Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Rock Sinking

[T]he overwhelming failure of the Administration’s Iraq gamble is now apparent to all. This war of choice has pointlessly drained American military strength, undermined what had originally appeared to be success in Afghanistan, handed the Iranian mullahs a strategic victory, immunized the North Korean regime from a forceful response to its nuclear defiance, and compromised American leadership of the democratic world.

— Hendrik Hertzberg
The New Yorker

Below, you will find all posts to date on Iraq. They paint a similar picture: tough going in Iraq, made tougher by the Mainstream Media (MSM)'s determination to make Iraq the issue that defeats Republicans in 2006, so that victorious Democrats will act quickly to get the U.S. out of Iraq. It is a mission that the MSM, which truly believes it's wrong to be in Iraq, has elevated to cult-like status (see Hertzberg's rant above).

The MSM achieved its current power position by toppling two presidents in the Vietnam era. The MSM feels that to maintain its post-Vietnam/Watergate credibility, it needs to get the U.S. out of Iraq. This is big stuff.

Robert Frank, a Cornell economist, has written in the book Luxury Fever that "Animals will fight viciously to protect territory that they hold, but they won't fight nearly as hard to extend their territory." Why? Gaining territory won't benefit them much, but losing territory is a threat to their existence.

With newspaper circulation down, with cable TV, talk radio, the internet, and YouTube encroaching on their sovereign territory, the MSM is fighting viciously to hold on to the credibility it has. Bush's Iraq war must be destroyed.

Iraq on Tenterhooks (3.5.06)

Bush and Iraq: For Better, for Worse (3.16.06)

WMD: Absence Fooled Saddam Too (3.23.06)

Iraq: Stability or Democracy? (4.3.06)

Rumsfeld Screwed Up. Long Live Rumsfeld. (4.15.06)

Kerry’s Secretary of State Rewrites History (4.16.06)

It’s Iraq, Stupid. (4.25.06)

Iraq: Good News is No News

Iraq: Almost There

Waiting on Haditha (6.1.06)

Slow “Progress” in Iraq

Iraq’s Excellent Day (6.8.06)

Iraq: Measurable Progress

Iraq Security Situation: Bad in Baghdad

Friedman’s “Plan B”: Exit from Iraq? (8.7.06)

Iraq: Another Tough Month

The Problem with Extremism

Stop the War

Iraq: Poll Says “No” to Partition (10.2.06)

Boots on the Ground (10.13.06)

Facts on the Ground

“Let’s You and Him Talk” (10.19.06)

Iraq.Vietnam.Iraq.Vietnam.Iraq.Vietnam.Iraq (10.27.06)

From Shawcross, Who Opposed U.S. Policy in Indochina, A Warning (10.29.06)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Reformation: Prelude to Democracy

This is Reformation Sunday (Martin Luther pictured). The Reformation’s call for people to read the Bible and develop their own personal relationship with God—discussed here earlier—began the democratic process five centuries ago. It is only in the last 100 years that democracy has finally come to fruition in our world.

From Shawcross, Who Opposed U.S. Policy in Indochina, a Warning

In 1979, British author William Shawcross wrote an important book called Sideshow that documented Kissinger’s complicity in the destruction of Cambodia. Now Shawcross, who supports Bush and Blair in Iraq, is deeply concerned that the media are preparing the Middle East for destruction. Excerpts:

The bias in much of the coverage of Iraq - in Britain, the US and Australia - helps only those violent extremists who are trying to destroy the country.

It dreadfully discourages all those millions of Iraqis who need our support to build a decent society.

President George W. Bush was not wrong when he said recently that the spike in terrorist attacks in Iraq is similar to the 1968 Tet communist offensive in Vietnam. Both aimed at domestic opinion.

Al-Qa'ida and the Shi'ite terrorists hope to inflict defeat on Republicans in US elections in November that will weaken American commitment to the future of Iraq and thus strengthen Islamism throughout the world. As [Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister said], we need to be "realistic, not defeatist".

The key to success is to strengthen and encourage the elected Iraqi Government led by Nouri al-Maliki. He has desperately serious problems. . .

Armchair pundits in the West like to blame the crisis in Iraq on mistakes made by Washington, particularly by Donald Rumsfeld. There certainly have been mistakes, but whether the present situation would have been markedly different without them can never be known.

Moreover, the mistakes were tactical, not moral: soldiers have not died plundering or colonising Iraq, they have died trying to help Iraqis make it better.

The blame for the present horrors lies above all with the monstrous al-Qa'ida, Baathist Sunni terrorists and the equally vile Shia militia, which are abetted by Iran. The vast majority of deaths in Iraq are being inflicted by Muslims on other Muslims, for reasons that have little to do with Western forces.

. . . a premature pullout would condemn Iraq and the region to unbelievable horror. And it would be a famous victory for our Islamist enemies, who declared war on the West long before we went into Iraq and liberated 23 million Muslims.

If we allow ourselves and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis to be defeated, that defeat will be the first of many in the region and the world. The Islamists will give no quarter.

Friday, October 27, 2006


I’m worrled the Mainstream Media’s determination to get us out of Iraq will snatch defeat from the jaws of hope. I’m not alone. Here’s excerpts from Caroline Glick, writing in the Jerusalem Post:

Today, the public debate in the US revolves around one question: When are we leaving Iraq? The conventional wisdom has become that US operations in Iraq are futile. Due in large part to politically driven press coverage, Americans have received the impression that the US cannot succeed in Iraq and that consequently, their leaders ought to be concentrating their efforts on building an exit strategy. Comparisons between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War are legion.

Last Wednesday, President George W. Bush was asked whether it is possible to make a comparison between the recent sharp rise in violence in Iraq and the Tet offensive in Vietnam in January 1968. Bush responded by noting that then as now, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

During the Tet offensive, the North Vietnamese attacked 40 South Vietnamese villages simultaneously with a massive force of 84,000 troops. The offensive failed utterly. 45,000 North Vietnamese soldiers were killed, no ground was taken. Yet, when then US president Lyndon Johnson declared victory, the American people didn't believe him.

Walter Cronkite, the all-powerful anchorman of the CBS Evening News had told them that the US had lost the offensive. Who was the president to argue with Cronkite? In March 1968 Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection.

So when the media wonder if one can compare the battles in Iraq today to the Tet offensive, what they really want to know is if they have successfully convinced the American public that its military has lost the war in Iraq. . .

The situation can be reversed. The media are no longer the power they were in Cronkite's day. Were the administration to challenge the networks, the networks would be forced to adjust their coverage to reality. . .

For Israel, the results of the American debate over the future of the war in Iraq are of critical importance. A US retreat will place Israel in grave danger. The eastern front. . . will make a comeback - replete with massive quantities of arms and tens of thousands of trained jihadi soldiers who will believe that they just won their jihad against the US. . .

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Coming Great War

Niall Ferguson predicts World War III, writing as the historian he is, looking back from the future. Iran’s Ahmadinejad is the Hitler who started it all. Ferguson predicted this in January, well ahead of my comparison of Ahmadinejad to Hitler.

Excerpts from Ferguson’s analysis:

The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other, the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in global demand for energy. . .

A second precondition of war was demographic. . . [I]n Iran. . . the social conservatism of the 1979 Revolution - which had lowered the age of marriage and prohibited contraception - combined with the high mortality of the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent baby boom to produce, by the first decade of the new century, a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two fifths of the population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007. . .

The third and perhaps most important precondition for war was cultural. Since 1979, not just Iran but the greater part of the Muslim world had been swept by a wave of religious fervour. . . 'Islamism' was as potent as either of the extreme ideologies the West had produced in the previous century, communism and fascism. Islamism was anti-Western, anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic.

A seminal moment was the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's intemperate attack on Israel in December 2005, when he called the Holocaust a 'myth'. The state of Israel was a 'disgraceful blot', he had previously declared, to be wiped 'off the map'. . .Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, craved a more serious weapon than strapped-on explosives. His decision to accelerate Iran's nuclear weapons programme [gave it] the power to defy the United States; the power to obliterate America's closest regional ally.

. . .American opinion was strongly opposed to an attack on Iran. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 had been discredited by the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein had supposedly possessed and by the failure of the US-led coalition to quell a bloody insurgency. Americans did not want to increase their military commitments overseas; they wanted to reduce them. . .

So history repeated itself. As in the 1930s, an anti-Semitic demagogue broke his country's treaty obligations and armed for war. . .The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked . . . the twilight of the West.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fundamentalists: Getting It Right

Reviewing the book The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back by Andrew Sullivan, NYTimes columnist David Brooks takes on the elitist perception of America’s evangelicals (covered earlier here):

[I]f I hadn’t been reviewing this book, I wouldn’t have finished it. I have a rule, which has never failed me, that when a writer uses quotations from Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and the Left Behind series to capture the religious and political currents in modern America, then I know I can put that piece of writing down because the author either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is arguing in bad faith.

As any number of historians, sociologists and pollsters can tell you, the evangelical Protestants who now exercise a major influence on the Republican Party are an infinitely diverse and contradictory group, and their relationship to these hyperpartisans is extremely ambivalent.

Conservative Christians are fully assimilated into commercial American life and, in a variety of different ways, critical of it. They get divorced as much as anybody else, if not more. They are as consumed by doubts and aware of their weaknesses as anybody else, if not more. They generally share — along with the pope — the belief that reason must be used to nurture faith.

And yet in his description of “fundamentalists,” Sullivan captures none of this complexity. His book would have benefited from more reporting — or any. He snips out egregious quotations of various conservative activists from The Nation, or from books critical of the religious right, and he leaves the impression that these quotes represent reality. He assumes that whatever is most offensive to the secular ear is most authentic to religious conservatism.

If he had spent more time with the people he describes as fundamentalists, he would have found that this category has no meaning. Many people disagree with him (and me) about gay marriage. Many people do believe that truth is revealed, and that one must work one’s way toward it. And yet to divide the world between fundamentalists and autonomous free thinkers is to create a dichotomy that distorts more than it reveals.

. . . the United States was. . . founded . . . by the assertion of a universal truth — that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain rights. The United States is a creedal nation, and almost every significant movement in American history has been led by people calling upon us to live up to our creed. In many cases, the people making those calls were religious leaders. From Jonathan Edwards to the abolitionists to the civil rights leaders to the people fighting AIDS and genocide in Africa today, religiously motivated people have been active in public life. They have been, in their certainty and their willingness to apply divine truths, fundamentalists — if we want to use Sullivan’s categories. You take those people out of American politics and you don’t have a country left.

. . . if American conservatives give up their optimism and their universal creed, they will once again be a small sect at the fringes of political life.

Peace with Syria

Baruch Kimmerling, writing in Haaretz, makes the case for peace between Israel and Syria;

[While] Ehud Barak, and even Benjamin Netanyahu, tried to further peace with Syria, Hafez Assad, the xenophobe, got cold feet as the talks moved toward the concluding stage. However, a great deal has changed, both in terms of Syria's geopolitics and in the condition of the ruling party, which relies on the Alawite minority. The end of Syria's hold over Lebanon not only undermined its prestige and its ability to maneuver politically vis-a-vis Israel but also the economic strength of the ruling sect, which relies on Lebanon's being a center of international drug trade.

The collapse of Iraq strengthened Iran, whose fundamentalist worldview is contrary to the secular inclination of the Syrian regime. Iran is becoming increasingly more powerful as a result of America's colossal strategic failure, which once more proved its utter lack of understanding of the essence of relations in the region. Proof of this is tagging Syria as part of the "axis of evil," instead of making the effort to encourage a Syrian-Israeli reconciliation as a counter to the rise of Islamic extremism.

Syria today lacks a real military option against Israel, but it can cause serious damage with its missile arsenal. To date, Syria has regarded this arsenal as serving a deterrent function, but could use the missiles out of desperation to break a status quo that has become unbearable, in a similar fashion to what Sadat did in 1973.

Bashar Assad knows that the only way he can stabilize his regime and take Syria forward is by an agreement with Israel, along the lines of the Egyptian model. Anyone who read the interview to Der Spiegel of August 29, 2005, in which Assad described Syrian society as "secular," could get a sense of his anxiety over Syria's possible deterioration into an Algerian-style civil war.

A peace accord with Syria will completely alter Israel's standing in the region and the world and will also influence the progress of reaching a solution with the Palestinians.

The way to get to that point is not through propagandist rhetoric, like the invitation Shimon Peres extended to Assad to visit Jerusalem. Someone like Peres knows full well that such a visit must be arranged in advance through [private talks], and that the invitation must come from the prime minister. Otherwise, we may find ourselves surprised once more.

Friday, October 20, 2006

It’s a Fact: TV Networks Diss U.S. Economy

Dan Gainor of the Business & Media Institute has written a report on “How Networks Distort a Good Economy.” Here are excerpts:

Network news stories have painted a bleak picture of an economy in decline. Reporters treated gas prices as a metaphor for the economy—only when they were high. And a slowing housing market coming off two record years was just another club used against Republican incumbents by a pessimistic press.

But the truth of the economy is far different. The United States continues to enjoy solid job growth. In the last year, 1.7 million new jobs were added and nearly 6 million have been created since August 2003—a streak of more than three years of positive growth. Unemployment is a low 4.7 percent. Gas prices have declined once again—more than 75 cents from their recent highs.

And though the economy actually grew. . .—that’s not how things looked on the evening news shows on all three broadcast networks—ABC, CBS and NBC. . . Business & Media Institute looked at all [network] stories referencing the “economy” or “economic” news between Aug. 1, 2005, and July 31, 2006. Here are some key findings:

Reports Negatively Charged: More than twice as many stories and briefs focused on negative aspects of the economy (62 percent) compared to good news (31 percent). News broadcasts dwelled on one prospective cataclysm after another, yet each time the economy continued unfazed.

Negative Stories Given More Air Time: Bad news was emphasized on all three networks. Negative news appeared in full-length stories twice as often as it appeared in shorter, brief items. Good news was relegated to briefs. More good news appeared in brief form than as full-length stories.

Man-on-the-Street Interviews Spin Stories: Reporters used ordinary people to underscore negative stories by roughly a 3-to-1 ratio over positive. Since these are interviews chosen entirely by the reporter, this shows particular bias. NBC was especially bad at this, featuring negative accounts six times as often as positive ones.

Worst Network: More than 80 percent of the full-length stories on the “CBS Evening News” delivered a negative view of the economy—easily the worst of the three broadcast news programs. The network hid the good news of jobs or economic growth in short items. More than 56 percent of CBS’s brief stories were positive.

Best Network: ABC was hardly the “best” anything for its economic coverage. It simply wasn’t as negative as either NBC or CBS. More than 56 percent of ABC reports were negative compared to slightly more than 36 percent positive.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

“Let’s You and Him Talk”

Tom Friedman (NYTimes, 10.4.06) has it right writing:

• the burden of Iraq falls—unfairly and harshly—on one small segment of our population: U.S. military troops and their families.
• a unified Iraq [has] become the “second choice” of too many Iraqis.
• too many Shiites just want their own pro-Iranian zone in the south.
• Iraq [is] a bunch of warring political tribes incapable of acting in common for the greater good.

Friedman wants Iraqis to talk to Iraqis. In the same column, he recommends that Democrats, if they win, “govern from the center” and “look for bipartisan fixes,” i.e., talk to Republicans.

In a September 29 column, Friedman called for “an honest dialogue between Muslims and Muslims” to cut down the influence of “street preachers—firebrands who gain legitimacy by spewing hatred at both their own regimes and the Western powers that support them.”

And in an October 11 column, written just after North Korea tested its A-bomb, Friedman wants us to get Russia and China to talk to North Korea and Iran. If the two giants want “multilateral” solutions, Russia and China are the ones to make it work.

This is great. In Rodney King’s words, “Can’t we all get along?” Nations don’t get along because they are made up of people who don’t get along. Since we haven’t figured how to get along at home, why have any confidence that we can get Iraqis, Muslims, Russians and Iranians, and Chinese and North Koreans to get along? Nice if you can do it.

It would be great if Iraqis, at least, could talk. Do they want some kind of unified nation, or do they not? The polls say Iraqis do want to be unified. Friedman is right. If so, they need to talk.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Facts, not Opinions

Stockholm syndrome: a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage exhibits loyalty to the hostage-taker, in spite of the risk in which the hostage has been placed. (Wikipedia)

It’s important that we redevelop a passion for facts. If one lives in the world of public discourse, one knows we waste too much time on opinion—the stuff that fills the vast empty time or space between the rare, new facts on the ground.

I admire Mara Liasson and David Brooks because they offer balance on programs that are canted against their views. Balance helps us find the facts lost in the pile of wasted opinion. Weekly on PBS's "Lehrer Report," Brooks goes up against the partisan Democrat Mark Shields, and when Jim Lehrer isn’t around, a partisan PBS “moderator” as well. Brooks, a conservative who helped launch the conservative Weekly Standard, now works for the liberal New York Times, however. As time passes, he seems increasingly willing to criticize conservatives. Perhaps this evolution, some mild form of the “Stockholm syndrome,” is just inevitable for Times employees. Still, Brooks retains good inner-circle Republican sources, which help him bring fresh facts to the table.

Liasson, NPR’s National Correspondent and successor to the better-known Cokie Roberts, is a liberal. Yet for some reason, she has been willing to appear regularly as a commentator on Fox News’ “Special Report with Brit Hume.” Inevitably, she is up against the conservative Hume and two other panelists who are also openly conservative. Like Brooks, her style is agreeable and polite, and her presence, like that of Brooks, serves to provide some balance, giving facts the chance to surface amidst a welter of near-worthless opinion. Unlike Brooks, however, Liasson doesn’t criticize those on her side, or point to their failures. What qualifies her for “Stockholm syndrome” analysis is her polite reluctance to get “down and dirty” with her noisy, conservative counterparts.

There is growing concern that America is too polarized for our own good. Bush is considered unnecessarily divisive, and many attribute the unpopularity of Congress to its partisan food fights. A correction toward compromise, toward meeting in the middle, seems in order. When people learn from each other, when they recognize that nobody has a corner on the truth, facts have a chance to emerge.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Our Man in Beijing

Gerard Baker, writing in THE Times, discusses Hank Paulson’s China policy, which is pretty close to U.S. China policy. Paulson is thinking very big:

Mr Paulson’s regal style has upset other colleagues in Washington’s highly status-conscious political establishment. When he made his first trip to China last month as Treasury Secretary, a familiar stomping ground from his Goldman days, I’m told that he declined to travel as treasury secretaries have been wont to do in the past — business class on commercial airlines. . . He insisted on having a presidential aircraft and a sizeable chunk of the White House’s presidential advance team, the smart and important-looking people with heavy briefcases and folders who spend a lot of time talking into tiny mobiles.

Yet the biggest changes seem to be more in substance than in style. . . by far the most interesting and consequential of Mr Paulson’s changes has been on the biggest issue of all — China. The former banker has made, for the first time, the structural reform of the Chinese economy the centerpiece of US economic objectives. On his trip to Beijing last month. . . Mr Paulson initiated a new dialogue with Beijing, aiming to elevate the transpacific debate above the usual spats over trade and currencies. . .

[I]nstead of banging on about how China needs to revalue its currency to make it more competitive, as John Snow and Paul O’Neill did, Mr Paulson is focusing on a much bigger goal: achieving radical change in the Chinese economy to make it more transparent, to reform its creaky financial system and, in effect, to breathe more of the free-market spirit into the present communist-capitalist hybrid. That will, of course, presumably have the desirable effect of revaluing the currency and diminishing the trade deficit. But, in the Paulson view, it is important to get the causation right — reform the economy as the best way to get lasting international economic stability. . .

Paulson[‘s] approach makes sound economic sense. In the end the global imbalances in the world will not be addressed without real change in Asia’s patterns of consumption and its financial systems. . . [But] why should we think that Mr Paulson will have . . . success with the [inflexible] Chinese? It will, at least, be worth watching.

Facts on the Ground

“The debacle that is Iraq today has many sources”

--Prof. Andrew J. Bacevich
Boston University (LA Times commentary)

Not a quagmire, not even a fiasco, but a debacle and that’s a fact. We’re only debating the causes.

Here are some facts, as I see them:

1. The future of Iraq as a unified country is very much in doubt.

2. The overthrow of Saddam exposed long-standing fissures within the Iraqi body politic.

3. Iraq, with 115 billion barrels, has the world’s fourth largest oil reserves.

4. The combination of Saddam, militant Sunni Islam, and oil made Iraq the world’s most dangerous country in 2003, when the U.S. liberated Iraq.

5. The world is safer today than it was in 2003, because the U.S. liberated Iraq from Saddam’s totalitarian rule.

6. In 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became leader of Iran, a Shiite state with the world’s third largest oil reserves (132 b. bbls.).

7. Ahmadinejad’s brand of Shia militancy, his support of terrorism, his threat to destroy Israel, and his drive for nuclear weapons make Iran a most dangerous nation.

8. Muqtada al-Sadr (pictured) is a militant Shiite cleric with his own Mahdi militia armed by Iran, and is the most dangerous part of Iraq's Shiite majority.

9. If we fail to get Sadr under control, Iraq’s Shiite majority and its southern oil fields may end up under Iran’s control.

10. Through a combination of military, economic, and political means, we are striving in Iraq today to control Sadr and the threat he represents.

And another set of facts:

1. Bush timed the Iraq war’s launching according to a political calendar—wanting victory by the 2004 elections, he couldn’t wait until UN weapons inspectors finished their job.

2. Rushing in also meant having too few troops to stamp out a Sunni-led insurgency when it inevitably arose.

3. Bush’s use of a political calendar made the Iraq war political, politically opposed from the outset by the mainstream media (MSM), which is anti-U.S. involvement in war in any case.

4. The MSM cares little about the first set of facts (above); rather it’s focused on whether or not the U.S. should have invaded Iraq at all, and how quickly it can get the U.S. out of Iraq.

5. Because Bush made the Iraq war political, the MSM feels justified in using the Iraq war's lack of success thus far to defeat Republicans in 2006.

After the November elections, those interested in the first set of facts can again concentrate on taking care of Sadr.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Boots on the Ground

Call to Duty: Boots on the Ground

--U.S. Army Vision (video here)

inductive reasoning is [when] the premises of an argument support the conclusion but do not ensure it. (Wikipedia)

I have written about how most of the elite views facts through a liberal prism. Wanting the U.S. to lose in Iraq, they see defeat everywhere. Inductive reasoning.

The military is one part of the elite that sides with conservatives. Perhaps partly for this reason, most of the elite has only limited sympathy for the U.S. military or its missions. Post-9/11, our heroes are firefighters, the military honored are those whose death or injuries have removed them from killing Iraqis, and military crimes like Abu Ghraib and Haditha emerge as the norm.

These brave soldiers and marines fighting in Iraq suffer because of liberal hatred of Bush. Of course from the liberal perspective, Bush stole the presidency, went to war in Iraq to wrap the 2004 election in the American flag, and the military are casualties of Bush’s political ambition. Liberals want the military to lose in Iraq. The faster the military loses, the fewer of them will die. But lose they must. Because Bush's Iraq war is illegal, immoral, and stupid.

Looking for defeat, liberals find it everywhere. In the war’s early days, the media obsessed on how long it was taking to get to Baghdad. Remember the sand in the tank motors? Then it was transfixed by the looting of Iraq’s national treasures. Then by the failure to find WMD or Saddam. Then by civilian deaths suffered by the UN and private humanitarian organizations. Then by Abu Ghraib. Then the failure to form a government. Then the sectarian violence. Then the lack of an elected government. Now the civil war between Sunnis and Shia militias in Baghdad, with Haditha along the way.

All the deaths. So many dead. Well, in 1968, more Americans died in nine weeks in Vietnam than have fallen in Iraq since the war began.

But you know what? In the end, it comes down to the facts. Are we winning or not? Liberals say we are losing. Were we winning, liberals would be descredited. Right now, they aren’t.

It’s 1864, Lincoln desperately needs a victory, and to carry over the analogy to Iraq, Sherman has yet to take Atlanta. The military has a job to do. Here’s one person who hopes they succeed. In my eyes, they truly are a bunch of heroes.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rise And Fall of the Valerie Plame 'Scandal'

Bob Novak is hopping mad about the book Hubris. The book’s attack on Bush pivots around the Valerie Plame affair, yet that very book is ironically responsible for exposing Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as the Novak source who “outed” Plame; a gigantic problem for Hubris authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn, since Armitage, in Novak’s words,

an internal critic of the administration's Iraq policy, did not fit the left's theory of a conspiracy led by Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby to discredit [Joseph] Wilson as a war critic. Nor did it fit the overriding theme of Isikoff and Corn in depicting "spin, scandal and the selling of the Iraq war."

In his Weekly Standard piece blasting the book, Novak adds:

Hubris[‘]. . .only new element is what it reveals about the Plame case, and there they trumped their own ace by facilitating the source's exposure in advance of publication. . .Hubris is not an unmitigated apologia for the Wilsons, but it comes close. . .

In Hubris, Corn never comes to grips with the fact that Armitage could not be prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act because Valerie Wilson was not a covert operative under the terms of the law. A 463-page book that is endlessly discursive does not seriously consider that she was no longer assigned to foreign missions because her cover already had been broken. It never even mentions the report that Mrs. Wilson had been outed long ago by the traitor Aldrich Ames. . .

The book's effort to cleanse Wilson stoops to deception: It accepts at face value Wilson's self-described political nonpartisanship, asserting that he "was not considered a fierce Democrat or a Bush Administration foe" when he embarked on his mission to Niger, citing his 1999 contribution to George W. Bush. In that same year, Joseph and Valerie Wilson not only contributed $1,000 each to Al Gore's presidential campaign, but the former ambassador also served on the Democratic nominee's policy staff. This, surely, was known to the authors, who chose to ignore it.

They ignored a lot more, such as what the July 2004 report by the Senate Intelligence Committee's Republicans, unchallenged by the Democratic minority, did to Wilson. It undermined his conclusions (based on his African mission) that Iraq did not seek yellowcake uranium, and undercut his insistence that his wife did not suggest him to the CIA for that mission. After the Senate report, Wilson disappeared from the Kerry for President campaign, something that also goes unmentioned in this book. . .

In their tirade against the Bush White House, Isikoff and Corn found a hero: Paul Pillar, then the CIA officer in charge of the Middle East. During the 2004 election campaign, I wrote in a column that Pillar was delivering off-the-record briefings to citizens groups around the country, and was highly critical of the president seeking a second term. Probing such subversion at the CIA might have been an interesting exercise for an investigative reporter, but that is not what this book is about.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Marginalization of Democratic Foreign Policy

There are two parties in the U.S. One is serious about national security, and one isn’t. This fact, more or less true since 1968, is deeply disturbing at a time when Democrats are likely to grab some share of national power in a few weeks.

History didn’t end, did it, with the fall of the Soviet Union. Militant Islam, which has been a factor in international politics at least since the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked an El Al flight to Algiers on July 23, 1968, has grown decade by decade into a true force to be reckoned with.

At some point, probably in 1948 when Stalin allowed the West to save its Berlin outpost with an airlift, the Cold War became a stand-off based upon mutual respect. We haven’t reached that point with militant Islam. The militants are not only willing to die to spread their cause, they—much like the Nazis and the Japanese on the eve of World War II—believe that their willingness to die gives them an inherent advantage in any conflict with the soft West, which so clearly abhors war and sees dying for any cause as uncivilized.

When the U.S. lost Vietnam, Democrats were pleased they had turned America away from war. Republicans were alarmed to think that losing made fighting Communism elsewhere that much harder. Republican dissent from the conventional wisdom on Vietnam grew into Reagan’s willingness to confront the “Evil Empire.” By the end of Reagan’s term in 1989, the Democrats’ national security policy was no longer mainstream.

Even though the Gulf War elevated the standing of the U.S. military and removed much of our Vietnam defeat’s stain, the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in the Clinton era of good feeling, when any American combat death anywhere seemed one too many. Now we see the Clinton years for what they were, a time of missing clues from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, from the 1995 Philippines’ discovery of the Manila air plot, from Khobar, from the destruction of American embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, and from the attack on the U.S.S. Cole that militant Islam was on the rise. And this week, we are reminded how Clinton’s group (Warren Christopher, pictured) from 1994 on mishandled North Korea’s threat to go nuclear.

The Democrats love to quote their second-to-the-last tough president, “Never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.” To me, Democratic foreign policy is “Talk, talk, talk, then talk some more.” It leaves Democrats completely unready to take on the real evil we face.

“Axis of Evil” is Fo’ Real

"North Korea's nuclear development is not intended as a bargaining chip as seen by the Western world. ... [Pyongyang] sees nuclear development as the only means to maintain Kim Jong-il's regime."

--North Korean Defector Kang Myong-To, in a U.S. House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare report, August 1994

For hitting the nail on the head, Bush’s 2002 linking of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq in a three-party “Axis of Evil” has certainly absorbed an unaccountably large amount of criticism. Iraq looks out of place in that group today only because the U.S. knocked Saddam out of power, and away from using oil to buy WMD. Iran and North Korea are our two biggest problems today—that is, until Pakistan falls into the hands of radicals. For now, though, peace is most threatened by North Korea with some version of the bomb, and by Iran trying to get one as fast as possible.

North Korea may keep its bomb to itself. But it is frightfully willing to commit any crime—and sell anything—to keep its regime alive, and is moving closer to Iran in a way similar to Japan and Germany’s drawing together on the eve of World War II because of their shared perspective. Iran is a terrorist state, supporting terrorism throughout the Middle East. If North Korea has both the bomb and the propensity to sell it, we should be alarmed.

It’s hard to believe the U.N. will succeed in separating North Korea from its bomb. If China helps in a meaningful way, we might make progress regionally. This is very hard, though, for China is acutely aware that actions taken against North Korea form precendents for dealing with Iran. Thank goodness Japan has come around. And South Korea is next. Evil is fo’ real.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Iraq: Poll Says "No" to Partition

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: 51
September: 60

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: 2.36 (9/06)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,100 (9/06)

Since our last monthly Iraq report, American KIA's are up once again, nine above the monthly average for 2006. And while oil production is up, electricity output is down. Prime Minister al-Maliki is pressing for peace between the warring factions, but the sectarian violence that makes economic progress so difficult continues to unfold.

Various outsiders counsel Iraq authorities to accept the reality of Iraq's sharp internal divisions, and just partition the country into Sunni, Shiiite, and Kurdish regions. But 78% of Iraqis themselves, polled in June, disagree with segregation by religious or ethnic sect, with 66% strongly disagreeing.

The Real Security Council: Princeton Chimes In

When I picked the top 15 countries and called them “the Real Security Council” (chart above), I wasn’t out to reform the UN. I was just making the point that we can identify the 15 most important nations, and should look at the world by starting with them.

Two people who are serious about reforming the UN, G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, have presented their plan for reforming the Security Council. Along the lines of my top 15, they argue that:

We need a Security Council that is both representative and effective. That means expanding its membership to include Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria and at least one Muslim nation such as Egypt or Indonesia. . .

Expanding the Security Council membership has been on the UN's agenda for more than 15 years, spawning countless working groups and task forces and rounds of diplomatic wrangling. Germany, Japan, India and Brazil have been the most vocal countries in seeking a Security Council seat . . .

My list would add Mexico, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Italy to their Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, Nigeria, and Indonesia, and would omit South Africa (with only 27 million people). Still, our lists are similar. And Ikenberry/Slaughter are also willing to go outside the UN to make this all work, proposing “a new organization for liberal democracies willing to commit themselves to a stringent set of obligations toward one another.”

Called a Concert of Democracies, this organization . . . would not be "the West versus the rest," but would instead include countries such as India, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Its creation would also signal that the world is not stuck forever with old institutions if they cannot be reformed for a new world.

South Africa, Turkey, South Korea, and Argentina are all in my “Next 25,” which while I didn't advocate an organization, I see as part of a more sensible way of viewing the world than today's absurd UN, which treats 192 nations as equal.