Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stop the War

“We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.”

--Robert S. McNamara

The Democratic perspective on Iraq: Bush is an illegitimate president, in the White House even though he lost to Gore by 540,000 votes. 9/11 took America to war against al-Qaeda, and Bush exploited that war to win the 2002 mid-term elections.

Instead of confining war to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Bush in 2003 undertook to bring democracy to Iraq, vastly expanding our combat effort. Bush failed to find the weapons of mass destruction used to justify invading Iraq, and Rumsfeld’s too-few-troops strategy failed to pacify Iraq. Bush nevertheless jerked the patriotism-in-time-of-war chord enough to win re-election in 2004. Now two more years on with no victory in sight, America should be fed up enough with Iraq to defeat Bush’s party in 2006.

To Democrats who remember the ‘60s as a heady time of youthful idealism, getting out of Iraq is ending the Vietnam War all over again. An accidental president from Texas forces us to fight the wrong enemy in the wrong place, lies to us about why we are there, and proclaims success when evidence shows otherwise. A misconceived effort to bomb and kill where people only want peace and a better life comes at the expense of federal programs at home and abroad to reduce poverty while expanding equality. It’s all so familiar.

Wasn’t the big lesson of our lifetime to stay out of wars we have no business fighting? And if we do go where we shouldn’t, get out as fast as possible. The U.S. paid dearly to learn the Vietnam lesson. Given that price, we must now commit totally to making sure America has “no more Vietnams.”

One problem. Iraq isn’t Vietnam.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

America's Pravda

Here is the lead paragraph of the New York Times story Sunday reporting U.S. intelligence believes the Iraq war has boosted Islamic terrorism:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

And here’s the key judgment from the just-declassified April National Intelligence Estimate itself on the jihadist threat (find PDF file here):

Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq “jihad;” (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims—all of which jihadists exploit.

The New York Times not only created the story, it also forced Bush to declassify the intelligence report to refute the Times. On the way, the Times provided the briefing leading Democrats used to pound home their central theme for the 2006 elections—Iraq is a distraction from the real war on terrorism that reduces our chances of winning the war that counts.

The U.S. is the world’s leading democracy, with a very healthy free press. The old Soviet Union and China today exemplify authoritarian regimes that suppress information hostile to those in power. But as one who was paid to scour China’s People’s Daily for clues as to what the leadership was up to, I’m struck by a similarity between the USSR’s Pravda, the People’s Daily, and the New York Times.

Apparatchiks get their morning briefing from the newspapers, the talking points they will carry into the rest of the day’s activities. That’s why it was so valuable for students of China to read People’s Daily. And the New York Times knowingly performs that same valuable service for America’s Democratic Party.

Religion, or Islam?

Is it religion in general that causes conflict and prevents the world from coming together, as Sam Harris has written? Vatican scholar George Weigel, also writing in the LA Times, has a different take on what threatens civilization. Excerpts from Weigel’s piece on the Pope’s handling of Islam:

In a brilliant lecture at the University of Regensburg last week, Pope Benedict XVI made three crucial points that are now in danger of being lost in the polemics about his supposedly offensive comments about Islam.

1. . . . all the great questions of life, including social and political questions, are ultimately theological. . .If. . .God is pure will, a remote majesty with whom our only possible relationship is one of unthinking submission, then we have imagined a God who can even command what seems to be irrational — like the murder of innocents. Pope Benedict reminds us, however, that mainstream Christian tradition, following its Jewish parent, [worships] a God of reason, compassion and love, a God who comes searching for man in history, appeals to the human mind as well as the human heart and invites human beings into a dialogue of salvation.

2. . . .irrational violence aimed at innocent men, women and children "is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the [human] soul." If adherents of certain currents of thought in contemporary Islam insist that the suicide bombing of innocents is an act pleasing to God, then they must be told that they are mistaken: about God, about God's purposes and about the nature of moral obligation. Responsibility for challenging these distorted views of God and the distorted understanding of moral duty that flows from them rests, first, with Islamic leaders. By quoting from a robust exchange between a medieval Byzantine emperor and a learned Islamic scholar, Benedict XVI was not making a cheap rhetorical point; he was trying to illustrate the possibility of a tough-minded but rational dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

3. If the West's high culture keeps playing in the sandbox of postmodern irrationalism — in which there is "your truth" and "my truth" but nothing such as "the truth" — the West will be unable to defend itself. Why? Because the West won't be able to give reasons why its commitments to civility, tolerance, human rights and the rule of law are worth defending. A Western world stripped of convictions about the truths that make Western civilization possible cannot make a useful contribution to a genuine dialogue of civilizations, for any such dialogue must be based on a shared understanding that human beings can, however imperfectly, come to know the truth of things.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Most Dangerous Enemy (Part II)

Here is more from Sam Harris’ important LA Times article on the extreme threat extreme Islam poses to civilization:

. . . more than a third of Americans suspect that the federal government "assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East” . . . Such an astonishing eruption of masochistic unreason could well mark the decline of liberalism, if not the decline of Western civilization. . .

[Here’s] the debilitating dogma that lurks at the heart of liberalism: Western power is utterly malevolent, while the powerless people of the Earth can be counted on to embrace reason and tolerance, if only given sufficient economic opportunities. . .

The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world's Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization . . .

liberals can be relied on to . . . ignore the fact that Muslims
intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal.

Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise.

We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists. To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for . . . civilization.

A Most Dangerous Enemy (Part I)

Sam Harris is the author of The End of Faith, a book highly critical of religion, which argues that the world's major religions are genuinely incompatible, inevitably cause conflict and prevent the emergence of a viable, global civilization. He has written a very important article for the LA Times that deserves to be read in its entirety. The article asserts that Western civilization really is at risk from Muslim extremists. Excerpts:

I'd like to see taxes raised on the wealthy, drugs decriminalized and homosexuals free to marry. I also think that the Bush administration deserves most of the criticism it has received . . . with respect to its waging of the war in Iraq, its scuttling of science and its fiscal irresponsibility.

But . . . liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world — specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.

On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right. . . A cult of death is forming in the Muslim world — for reasons that are perfectly explicable in terms of the Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. . . we are not fighting a "war on terror." We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise.

[Muslim] extremism is not as fringe a phenomenon as we might hope. Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.

Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb — and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet. . .liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Spiritual America

"Man cannot live by bread alone."

--Deuteronomy 8:3

The YMCA triangle honors body, mind, and spirit. It’s non-controversial to invest in improving people’s minds. Controversy relates to how best to do so. The Y understood early how caring for one’s body is a personal responsibility. People shouldn't just go to the doctor when sick; they should also exercise and eat right. Controversy here relates to how to pay for health care, and how much “nanny state” we can take on questions of diet and drink.

On the other hand, spiritual questions do generate controversy. State efforts to disestablish Christianity have upset tens of millions of Americans. They see the government pulling out one side of the Y’s triangle. Tens of millions of others recoil at efforts of Christians to turn their personal beliefs on abortion and other life-related issues into law. Freedom to have an abortion is central to the rise of the women’s movement.

We have discussed the large American liberal establishment’s secular nature. But people need to nurture their spiritual side. The Y is right: it’s body, mind, and spirit. And for secular liberals, honoring nature--getting close to Mother Nature--is a way to feed the spirit. Pristine forests, majestic mountains, and unspoiled coastlines are nature’s cathedrals. Earth Day is a secular Christmas. The environmental movement is a secular religion. Protecting the environment is a cause one can pursue with spiritual, religious-like fervor.

Christians or not, we are a nation of believers after all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Obsessing on Bush

Peggy Noonan, the former and great Reagan speechwriter, has written in the Wall Street Journal about how hatred to distraction of Bush is costing Democrats in the 2006 election. Excerpts:

They say the election is all about Iraq. It's not. It's about George W. Bush. He . . . obsesses the discussers. I think that Americans have pretty much stopped listening to him. One reason is . . . there is no new data, only determination. . .

George Bush and his presidency have been enormously consequential. He has made decisions that will shape the future we'll inhabit. . .He doesn't declare, he commits; and when you back him, you're never making a discrete and specific decision, you're always making a long-term investment. . .

With all this polarity, this drama, this added layer Mr. Bush brings to a nation already worn by the daily demands of modern individual life, the political alternative, the Democrats, should roar in six weeks from now, right? And return us to normalcy?

But I feel the Democrats this year are making a mistake. . .The Democrats' mistake--ironically, in a year all about Mr. Bush--is obsessing on Mr. Bush. They've been sucker-punched by their own animosity.

"The Democrats now are incapable of answering a question on policy without mentioning Bush six times," says pollster Kellyanne Conway. "'What is your vision on Iraq?' 'Bush lied us into war.' 'Health care? 'Bush hasn't a clue.' They're so obsessed with Bush it impedes them from crafting and communicating a vision all their own." They heighten Bush by hating him.

One of the oldest clichés in politics is, "You can't beat something with nothing." . . Because if you're going to turn away from him, you'd better be turning toward a plan, and the Democrats don't appear to have one. Which leaves them unlikely to win leadership.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

No Cojones

News reports (this from the UK paper, Independent) say that NATO won’t respond to requests from NATO commanders in Afghanistan to send more troops:

US and British strategy in Afghanistan was in danger of unravelling last night after appeals for Nato partners to volunteer more troops fell on deaf ears.

Tony Blair joined Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, in warning that Afghanistan could become a "failed state" unless Nato members provide more troops to combat the resurgent Taliban forces.

Their appeal to Nato countries meeting in Mons, Belgium, produced no immediate promises of extra troops. Commanders on the ground demanded an extra 2,500 troops after the British-led Nato forces in Helmand province in the south fought a series of ferocious battles.

Speaking in Downing Street at a press conference with the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Mr Blair said "Nato countries have a duty to respond".

Old Europe, more and more like Old Europe, 1938: paying no attention to warnings from Churchill, er Blair.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Clinton 44

Dick Morris knows Hillary Clinton very well from the days when he was her husband’s most important political advisor. He argues here that Clinton is likely to be our next president. Excerpts:

The last time a Democratic frontrunner failed to win his party's nomination was 1972. . . She still controls most of the money and has the backing of the ex-officio delegates who she has bought and paid for by distributing more than $50 million in donations to their campaigns. And her main opponents - Gore, Kerry, John Edwards and Joe Biden - have one thing in common: They've all run for president and lost . . .

And, if she wins the nomination, she'll likely win in November.

The Republican Party and President Bush are sinking rapidly in popularity. . . And Hillary still has a secret weapon: The likely increase in voter turnout among single women, which her candidacy is certain to attract.

Half of all women in the United States are single, and they voted for Kerry in 2004 by a margin of 25 points. But their turnout was only 59 percent, about 10 points below married white men or women. . . If Hillary runs, she will bring out single women in unheard of numbers. Likely, she will increase their turnout by about 6 to 7 million votes.

Those extra votes will be hard to offset. White men and married white women are already pretty well maxed out in their turnout. There were not a lot of Bush voters who stayed home in 2004. And very few Kerry voters will back the Republican in 2008.

Hillary will also significantly increase black turnout (African-Americans like her much more than they liked Kerry or Gore) and will also attract more Hispanics to the polls (she got almost 80 percent of New York Puerto Ricans in her first race for Senate).

Hillary will not so much win more support from the electorate that turned out in 2004 as she will expand the electorate in ways that the Republicans cannot hope to match.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Old World, No Fight

Jon Meacham is the author of Franklin and Winston. Writing in Newsweek, Meacham has noted on 9/11 that “there is no hiding from history”:

In another September, amid another war, Winston Churchill stood in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to explain why America, the anchor of the New World, seemed forever linked to the passions and politics of the Old. “I will offer you one explanation—there are others, but one will suffice,” Churchill said at a Harvard convocation. “The price of greatness is responsibility. If the people of the United States had continued in a mediocre station, struggling with the wilderness, absorbed in their own affairs, and a factor of no consequence in the movement of the world, they might have remained forgotten and undisturbed beyond their protecting oceans: but one cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes. If this has been proved in the past, as it has been, it will become indisputable in the future. The people of the United States cannot escape world responsibility.”

Meacham writes that “there is a larger fight to be waged and won so that perhaps one day the sounds of our cities may again be. . .—the sounds of a world at peace—rather than the sounds of war.”

Does Meacham appreciate the irony of 2006, that while fighting to protect civilization is a debatable proposition in America, in the “Old World”, to use Churchill’s phrase, the issue is largely settled—Europe has no plans to entertain “the sounds of war.”

Zeitgeist of the Status Quo

Ann Curry: "Today House Democrats are poised to pick Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader. The California Democrat would be the first woman ever elected a party leader in Congress. It is now 7:07 a.m. You are now up to date from the news desk. Let’s now turn back to Matt, Katie, and Al."

Katie Couric: "Is it okay to say, ‘You go girl!’?"

Democrats under Lyndon Johnson ushered in the last great social change in America, civil rights legislation in 1964-65 that made the U.S. government color-blind. This spirit of equality carried over to fair treatment of women and non-Black minorities. It’s the Democrats’ last big idea, leaving that party, based in the old cities of the East and West coasts, the party of the status quo: the New Deal agenda of government fixing your life, creating equality, and employing Democrats to make it happen.

Here’s why the Democrats’ protect-the-status-quo agenda isn’t mine:

Democrats are the party of special interests
. The basic party starts with brains plus labor unions (promising a working class majority), has added women (women hold up half of heaven), and expects the support of minorities (25% of the white population plus all minorities equals a majority). To retain these groups, Democrats keep pounding at a special interest agenda of pro-labor, pro-women, pro-each separate minority issues. It's what they are. Change, and they wouldn't be Democrats.

Democrats are the party of the protected classes
, those who benefit from absolutist interpretations of the Bill of Rights. That means especially plaintiff attorneys and the media broadly defined to include entertainment. In this world, I find, absolutes rule, sensationalism triumphs, and anecdotes supplant hard research as journalism substitutes for history. Journalists and attorneys play off each other—attorneys want publicity, and journalists want the sensational examples of crime and corruption attorneys uncover. Both thrive on catalogued wrongs, not balanced analysis.

Democrats the party of imputs, not outputs, symbolized by public education. Government schools are the worst, doing everything they can to avoid being financed according to their results. Yet the "imput" disease is government-wide. Government wants to talk about how many they serve, not how well they are served.

At home, Democrats favor higher taxes, which pays for more government and provides money to do good, even when the evidence shows higher taxes hurt growth and total tax collections. Abroad, Democrats favor a New Deal for the world’s poor, financed out of the money saved by giving up war, even when the evidence shows confronting terror sooner saves lives and money later.

As a lifelong bureaucrat, I favor competition and measured outputs. As a conservative, I believe in confronting evil, not wishing it away. I see Republicans--not Democrats--trying to change America and the world.

Gimmie that Pre-9/11 World

“Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview.”

--Karl Rove

Democrats’ domination of Washington has been pretty thorough since 1932. If we award two points for every year a party controlled the White House, and one point for its control of each house of Congress, the Democrats earned 120 points to the Republicans’ 24 between 1932 and 1968. That domination was enough for Democrats to lay down some pretty deep tracks, including permanent control of the bureaucracy and the courts.

Since 1968, the score is more even—Democrats 72, Republicans 80. That’s enough balance to make Republicans a real factor on the Potomac, but not enough for the GOP to dominate the power structure. Not only do Democrats hold on to the bureaucracy and the courts, they also, as we have seen, control private sector institutions that rely on government largesse or protection: academia, entertainment and the arts, the Third Sector, and the media. Collectively, these institutions make up the American establishment. Like all establishments, this power structure finds change threatening, and hangs on to the status quo.

9/11 proved to be a very serious threat to the establishment after the mid-term elections of 2002, when Republicans successfully used the war on terror to gain simultaneous control of the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time since 1954. Again in 2004, Republicans used the war on terror to retain the White House, the Senate and the House. Why, then, would Democrats identify in any way with a post-9/11 politics that has cost them power? Of course, Democrats want the status quo ante; a return to the issues of pre-9/11.

They want the good old days. Clinton in the White House. Congress Democratic. The leadership class leading.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Republicans Want Change

"The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution."

-Hannah Arendt

People ask me why Republican. I believe in continuing revolution. Life gets better, or it gets worse. It's change or die.

To me, it’s clear. Republicans are the party of change. Democrats stand for the status quo. Of course, it wasn’t so in 1932. Ooooh, that was so long ago. Democrats came into power in 1932 with a radical agenda to remake America--the New Deal. In spite of Hannah Arendt’s truth, Democrats faced wave upon wave of crises, and responded to each threat with new innovations. Truman’s Fair Deal helped house a nation and took the first steps toward civil rights reform, while internationally, Truman organized the world to fight Communism. But Truman was a spent force by 1952.

Kennedy and his accidental successor Lyndon Johnson pretty much finished the work of the New Deal/Fair Deal/New Frontier/Great Society by 1965. 1960 was the first election where big money first began to rally behind a Democrat. The Eastern Establishment was very comfortable with wealthy, Harvard graduate Kennedy, who appointed several Republicans to his cabinet, and rewarded the wealthy in 1963 by ending nominally confiscatory income tax rates.

I didn’t see it at the time, but after 1965, it was Republicans who started coming up with the new ideas, ideas that made sense. Here’s how I divide the parties today on foreign policy:

Democrats are the party of civilization, defined by Old Europe’s old cities. Civilized people don’t fight wars, they negotiate. As Kennedy said, “Never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.” Negotiate with Iran. Negotiate with North Korea. Big mistake: we didn’t negotiate with Saddam. Buttressing European faith in negotiations is the belief we can afford concessions, because in the end, civilization will prevail anyway. With time, terrorists will have children who will want to plant gardens around houses they own. Meanwhile, the West has resources better used at home to improve health, education, and the environment.

Republicans, in the 21st century, carry forward the tradition of American exceptionalism that Democratic presidents from Wilson and Roosevelt through Truman, Kennedy and Johnson encouraged with bipartisan support. America’s history is that of a continental power founded on democratic principles, with a strong belief that a world “made safe for democracy” is a world safer for all. Our finest moments are those when we stood up to tyranny, fighting for good on behalf of those unable to defend themselves against despots.

Do we fight for change, or do we wait for the savages to adopt our obviously superior ways? Republicans currently support “taking the offensive” against Muslim extremists unhappy enough with the current world order they will die to do us in. Democrats are more relaxed—part of the Old Europe culture that enjoys what it has, doesn’t fear terrorists, and certainly won’t risk death to force-march history along the path it will follow anyway.

To Republicans the future is hopeful, but a dangerous present will get worse unless we take firm action now.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Extremism begets Extremism

There is a lot of looking back to the 1930s these days, and with good reason. The 1930s were a bleak time that faced democracies with stark choices. Nobody in the democracies wanted war, but war, in the end, turned out to be the only option. In retrospect, it's clear that had the democracies acted sooner, the war would have been far less destructive than World War II proved to be.

In the 1930s, democracies were afraid to fight. The 1914-18 Great War had been unimaginably horrible; so much destruction for so little gain. Anything, anything to avoid another war seemed worth trying. The democracies’ unwillingness to fight fed Hitler’s boldness, and it seemed the more they cowered in the face of Germany’s rising power, the more Hitler was determined to make war.

Stalin’s terror regime in the Soviet Union re-enforced Hitler’s drive toward aggression. While Hitler had little use for the weak democracies, Stalin employed force in a way Hitler understood. The two tyrants fed off each other. And by proxy, they clashed in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, trying out and learning new warmaking ways. As the terror regimes in Moscow and Berlin ground inevitably toward war, the democracies seemed ever weaker and more insignificant. Of course, by June 1940, democracies were wiped from the European continent, while Germany and the Soviet Union consumed every square kilometer of land that lay between them.

Today, extremists threaten to dictate events in what Tony Blair has called “an arc of extremism” running from Pakistan to Gaza. The Sunni extremist forces linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda are in Iraq and are resurgent in Afghanistan. Pakistan has lost control of its border regions to local tribes linked to al-Qaeda, and Pakistan’s combustible combination of millions of militant, unemployed youth angry in a nuclear armed country threaten democracies as the 1930s Soviet Union never did. Osama wants the West out of the Middle East, and Israel destroyed.

As Hitler fed off Stalin, Iran’s Ahmadinejad has learned from the successes of the Sunni al-Qaeda. To Ahmadinejad, (see earlier post) the rightful world order would have the Shiites, led by Iran, strong in Iraq, and gaining power in Lebanon, be the force that terminates Israel’s existence and drives the U.S. Great Satan from the Middle East. The rivalry, so visible in the Iraq proxy war between Sunnis and Shiites, is also focused on Israel, where the Sunni Hamas and the Shiite Hizbullah pinch from two sides to squeeze out any democratic Palestinians.

When extremists make war, the grass of democracy gets trampled.

The Problem with Extremism

Charles Krauthammer has written an article discussing “two rationales for withdrawing from -- let's be honest: abandoning -- Iraq: (a) Iraq is not worth it, and (b) worth it or not, the cause is lost.” If we depart because Iraq’s not worth it, Krauthammer notes:

the central government in Iraq will collapse, and the beneficiaries will be Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda, the three major terror actors in the world today. It would not just be a psychological victory, but a territorial one. Al-Qaeda will gain a base in Mesopotamia; Syria and Iran will share spheres of influence in what's left of the Iraqi state. . . At this point, it is simply indisputable that the collapse of Iraq's constitutional government would represent an enormous gain for the forces of terror.

Krauthammer goes on:

The other rationale for withdrawal is that the war is lost and therefore it is unconscionable to make one more American soldier die for a cause that cannot be salvaged. . . And that depends on whether the government of Nouri al-Maliki can face up to its two potentially mortal threats: the Sunni insurgency and the challenge from Moqtada al-Sadr.

The vast majority of Sunnis are fighting not for ideology but for a share of power and (oil) money. A deal with them is eminently possible . . . Our ambassador in Baghdad has [also] been urging the Maliki government to . . . get serious about the growing internal threat of Sadr's Mahdi militia, which is responsible for much of the recent sectarian violence and threatens to either marginalize or supplant the central government.

What Krauthammer fails to note is that the al Qaeda extremists and the Mahdi milita extremists both benefit from the ongoing war between them. Each side, by going after the other, weakens the true enemy in the middle: the forces favoring democracy. Neither extreme has an incentive to settle. Both want terror.

More on the dynamic of extremism in my next post.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Iraq: Another Tough Month

Here’s our latest monthly, highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)

2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 49
August: 59

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (weekly average)
1965:* 30
1966: 97
1967: 177
1968: 263
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Note please—the Vietnam KIAs are weekly, not monthly, averages.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar: 2.50
Goal: 2.50
actual: 2.20 (8/06)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,400 (8/06)

Since our last monthly Iraq report, American KIA's are up sharply, ten above the monthly average for 2006, and oil and electricity production are down slightly. All are negative trends. While there are now more American troops in Iraq than at any time since March, troop numbers themselves don't account for August's higher death total. More troops and more deaths, however, do relate to more aggressive actions by U.S and Iraqi military to clear Baghdad of insurgents and outlaw militias.

We will need more time to evaluate the success of the effort to make Baghdad more secure. Still, total deaths in the capital city dropped to 550 in August from 1500 in July, according to Iraqi government sources.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Global Warming: Not Too Late

Technology Review, an MIT publication, has a special issue proclaiming “it’s not too late” to fix global warming. Here are some of the key points:

• Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, which have risen 32% in the last 150 years, threaten to raise global temperatures enough to submerge millions of homes.

• Oil extraction efforts continue to improve, perversely making the world's potential carbon dioxide problem even worse.

• While techniques exist to sequester carbon dioxide released by coal burning, we lack the incentives to force their use, and to force wider use of efficient electric lighting.

• Nuclear power proponents need to get busy 1) building plants that employ existing technologies, and 2) burying nuclear waste, not delay while researching better methods.

• Genetically engineered microorganisms that more efficiently produce ethanol offer the best research-driven path to clean energy.