Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Answer Is More Democracy

Fouad Ajami, writing in the Wall Street Journal, offers yet another penetrating analysis of where things are going in the Middle East. All commentators are unequal in their insight, and Ajami on this subject has no rival.

For one thing, Ajami is right about how our Middle East allies help generate external conflict to stave off internal reform:

We should not be apologetic, in Arab lands seething with bigotry and rage, about our expedition into Iraq. We shouldn't fall for Arab rulers who tell us that they would have had the ability to call off the furies had we had in place a "process" for resolving the claims of the Palestinians, and had we been able to "deliver" Israel. Those furies have a life of their own: In truth, they are aided and abetted by these same rulers in the hope of tranquilizing their own domains and buying off the embittered in their midst.

So I listen to Ajami when he says success in Iraq rests significantly on one act—sharing oil revenue with the Sunnis—that may soon take place:

Against all dire expectations, the all-important question of the distribution of oil wealth appears close to a resolution.

Baker-Hamilton Support Iraq Troop Surge

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, writing in the Washington Post, stresses how important securing Baghdad is to our success in fighting Islamic extremism. In doing so, Hadley points out something of which I was unaware—the Baker-Hamilton report not only supported such a goal, it also supported a troop surge to reach that goal. Hadley writes:

The Baker-Hamilton report supports . . . “a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces [emphasis added] to stabilize Baghdad . . . if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective." Our military commanders, and the president, have determined just that.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

“Can’t we all get along?”

Just as I pronounce Democrats stuck in a ‘60s time-warp, along comes Mort Kondracke to make the same point as he pleads for the “beyond partisanship” politics the people are demanding, and that Schwartzenegger and especially Obama are (thankfully) offering:

Obama had it exactly right in announcing his presidential exploratory committee last week. “America has faced big problems before,” he said. “But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way. . .Obama represents a new generational sensibility — a pragmatic post-boomer attitude trying to bypass the ideological hang-ups of boomer veterans of the Vietnam and cultural struggles of the 1960s [emphasis added]. . .[T]he new politics is coming because the public wants it. It will just take courage and vision to give it life.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Democrats’ State of the Union

Responding to Bush’s State of the Union address, James Webb said, “not one step back from the war against international terrorism, [but] allow our combat forces to leave Iraq." Huh? Steny Hoyer said we ought to get out of Iraq so we can battle terrorism in Afghanistan. What?

Here’s why I believe Democrats aren’t the party of hope. First, they don’t have a serious foreign policy. Second, their domestic policy is stuck in a ‘60s time warp.

An unserious foreign policy. Democrats admire Kissinger’s strategy for exiting Vietnam—hold peace talks with the opposition, and use some variation of the words “peace with honor” to substitute for surrender. Kissinger’s realpolitik, like that of Austria’s Metternich whom Kissinger admired, used diplomatic skills to cover a weak hand.

In 2007, the U.S. is hardly weak. Instead, the Democrats’ haste to retreat from the difficult struggle against Islamic extremism is more like our position at the end of World War I, when a party anxious for the White House played on isolationist sentiment to force a powerful U.S. off the world stage. The world paid a heavy price for that shortsighted American bout with isolationism.

If you are serious about foreign policy today, serious about organizing globally to combat Islamic extremism including its Shia Iranian variant, you belong with Bush, Rice, Gates, Hadley, Petraeus. If you are an aspiring foreign policy consigliere for Democrats, you must accommodate yourself to that party’s domestic-driven agenda, and preach peace talks. Democrats believe someone else will take care of Islamic extremists. . . or at least should.

An outdated domestic policy
. History moves forward in surges. Years go by with no major changes, then major events change everything. The two searing events of the ‘60s were the civil rights revolution exactly 100 years after the Civil War, and the struggle to get us out of Vietnam. Democrats led both, won both, and can’t get past their victories, which combined to say America’s business is living equality at home, not dying to support capitalism abroad.

Democrats reordered American society, with the feminist revolution following the one that ended segregation. Democrats also gave us big government, inflation, unemployment, high taxes, affirmative action, and an unfinished campaign for single-payer national health insurance. As a result, Republicans under Reagan, Gingrich, and Bush captured power, reduced taxes, fired up the economy, and recharged a global drive for freedom that protects and enhances our way of life.

The choice. Business people are by nature optimistic. They must believe in the future to invest hard-earned money in hope. Our economy improves because people dare to risk. The genius of capitalism is leaving economic decisions to the people, millions, billions of them, enabling us all to reach our full potential.

Government people are pessimists who look for problems to justify government programs, including residual inequalities facing minorities and women. In the ‘70s, we learned government messes up the economy. In the ‘80s, we learned government messes up public education. Yet the Democrats’ policy agenda remains where it was in 1968: more government, higher taxes, smart people deciding what’s best for the rest.

Hope means hoping we don’t go back a generation. Hope means faith in the individual, in expanding opportunities for ordinary people to best handle their own future.

More freedom, more capitalism, peace at last.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Did Our Vietnam Intervention Save Southeast Asia?

Mark Moyar, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, argues that U.S. support for South Vietnam was far more successful than portrayed by journalist-historians such as Neil Sheehan. For one thing, says Moyar, U.S. involvement kept Indonesia from going Communist:

The military leaders of Indonesia, the most important Southeast Asian domino, informed the US in February 1965 that their future willingness to stand up to the pro-Communist President Sukarno and the massive Indonesian Communist Party would depend upon America's actions in Vietnam.

"President Johnson should learn to use his power and should hit North Vietnam hard," said General Marjadi in explaining why American inaction was discouraging the generals from taking a firm anticommunist position. "The prize for victory in Vietnam is all of Asia. Asia respects power, and has no respect for weakness or for strong people afraid to act." Indonesian generals later said that US intervention inspired them to oust Sukarno [pictured] and work to destroy the Indonesian Communist Party in late 1965.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blog at One: Still Preaching Hope

This blog, one year later, still believes the combination of capitalism and democracy, leading to peace, will bring us a better world.

There’s nothing wrong with Tories--those who defend established institutions. We’ll always have Tories. But it helps to be clear just who the Tories are.

In 2007, the Democrats are defenders of the present, and the Republicans are the force for change. How can this be? Don’t Democrats stand for égalité, which we hardly have, and Republicans for liberté, a word used to justify capitalist oppression? Yes, but liberty, freedom, is about each person having their own ideas, making their own way in life, and for most of the world, this is our as yet unrealized dream.

The irony of “equality,” and the irony is rich indeed in the whole history of Marxism, is that somebody has to make life equal. Enter government, to “level the playing field.” The idea of someone else making our life better is as ancient as Plato's Republic. In the 20th Century, it's the Big Idea that failed.

In the Democrats’ ideal world, the “levelers” are the best and brightest. They graduate from the best schools. They win top jobs on merit. They gain power in the battle against capitalists by acting on behalf of the masses, i.e., they are “the vanguard of the proletariat.” They are academics, government servants, journalists, lawyers, NPO executives, Hollywood writers, actual mass leaders including union leaders, leaders of minority groups, women leaders of the Democratic Party. They rule on our behalf, a national elite, operating under the motto of the National Honor Society, noblesse oblige. They are Tories, protecting the status quo, threatened by independent-acting masses.

The Democrats are Tories not only in being our elite, but also in giving their affection to Europe. European elite education. European sophistication that has moved beyond Christianity. European socialism; European welfare statism. European love of small or non-existent families. European abhorrence of war and killing. European disgust with common Americans. Most of all, Europe’s sense that the elite has earned its leading role, and must either civilize or otherwise bend under those who threaten it. There is entitlement, and there are illegitimate pretenders to power.

So little of this description fits Republicans like Reagan, Bush, or Giuliani. But for Democrats, it works—Democrats like Kerry, Gore, Edward Kennedy, Howard Dean, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barbara Boxer.

Republicans were the dominant party in America when America was a string of small towns (Main Street, Sinclair Lewis, 1920). Towns had a hierarchy, but everybody went to the same church, the same school, the same socials. They talked to each other. They helped each other. Farmers were freemen, they weren’t tenant farmers like those who farmed for Tories. No, this was America, the land of the free!

Democrats are associated with cities, and the party grew with the importance of cities, the industrial revolution, immigration. Today, immigrants find it hard to relate to small-town, homogeneous Republicanism. They are more comfortable with cities. Cities are bigger, more impersonal, seemingly more in need of government and elite rule disconnected from the masses. Cities are European.

The suburbs are America’s political battleground. Suburbs’ link to central cities is obvious. But people move to suburbs because they yearn for the intimacy and caring of small town America.

The media and the entertainment industry are so city, so Tory, that to them, America’s Republican base is invisible. It's "fly-over country." I believe the Tories fear their loss of power, fight change, and feel despair where Republicans see hope.

Since Reagan’s election in 1980, Republicans have stood for hope, for the better life that comes from free economic competition, free choice in education, less government, increased individual responsibility. And Republicans support the hopeful world that comes from spreading democracy abroad. Since Reagan arrived in 1980, Republicans have had two bad elections—1992, when Bush 41 failed to make the economy work, and last year, when Bush 43 failed to win in Iraq. Otherwise, because Republicans offer hope to Tory cynicism and fear, and because Americans remain a hopeful people, Republicans have once again become America’s party.

Obama is right. The people want hope.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The China Century

TIME’s cover article on China treats the emerging giant as the dominant 21st Century power, a potential threat to a declining U.S. The article also notes that:

China is still a poor country whose leaders face so many problems that it is reasonable to wonder how they ever sleep. The country's urban labor market recently exceeded by 20% the number of new jobs created. Its pension system is nonexistent. China is an environmental dystopia, its cities' air foul beyond imagination and its clean water scarce. Corruption is endemic and growing. Protests and riots by rural workers are measured in the tens of thousands each year. The most immediate priority for China's leadership is less how to project itself internationally than how to maintain stability in a society that is going through the sort of social and economic change that, in the past, has led to chaos and violence.

To repeat myself, we can’t be certain about China’s future, but “China’s leadership” more easily manages the country’s “social and economic change” because of the rapid, yearly growth capitalism has brought to China.

More on Berger and the Media

Former Boston University Law School Dean Ronald Cass asks hard questions here about the media’s failure to ask why former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger destroyed classified documents relating to Al Qaeda. Is the media protecting Hillary’s future?

The definition of the end of civilization is when you can’t separate the police from the criminals. By that logic, the definition of the end of democracy is when you can’t separate the governing party from the media.

In Washington today, the media aren’t doing their job.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Media MIA

I said earlier we need to pounce on documented evidence the media aren’t doing their job. Here are two such examples.

1. Joel Mowbray indicts media for ignoring former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger's unbelievable record of document destruction:

While Berger's "punishment" was a pittance of a fine, former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin has been financially ruined and sentenced to 12 and a half years for passing along far less-classified information to unauthorized third parties. . .[W]hat excuse is there for the wildly different media coverage of the two cases, both of which came to public attention in the summer of 2004?

. . . One man verbally disclosed classified information devoid of sources or methods. The other snuck five different versions of a top-secret document out of a secure facility. One was a low-level career bureaucrat, while the other was just a few years removed from being the president's national security advisor. One man cooperated with authorities and didn't even retain a lawyer before being interrogated, while the other lied to investigators and then intentionally destroyed evidence. . .

Of all the articles about Berger's case . . . only one made it to the front page of either The Washington Post or the New York Times. Coverage of Franklin's case, however, earned that distinction more than a half-dozen times. . . The mainstream media's palpable disinterest in the Berger case is hardly justified. Many questions remain unanswered. Of the few explanations Berger and his defenders have actually provided, none passes the laugh test.

2. Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., writing in the National Journal about American war heroes in Iraq, discovered the media ignore the living:

3,463 Bronze Stars with V have been awarded since September 11, 2001. That's about the same figure as the total number of U.S. troops killed since then in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Every dead warrior leaves behind a story of tragedy and loss. Every medal winner leaves behind a story of dedication and courage. Sometimes the two are the same: A soldier is killed in action and is decorated posthumously. But the vast majority of these heroes, like Sgt. Stone, are still alive; many, like him, are still in uniform. It is much harder, however, to learn about the valorous living than about the valorous dead. Major media outlets such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and PBS's NewsHour regularly display photos of those killed but rarely of those decorated.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pelosi Power

Linda P. Campbell, writing in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram,
underlines pretty heavily the point made here that Democrats aren’t red or blue, they are the party of Pink Power:

Nancy Pelosi has campaigned as "A Voice That Will Be Heard." And anyone who's had a strong mother—or been one—can attest to the true meaning of that slogan. . . Pelosi told CBS' 60 Minutes that being speaker would enable her to "show the American people that women know how to use power" . . . The new Congress will include 71 women in the House (50 Democrats, 21 Republicans) and 16 in the Senate (11 Democrats, five Republicans). . .

So Pelosi ranks third in the U.S. leadership structure, the highest a woman has ever ranked, and 22% of House and Senate Democrats are women—44% of the way in each house to 50:50 parity!

Then there’s the obvious. In a presidential election Democrats will be favored to win, the most likely winning ticket—Clinton/Obama—is headed by a woman.

Pink Power.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Iraq War Loss is Democrats' Gain

In his piece titled “The 2008 Election is the Democrats' to Lose,” Washington political guru Stu Rothenberg makes the point that Iraq will help Democrats capture the White House next year:

[Even a] dramatic improvement in Bush's standing in national polls . . . wouldn't erase all the baggage that the president and his party have picked up. . . [g]iven that few people believe that U.S. forces will be entirely out of Iraq by 2008. . .

Democrats really, really know how a bad war can sink a party. Vietnam turned America in 1968 from a Democratic-dominated nation to one where Republicans held the White House for all but 12 of the next 40 years. Americans don’t like to lose wars. But for the party that's not responsible, a losing war can be a big winner.

Democrats don't believe Iraq’s the central issue facing America. Yet Iraq is the central issue Democrats will use to separate Republicans from the White House.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Iraq: Is Winning that Hard?

Johns Hopkins Professor Eliot A. Cohen and Reagan-era Defense official Bing West have jointly written an article that offers a prescription for success in Iraq so difficult to achieve as to imply the Bush-led effort is doomed:

President Bush . . . can opt for an offensive, nonsectarian strategy. Its core operational concepts must be neutralizing criminals -- which include the Sunni insurgents, the Shiite death squads and the criminal gangs -- by imprisonment, deterrence, or death; and constructing Iraqi security institutions [free] of sectarian taint.

Iraq is now a police war and we need to treat it as such. . .Our weakest links are leaving the Mahdi Army off-limits, not selecting [our own] Iraqi security leaders and refusing to arrest and incarcerate the criminals (insurgents, death squads and thugs). If the president's new strategy does not aggressively rectify these three defects, then surging more American troops will buy time but not alter a war we are losing because we are not winning.

The threat is real. We can't wish it away.

Generally, things are going well in 2007. The common person, who had little to do with most of the world’s progress since time began, is a history-shaping factor now like never before. Democracy is ordinary people holding power. Capitalism is people, not government, making the economy hum. People with political and economic power don’t want war. They want peace. The common person would rather live and enjoy life.

The extremists who hate Western culture and idealize 632 CE Arabia don't fit this brighter picture. To them, life was rightside up in the 7th Century, when Islam was sweeping through the known world. Muslim extremists are willing to die and kill for their better world. The West had to wage bloody war to defeat Fascist extremism, and Cold War against Communism involved several wars over forty years. Now once again, extremists who value ideas over life know they will defeat a soft West.

We must stand up to Islamic extremism. After 9-11, America as a nation understood the need to defeat this new enemy. We chose to make our stand in Iraq for good reason. The civilized world condemned Saddam because of his brutal rule, his aggression against Iran and Kuwait, his use of WMD in warfare, and his refusal to allow UN inspectors access to Iraqi facilities. Saddam had the large oil reserves needed to finance his mischief, and ruled from an Iraq strategically located at the heart of the Arab world. If the West could liberate Iraq and help its Muslim population become prosperous, Iraq could help lead the Islamic world away from extremism.

Because of Saddam’s real threat, because we liberated Iraq from Saddam’s tyranny, Iraq seems the right place to take on Islamic extremism and replace it with popular rule underpinned by economic prosperity. In 2007, we are responding to a clash of civilizations that others launched against us. We have chosen to fight back in Iraq. If we lose in Iraq, we will have to battle Islamic extremism again in a location closer to home, at greater cost.

Do Western people see the urgency of our current fight, or do we wish the problem away? The two choices we face are to fight now, or to fight later at greater cost. Wishing the problem away, going back to life as we knew it before 9-11, is not a choice.

I think we wish terrorism away because we believe that most humans value life; most seek prosperity that gives children a better future. Just as these values prevail elsewhere, so too will they prevail in the Muslim world, given time. War is unnecessary.

Unfortunately, war is necessary. Those who believe terrorism can defeat the West aren't going away.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Iraq: December a Bad Month; 2006 a Bad Year

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: 58
December: 91

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (monthly average)
1965:* 128
1966: 420
1967: 767
1968: 1140
1969: 785
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar: 2.50
Goal: 2.50
actual: 2.15 (12/06)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 3,500 (12/06)

Since our last monthly Iraq report, American KIA's rose significantly above November's 57; high enough to make 2006 the war's second w0rst year. The mainstream media closely covered the sharp rise in KIA's, suggeting that the deadly trend might make December 2006's worst month (in the end, October was worse). December was a bad month, and 2006 a bad year.

Oil production in December rose slightly, yet remains below pre-war levels. Electricity output declined, but that drop is partly seasonal; December electricity production was higher than in December 2005.

Al Qaeda's February bombing of the Shiite Al Askari Mosque set off a wave of sectarian bloodshed that proved to be Iraq 2006's major story.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Liberal Echo Chamber

Like many businessmen of genius he learned that free competition was wasteful, monopoly efficient. And so he simply set about achieving that efficient monopoly.

--Mario Puzo

Democracy and capitalism permit individuals, famous or unknown, privileged or immigrant-poor, to make life better through competition. Competition allows for the best ideas and the hardest workers to move forward. But where there are winners, there are losers, so winners will always strive to fix the competition and avoid becoming tomorrow’s losers.

Change is inevitable. So too is fighting change. The mainstream media are in power today; they logically strive to hold onto their paramount position. Here are some ways the media’s efforts to fight change hurt the common person:

1. The media protect their friends and mobilize against their enemies, with truth the casualty. Instead of encouraging the competition for new ideas, the media constantly strive to defend the coalition that made them powerful: the permanent government and its friends in academia and non-profits; the Democratic Party/organized labor, organized women and organized minorities; the legal profession, which defends institutions including the media enshrined by the Constitution, and; the media’s close cousin, the entertainment industry. The media favor higher taxes, which bring resources to government and its allies. The media are anti-business, since media folks sincerely view capitalists as America’s first circle of power; anti-Christian, an alternate source of power with a different agenda; and anti-military, the institution that raises the sword above the pen.

2. Believing truth to be relative, the media push their version with great intensity.
By nature, media are biased toward the sensational, the visual, the newest over the new. It is about now, now, now, not about reflection, perspective, balance. Voraciously hungry for new material, media end up being unimaginative about the world they cover, plugging new evidence into preconceived belief structures, rather than threatening these beliefs by reexamining them through new eyes. So here we are in 2007, treating Iraq as if it were Vietnam, Bush as if he were Johnson, Muqtada al-Sadr as Ho Chi-minh, and the all-volunteer professional military as losers who couldn’t dodge the Vietnam draft. Media also see Bush as Nixon, the illegitimate president who should be driven from office. Meanwhile, the big stories—capitalism’s ability to transform the lives of ordinary people, capitalism's spread throughout Eastern Europe and most of Asia, the rise of democracy and freedom worldwide, and the decline of war and violence as the way to settle conflicts—are largely ignored.

3. By fighting to retain power, the media fight change.
The media’s central power position is wrong for America. Media could referee the battle for better ideas, not side with one of democracy’s contending coalitions against the other. Perhaps we best move toward neutrality by encouraging alternative media to emerge that reflect the views of those outside the media’s power coalition—more talk-radio, more Fox, additional conservative bloggers, more Wall Street Journals. Alas, too few people understand how thoroughly the media fixes the news to keep a coalition in power: another story most media choose not to cover.

The media belong near the center of power. Events change history today as they always have—it's the message, not just the messenger. Nevertheless, one should challenge, wherever proof makes challenge possible, the media’s role in setting the national agenda, driving it between elections, and finally, seeking to win elections.

Gore's Running Mate: More Troops in Iraq

Sen. Joseph Lieberman makes his case here for adding troops to Iraq, rather than taking them out:

I strongly believe that additional U.S. troops must be deployed to Baghdad and Anbar province -- an increase that will at last allow us to establish security throughout the Iraqi capital, hold critical central neighborhoods in the city, clamp down on the insurgency and defeat al-Qaeda in [Anbar]. . .

More U.S. forces might not be a guarantee of success in this fight, but they are certainly its prerequisite. Just as the continuing carnage in Baghdad empowers extremists on all sides, establishing security there will open possibilities for compromise and cooperation on the Iraqi political front . . .

The addition of more troops must be linked to a comprehensive new military, political and economic strategy that provides security for the population so that training of Iraqi troops and the development of a democratic government can move forward.