him than we were. So the sectarian violence continues and the coalition forces and Iraqi government attack the symptoms of the problem while leaving the cause alone.
That seems a sure receipe for failure, but one of our own making and, now one that is out of our hands. It is truly and completely up to Iraq now. They have to decide whether they want this to succeed (and do what is necessary to make that happen) or not.
So I guess I can't blame politicians like McCain and pundits like Scarborough, Lowry or Hillyer for setting up their own strategic withdrawals on the subject of Iraq.
Politics, Washington DC and power make for interesting calculations amongst that class. And, of course, this administration has done little to nothing to change any of those calculations, at least not lately. Unfortunately, as I've come to understand over the years, very little of those calculations involve what is best for the people or the nation. This one is shaping up to be true to form. But for Republicans, the attempted disavowal between now and November may be too little too late.
Iraq could fail - if the Iraqis fail themselves. It's still too early to pack up and leave, but if the people of Iraq will not seize the opportunity we gave them to build the region's first Arab-majority rule-of-law democracy, it won't be an American defeat, but another self-inflicted Arab disaster. Iraq is the Arab world's last chance - and the odds are now 50-50 they'll throw it away.
Some fellow named Daoud Kuttab, who is apparently a media studies professor of some sort at Al-Quds University, is giddy with the prospect that a Hezbollah victory will lead to lasting peace in the Mideast.
Wars are won not only on battlefields, but also in people's minds. So, while Hezbollah has not decisively won its current war with Israel, by maintaining its ability to fight in the face of the Israeli army's might, it has captured the imagination of Arabs, restoring lost pride the same way the Egyptian army's crossing of the Suez Canal did in 1973. Restored pride was central to Anwar Sadat's decision to go to Jerusalem and regain the entire Sinai Peninsula for Egypt.
Although ordinary Lebanese have paid a huge human, economic and infrastructural price, Hezbollah has made it clear to the Israelis they can no longer take military predominance for granted. The limits of military power have been exposed. Moreover, the madness of war has been demonstrated to all and, once the current fighting is over, both sides are more likely to be cautious about actions that might push their peoples and countries into war once more.
How this war is concluded will likely change the ways in which both Israel and the international community deal with the fundamental national aspirations of Arab peoples. Holding Arab land and prisoners indefinitely will no longer be an asset but a terrible burden.
Conventional thinking in the Middle East has largely been built on Israel's overwhelming military strength, together with the disunity and lack of purpose of Arab leaders. But, in less than two months, the almost mythic power of the region's most powerful army has been dented, and Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, has come across as a steadfast and determined leader, in sharp contrast to the usual behavior of heads of Arab government.
The question now is whether this determination can bring about the type of surprising breakthrough to peace that Sadat's newfound 1973 prestige yielded.
One of my big plans for today was to clear out the backlog of Neolibertarian Network submissions that have been on hold for the past several weeks. I was going to go through and add those submissions.
That was the plan. I even got to a few of them today.
Somewhere along the way, however, I appear to have deleted my entire saved folder from Outlook. Then for good measure, I closed Outlook, so that they were deleted permanently.
So, they're all gone. Every one of 'em.
I apologize for this, but, if you'd like to resubmit, I'll try to get them up as quickly as possible.
As a reminder, we no longer require a valid RSS v2.0 feed. If you don't have a feed, or can't figure out how to produce one, or just don't care about having us aggregate it. Then just send along the URL for your blog.
If you do have a valid RSS v2.0 feed, then please remember that is must be a basic, plain vanilla feed. A lot of you have RSS feeds with your comments, and trackbacks, and all other sorts of stuff in the feed. That's nice, but it makes the feed unusable for our purposes.
Anyway, if you have submitted for the Neolibertarian network recently, and you haven't been added, please resubmit, so we can add you.
Also, please be aware that our admission requirements have changed slightly, so please review them.
An Iraqi militant group has produced an elaborate video of what it said were attacks on U.S. troops, in the latest example of the increasingly sophisticated propaganda war being waged by Iraqi insurgents.
"The Code of Silence" was posted on the Internet by the Rashedeen Army, thought to be a relatively small Sunni group which has produced videos in the past of attacks it claims to have carried out.
At almost an hour in length, it is the longest and most professionally made of recent postings by mainly Sunni militant and insurgent groups fighting the U.S.-backed government.
Point 1: They're getting better and better at their propaganda and they're using all methods and means to get their message out there. Slick productions made available by video are a very good way of doing just that. And, of course, it tells only their side, which, naturally, is all they want anyone to hear in the first place.
Our answer to that? Mostly the chirping of crickets.
Lifting scenes from Michael Moore's anti-war film "Fahrenheit 9/11", Rashedeen's narrator taunts President Bush in softly spoken English over graphic images of Humvees being blown up by roadside bombs, and purportedly dead U.S. troops.
Point 2: They will use what Americans say as a tool to help their cause if it fits their agenda. So please, be kind enough not to deny it anymore. Here's reality.
"In the good old days of the invasion, this used to be a one-man show. Not any more. Your boys have become smart. They started to ambush us. Today it takes a big unit.
"That's good. It means your boys are on the run all day long, seven days a week. And it is really devastating for them, especially if they are on their third tour and don't have our secret weapon — patience."
Point 3: The difference in a nutshell. We don't have that secret weapon. Haven't had it for years — decades. I've discussed that as well. They know it. It's all about waiting us out ... as usual. And it may work.
Sounds like the beginning of any newsletter or blog entry one might see from the DNC:
There are 19 weeks until Election Day, Tuesday November 7.
Perhaps nothing underscores the significance of these mid-term elections more than the reality of 2500 killed and 18,000 maimed needlessly in Iraq, 100,000 Iraqi civilians lives lost.
And then on Thursday, the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives used the opposition of a small Klan-type group of legislators as an excuse to hijack the long-awaited vote to re-approve the Voting Rights Act, potentially denying and disenfranchising Black and Latino voters in the South.
And on Wednesday the Senate failed to get the 60 votes necessary to increase the minimum wage, while a third of children live in poverty, a quarter of manufacturing jobs have been lost since Bush took office, and cities and towns across the country are in crisis, being forced to choose between health care and schools.
Except it's not:
This election is a struggle to save our democracy and change the direction of our country.
This election is a struggle to bring out the deeply felt democratic traditions of the people and inspire voters weary of the political process because of the dominance of the ultra-right.
It is a struggle to develop center-left unity that can win conservatives away from the extreme right-wing. It is a struggle to strengthen the all peoples coalition and within that to strengthen the left and the Communist Party.
In a long and rambling cry for action, Joel Fishman, chair of the political action committee of the Communist Party USA sounds almost Dean-like in his plea to defeat the "right". I mean, reading this makes you almost wonder if it wasn't vetted by the DNC (OK, I'm not serious, but you read it and you tell me who it sounds like).
For instance yesterday we had Biden and Bayh attacking Wal-Mart. And we have Fishman doing the same, and for the same reasons:
These policies are designed by and implemented on behalf of the biggest, greediest, most corrupt corporate interests in the country, like Haliburton, Wal Mart, Delphi, Boeing, to name a few. They have looted the US economy to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars through war and military buildup, and through broad tax breaks that benefit all corporations and wealthy people, and through specific special-interest tax breaks, contracts, revolving-door arrangements that benefit specific companies and individuals with close ties to the administration and Republican congressional leaders.
The Bush Administration/Republican leadership is also attempting to institutionalize these policies, to make it difficult for future administrations to change policies. Legislation already passed like the bankruptcy law and changes in the tax structure, and legislation still pending like tort "reform", permanent estate tax repeal, and new budget rules mandating deep cuts in Medicare, veterans' benefits, etc. As well in the executive branch and judicial branch, through stacking government agencies with right-wing pro-corporate ideologues.
Seriously, had they not thrown "Communist Party" in this "call to action" a few times, I'd have quite comfortably have assumed it to be the work of the Democrats.
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