Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Intense Frontloading Forces New Presidential Campaign Strategies

The extremely compressed campaign calendar for the 2008 presidential primaries is forcing candidates to diverge from the traditional election strategies of the past. The Wall Street Journal has the background:

In a topsy-turvy presidential campaign, with hundreds of millions of dollars already raised and a January jam-packed with key events as never before, candidates are challenging some traditional notions about the best path to the White House.

In races past, candidates typically spent most heavily in the early going on the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, then had time to shift resources to larger, later states if the nomination hadn't been sewed up yet.

This campaign season is shaping up differently, especially for Republicans, where two major candidates -- Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson -- are spending their budgets most heavily on Florida. That state's Jan. 29 primary has made it for the first time a potential kingmaker along with Iowa and New Hampshire. Among Republicans, Mitt Romney is also a big spender in Florida.

For Democrats, the growing dominance of Hillary Rodham Clinton, challenged by a struggling but well-financed Barack Obama, has led unprecedented millions to be poured into Iowa -- twice as much as into New Hampshire. Iowa's Jan. 3 caucus has taken on greater importance for Democrats than four or eight years ago because it is the single best chance for Mr. Obama and John Edwards to stop Mrs. Clinton. None of the Democratic candidates are active in Florida because the national party, angry at the state for moving its vote so early, has forbidden campaigning there.

The shape of the campaign emerges from a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign spending reports released earlier this month. The Journal estimated spending in each state choosing a candidate in January by analyzing campaign filings and gathering data on television-advertising spending and staffing.

"The Democrats are being very much condensed and focused on Iowa, whereas Republicans are pursuing a less conventional strategy," says Evan Tracey, an analyst with TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, a political media research firm. "Campaigns are having to make some tough choices as far as the states where they put their money."

Six states have primaries or caucuses for both parties in January -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Michigan and Florida. A seventh, Wyoming, will select among Republicans. Then, on Feb. 5, California, New York, Illinois and other big states vote in what could be the campaign's decisive day.

The new schedule means voters in some large states may play a more central role in choosing the parties' candidates than in earlier years, when the stretched-out campaign meant the victor was often effectively decided before many big states voted.
Hillary Clinton looks more inevitable all the time. She's pulling so far out front that either Barack Obama or John Edwards will need a win in Iowa to slow the Clinton juggernaut. The Edwards campaign, though, unlike Obama's, would likely be finished with a poor showing in the Hawkeye State.

The real fireworks are on the Republican side. Both Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson have placed major bets on the early vote in Florida, where both candidates hope a win will provide the momentum for victory on Super Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

After that day, we'll almost certainly know who'll be the Democratic nominee, although it's heads or tails on the GOP race at this point.

By the way,
George Will defends the 2008 nomination process in his new essay at Newsweek. USA Today, on the other hand, suggests we need to reform presidential nominations, moving to regional primaries for 2012.

Wider Iranian Threat Seen on the Ground

This morning's Los Angeles Times reports that the conventional threat from Iran may be more immediate than the eventual development of nuclear weapons capabilities:

While the White House dwells on Iran's nuclear program, senior U.S. diplomats and military officers fear that an incident on the ground in Iraq is a more likely trigger for a possible confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

In one sign of their concern, U.S. military policymakers are weighing whether to release some of the Iranian personnel they have taken into custody in Iraq. Doing so could reduce the risk that radical Iranian elements might seize U.S. military or diplomatic personnel to retaliate, thus raising the danger of an escalation, a senior Defense official said.

The Bush administration has charged that Iran is funding anti-American fighters in Iraq and sending in sophisticated explosives to bleed the U.S. mission, although some of the administration's charges are disputed by Iraqis as well as the Iranians. Still, the diplomatic and military officials say they fear that the overreaching of a confident Iran, combined with growing U.S. frustrations, could set off a dangerous collision.

An unintended clash over Iraq "is very much on people's minds," said an American diplomat, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly express his views.

A U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure, despite recent heated rhetoric from the White House, today "seems more remote," he added.

An on-the-ground clash could be sparked, say current and former officials, by a confrontation along the 900-mile-long border between Iran and Iraq, or in the waters of the Persian Gulf. Or it could be ignited over one of the periodic U.S. attempts to arrest those the Americans assert are members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq.

The U.S. military might also retaliate if a bombing in Iraq killed a large number of U.S. troops and there was clear evidence of Iranian involvement, U.S. officials have warned.

One senior U.S. military official said the risk of war was now ever present in the Persian Gulf region. He described it as a "sleeping dog" that could be all too easily roused.

This current of thinking appears to be widely shared among many operational-level U.S. diplomats and military officers. Though these American officials are not among the handful of senior aides with whom President Bush consults in making final policy decisions on Iran, they are nonetheless influential as debate continues between hawks and moderates on how to handle the issue.

Many of them judge a U.S. attack on the Iranian nuclear program less likely because of the administration's stated emphasis on diplomacy, the strained condition of the U.S. military, and worries that an attack could set off Iranian retaliation without halting Tehran's nuclear program for long.

In the Pentagon, the shift in thinking has occurred in part because many in the department's leadership -- including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates -- have concluded that a strike against suspected Iranian nuclear sites could be counterproductive, senior Defense officials said.

Washington charges that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, whereas Tehran says it is seeking to produce nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

Gates believes that bombing the nuclear sites would probably slow but not stop the Iranian nuclear effort while building domestic support for the program in Iran and undermining the international diplomatic effort to pressure Tehran to give up its suspected nuclear ambitions, said the senior Defense Department official.

"The nuclear program is still clearly years down the road," the official added.

"The more immediate threat is Iranian meddling and arms supplies into Iraq."

J. Scott Carpenter, a former top State Department official in the Bush administration now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that despite warnings from some quarters that the administration was close to launching an attack on the nuclear facilities, "there is a lot of trepidation and circumspection" within the corridors of Washington power.

On the other hand, the risk of a collision on the ground in Iraq has been growing since January, when Bush condemned Iran's activities in Iraq, threatened to destroy Iranian networks he said were providing military gear to anti-U.S. forces, and dispatched additional warships and other military hardware to the region.

Suddenly, U.S. officials who had been complaining publicly that Iran was broadly meddling were now accusing Tehran of responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops. They focused especially on the activities of the Quds Force, an elite and ideologically motivated unit of the Revolutionary Guard Corps that the U.S. believes has sent hundreds of members across the porous border with Iraq to help train and provide weaponry to anti-American militias.

U.S. intelligence officials continue to track the flow of weapons they say come from Iran, and believe that in addition to much-publicized explosively formed projectiles -- roadside bombs that can penetrate armored vehicles -- Iran is supplying rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles and large rocket launchers, according to a senior military official in Baghdad.
I've noted previously that an attack on Iran is not imminent, despite left-wing claims to the contrary.

But as this article indicates, U.S. and Iranian interests are increasingly at odds. With our continued success in Iraq, Americans now have the best chance in recent years to turn the tide against Iranian aggression there, and throughout the Middle East as well.

Heartened by Success in Iraq

Frederick Kagen, in new essay at the Weekly Standard, says America should be heartened by our victories in Iraq:

America has won an important battle in the war on terror. We turned an imminent victory for Al Qaeda In Iraq into a humiliating defeat for them and thereby created an opportunity for further progress not only in Iraq, but also in the global struggle. In the past five months, terrorist operations in and around Baghdad have dropped by 59 percent. Car bomb deaths are down by 81 percent. Casualties from enemy attacks dropped 77 percent. And violence during the just-completed season of Ramadan--traditionally a peak of terrorist attacks--was the lowest in three years.

Winning a battle is not the same as winning a war. Our commanders and soldiers are continuing the fight to ensure that al Qaeda does not recover even as they turn their attention to the next battle: against Shia militias sponsored by Iran. Beyond Iraq, battles in Afghanistan and elsewhere demand our attention. But let us properly take stock of what has been accomplished.

At the end of 2006, the United States was headed for defeat in Iraq. Al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent leaders proclaimed their imminent triumph. Our own intelligence analysts and commanders agreed that our previous strategies had failed. The notion that a "surge" of a few brigades and a change of mission could transform the security situation in Iraq was ridiculed. Many experts and politicians proclaimed the futility of further military effort in Iraq. Imagine if they had been heeded.

Had al Qaeda been allowed to drive us from Iraq in disgrace, it would control safe havens throughout Anbar, in Baghdad, up the Tigris River valley, in Baquba, and in the "triangle of death"....

Instead, Al Qaeda In Iraq today is broken. Individual al Qaeda cells persist, in steadily shrinking areas of the country, but they can no longer mount the sort of coherent operations across Iraq that had become the norm in 2006. The elimination of key leaders and experts has led to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the al Qaeda bombings that do occur, hence the steady and dramatic declines in overall casualty rates....

How did we achieve this success? Before the surge began, American forces in Iraq had attempted to fight al Qaeda primarily with the sort of intelligence-driven, targeted raids that many advocates of immediate withdrawal claim they want to continue. Those efforts failed. Our skilled soldiers captured and killed many al Qaeda leaders, including Abu Musab al Zarqawi, but the terrorists were able to replace them faster than we could kill them. Success came with a new strategy.

Al Qaeda excesses in Anbar Province and elsewhere had already begun to generate local resentment, but those local movements could not advance without our help. The takfiris--as the Iraqis call the sectarian extremists of al Qaeda--brutally murdered and tortured any local Sunni leaders who dared to speak against them, until American troops began to work to clear the terrorist strongholds in Ramadi in late 2006. But there were not enough U.S. forces in Anbar to complete even that task, let alone to protect local populations throughout the province and in the Sunni areas of Iraq. The surge of forces into Anbar and the Baghdad belts allowed American troops to complete the clearing of Ramadi and to clear Falluja and other takfiri strongholds.

The additional troops also allowed American commanders to pursue defeated al Qaeda cells and prevent them from reestablishing safe-havens. The so-called "water balloon effect," in which terrorists were simply squeezed from one area of the country to another, did not occur in 2007 because our commanders finally had the resources to go after the terrorists wherever they fled. After the clearing of the city of Baquba this year, al Qaeda fighters attempted to flee up the Diyala River valley and take refuge in the Hamrin Ridge. Spectacular bombings in small villages in that area, including the massive devastation in the Turkmen village of Amerli, roughly 100 miles north of Baghdad, that killed hundreds, were intended to provide al Qaeda with the terror wedge it needed to gain a foothold in the area. But with American troops in hot pursuit, the terrorists had to stay on the run, breaking their movement into smaller and more disaggregated cells. The addition of more forces, the change in strategy to focus on protecting the population, both Sunni and Shia, and the planning and execution of multiple simultaneous, and sequential operations across the entire theater combined with a shift in attitudes among the Sunni population to revolutionize the situation.

Some now say that, although America's soldiers were successful in this task, the next battle is hopeless. We cannot control the Shia militias, they say. The Iraqis will never "reconcile." The government will not make the decisions it must make to sustain the current progress, and all will collapse. Perhaps. But those who now proclaim the hopelessness of future efforts also ridiculed the possibility of the success we have just achieved. If one predicts failure long enough, one may turn out to be right. But the credibility of the prophets of doom--those who questioned the veracity and integrity of General David Petraeus when he dared to report progress--is at a low ebb.

There is a long struggle ahead in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere against al Qaeda and its allies in extremism. We can still lose. American forces and Afghan allies defeated al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001 as completely as we are defeating it in Iraq. But mistakes and a lack of commitment by both the United States and the NATO forces to whom we handed off responsibility have allowed a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan. We must not repeat that mistake in Iraq where the stakes are so much higher. America must not try to pocket the success we have achieved in Iraq and declare a premature and meaningless victory. Instead, let us be heartened by success. We have avoided for the moment a terrible danger and created a dramatic opportunity. Let's seize it.

Indeed, let's seize it, all of us, including the Democratic presidential candidates.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Earmarking John Murtha

Democratic Congressman John Murtha is the king of pork barrel legislation, according to this eye-popping piece in today's Wall Street Journal. Here's the introduction:

If John Murtha were a businessman, he'd be the biggest employer in this town.

The powerful U.S. congressman has used his clout on Capitol Hill to create thousands of jobs and steer billions of dollars in federal spending to help his hometown in western Pennsylvania recover from devastating floods and the flight of its steelmakers.

More is on the way. In the massive 2008 military-spending bill now before Congress -- which could go to a House-Senate conference as soon as Thursday -- Mr. Murtha has steered more taxpayer funds to his congressional district than any other member. The Democratic lawmaker is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which will oversee more than $459 billion in military spending this year.

Johnstown's good fortune has come at the expense of taxpayers everywhere else. Defense contractors have found that if they open an office here and hire the right lobbyist, they can get lucrative, no-bid contracts. Over the past decade, Concurrent Technologies Corp., a defense-research firm that employs 800 here, got hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to Rep. Murtha despite poor reviews by Pentagon auditors. The National Drug Intelligence Center, with 300 workers, got $509 million, though the White House has tried for years to shut it down as wasteful and unnecessary. Another beneficiary: MTS Technologies, run by a man who got his start some 40 years ago shining shoes at Mr. Murtha's Johnstown Minute Car Wash.

A review by The Wall Street Journal of dozens of such contracts funded by Mr. Murtha's committee shows that many weren't sought by the military or federal agencies they were intended to benefit. Some were inefficient or mismanaged, according to interviews, public records and previously unpublished Pentagon audits. One Murtha-backed firm, ProLogic Inc., is under federal investigation for allegedly diverting public funds to develop commercial software, people close to the case say. The company denies wrongdoing and is in line to get millions of dollars more in the pending defense bill.

Mr. Murtha, a gruff, combat-decorated former Marine, was thrust into the national spotlight last year by his opposition to the Iraq war. Yet he has long been known in Washington, where he wields power like an old-fashioned political boss and has become a lightning rod for Republican attacks. With years of strong support for the military, he's also been an important voice for Democrats in battles over war funding and troop withdrawal.
Or, more accurately, he's been an important voice in the hardline left's Iraq surrender campaign. That's enough of a turnoff, but he's also a foul-mouthed bully:

In Washington, Mr. Murtha - Jack, as he's widely known - is used to getting his way. At 6-feet-6 and 75 years old, he has been known to physically intimidate opponents and fly into a red-faced rage when crossed. (One recent tirade, against a Republican who had tried to cut funding for a Johnstown earmark, found its way onto YouTube.) He curses like the Parris Island drill sergeant he once was, punctuating conversations by punching a finger into the chest of foes and friends alike.

Read the whole thing.

While Murtha's the pork-barrel king, he's just one powerful practitioner in the longstanding and widely-accepted practice of bringing home the bacon to constituents. Both parties are implicated in the practice (as the article notes, congressional earmarks are down this year under the Democrats).

To be fair, though, it makes good sense to use institutional rules to bring tangible benefits back home to the district. But as the article amply demonstrates, the enormous sums pumping through the earmarking system generate powerful incentives for corruption and waste. Even amid calls for reform, legislative logrolling keeps earmarking alive. It's difficult to change a system in which those who would seek to abolish a practice are the same recipients of the system's rewards.

That said, I just don't like Murtha (hopefully he'll be earmarked for a premature exit in 2008's elections), and I'm obviously not the only one. Michelle Makin, for example, is having fun with the article, and she provides this nifty Murtha Abscam YouTube as well:

See who's also blogging at Memeorandum.

*********

UPDATE: The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat reports that Republican William T. Russell, "a career Army man," and veteran of both Iraq wars, will challenge Murtha for control of Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district in 2008.

Hat tip: Sister Toldjah.

The Cult of Racial Victimology Backlash

David A. Lehrer and Joe R. Hicks offer a penetrating attack on the cult of racial victimology in today's Los Angeles Times.

It turns out that Gloria Jeff, a political appointee at L.A.'s Department of Transportation, won a $95,000 award for wrongful termination from the city last week after she was fired for incompetence and uncollegiality. Jeff is black, and according to Lehrer and Hicks, her the award, probably handed down to avoid a lawsuit, "was appropriately lambasted in local editorials, which decried paying out a princely sum."


The authors argue that the ultimate message from the episode is that victimologists will defend racial favoritism at all costs, in their effort to maintain diversity in minority representation:
The award to Jeff and the discussion about her firing leave a uniformly negative residue. What prevailed is a worldview in which racial/ethnic identity is more important than any other factor in judging a person. Jeff had to be a victim of bias because of her color, regardless of whether there were legitimate reasons for her dismissal.

This method of viewing the world -- solely through a prism of race and ethnicity -- has a serious and, one would assume, unintended side effect, no matter the intentions of those who employ it. It tells the world that colorblind practices that hold minorities to the same standards as others may simply not be good enough. If an at-will employee terminated by an elected official like Villaraigosa, with an unparalleled record of minority hiring, can extract a sizable monetary settlement, what are the prospects for a run-of-the-mill private employer who wants to terminate a minority employee when no bias is involved? A very public precedent has been set: If the merest assertion of bias is made, the expectations of reward will probably be there.

There are employers who will understand this and, when faced with a choice between hiring a non-minority or a minority, may well think twice about hiring the minority because of a fear that any decision to terminate or discipline the employee would be subject to allegations of racism -- based solely on the employee's minority status.

African American leaders who assert racism at the drop of a hat presume to be advancing the cause of minorities by being vigilant. In fact, they may be inadvertently adding to the discrimination in our country and doing their constituents, and the public, a grave disservice.
Obviously, that's not a message that members of the victims' cult want to hear.

Angelina Jolie and World Politics

Check this excerpt from Daniel Drezner's forthcoming article on celebrity and world politics (and Angelina Jolie!), at the National Interest:

WHO WOULD you rather sit next to at your next Council on Foreign Relations roundtable: Henry Kissinger or Angelina Jolie? This is a question that citizens of the white-collared foreign-policy establishment thought they’d never be asked. The massive attention paid to Paris Hilton’s prison ordeal, Lindsay Lohan’s shame spiral and anything Britney Spears has done, said or exposed has distracted pop-culture mavens from celebrities that were making nobler headlines.

Increasingly, celebrities are taking an active interest in world politics. When media maven Tina Brown attends a Council on Foreign Relations session, you know something fundamental has changed in the relationship between the world of celebrity and world politics. What’s even stranger is that these efforts to glamorize foreign policy are actually affecting what governments do and say. The power of soft news has given star entertainers additional leverage to advance their causes. Their ability to raise issues to the top of the global agenda is growing. This does not mean that celebrities can solve the problems that bedevil the world. And not all celebrity activists are equal in their effectiveness. Nevertheless, politically-engaged stars cannot be dismissed as merely an amusing curiosity in foreign policy.

Consider the most notable example of a celebrity attempting to move the global agenda: Angelina Jolie. Her image has come a long way since her marriage to Billy Bob Thornton. In February of this year she published an op-ed in The Washington Post about the crisis in Darfur, referencing her work as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. During the summer, her press junket to promote A Mighty Heart included interviews with Foreign Policy’s website and a glowing profile in Newsweek, modestly titled “Angelina Jolie Wants to Save the World.” In that story, former Secretary of State Colin Powell describes Jolie as “absolutely serious, absolutely informed. . . .She studies the issues.” Esquire’s July 2007 cover featured a sultry picture of Jolie—but the attached story suggested something even more provocative: “In post-9/11 America, Angelina Jolie is the best woman in the world because she is the most famous woman in the world—because she is not like you or me.”

What in the name of Walter Scott’s Personality Parade is going on? Why has international relations gone glam? Have stars like Jolie, Madonna, Bono, Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney and Sheryl Crow carved out a new way to become foreign-policy heavyweights? Policy cognoscenti might laugh off this question as absurd, but the career arc of Al Gore should give them pause. As a conventional politician, Gore made little headway in addressing the problem of global warming beyond negotiating a treaty that the United States never ratified. As a post–White House celebrity, Gore starred in An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize, promoted this past summer’s Live Earth concert and reframed the American debate about global warming. Gore has been far more successful as a celebrity activist than he ever was as vice president. This is the kind of parable that could lead aspiring policy wonks to wonder if the best way to command policy influence is to attend Julliard instead of the Fletcher School.
The Fletcher School is Tuft University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Drezner's an Associate Professor in International Politics there.

I'm interested to read the full article when it comes out.

Remembering Mark Daily

Christopher Hitchens has a poignant remembrance of Army 2nd Lieutenant Mark Daily at Vanity Fair. Daily was killed in Iraq on January 15, 2007. Daily cited Hitchens as a deep influence on his thinking about the morality of the war, a fact that came as a jolt to the writer:

I was having an oppressively normal morning a few months ago, flicking through the banality of quotidian e-mail traffic, when I idly clicked on a message from a friend headed "Seen This?" The attached item turned out to be a very well-written story by Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times. It described the death, in Mosul, Iraq, of a young soldier from Irvine, California, named Mark Jennings Daily, and the unusual degree of emotion that his community was undergoing as a consequence. The emotion derived from a very moving statement that the boy had left behind, stating his reasons for having become a volunteer and bravely facing the prospect that his words might have to be read posthumously. In a way, the story was almost too perfect: this handsome lad had been born on the Fourth of July, was a registered Democrat and self-described agnostic, a U.C.L.A. honors graduate, and during his college days had fairly decided reservations about the war in Iraq. I read on, and actually printed the story out, and was turning a page when I saw the following:

"Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … "

I don't exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.? Over-dramatizing myself a bit in the angst of the moment, I found I was thinking of William Butler Yeats, who was chilled to discover that the Irish rebels of 1916 had gone to their deaths quoting his play Cathleen ni Houlihan. He tried to cope with the disturbing idea in his poem "Man and the Echo":

Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot? …
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house lay wrecked?
Abruptly dismissing any comparison between myself and one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, I feverishly clicked on all the links from the article and found myself on Lieutenant Daily's MySpace site, where his statement "Why I Joined" was posted. The site also immediately kicked into a skirling noise of Irish revolutionary pugnacity: a song from the Dropkick Murphys album Warrior's Code. And there, at the top of the page, was a link to a passage from one of my articles, in which I poured scorn on those who were neutral about the battle for Iraq … I don't remember ever feeling, in every allowable sense of the word, quite so hollow.

I writhed around in my chair for a bit and decided that I ought to call Ms. Watanabe, who could not have been nicer. She anticipated the question I was too tongue-tied to ask: Would the Daily family—those whose "house lay wrecked"—be contactable? "They'd actually like to hear from you." She kindly gave me the e-mail address and the home number.

I don't intend to make a parade of my own feelings here, but I expect you will believe me when I tell you that I e-mailed first. For one thing, I didn't want to choose a bad time to ring. For another, and as I wrote to his parents, I was quite prepared for them to resent me. So let me introduce you to one of the most generous and decent families in the United States, and allow me to tell you something of their experience.
Read the whole thing. Hitchens relates a very intimate story of grief and sacrifice.

Hitchens spent time with the Daily family, and he was invited to spead the soldier's ashes off the coast of Oregon. He notes this about the experience:

I thought, Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell's when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, "I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for."
Hitchens salutes Daily in the conclusion (may death be not proud to have taken him), and I found this poem, "Death Be Not Proud," by John Donne (1572-1631):

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

"And soonest our best men with thee doe goe," indeed. For Teresa Watanabe's story, click here; and for Daily's essay, "Why I Joined," click here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hyping the Terrorist Threat?

Paul Krugman, in his commentary today, takes on the GOP presidential candidates for hyping the threat from radical Islamist terrorism (via Memeorandum):

In America’s darkest hour, Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.

Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.

Consider, for a moment, the implications of the fact that Rudy Giuliani is taking foreign policy advice from Norman Podhoretz, who wants us to start bombing Iran “as soon as it is logistically possible.”

Mr. Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and a founding neoconservative, tells us that Iran is the “main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11.” The Islamofascists, he tells us, are well on their way toward creating a world “shaped by their will and tailored to their wishes.” Indeed, “Already, some observers are warning that by the end of the 21st century the whole of Europe will be transformed into a place to which they give the name Eurabia.”

Do I have to point out that none of this makes a bit of sense?

For one thing, there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t. And Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 — in fact, the Iranian regime was quite helpful to the United States when it went after Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.

Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s.

Meanwhile, the idea that bombing will bring the Iranian regime to its knees — and bombing is the only option, since we’ve run out of troops — is pure wishful thinking. Last year Israel tried to cripple Hezbollah with an air campaign, and ended up strengthening it instead. There’s every reason to believe that an attack on Iran would produce the same result, with the added effects of endangering U.S. forces in Iraq and driving oil prices well into triple digits.

Mr. Podhoretz, in short, is engaging in what my relatives call crazy talk. Yet he is being treated with respect by the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination. And Mr. Podhoretz’s rants are, if anything, saner than some of what we’ve been hearing from some of Mr. Giuliani’s rivals.
It's interesting that Krugman completely dismisses the terminology of Islamofascism. Christopher Hitchens noted in his Slate column last week that Islamofascist terminology has been used widely to discuss Islam's totalitarian tendencies. Hitchens cited Malise Ruthven as the first to use the term in the 1990s, and Ruthven's current piece over at the New York Review discredits the notion that Islam is a "religion of peace."

But Krugman doesn't have time to sort through genuine scholarly controversies over Islam. His project is to debunk an American foreign policy of firmness, especially of the neoconservative kind. (Krugman's not alone: Fareed Zakaria, a genuine scholar of international relations,
also took the administration to task for its warnings of an impending WWIII over Iranian nukes).

Note how Krugman's careful to hedge his argument by suggesting, sure, Islamist terrorism is a real threat, but not as bad a threat as the Bush administration's fear-mongering (and note as well Krugman's omission of any mention of Hillary Clinton, who, despite her disastrous flip-flopping on national security, clearly recognizes the gravity of the terrorist threat).

That's simple, and hypocritical.

But let's be clear: Norman Podhoretz has the temerity to state openly what many people know full well: The international sanctions regime against Iranian nuclear development
has run its course, failing to prevent Iran's eventual establishment of strategic capability. A military strike may be the only course of action that fully decapitates Iran's potential to back its goals for Shiite domination of the Middle East with nuclear weapons.

As I've noted before,
Krugman's an economist by training. But he's obviously having fun with his gig as a New York Times columnist, and he certainly feeds the cravings among the crackpot, hard-left surrender forces for ideological denunciations of any and all things neoconservative.

Lesson From Iraq: Difficulty is No Cause for Hypercaution

Former Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson has a new column up at Newsweek on the lessons to be learned from Iraq. In the opening paragraph he states an obvious point: Regime change is difficult. But he makes a more substantial argument with his case against excessive caution:

There is also danger in learning the wrong lessons from Iraq—or in overlearning the lessons of caution. Some claim the American project in Iraq was doomed from the beginning, because Iraqis and Arabs more broadly are culturally incapable of sustaining democracy. That is a familiar historical charge, made in other periods, against Catholics in Southern Europe, Hindus and Muslims in India, Eastern Orthodox in Eastern Europe, and Confucian cultures across Asia. All of these groups experienced difficult days in their democratic transitions—moments when the skeptics seemed to be vindicated. Did Indian democracy look to be successful when more than a million people died by violence during the partition process in the later 1940s? But in all of these cases, betting against the advance of democracy was a poor wager.

It may be possible that the Arab world is the great exception to this trend of history; but if so, Iraq does not prove it. Americans who first entered Iraq did not report an inevitable sectarian conflict. To the contrary, the Shia were remarkably patient during the first two years after the liberation. Iraqis of every background, including most Sunnis, were pleased that Saddam was gone and were generally inclined to withhold judgment about the occupation. There was little resentment at the size of the occupation force, and great hope that the arrival of the Americans would improve the lives of the Iraqi people. Nor were the successive elections an illusion. They were real achievements. Iraqis voted under considerable threat, in percentages greater than do Western democracies—advances that should not be forgotten or denigrated.

Given these events, an imperious contempt for the Shia—a belief that barbarians will always be barbarians—is neither fair nor helpful. Iraqi patience and goodwill were not lacking; rather, they were squandered when the Coalition failed to provide security and basic services. Sectarian conflict was not preordained—it intensified when many of the Shia lost confidence in the ability of the Coalition and Iraqi army to defend them and turned for protection and revenge to militias and death squads. Iraq does not demonstrate that democracy is impossible in the Arab world; it demonstrates that founding a new democracy is difficult in a nation overrun by militias and insurgents.

This is not to say that support for democracy in the Arab world always requires immediate elections. Such elections in Saudi Arabia, for example, would likely result in a government more oppressive and dangerous than the current one. But in Iraq there was no alternative to elections. After the invasion and liberation—undertaken, it bears repeating, primarily for reasons of national security—the president was not about to install a potential Shia dictator in place of the old Sunni dictator. That kind of cynical power game would likely have facilitated a massive Shia retribution and perhaps even genocide against the Sunnis. Democracy is necessary in Iraq precisely because it is the only political system that eventually can tame sectarian tensions, giving the Shia majority the influence it deserves, while guaranteeing the rights and representation of the Sunni minority.

But democracy in Iraq certainly has enemies—jihadists, Baathist holdouts, and religious militias—who happen to be some of the worst criminals on the global stage. We have been led by history to a simple choice: do we stand with the flawed democrats of Iraq, or abandon them to overthrow and death? Some foreign-policy realists argue that such considerations of honor mean little in international affairs. But this national commitment is more than a matter of chivalry. If America abandons Muslim leaders and soldiers who are risking their lives to fight Islamic radicalism and terror—in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere—the War on Terror cannot be won.

Another false lesson is found in the assertion that the Iraq War has actually been creating the terrorist threat we seek to fight—stirring up a hornet's nest of understandable grievances in the Arab world. In fact, radical Islamist networks have never lacked for historical provocations. When Osama bin Laden proclaimed his 1998 fatwa justifying the murder of Americans, he used the excuse of President Clinton's sanctions and air strikes against Iraq—what he called a policy of "continuing aggression against the Iraqi people." He talked of the "devastation" caused by "horrible massacres" of the 1991 Gulf War. All this took place before the invasion of Iraq was even contemplated—and it was enough to result in the murder of nearly three thousand Americans on 9/11. Islamic radicals will seize on any excuse in their campaign of recruitment and incitement. If it were not Iraq, it would be the latest "crime" of Israel, or the situation in East Timor, or cartoons in a Dutch newspaper, or statements by the pope. The well of outrage is bottomless. The list of demands—from the overthrow of moderate Arab governments to the reconquest of Spain—is endless.

America is not responsible for the existence of Islamist ideology. Yet the shifting prospect of American success or failure in the Iraq War does have an effect on the recruitment of radicals. All "pan movements"—political ideologies that claim historical inevitability—expand or contract based on morale. Bin Laden talks of how the Arab world is attracted to the "strong horse"—the victor, the evident winner—and there is truth in that claim. In an ideological struggle, perception matters greatly, and outcomes matter most. Israel's perceived defeat in Lebanon in 1982 helped produce a generation of terrorists, convinced that armed struggle could humble their enemy. If America were really to retreat in humiliation from Iraq, Islamist radicals would trumpet their victory from North Africa to the islands of the Philippines … increase their recruitment of the angry and misguided … and expand the size and boldness of their attacks.

Perhaps the most dangerous and self-destructive lesson that might be drawn from Iraq is a hyper-caution indistinguishable from paralysis. In a backlash to the Iraq War, some Democrats seem to argue that any future American action or intervention will require both certainty as to the validity of our intelligence and international unanimity. The evidence on weapons of mass destruction must always be conclusive, or else it must always be mocked and dismissed. The United Nations must always grant its blessing and legitimacy. Were America to accept these ground rules, we would become a spectator in world events. The demand for intelligence certainty would allow flickering threats to become raging fires before any action were taken to extinguish them. The demand for international unanimity would make interventions to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing nearly impossible. America acted in the former Yugoslavia under President Clinton without U.N. support, and may need to do the same in other places in the future. At some point, caution becomes demoralization, and humility becomes humiliation.
That's most of his piece, actually. His new book, from which this excerpt is drawn, might be worth a good look as well.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Don't Blame the Neocons!

Alasdair Roberts has a ticklishly interesting article at the new Foreign Policy, "The War We Deserve" (by subscription).

He argues that it's foolish to blame the violence in Iraq on the Bush administration and a "small cabal" of neocons. In actuality, the American people are deeply implicated in the developments of American foreign policy over the last decade. Americans expect more of their government but don't like to sacrifice for a greater cause. Roberts argues that's an unrealistic way to fight a global war, and might even be deadly:

There’s an uncomplicated tale many Americans like to tell themselves about recent U.S. foreign policy. As the story has it, the nation was led astray by a powerful clique of political appointees and their fellow travelers in Washington think tanks, who were determined even before the 9/11 attacks to effect a radical shift in America’s role in the world. The members of this cabal were known as neoconservatives. They believed the world was a dangerous place, that American power should be applied firmly to protect American interests, and that, for too long, U.S. policy had consisted of diplomatic excess and mincing half measures. After 9/11, this group gave us the ill-conceived Global War on Terror and its bloody centerpiece, the war in Iraq.

This narrative is disturbing. It implies that a small cadre of officials, holding allegiance to ideas alien to mainstream political life, succeeded in hijacking the foreign-policy apparatus of the entire U.S. government and managed to skirt the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution. Perversely, though, this interpretation of events is also comforting. It offers the possibility of correcting course. If the fault simply lies in the predispositions of a few key players in the policy game, then those players can eventually be replaced, and policies repaired.

Unfortunately, though, this convenient story is fiction, and it’s peddling a dangerously misguided view of history. The American public at large is more deeply implicated in the design and execution of the war on terror than it is comfortable to admit. In the six years of the war, through an invasion of Afghanistan, a wave of anthrax attacks, and an occupation of Iraq, Americans have remained largely unshaken in their commitment to a political philosophy that demands much from its government but asks little of its citizens. And there is no reason to believe that the weight of that responsibility will shift after the next attack.
Roberts notes that, ideologically, both parties converged on a model of "neoliberal" politics in the 1990s - a perspective which included a commitment to domestic spending restraint at home and the promotion of American-led trade liberalization abroad. Inherent in this model is the pursuit of individual interest and the downsizing of government. Roberts suggests George W. Bush firmly embraced the neoliberal outlook, and the administration's war policies subsequenty asked little from the public in terms of national sacrifice. Both parties are implicated, however:

It may seem extraordinary, given the experience of the past six years, to suggest that President George W. Bush’s administration pursued a Clinton-style strategy of accommodation to neoliberal realities. After all, key Bush advisors flaunted their determination to throw off the constraints that bound the executive branch. And the Bush administration’s policies have had cataclysmic consequences—in Iraq alone, there are tens of thousands dead and more than a million people displaced. How can we call this “small politics”?

However, we must first recognize the critical distinction between what the Bush administration intended to do, and what actually transpired. The material point about the planned invasion of Iraq was that it appeared to its proponents to be feasible with a very small commitment of resources. It would be a cakewalk, influential Pentagon advisor Kenneth Adelman predicted in February 2002. The cost of postwar reconstruction would be negligible. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz suggested that it might even be financed by revenues from the Iraqi oil industry.

Of course, there were critics inside and outside the U.S. government who warned that these forecasts were unduly optimistic. But the administration’s view was hardly idiosyncratic. There were many Americans who believed, based on the experience of the previous decade—including the first Gulf War, subsequent strikes on Iraq, and other interventions such as Kosovo—that the U.S. military had acquired the capacity to project force with devastating efficiency. Consequently, it wasn’t hard to imagine that the invasion and occupation of a nation of 27 million, more than 6,000 miles away, could be accomplished without significant disruption to American daily life.

Even the larger war on terror remains a relatively small affair, asking for little from its masters. Although U.S. defense expenditures have grown substantially during the Bush administration—by roughly 40 percent in inflation-adjusted terms between 2001 and 2006—it is growth from a historically low base. In the five years after 9/11, average defense expenditure as a share of gross domestic product (3.8 percent) was little more than half of what it was during the preceding 50 years (6.8 percent). The proportion of the U.S. adult population employed in the active-duty military (roughly 0.6 percent) remained at a low not seen since before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This determination to execute policy without disrupting daily life was maintained even as it became clear that the war on terror was faltering. The U.S. “surge” of troops in Iraq beginning in January 2007, designed to wrest control of the country from insurgents, was advertised as a substantial increase in U.S. commitments in Iraq. In August, the New York Times called it a “massive buildup.” But by historical standards, it has been negligible. The United States had more boots on the ground in Japan 10 years after its surrender in 1945 and in Germany at the end of the Cold War. It deployed twice as many troops in South Korea and three times as many in Vietnam.

In 2003, the conflict in Iraq might reasonably have been described as George W. Bush’s war. In 2007, however, it has become a bipartisan war—that is, a conflict whose course is shaped by the actions of a Republican president and by Democratic majorities in Congress. The stakes are substantial: Continued failure in Iraq is bound to have tremendous human and diplomatic costs. Yet the range of policy options is still arbitrarily limited to a token “surge” or various forms of “phased withdrawal.” No major political actor, Democrat or Republican, dares to contemplate a genuine surge that would raise the U.S. commitment in Iraq to the level said to be essential by several military leaders before the invasion. Similarly, there has been no serious consideration of a return to the draft, despite strains on the U.S. military. This, the New York Times said—echoing the argument made by Milton Friedman during Vietnam—would be inconsistent with the “free-choice values of America’s market society.”
Roberts reminds us that the Bush administration's appeal to the public after 9/11 was to continue spending, to "Go down to Disney World in Florida, take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed":

“One of the great goals of this nation’s war,” President Bush said immediately after 9/11, “is to restore confidence in the airline industry.” His administration quickly launched a “pro-consumption publicity blitz” (in the words of the Boston Globe) on behalf of the U.S. travel industry. The president starred in a campaign by the Travel Industry Association of America, designed, as one industry executive put it, to “link travel to patriotic duty.” Many Americans interpreted the campaign as a call to spend more money to boost the economy. “The important thing, war or no war, is for the economy to grow,” then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said in 2003.
I've been critical of the White House for not developing a more comprehensive approach to public relations, although I understand the administration's call for Americans to carry on as normal. But note how Roberts put the criticisms of the adminstration's "threats" to civil liberties in context:

Civil libertarians certainly think Americans have paid a large if intangible price in the rollback of their civil liberties. Here, critics also reach for analogies between the war on terror and earlier conflicts. They accuse the Bush administration of trampling on civil liberties in the name of national security, just as the government had during the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War, and the domestic turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The steps taken after 9/11 were “chillingly familiar,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle. The historian Alan Brinkley said the government’s treatment of civil liberties was a “familiar story.” In 2002 The Progressive said, “We’ve been here before.”

But we haven’t been here before. Infringement of Americans’ rights after 9/11—that is, actual rather than anticipated infringements—were different in type and severity than those suffered in earlier crises. Citizens were not imprisoned for treason, as they were during the First World War. Thousands of citizens were not detained indefinitely, as they were during the Second World War. Citizens were not deported, or denied passports, or blacklisted, as they were during the Red scares.

Were there serious issues about the denial of citizens’ rights after 9/11? Undoubtedly. But those violations often had a distinctly postmillennial character. New surveillance programs were launched in secrecy and designed so that their footprint could not be easily detected. In effect, government was adapting to political realities, searching for techniques of maintaining domestic security that did not involve obvious disruptions of everyday life.
Here's Roberts' conclusion:
Was the war on terror devised and promoted by a small cadre of neoconservatives? Perhaps. But it was also a response to crisis that recognized and largely respected the well-defined boundaries of acceptable political action in the United States today. In important ways, the war on terror is not their war but our war. The desires and preferences of the American people have shaped the war on terror just as profoundly as any neoconservative doctrine on the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.
That's a point the GOP candidates might keep in mind as they're mercilessly attacked by the Democrats and leftists for their "failed" foreign policy.

Welcome to the New American University

Check out this trailer from Indoctrination U, at YouTube:


Hat tip: Saber Point.

Religion of Victory: Understanding Islam

I first learned of Malise Ruthven last last week, after reading Christopher Hitchens' recent defense of Islamofascist terminology.

It turns out that Ruthven was the first writer of recent years to identify the Islamist threat in terms of fascist ideology. I took significant interest, therefore, in his new essay on "
How to Understand Islam" at the New York Review of Books. Ruthven points out that after 9/11, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair took great pains to portray Islam as a religion of peace. But according to Ruthven, core Islamic doctrine calls into question Islam's assumed pacific foundations:

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington, where he told his audience, "These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.... The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace." In Britain his sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, who told the Arabic newspaper al-Hayat: "There is nothing in Islam which excuses such an all-encompassing massacre of innocent people, nor is there anything in the teachings of Islam that allows the killing of civilians, of women and children, of those who are not engaged in war or fighting."

However reflective such views may be of the "moderate" Muslim majority, they are not uncontested. As John Kelsay shows in his new book Arguing the Just War in Islam, debates about the ethics of conflict have been going on since the time of the Prophet Muhammad. The scholars who interpreted the Prophet's teachings addressed issues such as the permissibility of using "hurling machines," or mangonels, where noncombatants including women and children, and Muslim captives or merchants, might be endangered. In the "realm of war" outside the borders of Islam a certain military realism prevailed: for example the eighth-century jurist al-Shaybani (who died in 805) stated that if such methods were not permitted the Muslims would be unable to fight at all.
I was particularly intrigued by Ruthven's characterization of Islam as a "religion of victory." He notes that Kemal Ataturk's secularization of Turkey in the early 20th-century angered Muslims, who reject situating Islam in society in terms of moral equivalence. A core of Islamic doctrine is triumph over challengers:

In the majority Sunni tradition this sense of supremacy was sanctified as much by history as by theology. In the first instance, the truth of Islam was vindicated on the field of battle. As Hans K√ľng acknowledges in Islam: Past, Present and Future—his 767-page overview of the Islamic faith and history, seen from the perspective of a liberal Christian theologian—Islam is above all a "religion of victory." Muslims of many persuasions—not just the self-styled jihadists—defend the truth claims of their religion by resorting to what might be called the argument from manifest success.

According to this argument, the Prophet Muhammad overcame the enemies of truth by divinely assisted battles as well as by preaching. Building on his victories and faith in his divine mission, his successors, the early caliphs, conquered most of western Asia and North Africa as well as Spain. In this view the truth of Islam was vindicated by actual events, through Islam's historical achievement in creating what would become a great world civilization.

The argument from manifest suc-cess is consonant with the theological doctrine according to which Islam supersedes the previous revelations of Judaism and Christianity. Jews and Christians are in error because they deviated from the straight path revealed to Abraham, ancestral patriarch of all three faiths. Islam "restores" the true religion of Abraham while superseding Judeo-Christianity as the "final" revelation. The past and the future belong to Islam even if the present makes for difficulties.
These points should give pause to those advocating interfaith reconcilation amid the contemporary battle against global Islamist fundamentalism.

Ruthven reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book, Infidel. Hirsi Ali apparently is not an expert on her own faith, although she's completely renounced Islam, based on her own experience of living a life of religious intolerance and violence. Upon her transformation to outspoken critic of Islam, some commentators identified Hirsi Ali as an "enlightenment fundamentalist":

It might be more appropriate, however, to describe Ali as a "born-again" believer in Enlightenment values. Infidel has the hallmarks of a spiritual autobiography in which she progresses through various stages of illumination, from childhood trauma in Somalia (entailing genital mutilation inflicted by her own grandmother), through an adolescence in Saudi Arabia and Kenya, where a brief espousal of the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood empowers her to question her family's tribal values within the frame of the movement's stultifying, still patriarchal religiosity, toward eventual enlightenment and emancipation in Holland, aided by encounters with Dutch fellow students and readings from Spinoza, Voltaire, Darwin, Durkheim, and Freud. This remarkable spiritual journey is interlaced with a classic story of personal courage in the face of a parochial and misogynistic social system that systematically brutalizes women in the name of God, and in which women routinely submit to neglect and violence. Told with a rare combination of passion and detachment, it is a Seven Storey Mountain in reverse: a pilgrimage from belief to skepticism.
Ruthven's article is worth a good, careful read.

I claim no particular expertise in Islamic doctrine, although my previous realist skepticism on Islam's purported peaceful nature is confirmed by the knowledge Ruthven imparts.

Turkey Hesitates on Kurdistan Incursion

The Los Angeles Times reports that Turkey is facing intense political pressure from nationalists to launch a military raid striking at Kurdish rebels treatening the country. Here's the introduction:

The Turkish government is coming under enormous domestic pressure to crush Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, but even as rebel positions are shelled and tens of thousands of troops moved to the border, leaders are reluctant to invade, fearing international isolation and a military quagmire.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would prefer to avoid a full-scale invasion, according to people familiar with his thinking, and is pursuing diplomatic options. His government is also considering using economic leverage by rerouting valuable trade away from Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdistan region, where the Turkish Kurd rebels have found safe harbor.

On Friday, Turkey warned that its "patience has run out" and demanded that Iraq extradite rebel leaders.

Erdogan and his government want to show they are exhausting diplomatic options while waving the military threat, the sources say, because they expect international scorn if Turkey is seen as having opened a battlefront in the only relatively peaceful part of Iraq.

"You can lessen the public pressure with an all-out invasion, but it would be a short-term gain," Turkish military expert Lale Sariibrahimoglu said. "The government and the armed forces are well aware of the repercussions. This is a serious test of democracy and diplomacy."

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, Turkey's top military commander, was quoted Friday by private broadcaster NTV as saying that the government would wait until Erdogan returns from a Nov. 5 visit with President Bush before deciding whether to launch a military offensive into Iraq.

An invasion also risks dragging Turkey into a quagmire that would play into the hands of Turkish nationalists keen to undermine the pro-Islamic government. Some of the loudest war drums are being beaten by extreme nationalists with a certain sway in parliament and who would no doubt raise their voices further if a military effort proved ineffective.

And experience makes it clear that swift success is by no means guaranteed.

The separatist Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, survived repeated attacks by Turkey in the 1990s, its members hiding safely in the rugged mountain terrain on the Iraqi side of the border. And with winter coming, the chances of a decisive Turkish victory are even bleaker.

For days, tens of thousands of Turkish troops have been massing along the 200-mile southern border with Iraq, and commandos have entered several miles into Iraq in hot pursuit of rebels. Combat helicopters and F-16 fighter planes daily attack suspected guerrilla hide-outs and escape routes.

At the same time, Turkey is feverishly pursuing diplomatic solutions, looking especially to Baghdad and Washington to uproot the PKK and stop its violence. The Turkish foreign minister rushed to Baghdad; an Iraqi delegation arrived in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on Thursday for crisis talks that were to continue today; and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to visit Turkey next week.

In a TV interview Friday, Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq's Kurdistan regional government, accused Turkey of seeking a pretext to mount a major assault in the area. "The PKK is a justification," Barzani told Al Arabiya satellite channel. "The goal is to stop or hamper the growth of Kurdistan region."

The latest Turkish military action is in response to an ambush Sunday in which the PKK killed 12 soldiers and captured eight in southern Turkey, about three miles from the border with Iraq. But hostilities along the remote border have been building for months.

Each day since the ambush, thousands of Turks have taken to the streets across the nation to demand tough military action. The clamor became so intense that the government attempted to restrict television coverage of the soldiers' funerals and crying mothers.

And Friday, mosques were instructed to read a sermon calling for brotherhood and discouraging citizens from disunity.

The public outcry almost always goes hand in hand with a pitched fury of anti-U.S. sentiments; many Turks are convinced that America is aiding the PKK, or at the least turning a blind eye to rebel activities -- charges Washington denies.

The U.S. maintains that its troops in Iraq are already stretched thin and cannot sustain a significant presence in largely peaceful Iraqi Kurdistan. U.S. officials are demanding that Iraqi authorities crack down on the PKK, but the Iraqis have not done so.

On Friday, Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, said he planned to do "absolutely nothing" to counter PKK activity, and that he was neither tracking the rebels' movements nor reinforcing the military presence in the region. Mixon, speaking to Pentagon reporters by videoconference, also said he had not seen Iraqi Kurdish authorities acting against the guerrillas.
Read the whole thing. I've had doubts about predictions of a Turkish strike on the rebels. Turkey's interests are in not alienating the U.S., and it has a diplomatic stake in seeing larger developments in the Middle East unfold before acting decisively against the PKK. Such facts completely escape hardline leftists intent to see Turkey's pursuit of its national interests as one more sign of the Bush administration's evil incompetence.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Winning the War on Terror

Philip Gordon's got a provocative new piece over at Foreign Affairs on victory in the war on terror. Are we fighting the right war? Here's the introduction:

Less than 12 hours after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush proclaimed the start of a global war on terror. Ever since, there has been a vigorous debate about how to win it. Bush and his supporters stress the need to go on the offensive against terrorists, deploy U.S. military force, promote democracy in the Middle East, and give the commander in chief expansive wartime powers. His critics either challenge the very notion of a "war on terror" or focus on the need to fight it differently. Most leading Democrats accept the need to use force in some cases but argue that success will come through reestablishing the United States' moral authority and ideological appeal, conducting more and smarter diplomacy, and intensifying cooperation with key allies. They argue that Bush's approach to the war on terror has created more terrorists than it has eliminated -- and that it will continue to do so unless the United States radically changes course.

Almost entirely missing from this debate is a concept of what "victory" in the war on terror would actually look like. The traditional notion of winning a war is fairly clear: defeating an enemy on the battlefield and forcing it to accept political terms. But what does victory -- or defeat -- mean in a war on terror? Will this kind of war ever end? How long will it take? Would we see victory coming? Would we recognize it when it came?
Gordon compares the war on terror to the Cold War, which lasted decades. Gordon notes that victory in the Cold War was unanticipated by experts and layman alike. He argues, however, that the United States is unlikely to face annihilation at the hands of transnational terrorists today, and current policy in the war on terror amounts to overkill. Here's the key argument:

Terrorism...has been around for a long time and will never go away entirely. From the Zealots in the first century AD to the Red Brigades, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Irish Republican Army, the Tamil Tigers, and others in more recent times, terrorism has been a tactic used by the weak in an effort to produce political change. Like violent crime, deadly disease, and other scourges, it can be reduced and contained. But it cannot be totally eliminated.

This is a critical point, because the goal of ending terrorism entirely is not only unrealistic but also counterproductive -- just as is the pursuit of other utopian goals. Murder could be vastly reduced or eliminated from the streets of Washington, D.C., if several hundred thousand police officers were deployed and preventive detentions authorized. Traffic deaths could be almost eliminated in the United States by reducing the national speed limit to ten miles per hour. Illegal immigration from Mexico could be stopped by a vast electric fence along the entire border and a mandatory death penalty for undocumented workers. But no sensible person would propose any of these measures, because the consequences of the solutions would be less acceptable than the risks themselves.

Similarly, the risk of terrorism in the United States could be reduced if officials reallocated hundreds of billions of dollars per year in domestic spending to homeland security measures, significantly curtailed civil liberties to ensure that no potential terrorists were on the streets, and invaded and occupied countries that might one day support or sponsor terrorism. Pursuing that goal in this way, however, would have costs that would vastly outweigh the benefits of reaching the goal, even if reaching it were possible. In their book An End to Evil, David Frum and Richard Perle insist that there is "no middle ground" and that "Americans are not fighting this evil to minimize it or to manage it." The choice, they say, comes down to "victory or holocaust." Thinking in these terms is likely to lead the United States into a series of wars, abuses, and overreactions more likely to perpetuate the war on terror than to bring it to a successful end.

The United States and its allies will win the war only if they fight it in the right way -- with the same sort of patience, strength, and resolve that helped win the Cold War and with policies designed to provide alternative hopes and dreams to potential enemies. The war on terror will end with the collapse of the violent ideology that caused it -- when bin Laden's cause comes to be seen by its potential adherents as a failure, when they turn against it and adopt other goals and other means. Communism, too, once seemed vibrant and attractive to millions around the world, but over time it came to be seen as a failure. Just as Lenin's and Stalin's successors in the Kremlin in the mid-1980s finally came to the realization that they would never accomplish their goals if they did not radically change course, it is not too fanciful to imagine the successors of bin Laden and Zawahiri reflecting on their movement's failures and coming to the same conclusion. The ideology will not have been destroyed by U.S. military power, but its adherents will have decided that the path they chose could never lead them where they wanted to go. Like communism today, extremist Islamism in the future will have a few adherents here and there. But as an organized ideology capable of taking over states or inspiring large numbers of people, it will have been effectively dismantled, discredited, and discarded. And like Lenin's, bin Laden's violent ideology will end up on the ash heap of history.
I agree that radical Islamism will some day be marginalized. But Gordon's comparison between America's fight against terror and the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union is selective. You'd think nary a shot was fired before the Berlin Wall fell and the Eastern European dominoes toppled, throwing off the yoke of totalitarianism.

Sure, a smart war on terror will combine all the tools available from America's strategic portfolio - military, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic, etc. But the argument against Frum and Perle is a strawman, deployed to discredit a robust military component in defeating the terrorists.

Certainly, the Soviet Union's new leadership in the 1980s - motivated by international norms of comprehensive security and human rights - contributed to the final end of the Cold War crisis. But it would be completely remiss to discount American military power as a key factor in the final defeat of the Soviets.
The Reagan administration's military defense build-up was especially important to American victory in the Cold War.

Gordon's right, though, that Al Qaeda can be beaten. See Audrey Kurth Cronin's excellent article, "How al-Qaida Ends" (pdf), for a more comprehensive analysis of how terrrorist groups can be defeated.

Debating Global Warming

The debate on global warming's not over, according to this 20/20 news report from John Stossel up on YouTube:

Hat tip: California Yankee.

For an additional bonus, check out
Robert Samuelson's piece earlier this year debunking Newsweek's claim of a "Global Warming Machine."

Can Ron Paul Win New Hampshire?

There's a burst of media speculation suggesting that libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul might pull off an upset in the New Hampshire primary. Newsweek provides some background on the situation:

Much of the world dismisses Paul as a libertarian crank. But mainstream candidates from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney have good reason to watch him. That reason's called the New Hampshire primary. Always unpredictable—there's not even a date set for it yet—the primary is more mysterious now because a record 44 percent of voters have registered "undeclared." Suspicious of established politics, with an antiwar sentiment stretching back to Vietnam, they decide at the last minute. Since they can vote in either party's race, their migrations choose the outcome in both. In 2000, two thirds asked for GOP ballots, boosting John McCain and dooming Bill Bradley, who was going after the same voters.

This time, Obama, Giuliani and Mc Cain are the big names fishing in the sea of independents. But conditions have changed: it's expected that two thirds of those voters will take part in the Democratic contest, which could be Obama's main, or last, chance. His yearning to change a "broken political system" is a good hook, but only if he can convince voters he has the guts and skill to do it. He has work to do: a recent Marist College poll shows Clinton leading him among independents 38 to 29 percent. A hot Democratic race would be bad for McCain and Giuliani, whose appeal rests in part on their perceived distance from GOP orthodoxy. The arithmetic of the undeclared is one reason Romney is sprinting to the right and why Mike Huckabee is getting a look in the state.

As George W. Bush's Republican coalition falls apart, its rougher edges become more visible and Paul's small-government, isolationist message gets heard. Many New Hampshirites see the state's Live Free or Die motto as an article of faith, and they blame mushrooming federal deficits as much on the GOP as on the Democrats. "Independents are so mad about spending they can't see straight," says Jennifer Donahue of Saint Anselm College in Manchester. These voters loathe the war in Iraq, too. "They are as antiwar as anyone here, maybe more so," she says.

For now, Paul is a blip on New Hampshire's radar; in a recent poll, he stood at 5 percent among independents. But that could change. He's banked more than $5 million, recently raised more in the state than most other candidates, has a huge Web presence and just bought $1.1 million in New Hampshire TV ads. His staff is inexperienced, but smart. Andy Smith, a pollster at University of New Hampshire, says Paul could get 10 to 20 percent of the vote in the GOP race. That would be a dramatic story, but maybe not one most Republicans would want to read.
Marc Ambinder over at the Atlantic has this about Ron Paul's campaign and constituency:

Paul is now emerging as a serious threat in New Hampshire, perhaps not to win it -- although the winner may need only 25% or so -- , but to influence the outcome in a way that reflects his worldview. He will spend most of the $5.3M in his campaign budget on television, mailings and field organizing in the Granite State. There are 450 people in largest Ron Paul Meetup group, and they're canvassing in Claremont and dropping lit in Manchester this weekend.

Who likes Paul? His aides say there is no single demographic. Many are former members of the Buchanan Brigade, suddenly re-energized by Paul's anti-interventionism and strong border stances. Others seem to be casual libertarians who never really found a sympathetic voice in any of the other presidential candidates. Yet others are self-described constitutionalists. They blame the monetary system for the credit crunch and for economic dislocation. Monetary policy has been Paul's other big bugbear.
In other words, every crank under the sun's attracted to Paul's candidacy. In my earlier post on "The Strangeness of Libertarianism," I noted how even hardline Stalinists have joined the Paul coalition, a point that generated some debate in the comments. So to follow up that thread, note FrontPage Magazine's coverage of Paul speaking at a hardline antiwar rally promoting "American Fascism Awareness Day":

The campaign mounted by campus leftists against Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, which is scheduled to take place on more than 100 campuses during the week of October 22-26 has taken a new turn with the announcement of a counter-protest at the Washington Monument. The protest, which will be called “American Fascism Awareness Day” is being organized by Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Revolutionary Communist Party, Students for Justice In Palestine, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee among others and will feature speakers such as congressman Dennis Kucinich and presidential candidate Ron Paul, anti-war activists Cindy Sheehan and Harry Karry and actor Sean Penn. According to a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party, one of the sponsors of the event, “This is an answer to the Jew Horowitz and the neo-conservative Zionists who dragged us into an imperialist war in Iraq and are spreading hatred against Muslims to support their war plans against the Republic of Iran.”
There shouldn't be any question that modern libertarianism is just a front for the most hardened antiwar America-bashers on the political scene. Moreover, Ron Paul's a fraud. He besmirches the GOP label by claiming to be Republican. With reference to the Newsweek story, I won't be surprised if Paul picks up 20 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote, which would have the effect of keeping the GOP nomination wide open.

Fortunately, all of the top-tier candidates in the Republican field boast strong pro-victory credentials on foreign policy. Their views will prevail soon enough. Paul's 15-minutes of primary fame will be over before you know it.

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UPDATE:
My commenters are indicating that "American Fascist Awareness Week" might be a hoax (see this blog post at "Nice Deb" to that effect).

I appreciate the feedback, but while "
American Fascist Awareness Week" might be a joke, there's no disputing Ron Paul's support among hardline Stalinist organizations, and not to mention Paul's outright pandering to them.

Adam Kokesh, one of the antiwar movements most strident America-bashers,
sports a photo of Ron Paul on his blog, and he claims that he's "a card-carrying lifetime member of the Libertarian Party. " Kokesh is cited in this article from the Weekly Standard as advocating the use of American military forces to topple the U.S. government!

Also, Paul's commentaries are regularly featured at the website
Antiwar.com, including a piece published Thursday, "Interventionism? Isolationism? Actually, Both."

Further,
mainstream press reports indicate that Paul's coalition includes the most wid-eyed crazies imaginable (which bolsters the main conclusion of my post):

To say Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has eclectic supporters could be considered an understatement.

Paul, a Texas congressman in town today for a series of speeches and fundraisers, is compared by various boosters to liberal U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, consumer activist Ralph Nader and conservative stalwart Barry Goldwater.

Also in his tent are plenty of anti-government conspiracy theorists — the folks who a decade ago warned of black helicopters, a coming U.N. invasion, and chaos surrounding the Y2K computer bug.

It's an odd collection of people, and if Paul has his wish, they'll come ready to open their checkbooks.
Yeah, really odd. As I've said before:

In truth, Paul's appeal is strong among any and all of the whacked-out loons whose Bush-hatred knows no bounds. There's no consistency here: From paleoconservatives to Stalinists, the most hardened Bush-bashing anti-victory types have joined together in the most unprincipled outburst of blame-America-firstism we've seen in a generation.
I stand by my original thesis: Modern libertarianism is just a front for the most hardened antiwar America-bashers on the political scene.

Ron Paul is radioactive, and with their backing of him, libertarians will be squirming to disown the disastrous reputation which flows from his hatred of the military and the robust use of American power.

(Paul's so bad,
even the Daily Kos nihilists are desperately backing away from him!)

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UPDATE II: From NH_GOP in the comments:

Ron doesn't pander to any hate-america crowd. He gets the most donations from the military and veterans. Look up his background before you end up in court.

The Houston Chronicle ran a story last week on Paul's support among the military, "Paul leads in donations from military voters, with Obama next."

Michael Goldfarb over at the Weekly Standard took issue with the report, in a response to an Andrew Sullivan post:

Does Andrew Sullivan read stories before he comments on them? In this case, I suspect he didn't, otherwise he's engaging in pure military-related fantasy. In response to this article from the Houston Chronicle reporting that Ron Paul and Barack Obama lead all candidates in fund raising among "donors identified as affiliated with the military," Sullivan headlines a post "Whom the Troops Support," with this stunningly self-indulgent conclusion (actually this is the whole post):

Just one indicator, of course: campaign donations from active service military members. And guess who's first? Ron Paul. Second? Barack Obama. Those tasked to actually fighting this war get it, don't they?
Except this isn't about campaign donations from "active service military members," whatever they might be, but "donors affiliated with the military," which Sullivan might have noticed had he slogged through the whole first sentence of the story. In fact, the first "active service military member" and Ron Paul supporter interviewed for the piece is 72-year-old Lindell Anderson, a retired Army chaplain from Fort Worth. Further, the Chron notes that the average size of Paul's donations from this subset was $500. How many active duty soldiers are giving $500 to fringe candidates a year out from the election? Not many, I suspect. In fact, among all the candidates, the total number of contributors surveyed here numbered less than 1,000--out of an Armed Forces of 2.2 million. And, remember, most of these contributors aren't even active duty.
NH_GOP ought to clear his own hate-addled mind before he starts in with the imbecilic (and impotent) threats.

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UPDATE III: Adam Holland's got a comprehensive post documenting neo-nazi support for the Paul campaign.

I think Holland's a bit unschooled on the fine points of states'-rights doctrine found in libertarian thought, although he nevertheless does a useful service identifying some of Paul's whacked-out right wing supporters.

Also, Captain Ed wants to know why the Paul campaign has paid for the services of Alex Jones, a prominent activist in the 9/11 truth movement.