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Wednesday, April 30, 2003  
Just checking in, and passing along this snippet from Atrios today:

Tim Francis-Wright from Bear-Left writes in to inform me of a few things about the Texas GOP.

First, there's a bit of their platform that we're all presumably aware of:

We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values."

But there's a new bit, which while not requiring an oath of adherence, does require the following:

"Any person filing as a Republican candidate for a public or Party office shall be provided a current copy of the Party platform at the time of filing. The candidate shall be asked to read and initial each page of the platform and sign a statement affirming he/she has read the entire platform. The individual accepting the signed statement shall review the initialed platform and maintain a list of those who have complied with this request. This will become effective in the 2002 election. We strongly encourage Republican candidates, officeholders,and Party officials to support the Republican Party Platform and fellow Republican candidates and officeholders. We direct the Executive Campaign Committee to strongly consider candidates’ support of the Party platform when granting financial or other support."

I'm sure our crack press will, during the '04 campaign, ask Bush which parts he agreed and disagreed with (hahahahahahaha).

Texas. It's like a whole other country. For now.


Monday, April 28, 2003  
Going on the road for a week, will post when possible, but probably pretty light.


Friday, April 25, 2003  
I haven't posted anything about SARS here because, frankly, (a) I don't know anything about it that you can't read on the CNN scroll-under bar, and (b) I don't have any opinion about it other than "that sounds like a bad thing."

But over the last couple of days, I have seen and heard discussion of another facet of this emerging crisis. As expressed in the headline of this Reuters report: Could SARS be reform-fostering "China's Chernobyl"?

"I hope it will be China's Chernobyl," [Former U.S. envoy to China Winston] Lord said, referring to some analysts' views that the nuclear accident led to reforms in the secretive Communist system and contributed to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

Soviet era documents released this week before the 17th anniversary of the catastrophe showed the Soviet secret police knew the plant was dangerous long before the disaster.

"SARS showed that the Chinese political system has got to catch up with the technology," Lord said. "In the age of the Internet and cell phones [China couldn't] keep this sickness secret from the Chinese people and ultimately the world ... the Chinese ought to get on top of this and change that system.

This is a sentiment I have read and heard [on NPR, can't remember which show] expressed over the last couple of days. When I first heard it, I thought it sounded pretty farfetched, in a "Dow 36,000" kind of way, a flight of fancy from people whose professional personas are heavily identified with the optimistic outcomes they predict.

But, the more I think about it, the more I think this is worth at least considering. It is rare that one will see a clearer object lesson of old-school Communist Party obfuscation and denials being utterly subverted by an new organic reality - the technological interconnectedness of the world, the fiberoptic tendrils of which reach even into the famously insular Chinese society. The Party's story just didn't hold water. It was a lie that became obvious and unsupportable as more reports came out describing quarantined hospitals and dozens of deaths, instead of the 4 deaths first acknowledged by Party spokesmen.

Stories like this undermine regimes, because they give the lie to the old standard rationalization offered by the Chinese government that the oppression and the secrecy is necessary to preserve the civil order and protect the population. In other words, the claim goes, we maintain tight control over citizens and information not to strengthen our grip on power, but to protect the Chinese people. In this case however, everyone in China now knows that the government lied and covered up an emerging epidemic, and that the government must have known that such a coverup could have (and possibly still will have) a catastrophic effect on the very Chinese population that the rigid policies of the state are ostensibly protecting. It's hard to un-learn that lesson.

This is the same sort of betrayal as felt throughout Soviet society in the wake of Chernobyl. I'm not saying that the same thing's going to happen. I'm just saying that I'm not laughing at the idea anymore.

UPDATE: M. Yglesias weighs in. He thinks it's unlikely and not necessarily a good thing even if it does happen.


Duplicate post removed.


Thursday, April 24, 2003  
Jesse at Pandagon notes that Santorum's commentary is jostling some of the folks near the back of the GOP Big Tent:

A core base of the Republican Party is up in arms about Rick Santorum's comments - hardcore polygamists.

In Utah, the leader of the state's largest polygamist clan both backed and criticized Santorum. "He is absolutely right," said Owen Allred, head of the United Apostolic Brethen based in Bluffdale. "The people of the United States are doing whatever they can to do away with the sacred rights of marriage." But Allred said Santorum's inclusion of polygamy in his list tarnishes a religious tradition whose roots are traced to biblical figures such as Abraham, Jacob and Moses -- defiling them as "immoral and dirty."

Unavailable for comment was Laura Higgins, chair of the Lock Women In A Box For A Week While They Menstruate PAC.


Split in half and charge both ways. Competing choruses of pundits are urging the Democratic Party to zig left or zag right, in order to field a competitive candidate in '04. From the left, it is said that Republican-Lite got its ass handed to it in the midterms, and what the Dems need is to field a true, unapologetic progressive, who will remind the country of what "moderate" used to mean. From the right, it is said that in post-9/11, post GWII, deeply religious 21st Century America, the Dems need a credible, responsible, centrist hawk and man of faith, who will articulate alternatives to Bush's extremist, irresponsibly aggressive domestic governance, without alienating the majority of Americans who enthusiastically support the current president's foreign policy.

I tend to believe the former to be true, as I believe that Bush has conducted his foreign policy with the same extremism as his domestic and economic policy. I think there is a critique of Bush in that arena that will have real traction as it becomes clear over the coming months just how alone we really are now.

A different, but related debate is over how the Democrats can capture (or re-capture) third party voters and sympathzers that may have unrecognized ideological affinities for the current Dems over the current brand of Republicans. Some say that the Dems have to get over 2000 and reach out to the 2.7 million Greens who voted for Nader that year. Others suggest that libertarians (the 387,000 registered Libertarians who voted in '00, as well as the many Republican voters with libertarian perspectives) present an opportunity for Democrats in the current environment.

Kos has a very interesting post up on the topic of capturing the libertarians, in reaction to libertarian Arthur Silber's excoriation of Rick Santorum's call for unfettered governmental authority to regulate all sexual activity outside of traditional marital relations. Kos offers this great quote from Silber's post (which is excellent in its entirety, and well worth reading):

Some have suggested that Santorum's comments are "unconservative" -- that they do not truly reflect the "conservative" view of government. I think such an idea is simply mistaken: when David Horowitz supports a draft; when the Heritage Institute supports "compulsory universal service"; when Jonah Goldberg supports censorship; and when Santorum, the third most powerful individual in the Republican Congressional leadership, supports criminalization of a wide range of consensual adult activities -- exactly how are the "conservatives" defending individual rights? As I have said a number of times before, these are the reasons that I consider such conservatives among the worst enemies of freedom: they pose as defenders of individual rights, while striving to destroy freedom supposedly in the name of defending it.

Kos goes on to make a compelling argument that now that the social conservatives are in the driver's seat, the Republican Party may become an increasingly uncomfortable home for a group for whom small government is not an end in itself, but rather a means to the all-encompassing end of being left the hell alone:

Traditionally, libertarians have sided with the Republican Party because of economic issues, notions of "small government", and the ever-important 2nd Amendment (gun control). It seems libertarians always assumed the courts would continue to protect their private lives from government intrusion, regardless what the wingnuts tried to do.

But things have changed. The Clinton Democratic Party balanced budgets and restrained spending -- both policies abandoned by the Borrow and Spend Bush Administration. Bush and his cronies have embarked on a coordinated and wide-spread assault on individual freedoms, keynoted by the overbearing PATRIOT Act. And Bush's judges have shown consistent hostility to notions of individual liberty -- a trend likely to worsen as Bush nominates more judges to the bench.

It is obvious that on balance, personal freedoms are better protected by Democrats than Republicans. It's also obvious to me that Republicans have surrendered their claim to the monicker "Party of fiscal responsibility" or to notions of "smaller government".

I want to agree with this, and I mostly do. However, the avowed libertarians I have known have, to be honest, largely been people who wanted an "outsider" political identity, but when you got down to it, were just self-hating Republicans who wanted to base their right wing views on something grandiose like absolute personal freedom, rather than something crass like not wanting to pay any taxes. I mean, once you meet your fifteenth anti-choice "libertarian," you start to get a little suspicious.

I guess it's likely that I have never actually met a real libertarian. I'd like to, I suppose; certainly Silber's site is consistently challenging and well-thought out.

The comments to the Kos post are where the real action is, hashing out the pros and cons of some of the more controversial libertarian positions. Environmental laws, for one. On the one hand, it's my goddamn land and I should be able to do with it what I wish. On the other, it's everybody's goddamn groundwater, and I shouldn't have to drink your pesticides and pay the price of your "liberty." On the one hand, I should be able to take any drug, smoke any cigarette, and ride helmetless anywhere I goddamn well choose. On the other, I don't want my insurance rates jacked up while you bleep away your absolutely free life on a ventilator with a absolutely cracked skull.

I guess for now I have to come down on the side of Brett in the Kos comments, who said:

I can't remember who said it first, but I'll repeat it anyway: a libertarian is pretty much a Republican who smokes weed.


Wednesday, April 23, 2003  
Matthew Yglesias reviews the now-available full transcript of Sen. Santorum's controversial statements, and concludes that, in fact, Santorums plea that he was only addressing the Constitutional point and not expressing bias is bullshit.

It seems to me that it is only bullshit in the sense that Santorum is making a distinction where none is even necessary. As I discussed two posts ago, the truly disturbing aspect of this case is that Santorum's moralizing can be both a statement of noxious bias and a relevant commentary upon the constitutionality of the anti-sodomy law at issue, considering the holding in Bowers v. Hardwick that only privacy rights which are "'deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" are cognizable.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003  
I had a hard time with this Post Op-ed from Monday, simply because as a liberal there is something deep inside me that shrieks in horrified protest when I find myself agreeing with Charles Fucking Krauthammer.

Behind Krauthammer's neocon bluster and namecalling, he makes several very compelling observations: First he notes the cynicism of the insistence by Russia, a perennial opponent of renewing the inspections regime in the 90's, that inspections now be re-imposed and Iraq's disarmament verified before the sanctions may be lifted. Second, he mocks France's insistence on the continuation of both the oil-for-food program that they have profited from, and the payments on the debts that Hussein ran up buying weapons on credit from French companies and the French government.

But if the State Department sentimentalists who worship at the shrine of the United Nations insist on a pilgrimage to Turtle Bay, we should go to the Security Council and submit a one-line resolution: "Whereas the sanctions were imposed on the regime of Saddam Hussein; whereas that regime is no more; whereas sanctions are now needlessly preventing Iraq's economic recovery; the sanctions are hereby abolished."

It doesn't really matter where you sit on the question of should there/should there not have been a war to topple Hussein; he's gone. The sanctions serve no purpose. They should end. There is no credible argument for the other perspective. The Hitler-Saddam equivalency, flawed and demagogued in so many ways, is useful in at least this regard: I doubt if the people holding fuel and armaments IOUs from Hitler got a lot of respect from the victors in 1945.

UPDATE, 4/23: At almost exactly the same moment as I wrote the post above, the French ambassador to the UN was announcing that France was now endorsing the US call for lifting of sanctions making the point of the post almost completely moot. The French proposal looks pretty good - lifting of all non-military sanctions, maintenance of the oil-for-food program as an infrastructure for delivering humanitarian aid (the program has ten years' experience doing just that). Russia and Germany are still calling for continued weapons inspections. Sounds like a logjam getting ready to break.


Recently, remarks by Republican Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania sparked some controversy over the privacy rights of gay Americans. Santorum, commenting on the Supreme Court's recent hearing of a challenge to Texas's anti-sodomy law, expressed his belief that the right to privacy, to the degree it existed at all, did not protect "non-traditional" sexual practices, and equated homosexuality with incest and polygamy:

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," the Pennsylvania lawmaker said in a recent interview, fuming over a landmark gay rights case before the high court that pits a Texas sodomy law against equality and privacy rights.

"All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family," Santorum said. "And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution."

This comment by Santorum has sparked an outpouring of opprobrium, from both the left and the right. Clearly Santorum has a moral objection, in fact an active prejudice, that colors his view of the constitutional issue here. Unfortunately, he's not on unstable constitutional ground when he relies upon such a prejudice. For starters, the debate over the existence and extent of a constitutional right to privacy has a long and distinguished history. It is true that the Founders did not see fit to enshrine such a right in the actual text of the document. However, the Supreme Court has often discussed the existence of so-called "penumbral rights," rights which exist by logical inference from those which have been specifically set forth.

Crucial to the "penumbral rights" theory from which the notion of a Constitutional right to privacy arises is the concept of "ordered liberty." This concept is essentially the search to identify those freedoms, unwritten in the constitutional structure, without which those that are explicitly expressed would have no meaning. As the court stated in Palko v. Connecticut (1937), this category includes those fundamental liberties that are 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,' such that 'neither liberty nor justice would exist if [they] were sacrificed." The right to privacy is among the quintessential requirements of "ordered liberty" - or, as stated by Justice Brandeis in 1928 in Olmstead v. U.S: "The right to be left alone - the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men."

It seems obvious, or at least entirely credible, that a right to privacy, freedom from government inspection, judgment or control is essential for meaningful protection of the freedoms enshrined in the 1st and 4th amendments, and debatably the 3rd, 9th and 10th.

That's fine as far as it goes; unfortunately, in Bowers v. Hardwick, a case dealing specifically with a Georgia anti-sodomy law, the court added a new prong to the test; i.e. whether the penumbral liberty sought to be protected is 'deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition." (citing Moore v. East Cleveland (1977) (opinion of Powell, J.) In Bowers, Justice White concluded that since there was a long tradition of moral repugnance for homosexuality in America (and the world), the notion that privacy rights for homosexual activity were a traditional and necessary component of American liberty was, as White put it, "facetious."

So that's the real state of play, like it or not. For myself, I really don't like it, primarily because the search for precedent within the social history of the nation to evaluate the existence of an (intentionally) narrowly drawn privacy right seems to leave the door open for very cynical gaming of the system, and tends to freeze the moral understanding of the Constitution in 1789. The question in Bowers v. Hardwick could, legitimately, have been, "how far does a right to privacy extend?" or, more appropriately, "does the right to privacy extend to preclude government regulation of or involvement in consensual sexual activity?" Instead, the question asked was "does our liberty require us to protect the right of homosexuals to have sex," a different question entirely, as such narrow scrivening allowed White to base his negative answer upon the historical prejudice against gays.

It does not take much imagination to see the danger in encouraging the Supreme Court to appeal to historical bias to justify or decline to prevent the biases of the present. Such an approach seems to make the existence of a penumbral right depend entirely on how one phrases the question, a tactic that can be employed to make protection of virtually any activity seem unimportant or facetious, if the activity is characterized in sufficient specific isolation. These narrow constructions, which claim to construe the broader right to privacy, in fact sentence the very idea of such a right to death by a thousand pinpricks.


Monday, April 21, 2003  
Jesus Bin Laden and Bush tha Muhammad Present: EVILDOERS!

Even if you don't customarily follow the links on this site, go look at It's fucking insane. There is no other way to describe it. Sadly, those with dialup need not apply (unless you don't mind waiting an hour and a half for a page to download).

Via Eric, of the erstwhile RobotBall.


Check out the results of the poll found about halfway down this site. Careful if you head over there, as Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" comes on pretty loud when you hit the front page. Nothing unexpected here, the run-of-the-mill conflation of Osama with Saddam, the exhortation to "Kill a Terrorist Today," accompanied by various animated waving flags and ringing liberty bells. But the poll results are interesting. In response to the question "How far should we go to wipe out terrorism?" 20% of responders (623 votes) chose "Nuke Terrorist countrys [sic]." And while that can possibly be written off to the smartass factor (one of those 623 votes to drop the big one was mine), more interesting is the 61% (1904 votes) that responded "Any Nation Terrorists hide in."

Sure, it's just an internet poll, but it does at least tend to indicate that so long as Bush keeps making the case that [regime X] is a sponsor/protector of terrorists, at least 1904 people will follow him (or, at least, cheer mightily at FoxNews while it happens). See the post directly below this one for more details on this highly effective strategy.

UPDATE: Rereading it, this post seems snarky and insubstantial to me. Oh, well. Sorry. Go look at some really beautiful pictures of ice. Via


Thursday, April 17, 2003  
Not much time today, so I will simply quote, in full, this very informative article appearing in yesterday's Washington Times:

Hawks recycle arguments for Iraq war against Syria
By David R. Sands

The talk over war with Syria increasingly resembles a spring rerun of the debate over war with Iraq, with virtually the same cast of characters and plot. Neoconservative Richard Perle, a leading hawk in the Iraq debate, yesterday called for Congress to pass a "Syrian Liberation Act" modeled on the 1998 law that made regime change in Baghdad official U.S. policy.

"There are many ways to fight these battles," Mr. Perle, a civilian adviser to the Pentagon, told a forum at the American Enterprise Institute.

"I would hope that Congress would take a look at helping those who want to free Syria from the tyrannical rule of the Ba'ath Party," the secular ruling party dominated by Syrian President Bashir Assad, Mr. Perle said.

Critics of the war against Saddam Hussein are already accusing hawks of targeting Syria as the first in a new string of conflicts with Middle East regimes.

"The War Party has blood in its nostrils and is headed for Damascus," said conservative columnist Patrick J. Buchanan, a fierce critic of the Iraq war who accused American hawks of putting Israel's security needs above U.S. interests in the region.

"This is the neocons' hour of power, and they do not intend to lose this chance to remake the Middle East in their own image," Mr. Buchanan said.

Said analyst Jim Lobe of the leftist Inter Press Service news agency, "There is no question that the hawks, boosted by the easier-than-expected victory in Baghdad, are eager to throw their weight around, particularly in Syria's direction."

The neoconservative call for a tough line against Syria long predates the volley of criticism directed at Damascus by senior Bush administration officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in the past two weeks.

Syria's occupation of neighboring Lebanon, its reported chemical-weapons programs, its support for Hezbollah and other Palestinian terrorist groups targeting Israel, and Mr. Assad's rapprochement with Baghdad in recent years have all been criticized by neoconservatives.

A May 2000 study by the pro-Lebanon Middle East Forum called for an escalating series of punishments to get Damascus to change its policy.

The study did not rule out military action, saying, "The use of force needs to be considered. ... If there is decisive action, it will have to be sooner rather than later."

Among those signing a letter in support of the report were Mr. Perle; Elliott Abrams, now the head of Middle East policy at the National Security Council; Douglas Feith, now undersecretary of defense for policy; and David Wurmser, now a senior Pentagon official on Iraqi policy.

There also appears to be an emerging policy division within the Bush administration itself. Pentagon officials, including Mr. Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, have been notably tougher in their rhetoric in recent weeks than Mr. Powell and the State Department.

The case has been strengthened, U.S. officials say, by clear signs Syria provided aid and comfort to Saddam's regime in recent days, despite siding with the United States in the 1991 Gulf war against Iraq and despite Syria's decision to vote for U.N. Resolution 1441 in November, demanding Iraq disarm or face the consequences.

Mr. Assad, Pentagon officials say, ignored repeated warnings to stop the flow of military equipment and fighters into neighboring Iraq. Syria has also tested chemical weapons in the past 15 months and harbored fleeing figures associated with Saddam's regime, U.S. officials say.

Yesterday, U.S. forces turned off a pipeline carrying oil from Iraq to Syria.

Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa told the Syrian parliament earlier this month that "Syria's interest is to see the invaders defeated."

As in the Iraqi debate, Israeli officials have been vocal in backing a hard U.S. line against Syria. Israel wants to see Hezbollah guerrillas ousted from Syrian-controlled Lebanon and an end to Syria's policy of providing a haven for militant Palestinian groups.

Israel has "a long list of issues we are thinking of demanding of the Syrians, and it would be best done through the Americans," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said in an interview with the Israeli daily Ma'ariv published Monday.

The parallels to Iraq are not perfect.

While few in Washington had any use for Saddam Hussein, Syria and Mr. Assad provided what U.S. officials concede was highly useful intelligence on al Qaeda in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The Bush administration established a back channel for communications with Damascus through a Texas public-policy center named for James A. Baker III, secretary of state under the first President Bush.

The administration opposed a bill last year imposing new economic sanctions on Syria, saying punitive measures would harm U.S. efforts to influence Syrian policy for the better. And Britain and Spain, which backed Mr. Bush on Iraq, have both said they will not support a quick military move against Syria.

"Syria has been and will be a friend of Spain," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said yesterday. "It will not be the target of any war actions."

Pretty much speaks for itself, although I think it's pretty funny that when the Washington Times goes looking for an anti-war critic, their first stop is Pat Buchanan.

Story via American Samizdat.


Wednesday, April 16, 2003  
On April 9, Vice President Cheney, speaking to the American Society of News Editors, said this:
In this case, we were, after great provocation and after 12 years of unsuccessful efforts by the U.N., acting to eliminate one of the most brutal dictators of our time. A man who probably was responsible for the death of at least a million Muslims, half of them his own people. A man who ran a horrific police state. And I see that, and I see the outpouring of joy in the streets of Baghdad today by the Iraqi people at their liberation, and still the U.S. is subject to criticism from our friends in the region.

Well and good, as far as it goes. However, if Iraq was a "horrific police state," isn't it a little bit stupid to rehire Iraqi policemen to keep order in the streets of Baghdad?

Colonel Pomfret said the military was trying to hire Iraqi police officers as quickly as possible, and had begun interviewing and screening applicants for any association with Mr. Hussein's government. But he said most rank-and-file police officers would probably be accepted.

"We've talked to the local leaders," Colonel Pomfret said in an interview. "The average police officer was O.K. It was the leadership that was corrupt."

My point isn't that Iraq wasn't a horrific police state. It was. That's why a glib assurance that "the average police officer was O.K." doesn't really suffice as a blanket justification for rehiring any Iraqi policeman who applies. Especially considering the ludicrous assertion that these men are being screened "for any association with Mr. Hussein's Government." These were policemen, Ba'ath Party members, and the enforcement arm of Saddam's regime. The notion that a crash program of hiring to stem an overwhelming tide of looting can somehow get the "bad apples" is just wishful thinking or hopeful spin. Besides the impossibility of determining who did what in the wake of the sacking and burning of the Iraqi internal security headquarters, it is just stupid to assume that these cops (or anyone who has had to negotiate personal and professional survival while serving within a totalitarian security apparatus) can be sorted into black-and-white, good-and-bad categories.

N.B.: The above is really just a rehash of this Digby post, although the Cheney quote was my contribution. In fact, since Digby put it so well, here is a quote:
And to think I was afraid they might be using some of the bad Ba'ath police who did the electrodes on the genitals and raping kids in front of their parents thing that Dubya mentioned about 3,236 times in the last month.

I'm awfully relieved American soldiers can tell so easily which ones are the war criminals and which ones are the good Ba'athists. They probably have a lot of experience negotiating labyrinthine social systems in total chaos. Perhaps they'll see into their souls.


Tuesday, April 15, 2003  
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think-tank whose hired brains, while generally coming down on the conservative side of any given debate, tend to engage in actual analysis (as opposed to, say, the Heritage Foundation, which operates as little more than an auxilliary propaganda arm of the Republican Party).

For example, earlier this week Cato Research Fellow Stanley Kober published this piece discussing the emergence of alternative security alliances forming without the participation of the United States - indeed, forming for the explicit purpose of creating bulwarks against the so-called "unipolar world." Kober takes as an example the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO), and notes that India has expressed renewed interest in joining the Sino-Russian security pact. This is a profound reversal for India and China, as only two years ago, they were growling at each other across the Tibetan border.

An interesting thing that Kober does not mention is that as little as six months ago, with the refusal of Uzbekistan to join, the SCO was viewed as a dead letter. From the perspective of the rest of the world, recent American adventurism abroad has brought the need for such a counterweight into sharper focus (the other, greater, example of this is, of course, the EU in the wake of the trashing of NATO).

So, back to Kober's article. It concludes with what I believe to be a profoundly responsible statement of conservative policy principles, which Bush is either ignorant of, disagrees with, or is simply ignoring:

Indeed, this practice of power-balancing-power follows a pattern of history from ancient Greece to the modern era, when Britain confronted France, France and Britain confronted Germany, and all those countries then joined the United States to confront the Soviet Union.

The Bush administration believes it will break this pattern because of the virtue with which it will exercise its power. That conviction, however, challenges the philosophy that founded the United States: unchecked power will invariably be abused. "If men were angels, no government would be necessary," James Madison famously wrote in the Federalist Papers. Because we are not angels, "ambition must be made to counteract ambition" so that the government is "unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression." Thus, when international coalitions form to oppose the United States, they will only be putting into practice the philosophy of checks and balances espoused by the American Founders.

The Bush administration's national security strategy runs counter to the Founders' aims another way. In his Farewell Address, President George Washington implored the American people to "avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." And yet, it is precisely this overgrown military establishment that will be needed to police an implicit American empire.

Consequently, if the United States declares it is assuming imperial responsibilities for the defense of world order, we should not be surprised if other countries conclude that this development signifies a threat to their own liberties. And if the Bush administration thinks differently, it should challenge the political legacy of our first president directly, rather than assert that it is promoting a more democratic and peaceful world.

Now this is a conservative philosophy I can get behind. As I opined about a week ago, humans are unlikely to perceive their own actions as evil. Kober is right to note that a major factor in the durability of the American experiment, and one of the clearest examples of the Founders's genius is the insight that the most effective power to combat overweening ambition is not restriction imposed from above, but rather the counterpoising of another ambition against it. Further, such countervailing ambitions will arise naturally and inevitably. This is a market insight, which should be obvious and seem immediately correct to any conservative with an ounce of integrity. That Bush et al. refuse to see it or acknowledge its applicability to the current world situation is revelatory of their arrogance - apparently, in their minds, there can be no legitimate counterpoise to American ambition, and all such coalitions are "irrelevant." They are not irrelevant. They are the first dim soundings of the future.

Link to the Cato article from Steve Soto.


Friday, April 11, 2003  
Why would this man do this when this man is doing this?


Thursday, April 10, 2003  
Columbia has been one of the most violent and unstable countries in South America, if not the world, over the last decade. Constantly wracked by skirmishes, terrorism, and all-out war against private drug armies and Marxist guerrillas, the Colombian government has made common cause with the US, as well as with various brutal right-wing paramilitaries to serve as useful proxy armies. The rebels and the drug lords were no better, and the arguments over who started the massacres and terror tactics are moot, at best.

The war against the FARC rebels reached a head last year, when the FARC were ousted from their zone of control in the south of the country. In response to this setback, the rebels have predictably headed farther into the Eastern uplands and jungles near and sometimes across the Venezuelan border, where they have continued to spar with the government-backed AUC militia. Both of these paramilitary groups have committed genocidal attacks on villages recently, burning entire towns and slaughtering their populations. The civilians can't win - their homes change hands often, and each time this happens, they are accused of having collaborated with last week's masters. The regular Colombian Army is not large enough to fight the 20,000-man FARC in the distributed guerilla-style war environment, so they just guard the infrastructure of the region, and let the brushfire war burn on.

This has been going on for a while, and has been sporadically noted by the American press. However, the Post today has a report that the FARC is firmly established on the Venezuelan side of the border, Viet-Cong-into-Cambodia-style, and that they are mounting offensives from these secure bases to attempt to recapture some of the territory lost to the AUC over the last year.

That's bad enough, but now it seems that the Venezualan military is helping them out:

According to accounts from a dozen refugees who have arrived here over the last two weeks to escape a fresh surge of fighting, Venezuelan military aircraft bombed paramilitary positions inside Colombia on March 21 and again a week later to the south in a way that helped a rebel scorched-earth campaign gain momentum across the northeastern frontier.

The result has been sharp recriminations between the two governments over who is responsible for keeping a widening civil war inside Colombia's 1,370-mile frontier with Venezuela.

The entire article is pretty scary. Given the context, which includes some long-standing disputes about exactly where the Colombian-Venezualan border is, this is just the sort of conflict that can eventually attain sufficient gravity to start a whirlpool, sucking in border troops to support the paramilitaries if major infrastructure is threatened (an oil pipeline runs directly through the region), widening the contested frontier, expanding farther into the territories of the bordering nations, and finally ending with regulars shooting at regulars in the jungle. Colombia doesn't need this, Venezuela doesn't either.

Both sides have begun the all-too-familiar fingerpointing and denials:

The result has been sharp recriminations between the two governments over who is responsible for keeping a widening civil war inside Colombia's 1,370-mile frontier with Venezuela.

President Alvaro Uribe [of Colombia] has called on Venezuela to work harder to rid its side of a lightly governed frontier of the guerrillas, warning that "countries that allow terrorists inside their territory will end up as their victims."

On Wednesday, Venezuela rejected the allegations by border residents that its aircraft bombed the village. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel dismissed the charges as "a grotesque lie" aimed at trying to discredit Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.

Chavez has acknowledged bombing targets last month but said the attacks occurred on his side of the border after a paramilitary "invasion" of Venezuelan territory. Once featured prominently in FARC propaganda posters as a kindred spirit, Chavez has blamed Colombia for the rise in selective killings and kidnappings on the Venezuelan side of the border.

In late March, Rangel accused the Colombian government of allowing paramilitary groups to operate "with absolute impunity" along a frontier that is frequently hard to identify on the ground. But Chavez has refused requests to allow Colombian troops to pursue guerrillas into Venezuela, prompting Colombian officials to wonder why Venezuelan military strikes seem to fall hardest on guerrilla enemies.

[ . . . . ]

On March 28, according to several refugees who fled the border hamlet of Monte Adentro, Venezuelan F-16s and OV-10s bombed paramilitary positions inside Venezuela and Colombia in what they believe was a response to a series of paramilitary forays into Venezuela in the preceding days. A day later, witnesses said, roughly 300 FARC troops arrived in Monte Adentro to burn it down.

"It is impossible that Venezuelan planes crossed the frontier," said Carlos Rodolfo Santiago, Venezuela's ambassador to Colombia, who acknowledged that the bombings targeted Colombian paramilitaries who he claimed attacked a Venezuelan National Guard post. "We observe international laws on the matter."

The thing is, the US clearly has a dog in this fight. We have troops engaged in fighting these rebels (oh, sorry, I mean "training" the Colombian military to fight them) right now. Add to this the Bush administrations clear distaste for and distrust of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and our tacit (or not-so-tacit) support of the abortive coup against him last April, and you have a situation rife with potential bad outcomes.


Wednesday, April 09, 2003  
Battleground God . . . . The Philosopher's Magazine offers you the opportunity to test the internal consistency of your beliefs about God here. I came through relatively unscathed, taking no hits, biting one bullet, and winning the "TPM medal of distinction," whatever that is. Give it a try (it's not just another "Which Backstreet Boy are you?" internet quiz, I promise.)

via Yglesias.


Eric Muller, writing for the Volokh Conspiracy, directs our attention to the fact that Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten" is the number one country song in the country, which means that it's a very big hit indeed. The song is aimed directly at anti-war protesters - here is a sample verse/chorus (official site with complete lyrics here).

I hear people saying we don't need this war
I say there's some things worth fighting for
What about our freedom and this piece of ground
We didn't get to keep 'em by backing down
Now they say we don't realize the mess we're getting in
Before you start your preaching let me ask you this my friend

Have you forgotten how it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell
And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

If you follow the link above you will hear the song (which is Nashville twangpop at its blandest). The song is clearly another cultural artifact demonstrating the success the Bush administration has had associating Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks. Muller asks the obvious question: "who, exactly, has been arguing that we shouldn't "worry 'bout bin Laden" since 9/11?"

Amen. This is just a doggerel version of the same strawman the right has been beating for months, since the Bush war plan kicked into high gear. To me, though, the most amazing thing about Worley's page isn't the mediocrity or manipulativeness of the song. Rather, it is the graphic positioned over the lyrics: a 2"x3" window running a 2-3 second loop of Flight 11 smashing into the North Tower. Over and over again it repeats, while the twangjangle track plays in the background. Crash. Crash. Crash. Crash. It's like conditioning an animal. Crash. Crash. Crash. Crash. Revenge! Crash. Crash. Crash. Crash. Never forget! Crash. Crash. Crash. Crash.



Monday, April 07, 2003  
Man, I'm linking to CalPundit a lot these days. Today, Mr. Drum responds to several emails he received from conservative bloggers who accuse him of being too idealistic about man's natural capacity for goodness and peaceful coexistence. His reply is a brief, but interesting bit entitled The Perfectibility of Man, the concluding paragraph of which I include here:

To put it as baldly as possible, it seems to me that most people only become better if they are kicked, prodded, and ultimately dragged kicking and screaming to do so. Given this, we agree amongst ourselves to form a government that will force betterment on us since human nature is too weak and frail to expect us each to do it on our own. Thus is human progress slowly but surely made.

I must say that I concur heartily with Drum's sentiments here. It’s the primary reason I am so happy we are ruled by a piece of paper and not a king - because kings are human, and humans are unable to fully correct for their own isolated and selfish perspective, and therefore will not see the evil that they do as being evil at all.

If everyone wasn't charging around the globe completely convinced that they were doing right and gleefully bulldozing everyone else for their own good, we wouldn't need governments. We would recognize the utility of cooperation, the futility of power, and we would achieve paradise on earth. Unfortunately, we are all arrogant morons who need to have an objective authority to appeal to, to the degree that that's possible. Yes, I know, 5-4 on the Court makes the words mean one thing today and another tomorrow, but it is, to my mind, essential that the starting point for these battles is a document, the contents of which have been virally duplicated so many times that there is no chance that the original 5,000 or so words can be lost.

The point being that the constitution is just this type of trick - a hedge against the slavering devils that the founders knew would jump into the driver's seat if we were ruled entirely by shifting coalitions of powerful men. Liberalism is full of, and is obsessed with, these types of hedges. Sometimes these are great ideas (e.g. civil rights laws); sometimes they are problematic and probably unworkable ones (e.g. campus speech codes). But they are all based on the premise that man is not perfectible, but that he can be incentivized away from behavior that's destructive to the whole society. Sometimes, this looks a lot like criminalizing certain kinds of thought. The policies that most resemble this are inevitably the worst liberalism has to offer. The policies that look like they increase the net amount of liberty in society are inevitably the best.

Conservatives just say "fuck it" and let the chips fall. Power is the point, and if you can't get it, you don't deserve it. Which is why the neocons are such a unique breed, and why the paleocons dislike them so. Contrary to what Drum's conservative critics may say, it is the neocons who truly believe that man is eminently perfectible. Given the opportunity, every man, woman, and child on this planet has potential and desire to become more like the denizens of the shining city. Everyone can be an American, they say - we just have to knock the dust off.


Friday, April 04, 2003  
Well, now I feel kind of shitty for calling this man an "inexplicably prosperous whore" a week or so ago.


This is nice. More like this, please. And maybe some from the US forces, while you're at it. While right wing talking heads keep insisting that everyone on the left is hoping for America to fall on its face, and reveling in every bit of bad news from Iraq, that is just such bullshit. Christ, I hope that I'm wrong in thinking that the peace will be a grinding struggle against a perception of colonial empire. I hope every single thing the neoconservatives say about tomorrow's Iraq is true.

Story via CalPundit.


This just in! Zell Miller is an idiot!

Though events seem to be unfolding quickly in Iraq, let's take a moment to check in with Senator Zell Miller, Democrat from Georgia. Mr. Miller is a conservative democrat who makes John Breaux look like Ted Kennedy. And it is not a principled conservatism. Miller seems a blithe spirit, full of joy that the country is finally being led by people who understand that 2-1=5.

Take, for example, his cheerleading op-ed Wednesday in DC paper The Hill:

Why i support the president’s tax cut plan
By Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.)

I start with this basic belief: Government takes too much money from the American people. If you disagree, then you should probably stop reading here, turn a few pages and read Open Secrets instead.

Okay, nothing too bad so far - surely the government could make do with less. I certainly would support a program intended to increase the efficiency of the average government dollar. Detailed auditing of government agencies (more than the ineffectual GAO is currently staffed to provide), effectiveness reviews for government programs modeled after those routinely performed in the private sector. The amount of waste in the federal government is a crushing problem. So, I'm with you so far, Zell. The government could definitely make do with a lot less.

For if you disagree, you must not mind having to work four months each year just to pay the government. Or that you pay taxes on everything. Or that 5 percent of the people pay 56 percent of the taxes, and 25 percent of the people pay 84 percent of the taxes.

Hmmm. This sort of implies that this four months salary is simply grabbed from me by some mustachioed bandit who then goes and blows it all on smack. Another way to state this principle is that I work for four months to pay for my government, for my share of the security, freedom, stability, etc. that the government works to provide every day. Sure, the price tag could be lowered (see above), and god knows I'm no fan of the current government, but for me to say that for those four months I am chained to some enslaving yoke for which labor I get nothing in return is just stupid. I'm no economist, so I can't really address the statistics he cites, but I know for damn sure I don't mind that the richest 25 percent pay 84 percent of the INCOME taxes (and that's all he's talking about here, not payroll or sales taxes, which makes his "you pay taxes on everything" line a bit disingenuous). They make at least that much of the total income, so why the fuck not?

All Americans are overtaxed, and it’s hurting the economy. It’s hurting those folks running businesses who risk their capital to create jobs. It’s hurting those investors — especially seniors — risking their money in a fragile stock market. And it’s hurting families struggling to make ends meet.

Now this is just blatant pandering. Miller is tying the entire tax package together and associating every element with every other. The "folks" who run small businesses could certainly be helped with a small business equipment deduction without slashing the top tax rate for the wealthiest americans. They could be helped without eliminating the dividend tax (another example of this tactic is the estate tax repeal of 2001, which, if you remember, was justified by trotting out a handful of farmers who were going to lose the homestead because of that damned, immoral death tax, when in fact the benefits overwhelmingly accrue to the wealthy). By appending a provision helping small business, the defenders get a talking point, unlinked to the true consequences of the larger plan. And why exactly is it that seniors "especially" risk their money in a fragile stock market? And considering that Miller himself just got finished telling us that it's only the rich who pay taxes, and that that's unfair, exactly which overtaxed families is he talking about who are "struggling to make ends meet?"

In a time of war, it is more critical than ever that we push for economic growth. And the proven path to growth is to let Americans keep more of their money to spend, to invest, to save and to expand their businesses. It’s the route President Kennedy took. It’s the route President Reagan took. It’s the route we took in 2001, and it’s the route we should take again now.

More of the same. If you don't cut taxes, you don't support the troops. As for the "proven path to growth," In the late 40's and early 50's, this country expanded and grew like no other time in its history. Top tax rate in 1946? 86.4%. Top tax rate in 1960? 91% And by the way - Kennedy didn't cut taxes during his term, that was Johnson, who took them down to a breathtaking 77%.

As for Reagan, that's harder to say - He truly was a tax revolutionary, dropping the top rate from 77% when he entered office to 28% when he left (Bush I nudged it back up to 39%). A lot of smart people think that this was a key trigger to growth - which it may have been, but it came at the cost of a ballooning deficit. So the point is simply that tax cuts are not a guaranteed panacea, and that the examples he cites don't support his statements about deficits below.

The Congressional Budget Office now says the president’s tax cut would not help the economy. There aren’t enough charts in the world to convince me that’s true. The president’s bold plan would put virtually all taxpayers in lower tax brackets, reduce the marriage penalty for married couples, increase the child tax credit for parents, help small business owners by letting them write off three times more of the cost of new equipment, and help the 35 million households who own stock by not taxing their dividends twice before the money reaches their pockets. History has proven — and common sense tells me — that this strategy would add up to jobs and growth.

Read that paragraph again. History has not proven anything like what he has said here. History has proven, quite frankly, that the fluctuations of the market and the commensurate rising and falling of all boats is remarkably resistant to tax policy. The main effect of tax policy seems to be on the size of the federal debt.

Yes, this tax cut will increase the deficit temporarily. But at a time when we face both a recession and a war, I am willing to let the federal government run a short-term — I repeat, short-term — deficit. And I am supporting the president’s tax cut precisely to make sure that this deficit is short term.

For tax cuts not only boost the economy, they also force politicians to curb spending. (And make no mistake: Hog-wild spending is the true culprit behind the deficit.) The math is so simple even I can understand it: If you don’t collect it, you can’t spend it. And if you don’t spend it, you can’t run a deficit.

Huh? Okay, so let's reduce the tax rate to zero, and disband the government. This implies that careful thought has gone into reducing the tax rate just enough that it will eliminate waste, but maintain core functions. Instead, Bush wants to take a broadaxe to the revenue stream, and let the chumps in Congress figure out the rest. And make no mistake, Bush knows perfectly well what they will do - they will cut the "soft costs," the social spending, the safety net and the investments on programs that don't shoot things or put checks in retirees' mailboxes. They would love to more, but there's just no money, they will say. This legislation is not a tax policy. It's a social policy. It's a (thinly) masqueraded attempt to repudiate the government's current responsibilities towards the poor and marginalized. Its a way to devastate the funding of the smallest sector of the federal budget while claiming victim status for the largest.

The president said during his State of the Union: “The economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest. And the best and fairest way to make sure Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place.” I stood to cheer those words, and I bet the majority of Americans watching at home did, too.

I bet you did cheer, you simpleminded lying demagogue.

And then, of course, perhaps the most frightening sentence of the entire piece, in italics at the bottom of the page:

Miller sits on the Senate Banking Committee.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen! Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia!


Thursday, April 03, 2003  
This Digby reply to a widely circulating bit of right-wing spam is hilarious.


Well this is interesting:

President Bush has invited one of his Democratic rivals for the White House to join him on Air Force One for a trip to North Carolina's Camp Lejeune.

Sen. John Edwards, who is seeking the party's presidential nomination, and Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., received the invitations from the White House and are scheduled to travel with the president when he flies to Jacksonville, N.C., Thursday.

A reward for a pro-war vote in the Senate, perhaps? Or a manifestation of some homespun whim of Bush's to sit down with and take the measure of the man the White House thinks is the biggest '04 threat? I don't know, to be honest. It is possible, I suppose, that the campaign strategists learned a valuable lesson from the '02 elections: If you are a Democrat, siding with Bush and being affiliated with his policies will get you through the primaries, but will send you down in the general (according to the old maxim of "give the people a choice between a fake Republican and a real one and they will pick the real one every time"). So maybe this is the product of a strategy to consciously emphasize Edwards' pro-war stance, considering that in the current political environment, all any pro-war Democrat can say is "Me, too!"

Or maybe Bush is just giving a Senator a ride.


Wednesday, April 02, 2003  
Great day in the morning! Gary Hart has a weblog. It seems to just be getting off the ground, and no hand-tipping about his flirtation with a presidential bid, but by any measure a pretty bold experiment in political communication. In any case, Mr. Hart has entered the fourth act of his political life (maverick campaign strategist for McGovern, U.S. Senator, disgraced presidential hopeful, and now respected outsider foreign policy wonk) with some interesting things to say. For example, from yesterday:

America's Role in the World

If they do nothing else, wars alter history. Gulf War II will be no different. America's role in the early 21st century world is already being seen differently by those on both sides. For Bush administration hard-liners, this is the first in a string of battles to "liberate" so much of the Islamic world as is not "democratic". For much of the rest of the world, this is their worst nightmare about the intended misuse of American power and especially American military power.

But serious foreign policy thinkers have pointed out that "democracy" is not necessarily liberality. What if, for example, the first "free" Iraqi elections produce President Mullah Omar? Do we then overthrow a democratically elected theocracy? Has Dick Cheney thought this far ahead? And how many other dictatorships--and some 47 have been counted worldwide--are we obliged to invade to "liberate" their people? Where does it all end? Will the Bush ideologues, presently driving American foreign policy, turn America into the world's avenging angel? Instead of just demonstrating against this war (the first of many?), now is the time to propose a better, more American, course. We must lead and strengthen existing international institutions, including the UN, and design new ones, including, for example, an international peace-making force. We must start immediately to repair badly damaged relationship in Europe and with nations such as Russia and China. And we must have a foreign policy based upon America's highest and best principles (as I outline in my San Francisco speech), that inspires and gives hope to the millions of fellow inhabitants of the globe who would like to respect and admire us.

I like that - "millions of fellow inhabitants of the globe who would like to respect and admire us." It sounds a refreshing note of positivity about the potential of this country to pursue a different kind of empire from the one we currently seem to be after. Moreover, Hart understands that non-Americans have a choice in the matter of whether to respect and admire us, something the current administration does not seem to grasp. (Via Yglesias.)


Protesting the war is terrorism, and punishable by life in prison. At least, that is the position of Senator Minnis, senior Republican of the Oregon Legislative Assembly. A lot of people have noted this story (including myDD, Eugene Volokh, and, natch, Atrios), but it's worth passing along, in case you missed it. The full text of the bill is available here, but the important part is excerpted below:


Creates crime of terrorism. Punishes by life imprisonment. Relating to terrorism; creating new provisions; and amending section 19, chapter 666, Oregon Laws 2001. Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:


(1) A person commits the crime of terrorism if the person knowingly plans, participates in or carries out any act that is intended, by at least one of its participants, to disrupt:
(a) The free and orderly assembly of the inhabitants of the State of Oregon;
(b) Commerce or the transportation systems of the State of Oregon; or
(c) The educational or governmental institutions of the State of Oregon or its inhabitants.

(2) A person commits the crime of terrorism if the person conspires to do any of the activities described in subsection (1) of this section.

(3) A person may not be convicted of terrorism except upon the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or upon confession in open court.


(a) A person convicted of terrorism shall be punished by imprisonment for life.
(b) When a person is convicted of terrorism under this section, the court shall order that the person be confined for a minimum of 25 years without possibility of parole, release to post-prison supervision, release on work release or any form of temporary leave or employment at a forest or work camp.

Now, I know that this bill hasn't got a constitutional prayer (although Mark Kleiman has a compelling argument that it is viable politically). The Constitution doesn't say "freedom to peaceably assemble as long as you don't make anyone late." But still, worthy just for archival purposes: as an artifact, a signpost of where the poles of the debate are right now. If this is being proposed by the top Republican state legislator in Oregon (by almost any objective measure a "mainstream" figure), how much repression is the mainstream of the population prepared to accept? How much is the far right willing to accept, or participate in?

Preparing the battlefield, indeed.


Tuesday, April 01, 2003  
A smattering of quotes from the Post oped page today. No broader point intended. Just wanted to celebrate a day when the Post's editors overcame their fear of being labeled "liberal" long enough to keep Kelly, Krauthammer, Novak, and Will off the back page. They are fewer and farther between, days like this, so I thought I'd serve up some clips:

The Franks Strategy: Fast and Flexible
By Jim Hoagland

[ . . . . ]
Franks's decision to hurl the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and his Marine units deep into Iraq in the war's opening days was a daring reversal of War Plan 1003, a document that had been on the shelf until Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld told Franks to get ready for campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11.

The old plan reflected the Army's traditional preference of reducing risk by increasing mass. It was drawn straight from Desert Storm and called for slowly building up heavy armor forces in Kuwait to turn back invading Iraqi forces. Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Franks worked through new ideas that centered on risk being reduced more effectively by speed in the changed circumstances.

They were determined to avoid giving Hussein time to launch missiles with chemical warheads against Israel and its Arab neighbors, torch Iraq's oil fields or launch new massacres that would send waves of Iraqi refugees fleeing into Turkey and elsewhere. They have been largely successful in these objectives so far.

But some of Franks's own commanders have joined a chorus of critics who suggest that American forces are dangerously overextended and have outrun their supplies. He has been stung by this criticism, friends report, but is determined to prove that his "rolling start" concept is the best way to fight a war of liberation that puts a premium on avoiding Iraqi casualties and brings a quick end to combat.

Franks cultivates the image of a plain-spoken country boy. But he has impressed his superiors with a camouflaged mental quickness and flexibility. He is going to need exactly those qualities to overcome first the Iraqis and then those on his own side who argue that only large armies possessing overwhelming ground force can win wars.

The Post accompanies this now-familiar refrain (military carping against the Franks/Rumsfeld plan) with this bromide from Jim McDonough, "a retired Army colonel, . . . the principal author of the Army's central war-fighting doctrine for the 1990s and the editor in chief of the 1997 National Defense Panel report 'Transforming Defense: National Security in the 21st Century.'" Everybody just calm yourselves, says McDonough:

Undoubtedly Dominant
By Jim McDonough

[ . . . . ]
Simply put, combat power is the sum total of the ability to move relative to the enemy, to hit him and to protect yourself from his attempts to hit back -- or, in military parlance, to maneuver, to apply firepower and to defend yourself while doing so.

In each of these areas coalition forces are dominant, particularly at the operational level of war. Within days we are at the gates of Baghdad in force, with more coming on hour by hour. We have had complete control of the air from the outset, can strike freely from ground and air, are moving up Iraqi waterways and roaming widely over the majority of Iraqi territory. We can pinpoint our targets and strike with unerring accuracy at the level of devastation we choose to inflict.

The enemy for its part can move only at great risk and is compelled to seek cover among the population or to await extreme weather conditions to foray out, and then only at the smallest tactical levels. The enemy's ability to strike has been relatively impotent, reduced to small arms and explosives from terrorist groups or to venting frustration in barbaric war crimes against prisoners and atrocities against fellow Iraqis. While chemical and biological weapons use may remain an option, their operational effectiveness remains uncertain, while their political consequences for the Iraqi regime's cause would be devastating. Iraqi protection is completely passive. Only in bunkers buried deep and sheltered by innocent civilians placed in proximity can enemy forces hope to stave off destruction. Their fighting forces lie exposed, vulnerable if they move, more vulnerable if they stay in place. Contrary to what a tally sheet of division counts might imply, the gap between Iraqi forces and coalition forces is wide, tilting the balance of combat power heavily toward the coalition.

[ . . . . ]

Let us not be in a hurry to win today what we will inevitably win in a short enough time, not if we have to do so by paying a much higher price in friendly and innocent casualties. And let us not be too quick to bemoan a supposed insufficiency of combat power. Measured by the essential elements of military doctrine, the odds are heavily stacked in our favor.

So, everyone should stop characterizing this "operational pause" as either a failure or not happening, depending upon your perspective, and simply accept that it's probably a good thing (or, at least, that this pause doesn't indicate anything important about our long-term chance of success).

Richard Cohen, somewhat surprisingly, is a bit more polarized on this issue. If you want to see the anti-Bush red meat, he's got it in spades, including the obligatory Vietnam reference. I'll just give you the money paragraph:

Lyndon Johnson's credibility gap turned out to be a mortal wound. He became such a polarizing figure that he limited himself to one elected presidential term. It is too soon to say that Bush is Johnson redux. Certainly the war in Iraq is nothing like the war in Vietnam. But what the two wars are beginning to have in common is a bristling arrogance coupled with an insistence that everything is going according the plan.

E.J. Dionne today comes off like a lefty George Will, in a column that combines the Vietnam reference with a jarringly inapposite historical metaphor (in this case comparing the current situation to the debates between Democrats and Whigs leading up to the Mexican-American War of 1847).

Partisan Casualties
by E.J. Dionne

[. . . ]
What's clear now? First, that the administration made a large error before the war when it chose to sell this venture on the grounds that it would be easy and that Saddam Hussein's regime could fall like "a house of cards."

The administration now claims it never said anything of the sort. But information retrieval systems make it plain that many Bush spokesmen insisted that only a limited number of troops would be required and that Iraqis would quickly rally to our cause.

Even if the war works out better in the coming days than it has in the past few, the administration did little to prepare Americans for what will be, in the best of circumstances, a long and complicated aftermath. Short-term spin control is usually the enemy of long-term spin control. And in pretending not to have said things it actually said, the administration does not help its credibility at home or abroad.

Nor is it good for a Republican administration to be confronting open criticism from military leaders, both current and former, who have let it be known that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld underestimated how many troops would be required for this war. He was too convinced, the critics say, by his own theories that American technological prowess made "boots on the ground" less important.

Rumsfeld resolutely denies this, but no Republican can feel easy about being accused of letting theory get in the way of military realism. That's a criticism Republicans have directed against Democrats since the Vietnam War. God forbid that Republicans should look like impractical intellectuals or overly confident management gurus who ignore the experience of the generals.

Except for [Bob] Graham, Democrats have largely held their fire. It's so much easier to let the military guys do the criticizing. But the divided Democrats can't stay silent forever.

A worthy opposition would think about what should happen after an American victory, which will come. Among the tasks: how to undo the diplomatic damage done in the weeks leading up to the war, and how to rebuild international institutions so the United States won't have to scramble for allies in the future. The administration should be thinking about exactly the same thing. The alternative is to be an 1840s Democrat or an 1840s Whig. History suggests that neither fate is particularly agreeable.

Finally, David Ignatius serves up the somewhat cloyingly titled "Jobs and Water, Hearts and Minds," which contains this interesting, affecting anecdote:
[ . . . . ]
On Sunday, scores of young Iraqis were lined up in the baking sun, applying for jobs as service workers for the British troops here. By the end of the day, 89 of them had been processed, photographed for ID cards, checked by medical staff and vetted by security officers.

The Iraqi job-seekers were nominated by what a British officer called a "town council," a hastily organized gathering of local notables. The goal was to recruit people from different families, so that the money could be spread around town.

The British want the roughly 1,000 Iraqis who worked at the port in its heyday to come back to their jobs, too. They'll be paid a bit more than what they earned before the war, which ranged up to about $30 a month. Some of the port workers live in Basra to the north, which is still controlled by the regime, and the British hope these workers will soon be able to travel safely to Umm Qasr. The idea is to extend security and normal life north, gradually but inexorably.

"Because the Baath Party has been so powerful for so long, it is entwined in every part of society," says British Maj. Tom Ellis. "We're trying to demonstrate here with aid and jobs that we are going to see this through, and that the regime isn't going to return."

Sunday's applicants were mostly teenagers -- kids in ripped T-shirts, baggy track suits and ragged sandals. They seemed delighted at the notion of paying jobs, but they were clearly frightened by the shadows of Hussein's secret police that lurk here.

"There are still Fedayeen in Umm Qasr," whispered one young man in Arabic. They are on the run now, he said, but they'll be back as soon as the Americans and British leave. Other boys simply signaled, by glancing over their shoulders, that they believed Baath Party informers to be among the crowd.

"If they see us on TV, they'll hang us," said a boy in a brown and green shirt. Yet a few minutes later, he and his pals were strutting for the TV cameras and showing off in the style of teenage boys around the world. At least for those few minutes, their fear was gone.

A reporter later asked the boys if they'd rather be working for Saddam Hussein, whose portrait in the city center has been defaced with three X's, splattered in red. "No," said the boys. "What do we get from Saddam? Nothing!" ventured a brave youth. "He only gave money to his tribe from Tikrit. There was nothing for us."

One young man in a blue shirt was sitting cross-legged in the sand, head bowed. He said that when he went for his job interview, the Kuwaiti interpreter asked for his name, age and address. He panicked and left.

"It's too dangerous," he said. "We are scared from Saddam's people, 100 percent." He said Iraqis believe that Hussein's power is "like magic," invisible and impossible to destroy. "We will not sleep well until we know he's dead," he said.

These young men fear their new benefactors will be gone soon. "If the Americans and British back off," said the young man in the blue shirt, "he [Saddam] will kill us." A reporter asked whether the boys thought they would have a better life a year from now. "That depends on you guys," answered an 18-year-old in a brown polo shirt.

So there you go. Don't worry, the Post will be back in full neoconservative cry tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next...


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