Monday, July 30, 2007

Bush’s Brain on Why GOP Lost in 2006

From those who attended private sessions in January, the Washington Post’s “Capitol Briefing” has obtained Karl Rove’s inside view of what went wrong for Republicans last November.

Rove believes Republicans lost their majority mostly because of corruption- tinged Republicans in Congress. One page of the presentation is headlined: "Corruption" Voters' Top Issue. It then highlights, according to exit polls, 41 percent of voters who considered corruption an "extremely important" issue. Another chart indicates the number of "corrupt" lawmakers and "complacent incumbents" ousted from their seats.

Rove won’t blame losses on the Iraq war. Another chart, Dems Won Corruption, Econ., Iraq Voters, spreads the blame among those 3 issues, highlighting the percentage margin Democrats won in November from the electorate on each issue—21% on Iraq, but 20% on corruption and the economy, a small difference between Iraq and the domestic issues.

Rove contends that the Democratic gains in Congress came because middle-of-the-road independents fled the Republican Party. The presentation also notes Republicans suffered a 31-point drop in Latino voters, a net loss of 8 points among suburban voters, and a 14-point drop among self-identified moderates.

According to exit polls in still another Rove chart, the percent of the electorate identifying itself as Democrats stayed roughly the same over four elections from 2000 to 2006, 39 percent in 2000 and 38 percent in 2006, while the liberal percentage was 20 percent in 2000 and 20 percent in 2006.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Resilient Hong Kong

The Economist’s special section on Hong Kong may not describe the “greatest city the world has ever seen,” a future the Economist once projected for Hong Kong, but the magazine still views Hong Kong as a pretty impressive place.

The worst thing about Hong Kong is smog. In 1974, the year I left Hong Kong, the city had less than 200 hours a year when smog reduced visibility. That figure is now 3000 hours, a fifteen-fold increase. Local emissions ruin the air 192 days a year, mainland- sourced pollution another 132 days, leaving only 41 days when Hong Kong is low on pollution. Awful. Pollution—along with a shortage of places in international schools and the exorbitant price of housing—is one of the three major factors driving expatriates away (their numbers have dropped by a third since 2001).

Predictably, Hong Kong is also suffering from the mainland’s unwillingness to deliver the democracy China promised the city. China’s Basic Law for Hong Kong allowed for a freely-elected Legislative Council by 2007. While that development is nowhere in sight, once the British decided to leave Hong Kong undemocratic, that pretty much sealed the former colony’s fate under China’s rule.

Another Hong Kong downside is its disadvantaged competition with Shanghai, the mainland’s very own rising financial center. Hong Kong retains an edge over Shanghai because the Hong Kong dollar, as opposed to the yuan, is fully convertible. But that advantage will disappear once China decides to take it away. Time and the Chinese government are on Shanghai’s side.

Still, Hong Kong has a lot going for it:

 Hong Kong ranks ahead of Singapore on the Economist’s democracy index. It has a free press, operates a competitive economy governed by the rule of law, and its judicial system works. The Chinese have largely kept their promise to allow these freedoms to continue.

 While China’s rapid growth has reduced Hong Kong’s once-dominant entrepôt role in the China trade from 60% in the 1980s to 20% now, Hong Kong in absolute terms exports two times more from China than it did a decade ago, $300 billion a year. China’s prosperity benefits Hong Kong.

 Hong Kong is at the center of China’s Pearl River Delta (PRD), a region that includes Guangzhou, Macau, and the special economic zones of Shenzhen and Zhuhai, an area with 65 million people [see map]. Over the last 25 years, the PRD’s mainland region year after year has delivered the astounding growth rate of 17% a year[!]. Hong Kong firms employ 11 million in the PRD, and provide two-thirds of the area’s foreign direct investment. Collectively, the PRD’s mainland portion has attracted 22% of China’s foreign direct investment, and accounts for a third of China’s total foreign trade.

 The PRD is so successful, some PRD local governments are sending potential investors on to Vietnam and Bangladesh. Also, Hong Kong is part of a “pan-PRD initiative” aimed at bringing China’s nine southern provinces into a super PRD, to the benefit of 474 million people with a combined GDP the size of all ASEAN’s ten members.

As the Economist says, “Eat your heart out, Lee Kuan Yew.”

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is America the 1930s France?

Thomas Sowell sees parallels between France pre-war and America pre-nuclearized Iran. It’s a point I made earlier this month regarding Iran and al-Qaeda winning in Iraq.

Here are Sowell’s parallels:

"Moral paralysis" is a term that has been used to describe the inaction of France, England and other European democracies in the 1930s, as they watched Hitler build up the military forces that he later used to attack them. Winston Churchill later said, "There was never a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action." In 1936, when Hitler sent troops into the Rhineland, France was so much more powerful than Germany that the German generals had secret orders to retreat immediately at the first sign of French intervention.

The French had the means but not the will. "Moral paralysis" came from the death of a million French soldiers in the First World War . . . Pacifism became vogue among the intelligentsia and spread into educational institutions. As early as 1932, Winston Churchill said: "France, though armed to the teeth, is pacifist to the core."

Is America today the France of yesterday? We know that Iran is moving swiftly toward nuclear weapons . . .The Iranian leaders are not going to stop unless they get stopped. And, like Hitler, they don't think we have the guts to stop them. [Iran,] one of the biggest oil-producing countries in the world. . . has no need for nuclear power to generate electricity. Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran and its international terrorist allies will be a worst threat than Hitler ever was. But, before that happens, the big question is: Are we France? Are we morally paralyzed, perhaps fatally?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

To Change France

Jurgen Reinhoudt tells us that Nicholas Sarkozy’s reforms are underway in France:

 one key component of his promises—a significant package of tax cuts—will be passed into law. The French House approved a 10 to 13 billion Euro per year tax cut package on July 16th, while the Senate is set to review it starting the 25th. Sarkozy’s finance minister, Christine Lagarde, could not have been more blunt when she told Parliament that “France is a country that thinks. There is hardly an ideology we don't have a theory on. That's why I would like to tell you: that's enough thinking, enough prevaricating. Let's just roll up our sleeves.”

 proposals designed to crack down on massive strikes—the favored pressure tool by unions to stop reforms—are in store as well. A Senate measure would force workers, on an individual basis, to declare themselves in favor of a strike to their employers 48 hours before beginning any strike. And if employers so wish, a secret ballot vote must be held among workers on whether or not to continue a strike beyond an 8-day period. Also, a minimum level of ground transport (rail and other) service be maintained throughout the duration of a strike. The House is set to review this set of reforms starting July 30th.

As Reinhoudt writes, Sarkozy’s cabinet and his Parliamentary majority want to remove the de facto veto that unions have long held over decisions taken by democratically elected legislators. The right to strike is one thing, but bringing the country—including those who are not striking—to a standstill is quite another.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

We Must Fight Terror

America [has] a special job to do for mankind and the world . . . because America is the world in miniature and the world is America writ large.

--Martin Luther King (1965)

Robert Kagan has written a long article, published in Policy Review, called, “End of Dreams, Return of History.” The piece seems to push back at the pre-9.11 American optimism one finds reflected in the bible of this blog, Mandelbaum’s The Ideas that Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets. Yet Kagan defends, without so branding it, American exceptionalism, our desire to spread to the rest of humankind the good fortune equal opportunity has brought us. While today exceptionalism is associated with Bush, conservatives, and Republicans, Martin Luther King’s quotation above shows how basic exceptionalism is to the ideals of America.

Kagan becomes more “realist” when he defends the nation-state system as securely in place today with Russia, China, Japan, India, and Brazil as major actors (though Kagan somewhat contrarily tends to treat the supernational EU as a single entity). An idealist such as Mandelbaum believes democracy is the inevitable final form of national government, even in Russia and China. Kagan defends autocracy as an accepted way to run a country, the normal way to govern until the 20th Century. By challenging autocracy, we unnecessarily threaten Russia, China, and other nations we should be seeking to get along with. Kagan feels we should rally the democracies to our side, and with the autocracies, work on détente (not his word, but his parallels to Kissingerism are too strong to ignore).

Here’s a big reason we need to get along with Russia and China. Kagan wants to promote democracy in the Middle East, a big job that means we have to minimize our battles elsewhere in the world. We should promote Middle East democracy, Kagan writes, “as part of a larger effort to address the issue of Islamic radicalism by accelerating and intensifying its confrontation with the modern, globalized world.”

Kagan believes the Islamists' struggle “poses by far the greatest threat of a catastrophic attack on the mainland of the United States. . . the radical proponents of Islamic traditionalism. . . have deployed the weapons of the modern world against it. Modernization and globalization inflamed their rebellion and also armed them for the fight."

Kagan recognizes that the great powers won’t turn over control of the Middle East to Islamic fundamentalist forces, “if only because the region is of such vital strategic importance to the rest of the world.” So the world faces a protracted struggle in which the goals of the extreme Islamists can never be satisfied because “neither the United States nor anyone else has the ability to give them what they want.”

That means the best course for the West is to “hasten the process of modernization in the Islamic world: more modernization, more globalization, faster. This would require greater efforts to support and expand capitalism and the free market in Arab countries, [and] increase public access to the modern world through television and the internet.” Also, the West should “promote political modernization and liberalization; support human rights, including the rights of women; and use its influence to support repeated elections that may, if nothing else, continually shift power from the few to the many.” In other words, promote democracy.

According to Kagan, “the United States and others will have to persist in fighting what is, in fact, quite accurately called ‘the war on terrorism.’ . . . [G]iven the high stakes, it must be prosecuted ruthlessly, effectively, and for as long as the threat persists. . . One need only contemplate the American popular response should a terrorist group explode a nuclear weapon on American soil. . .Nor, one suspects, will the American people disapprove when a president takes preemptive action to forestall such a possibility -- assuming the action is not bungled.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Middle East “Might Have Been”

History is an argument without end.

--Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

HDS Greenway has a Boston Globe column offering an historical analogy for Iraq that may say more than Greenway meant to say. Greenway writes, “As Washington struggles with what to do with a lost war, consider the British experience in Palestine and their 30-year mandate after World War I.” Greenway perceptively adds:

 Britain, "with its technological and military superiority . . . its entrepreneurial and missionary zeal, its largely democratic institutions, was to take the once-great peoples of the East into tutelage and direct their slow but sure progress under stable and just government," A.J. Sherman recalls in his book, "Mandate Days." "This clashed almost immediately with the reality of Palestine."

 the British genuinely hoped for national reconciliation and peace in Palestine between Jews and Arabs. But as Tom Segev writes in "One Palestine Complete," "the government expected the army to impose peace between the Jews and the Arabs, as a result of which it had to fight both of them."

 When Arabs and Jews weren't fighting each other they attacked the British, who were blown up in terrorist attacks, their soldiers kidnapped and killed. When they weren't surging, they holed up in Green Zone-like enclaves called "Bevingads," after Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin. "Security continued to erode despite the presence of over 100,000 troops," Sherman writes. "The sense of constant menace (was) heightened by the ubiquitous roadside mines, against which no British vehicle could be adequately armored."

 Britain feared the chaos that would follow a retreat. But after 30 years of trying to engineer compromise, the British left with their tails between their legs when support on the home front collapsed. Once they were gone, the feared upsurge of bloodshed between Arabs and Jews was realized, and the nightmare of outside intervention from neighboring states came to pass.

Comment: To Greenway, the British were fools to get between two sides that valued victory above peace. Greenway is saying the U.S. in Iraq is similarly stupid to “force compromise on combatants who have no interest in compromise.”

I buy Greenway’s analogy but take exception to his conclusion. The Arab-Israeli conflict has been a disaster for world peace over the 59 years since Britain “bugged out.” The conflict bedevils the world today, and arguably mothered the Islamic extremism that currently darkens civilization’s otherwise-bright future. Had Britain not crumbled in the face of homefront impatience with its Palestine peacekeeping, and had it instead presided over a partition acceptable to both sides (yielding a smaller Israel), the oil-rich Middle East might have become peaceful and prosperous.

History’s argument goes on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Believe It: Worldwide Economic Boom

"This is far and away the strongest global economy I've seen in my business lifetime."

--U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson

James Pethokoukis, who quotes Paulson in a US News article, has the proof to support Paulson’s statement:

 According to Goldman Sachs: "If we and the consensus are correct, then the period 2003-2008 will have been one of the most powerful periods of economic growth globally since accurate data [have] been collectible for much of the world."

 According to the International Monetary Fund the global economy is growing at about a 5 percent annual pace, after growing 4.9 percent in 2005 and 5.4 percent last year. By contrast, the global economy grew at a 3 percent pace from 1980 to 2000 and at 4.7 percent from 1960 to 1980.

 The gross global product is three times as big as it was in 1970, when adjusted for inflation. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, "The first 60 years of the 20th century saw average annual global growth rates of 2.4 percent, after 1 percent for the entire 19th century, and one-third of 1 percent for the 18th century."

 Since 2000, according to the Tax Foundation, more than half the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have lowered their top marginal rates, reducing the OECD average rate from 45.93 to 42.95 percent.

 The U.S. reduced its top rate by over 13 percent between 2000 and 2006, dropping it from 15th to 21st highest in the OECD rankings. If no other country had reduced its tax rates, the U.S. would stand at 26th, but the strong tax-cutting trend in other OECD countries blunted the U.S. advantage.

 Full repeal of the 2001 rate cuts after a surcharge to fix the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) would move the U.S. from 21st to 9th highest—and that assumes the tax cutting abroad comes to a halt. A repeal of the 2001 tax cuts with no AMT surcharge would move the U.S. to 11th highest.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Quitting the War on Terror

getting out of Iraq is now partly in the hands of Democrats who control. . .Congress. History will be. . . unforgiving if [Democrats'] agitation for withdrawal results in a pell-mell retreat that causes lasting damage.

-- David Ignatius,
Washington Post

Iraq has divided America between those who still hope for victory, and those who believe the war is lost. But there is another important dividing line: that between those who see Iraq as a battlefield in the War on Terror, and those who either think Iraq has little to do with al-Qaeda in northwest Pakistan, or that terrorism is nothing more than a police problem. If one believes 9.11 initiated a war against Muslim extremism, then defeating both al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Shiite extremists backed by Iran there makes sense.

Iraq is at the heart of the Arab Muslim world, with large oil reserves. If Islamic extremism defeats us in Iraq, we can expect Muslim terror to move to the West, as well as through the Islamic world. That's the view of observers closest to al-Qaeda's plans and capabilities (see here and here). And, as this blog has noted, Iran shares al-Qaeda’s objective of driving Western moderation and democracy from the Islamic world, replacing Western ideas with Islamic law.

Democracies find war distasteful, but this democracy has to counter the threat Islamic extremism brought home to America on 9.11. Losing Iraq in 2008 will be like losing France in 1940. It will make the rest of the war against Islamic extremists much harder. Iraq is more like France in April 1940, less like Vietnam in April 1975. Vietnam was a civil war, and when our side lost, the West was able to limit the loss to Indochina. Al-Qaeda’s and Iran’s winning in Iraq will reverberate throughout today's world, the way the fall of France reverberated throughout the world of 1940.

If the stakes are so high, why would we give up on Iraq before we are defeated? Of course, if you think we’ve already lost, then it's just about sending as many boats to Dunkirk as possible. But we haven’t lost. We are still making gains in Baghdad. To quit now is criminal.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Quitters (Part II)

the job our troops were sent to Iraq to do is done. After nearly five years of a failed policy in Iraq, we have a duty. . . to end the war.

--Speaker Nancy Pelosi

As Victor Davis Hanson noted, initial supporters of the Iraq war included both houses of Congress, 70 percent of the American public in April 2003, the majority of NATO members, and a coalition with more participants than the United Nations alliance had in the Korean War. On the other hand, the media emerged early as leading skeptics, suspecting they were about to see a re-run of their generation’s war: Vietnam. If Bush succeeded, well, that would be fine; we’d have a new democracy in the heart of the Middle East. But if Iraq went bad and American casualties mounted, the media would play out the parallels to Vietnam. The reporters’ script throughout was, “we’ve seen this tragedy before.”

Reporters believe Bush is a fool. In the 1960’s, the media had helped America realize that fighting Vietnamese nationalism was a disaster. Vietnam was also a disaster for Democrats, costing them the White House and their domestic program. If Bush wanted to wade his way into an unnecessary war, the media have been only too happy to help Republicans draw electoral defeat from the misadventure. Throughout 2004, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, suppressed photographs of flag-draped coffins, and reports of torture all helped undermine support for the war, along with daily or weekly body counts, often including photographs, of dead Americans. War coverage excludes mention of any living heroes, unless they emerge severely wounded.

But Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, which of course had nothing to do with Iraq, turned out to provide the knockout blow to Bush’s popularity. As Nina Easton, then the Boston Globe’s Washington bureau chief, put it six months after the devastating hurricane, “Katrina is the gift that keeps on giving for the Democrats, absolutely.” That and the sectarian war that engulfed Iraq in March 2006 after al-Qaeda destroyed the Golden Mosque at Samara.

Writing just before his untimely death in April, David Halberstam, the reporter most responsible for ending American involvement in Vietnam, in a wide-ranging attack for the August Vanity Fair unsparingly denounced Bush for his “wishful thinking, arrogance, and a total disdain for the facts.” Here’s an example that shows how Halberstam saw Bush as a latter-day Lyndon Johnson:

One of Bush's favorite conceits, used repeatedly in his speeches, is that democracies are peaceful and don't go to war against one another. Most citizens of the West tend to accept this view without question, but that is not how most of Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East, having felt the burden of the white man's colonial rule for much of the past two centuries, see it. The non-Western world does not think of the West as a citadel of pacifism and generosity

Halberstam was saying that as with Vietnam, the U.S. in Iraq is fighting a colonial war disguised as a war for democracy, and the non-Western world gets it. Yet in fact, most every (non-Western) dictator is alarmed by the precedent Bush threatens to establish of crossing an international frontier to replace a tyrant with democracy, and these dictators will be exceptionally alarmed if Bush succeeds. So in truth Halberstam aligned himself with the (non-Western) world's despots, and against those of their subjects who want democracy.

It’s where we are today. Bush and his dwindling band of supporters are the Wilsonian idealists (the people to whom this blog is dedicated) who believe democracy is the best system of government for everyone. And the media, Democrats, and Halberstam represent a currently growing body of realists who want America watching out for its own interests at home, abstaining from foreign ventures.

One sees the emerging intellectual underpinnings for a quitter foreign policy in Charles Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz’s Foreign Affairs piece grandly titled, “Grand Strategy for a Divided America.” The article denounces Bush for “pursuing a foreign policy of excessive and unsustainable ambition.” The authors worry about idealism in the Republican Party, much as Roosevelt worried in 1941 about isolationism in the Republican Party:

One CNN poll recorded that after four years of occupying [sic] Iraq, only 24 percent of Republicans oppose the war, compared with more than 90 percent of Democrats. As for exporting American ideals, a June 2006 German Marshall Fund study found that only 35 percent of Democrats believed the United States should "help establish democracy in other countries," compared with 64 percent of Republicans. Similarly, a December 2006 CBS News poll found that two-thirds of Democrats believed the United States should "mind its own business internationally," whereas only one-third of Republicans held that view.

What’s wrong with Republicans that they just won’t quit? Well, Peggy Noonan, Reagan's brilliant former speechwriter, is one Republican who's quit, and is now siding with the realists.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Quitters (Part I)

We need a debate on how to win, not how to lose.

--Alexander Haig

The facts about Iraq don’t tell me why we should be quitting. On 9.11, Islamic terrorism became the big show. Very quickly, Bush told the country terrorists didn’t honor borders, and neither would we. We would hunt them down where they live, and we would knock out governments that offered them sanctuary. 27 days after 9.11, we were in Afghanistan successfully taking down the Taliban regime. Al-Qaeda, which means “the base,” would have to look elsewhere for a new base.

Bush’s conclusion, reached over the following year, was that Iraq made a logical Middle East base for al-Qaeda. Under Saddam, Iraq was an enemy of the U.S., and in open defiance of UN resolutions demanding it permit international inspection of its weapons research, manufacturing, and storage facilities. Iraq has the world's fourth largest oil reserves; wealth Saddam wanted to turn into weapons. Iraq had active programs to build weapons of mass destruction and a history of using such weapons. Iraq had thrown UN inspectors out of the country in 1998. When the UN in 2002 demanded their return, Saddam finally relented, but declared many facilities “off limits,” and demanded pre-notification of other inspections. These were the actions of a man with something to hide.

It’s “straw man” logic to say that Saddam was in on 9.11. That’s not the point. Here’s the point: Saddam was a terrorist, Saddam hated the U.S. and was at war with it, Saddam directly supported Palestinian terrorists, and it was reasonable to expect that terrorists with al-Qaeda connections, people such as Abu Musab al Zarqawi would find their way to Iraq and begin operating there, with Saddam’s blessing.

We went into Iraq in 2003, quickly overthrew Saddam, and set about establishing a democratic Iraq in its place. Our successes in the war on terror—Afghanistan, Iraq, homeland security—helped pave the way for Bush’s re-election in November 2004. Over the next year, 2005, Iraq held three separate, successful national elections that would lead to establishment of a democratic Iraqi government, and would allow for a drawdown of U.S. forces there. Anyway, that was the plan.

Al-Qaeda disrupted our planned withdrawal on February 22, 2006, when it destroyed the sacred Shiite Golden Mosque in Samara. Shiites predictably retaliated against Sunnis throughout the country, and the violence from both sides that followed tore the country apart for much of the time since. Instead of withdrawing troops, the U.S. had to bring in more troops in an effort to get Baghdad—where Sunni and Shiite living together make up a quarter of the country’s population—under some sort of control.

If we had sent in more U.S. troops earlier, Iraq’s security situation would have been better. Bush made mistakes, and is now trying to correct them. Should we quit now, before we know if the surge will work?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Angry?! Good!!

Michael Gerson used to be Bush 43’s top speechwriter. He is now on his own. On July 4, he wrote a commentary that indirectly endorses angry Bill Moyers. As noted here, Moyers used the Declaration of Independence to frame his attack on present-day America for tolerating gross disparities in wealth.

Gerson praised an 1829 July 4 address by firebrand abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison [pictured], who raged, Americans should "spike every cannon and haul down every banner" because of the "glaring contradiction" between the Declaration of Independence and the practice of slavery. The grievances of slaves, he argued, made the grievances of the American colonists look like trivial whining. "I am ashamed of my country," Garrison concluded. "I am sick of our unmeaning declamation in praise of liberty and equality; of our hypocritical cant about the unalienable rights of man."

Moyers had to have been delighted with this bit of Gerson research. According to Gerson, “Garrison laid bare the central contradiction of the American experiment: that the land of the free was actually a prison for millions of its inhabitants.” Gerson then moved forward to Martin Luther King, speaking on July 4 a hundred years after the Civil War. To King, the Declaration said, "You may take my life, but you can't take my right to life. You may take liberty from me, but you can't take my right to liberty." And King added, this creed of "amazing universalism" calls "America to do a special job for mankind and the world . . . because America is the world in miniature and the world is America writ large."

Summing up, Gerson said—in words that directly parallel Moyers denunciation of the rich—“The privileged and powerful can love America for many reasons. The oppressed and powerless, stripped of selfish motives for their love, have found America lovely because of its ideals.” Ideals expressed in “All men are created equal.”

Iraq Surge Comes with a Price

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
2007: 88
June: 99

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 Peak: 2.50
Goal: 2.10 (Revised downward, 1/07)
actual: 1.98 (6/07)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,240 (6/07)

Since our last monthly report, the American KIA total dropped from May's 117 to 99. The surge continues to cost American lives. The April-June three-month total of 311 KIA is the highest for any three-month period in the war. [Please note: the number of KIA is almost always lower than the media-reported total of American deaths, which covers all causes, including non-hostile. Our Iraq and Vietnam figures are KIA only.] The total KIA of 99 in June raises the monthly KIA average for 2007 to 88. That average is higher than all months in 2006 but two, and higher than any single month in 2005.

Oil output declined yet again from May to June, dropping further below the target revised downward in January. In the case of electricity, output during the heat of summer rose to a 2007 high in June, but remained below June 2006's average output of 4,400 megawatts.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

One Angry Priest

A thousand years are like a day.

--II Peter 3:8

(The Rev.) Bill Moyers is an angry man. He is preparing a television series that compares current America to the “Guilded Age,” the post-Civil War years when “Robber Barons” owned the U.S. Senate, got paid in land to build railroads, manipulated the stock market, built mansions in Newport, and rode out recessions that drove ordinary people into joblessness and debt. He told the United Church of Christ’s general synod June 23 that while he believes in democracy, the current concentration of wealth in a few hands, and the wealthy’s consequent manipulation of our political system, threatens the very foundation of democracy.

Moyers proclaimed the heart of democracy lies in the Declaration of Independence’s key phrase that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Liberty is the old word for freedom. Conservatives stress this freedom to pursue happiness in our own, individual ways. Moyers is fixed on equality, most especially inequality of income. So later in his speech, he just rewrites Jefferson to say we are after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice[!]”

Whoa! So much for happiness. And so much for Jefferson’s leaving “justice” out of the Declaration’s key phrase. Moyers rams home his passion for justice by quoting the story of Jesus’ driving moneychangers from the temple. In the name of justice, Moyers wants to drive the wealthy from the temple of Washington D.C.

My disappointment is with the stale nature of Moyers’—and Democrats’—divisive, anti-business appeal. It’s a throwback to FDR, to HST, and to LBJ’s Great Society. Don’t Democrats have anything new to offer? Moyers who was, in effect, Johnson’s chief of staff at age 30 [picture], seems unable to live past the collapse of the Great Society, Johnson’s (and Moyers’) failed big government effort to complete the New Deal. Vietnam was part of that collapse, in Moyers’ eyes draining needed money and attention away from domestic programs. But it’s also true big government just didn’t work to solve poverty or fix education. America moved on with Reagan’s election in 1980, Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform, and the decentralized effort to raise education standards that 2001’s No Child Left Behind represents.

So Moyers still fights the anti-capitalist war, as if the old ways are right for America today. Democratic New Priests such as Moyers won’t leave the New Deal behind. They want high taxes, humbled capitalists, and bureaucrats back in charge. Vilifying business worked—politically, especially—for the America they ruled 1933-69. Like Confucians, they revere a past that brought their religion mythic success.

The New Deal-Fair Deal-Great Society made major contributions to America--especially social security, labor laws, the GI bill/student loans, FHA mortgages, Medicare, and civil rights legislation. And we cannot allow capitalism to run roughshod over the landscape. But we now know that big government has severe limitations (look at Iraq!). In the broad sweep of history that treats years as minutes, capitalism has brought prosperity to billions, and big government socialism has collapsed. Dour New Priests like Moyers may find prosperity problematic, yet to the masses prosperity exactly defines "the pursuit of happiness."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tough Man, Tougher Job

Dennis Ross is the person to listen to when it comes to Israel and Palestine. He has some advice for new Middle East envoy Tony Blair, who is taking the job Ross once had to try and put together an Israeli peace settlement. Whatever Ross may think about the need to return to Israel’s 1967 borders, his advice for Blair is about what Blair needs to do now, if peace is to have any chance.

Ross’s key points:

• Blair has to find a way to get Fatah to reform itself so that it can compete effectively with Hamas. Pressing Mahmoud Abbas to take on the Fatah old guard is essential but goes against Abbas's very nature. If Abbas won’t side with those who truly want to remake Fatah and reform it, it won't matter how much money goes to Fatah.

• Blair must be able to deal directly with the younger members of Fatah who are prepared to operate at the grassroots level, and who demonstrate their ability to deliver services if provided the means.

• Blair must have a strategy for Gaza. Blair must show he is not disregarding Gaza; he will need to ensure ongoing humanitarian assistance even while shaping an international consensus that developmental help will not flow to Gaza unless Hamas is willing to play by the rules. There is leverage—Hamas needs to show that it can govern and will need real help from the outside to do so.

• As important as it is for Blair to apply leverage on the Fatah old guard and on Hamas, this will matter little if he cannot ease travel restrictions for Palestinians throughout the West Bank. This, as much as anything, will signal that life and commerce may be normalized. Israeli security forces will resist any meaningful change without some demonstration of Fatah's capability and performance.

These points represent gigantic challenges. Challenges big enough that Blair may soon be longing for his old life as the hounded prime minister who took Britain into Iraq.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Argument Without End. . .

The late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., just before he died last winter, wrote that history is an argument without end. I now realize endless argument about history is a subplot of my blog.

LA Times editor Nicholas Goldberg [pictured] knew Danny Pearl, the subject of “A Mighty Heart,” the movie about Pearl’s murder by Pakistani terrorists. Goldberg looks back to ten years ago when he and Pearl used the same interpreter while covering Tehran, and spent several evenings together, two Jewish American correspondents in deep conversation about Israel and the Middle East. By contrast, Goldberg says:

What's clear. . .is that extremism has more sway now than it ever had in the 1990s, thanks not only to the successes of Al Qaeda but to American policies that have radicalized and inflamed the Muslim public. What moral standing we had in the region after 9/11 was squandered in the prison cells of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

There are many bright lines separating American liberals and conservatives. Goldberg points to one of the clearest. Conservatives believe the world changed on 9.11, when terrorists taught us they meant business. Liberals blame the U.S. for the extremists' post-9.11 successes.

Incredible. Yes, the U.S. has found it impossible to fight a mistake-free war. Still, it seems clear to me that extremists are largely responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of innocent Muslim men, women, and children, while America seeks peace and a better life for young Muslims, free from terror and with jobs plentiful. And furthermore, I believe Americans who insist on bringing down other Americans harm our ability to achieve these noble goals.

“Argument without end?” I hope not.