March 2003, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Density Limits Increase Sprawl (And Hurt Everyone Except the Very Rich): Efforts to control growth around Washington, D. C. have increased sprawl and hurt the poor and middle class. This Washington Post article explains how the limits have increased sprawl. That the limits have hurt those who aren't rich follows from a simple economic analysis. If much of the land is reserved for the very wealthy, there will be less available for those with less money, and they will have to pay higher prices for their housing. Exactly the same patterns described around Washington, D. C., can be found in the Seattle area. Large amounts of land are reserved for the very wealthy, and those with less money are forced to move farther out and endure long commutes. These limits on growth make everyone, except a few of the very wealthy, worse off. If these effects were better understood, the limits would lose their great popularity
- 9:00 AM, 10 March 2003 [link]
Honor Crimes is the name given to the killing of women by their Muslim or, sometimes, Sikh, families for such offenses as rejecting arranged marriages, or wanting to attend a university. British police are beginning a study of the extent of such crimes in Britain. One hopes they do more than study this barbaric practice.
- 8:42 AM, 10 March 2003 [link]
Realism About the UN: Max Boot explains why we should not allow the Lilliputians at the UN to tie us down.
- 8:32 AM, 10 March 2003 [link]
Irrational Saddam: Given the military assessments just below, which would be shared by nearly all military experts, you might wonder why Saddam is following a course that will lead to his death and the overthrow of his regime. The answer is simple. He has a picture of the world so inaccurate as to be irrational. Like many dictators, he is living in his own world, not the real one. Just how unreal can be seen in this article by a Cuban defector, which describes the efforts Cuban military men made before the start of the first Gulf War to convince Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait. Those who think Saddam can be deterred after he acquires nuclear weapons will not find support for their views in this sobering account.
- 7:40 AM, 10 March 2003 [link]
Rumors of War: Three authors speculate on the likely course of a war with Iraq. Journalist Gregg Easterbrook describes some of the new weapons and the advantages they will give American forces. And to civilians. More accurate weapons mean that they are less likely to be hit. Even if civilians are close, they are less likely to be hurt since more accurate weapons allow smaller warheads. (Decades ago, there was a similar trend with nuclear weapons. As our missiles became more accurate, we reduced the yield in the warheads. The Soviets did the same, following us by a few years.) Military historian John Keegan compares the Turkish part of the campaign to Salonika in World War I, which is not encouraging, since the force there was bottled up for years. Despite this, Keegan thinks that the war will be quick, and that we will not have to enter the cities. (The 101st division has been sent to Kuwait, contrary to the column.) Military analyst Edward Luttwak thinks that, if it should be necessary to fight in the cities, it will not be as difficult as some think, citing the new precision weapons, and Israeli experience.
- 7:23 AM, 10 March 2003 [link]
Cleaning Up After Islam's Slavery: Islamic slavers took about as many slaves from East Africa as Europeans did from West Africa. Unlike Europe, Islamic societies never developed popular movements against slavery. It continues in some Islamic nations today, in spite of almost two centuries of effort, mostly by the British, to suppress it. Now, the United States is rescuing a tribe victimized by Islamic slavers, and oppressed ever since. The New York Times has the touching story, and the Instapundit has a pungent comment on the Times' politically correct attitude.
- 6:55 AM, 10 March 2003 [link]
Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan practiced seizing a school. Some of the details in the video found by American forces suggest they hoped to seize an American school and take students and teachers hostage.
- 8:12 PM, 9 March 2003 [link]
Ostrich Love: Birds, including ostriches, sometimes grow up to look for love in all the wrong places, including humans. Other birds can be confused in the same way. A peacock, having been raised with tortoises, for the convenience of a zoo, imprinted on them, and displayed to them persistently, ignoring the peahens the zookeepers brought in. People, being smarter than birds, never do anything quite this foolish, of course.
- 7:17 PM, 9 March 2003 [link]
Stephen Hayes draws attention to the same pattern of hypocrisy found by Colbert King. Three Democratic leaders, Tom Daschle, Robert Byrd, and Nancy Pelosi, who supported action against Iraq and called for bipartisanship while Clinton was president, now take the opposite position. (There are a few Republicans who switched in the opposite direction.)
- 7:06 PM, 9 March 2003 [link]
The al Qaeda-Iraq Connection? Jim Hoagland asks an important question: How did al Qaeda suddenly transform itself from a small terrorist organization to one that could execute embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks? Could Iraqi help have made the difference? There are known connections between the terrorist organization and Iraq. As we capture more of their members, like Khalid Mohammed, we will learn whether there are more and deeper connections, as well.
- 4:07 PM, 9 March 2003 [link]
Colbert King is an honest journalist. He is opposed to the liberation of Iraq, as he says in this column, but he is honest enough to admit that regime change has been our national policy since 1998, when Congress passed, and Bill Clinton signed, the Iraqi Liberation Act which declares that:
It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.The act had wide support. Just 38 Congressmen voted against it in the House of Representatives, and it passed the Senate by unanimous consent. So, President Bush is executing the policy set by Congress and President Clinton almost five years ago. Democrats like Tom Daschle who now complain about this are, at best, hypocrites.
- 3:55 PM, 9 March 2003 [link]
Crazy Lover: Young men are often advised not to get involved with anyone crazier than themselves. It is, as I can tell you, generally good advice. French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, according to this New York Times article, is more than a little bit crazy:
While Mr. de Villepin, 49, runs at high speed, it is sometimes difficult to know where he going. Even some of his closest aides call him brilliant or a bit crazy or both, and some diplomats have taken to calling him "Zorro".The idea that he is crazy gets support from his book, The Hundred Days, in which he argues that Napoleon's return to power from Elba, which ended at Waterloo, was glorious. Tens of thousands were killed, Napoleon was sent from a comfortable exile to an uncomfortable prison, and France was forced to accept an even worse peace agreement. Sounds crazy to me, not glorious.
De Villepin claims that he is trying to block American action and save Saddam out of love for us, and says: "To act like I do, you have to know how much I love America." Can't we just be friends, Monsieur de Villepin?
- 3:34 PM, 9 March 2003 [link]
What Would End Scott Ritter's Credibility? This morning, I again heard Scott Ritter, posing as an expert, on the Dave Ross show (KIRO radio). Ritter made an unexplained, 180 degree turn in his views on Iraqi arms a few years ago. He received a large amount of money from a man with connections to the Iraqi regime. His current views have been criticized by his superior at the arms inspection job. He has been accused, with significant evidence, of being a pedophile. All this has not discredited him, so I ask what would stop people like Ross from treating him as an expert? Would a conviction for pedophilia do it? (As far as I can tell, Ross has not told his audience about the significant charges of pedophilia. Ross has not replied to my email asking about this issue.)
- 11:42 AM, 7 March 2003 [link]
Good Posts: Chris Bertram's translation of an interview with Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors Without Borders. Like Ann Clwyd, Kouchner favors removing Saddam for humanitarian reasons. Lexington Green on some unpleasant demographic realities. This is an issue that must be discussed, even though it reeks of political incorrectness. Daniel Drezner's compilation of expert opinion on the prospects for democracy in Iraq. (I would add one point. Democracies seem to require a certain level of income and education to be stable. Iraq, after it is rid of Saddam, will be one of the top Arab nations on these two. Solly Ezekiel's latest picture of baby Eli, because babies can't get too much admiration. The "Watchmaker's" demolition of an article in the the Seattle Times section for high school students. (If the Times were to print corrections, they would be far longer than the original article.) Jay Manifold's description of a real peace rally, and real inter-faith worship. "Media Minded's" comments on a Guardian sketch of Lewis Lapham, who has done so much to destroy a once great magazine, Harper's. (Eye opener: Lapham thought it great fun to lunch with Soviet agents during the cold war.) The Medpundit's note on adult and embryonic stem cell therapy. It will be many years before they are useful. Geitner Simmons explains that the sharp criticism of George Bush in the French newspapers is not just nasty, but often against French law, which forbids insulting the French president and foreign heads of state. Fortunately, the law has almost never been enforced; unfortunately, it has been a model for laws in many other nations.
- 11:01 AM, 7 March 2003 [link]
French Cynicism in foreign policy is so routine, so expected, that it is easy to ignore even when it sets a new record for dishonesty. The joint statement from France, Germany, and Russia, issued yesterday, does just that, and should not be ignored. It begins with these three statements:
Our common objective remains the full and effective disarmament of Iraq, in compliance with Resolution 1441.All three statements are lies. The French government sabotaged the earlier inspection regime, and blocked efforts to restart it. The French government opposed all efforts to disarm Iraq until the American military build-up in the Middle East made them look for a new way to save their client, Saddam. They know, as Kenneth Pollack has said, that inspections can not disarm Saddam, especially the limited inspections we now have. (In principle, "intrusive inspections", as some have proposed, would do much to disarm Saddam. They would require a military occupation of Iraq, though it might not have that name, and years of work. There is not the slightest reason to believe that Saddam would agree to them.) The inspections have produced no significant results. The most dramatic example, the destruction of a few missiles, was counterbalanced, as Colin Powell said, by the construction of more illegal missiles, at the same time. (For more on the French cynicism in claiming to favor inspections, see this article by Fred Kaplan.)
- 8:12 AM, 7 March 2003 [link]
Rod Dreher asks a good question about the Vatican: "Why didn't sex-abuse scandals stir Vatican action the way war has?" The Vatican is, after all, responsible for its own hierarchy, but not for American foreign policy decisions.
- 7:40 AM, 7 March 2003 [link]
It's All About Israel: Much of the European opposition to removing Saddam comes from those who fear it will help Israel, as you can see in this disgraceful column by Martin Woollacott. It is true that Palestinians are suffering; it is equally true that they can end their suffering by ending the terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. They do not end the attacks because they have been encouraged to think, by people like Woollacott, that they can destroy Israel. (Woollacott must be aware of the polls showing that majorities of Palestinians support the terror attacks and wish for an end to Israel. That he does not mention these facts shows something about his intellectual integrity.)
This hatred of Israel, and this support for those who wish to destroy that small nation, have gone so far in much of Europe as to end rational discussion of Middle East questions for many, especially on the left. Woollacott is completely indifferent to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon that robbed that small country of its independence, and destroyed the remnants of democracy there. He is, as you can see in the column, perfectly willing to let the Iraqis suffer under Saddam, rather than see any small gains for Israel. Yet, he poses as someone who cares about Arabs. What motivates this kind of thinking? For some, traditional anti-Semitism, for others, anti-Arab bigotry, for others, an unthinking anti-Americanism, and, for many, a mixture of the three. That their attitudes and policies have made it worse for the Arabs they claim to care about does not matter a bit to people like Woollacott.
- 7:27 PM, 7 March 2003 [link]
Doonesbury Used to Be Funny, though it has been many years since that was true. Trudeau was never consistently funny, but often drew cartoons as good as they get. My favorite was a strip that showed Michael Doonesbury watching Mark the radical spouting off to a crowd. After Mark ends his rant, Michael says, with wonderment, "You actually believe that stuff, don't you?". His best cartoons then were like that, gently poking fun at someone on the left. Now he has become the humorless Mark, and, as far as I can tell, "actually believes that stuff" in his cartoons.
This strip shows just how bad Doonesbury has become. As you can see, Trudeau blames George W. Bush for Oregon school funding problems, an issue he has pounding on for weeks. Here are the facts. Bush has proposed, and the Congress has passed, large increases in federal school aid. The Bush tax cuts make it easier for states and school districts to raise money since the taxpayers have a little more left when the federal government doesn't take as large a share. The Oregon voters rejected a tax increase in January, knowing that it might mean cuts in school funding. This analysis from the libertarian Cato Institute explains why they rejected more taxes:
Voters were right not to buy that story. In turns out that the alleged spending cuts were not really cuts at all. As in other states, what are often called "cuts" are just reductions in large projected spending increases. If an overly optimistic budget assumed 8 percent spending growth that later gets trimmed to 4 percent, state budget parlance refers to that increase as a cut. In Oregon, spending will be 5.5 percent higher after the failure of Measure 28, in contrast to the 8.5 percent increase that would have occurred with the tax increase. Clearly, that's not a real cut.Given these facts, how can Oregon's school finance problems be Bush's fault? He's provided more money, and has had nothing to do with the Oregon's financial decisions. (Democrat John Kitzhaber, who was governor for the past eight years, must have some share of the blame, but I don't know enough about Oregon finances to say how large a share.) All political cartoonists miss from time to time, but to be wrong and dull day after day like this shows just how out of touch this limousine liberal is.
- 4:47 PM, 6 March 2003 [link]
Ann Clwyd shows how to be an honest human rights advocate. Her knowledge of Saddam's horrific treatment of the Kurds leads her to back Tony Blair and George Bush in their efforts to remove Saddam. Horrific treatment like this:
It's the woman professor who haunts me most. A prisoner under Saddam, she gave birth to a girl, but couldn't feed her because the thin soup wasn't enough to provide breast milk. When she begged the guards for milk, they beat her. She held that dead baby for three days, refusing to give it up. The temperature in the cell was stifling, the smell was horrendous, but none of the other prisoners complained. In the end, they took her away and killed herFor telling people about this and similar atrocities, anti-war protestors have called her a traitor. She has the admiration of the Kurds and mine as well.
- 2:57 PM, 6 March 2003 [link]
Powers of Ten: Zoom from the very large to the very small in this great science lesson. (Java support required.) The applet performs nicely even over my slow phone line. (By way of Jay Manifold)
- 2:36 PM, 6 March 2003 [link]
Tiny, Disposable Radios: Earlier, in this post, I said that I had not seen a good idea for dealing with North Korea. Pastor Douglas E. Shin, a Korean-American human rights activist, has a fine one, smuggling tiny disposable radios into North Korea so the people there can hear news from the free world about their Stalinist state. As he says, the smaller and more disposable, the better. Already there are encouraging signs that similar programs may be getting the news through, at least to the leadership.
- 8:48 AM, 6 March 2003 [link]
The New York Times Breaks Civil Rights Laws: That's the conclusion I draw from this much discussed Nicholas Kristof column about the gap between evangelicals and the news business. Here is the evidence from Kristof: Evangelicals make up 46 per cent of the American population, and "nearly all of us in the news business are completely out of touch" with them. For this to be true, Kristof must not have any evangelicals as co-workers, at least not as reporters or editors, much less neighbors and friends. None. Now, how is this possible given the number of evangelicals in the population, unless the hiring at the Times and other news organizations excludes evangelicals? (Despite the common media perception, evangelicals are about as well educated as the rest of the population, if you think that might be the reason.) If Kristof were to say that news organizations were completely out of touch with African-Americans, who are about 13 per cent of the population, would anyone believe that the employment doors were open to them?
It is not as well known as it should be, but the major civil rights laws make religion a protected category, in the same way they do race. (I don't know of any exceptions to that, though some of the minor voting rights laws may have been limited to race.) It is just as illegal to refuse to hire a man because he is a Southern Baptist, as because he is black. Judging by Kristof's column, the New York Times has been violating civil rights laws on employment for years by refusing to hire evangelicals. Will they respond with affirmative action, in the original sense, by making a point of recruiting at religious schools and churches. Certainly not. Will they be sued for discrimination soon? Very probably.
- 8:27 AM, 6 March 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Iain Murray's analysis of British public opinion on a war with Iraq. Not nearly as opposed as you have been led to think. Murray gives Tony Blair some credit for this, and I think he is right.
- 5:07 PM, 5 March 2003 [link]
When the Guardian accuses George Bush of duplicity or ignorance, you will naturally suspect that it is the Guardian that is guilty of those faults. When the subject is Israel, as in this Simon Tisdall column, you can be certain that the Guardian is in the wrong. Last week President Bush "argued that an end to Iraq's support for terrorism would help moderate Palestinian reformers". Since Saddam has been rewarding the families of suicide bombers with large cash grants, as Tisdall admits, Bush's argument would seem to be a no brainer, even for a Guardian writer. (There are other reasons, of course, to think Bush right on this point. The defeat of one of the biggest supporters of terror will naturally, as it did after the first Gulf War, encourage the more realistic Palestinians to try for a peace settlement with Israel rather than continuing to hope they can destroy Israel and the Jews living there.) Whether it is "racism" toward Arabs that leads Tisdall to think that Palestinians can not think rationally is a question I will leave to Mr. Tisdall and his underworked conscience. (One can see that it needs exercise in his indifference toward the deaths of Israeli civilians.)
- 4:26 PM, 5 March 2003 [link]
Stalin Died fifty years ago today. (Or was killed. This New York Times article explores some recently released evidence for the theory that he was poisoned. Millions had reasons to poison him, and a few with reasons had an opportunity. Secret police chief Lavrenti Beria, the main suspect, had good reason to believe that Stalin planned to kill him soon, as he had Beria's two predecessors.) Stalinism, however, lives on, as Johann Hari says in this column, published in, of all places, the far left Independent. It lives on in regimes like North Korea and Cuba, and it influences many more dictators, including Saddam Hussein.
Stalinism lives on in Russia, where, as Russian journalist Masha Lipman tells us, 45 per cent in a recent poll thought that Stalin "played a generally positive" role. Russia has few monuments to the millions of victims, and has done little to compensate those who survived Stalin's terrors.
Stalinism lives on in the West, where many, especially on the left, still have mixed or even positive feelings toward one of the greatest murderers of all time. (Stalin's protege and ally Mao holds the ghastly record for deaths, by most accounts.) Academics, who tend to be on the left, always gave disproportionate support to Stalin, and some still do. This letter defending Stalin comes, as you can see, from the Head of History for Cheltenham College. (As a historian, he fails in his analysis of Stalin's policies. Killing millions of citizens does not strengthen a country, and killing most of the top officers in your army shortly before a war is not the best way to prepare for it.) The ambivalence toward Stalin shows up in many examples, as you can see in this Hari comparison of Labour and Conservative spin doctors:
Or, to give another, trivial but revealing example: Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, Charlie Whelan, used to keep the collected writings of Stalin prominently on his bookshelf, "for a laugh". Obviously Whelan is far from being a Stalinist; but can you imagine if, say, Amanda Platell, William Hague's spin-doctor, had kept Mein Kampf prominently on display in her office?Stalinism lives on in the current "peace movement". Many who now demonstrate to save Saddam once demonstrated for Stalin's causes, as Amir Taheri recounts. For some reason, attacks by Communist states, or dictators like Saddam, never draw much in the way of protests from these demonstrators.
Although Stalinism lives on, it does so as a defeated and declining movement. To continue that decline, we should remember, as Anne Applebaum reminds us, how we defeated Stalinism:
Our weapons helped us to win, but our victory, in the end, had far more to do with the moral and material success of Western society and the bankruptcy of communism.
- 3:57 PM, 5 March 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Malcom Gladwell's article on strategic surprises like the 9/11 attack. His main point is simple, if sometimes difficult to accept:
What is clear in hindsight is rarely clear before the fact. It's an obvious point, but one that nonetheless bears repeating, particularly when we're in the midst of assigning blame for the surprise attack of September 11th.This is the same argument made by Roberta Wohlstetter in her classic book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, and others who have studied similar strategic surprises. (I have an article planned describing some of the strategic surprises in World War II, illustrating the same lesson.)
There is, as Gladwell explains, a fundamental psychological problem that leads to these surprises. We tend to fit evidence into our theories, rather than testing our theories against the evidence. Once mental health professionals were told that people needed institutionalization, they continued to believe that in spite of weeks and in one case, months, of evidence that the people were perfectly sane. Though he does not mention it, we also tend to project our own ways of thinking on to others; leaders of democratic nations often err in their ideas about dictators because they unconsciously expect the dictators to behave like themselves.
- 8:16 AM, 5 March 2003 [link]
Madonna has contracted with Penguin to write a line of children's books. Joe Queenan's guess about their contents seems as plausible as any. Our children may soon be able to read titles like Little Red Riding Crop and Ricco Has Six Mothers and at Least as Many Fathers.
- 7:47 AM, 5 March 2003 [link]
Two Weeks: That's how long General Wesley Clark, former supreme commander of NATO, expects a war with Saddam would last. His estimate seems about right to this amateur student of military affairs, for just the reasons he cites. Saddam is weaker than in 1991, we are stronger, and the open terrain of Iraq is ideal for our forces. I agree too about the qualifications he puts on the prediction, that chemical or biological attacks may change matters. (I expect Saddam to make at least one chemical attack on our force, but think it unlikely that it will have any significant military effect.) Our casualties are likely to be even fewer than they were in the first Gulf War. Iraqi casualties may come more from attacks by the Shiites and Kurds as the battles are ending than from our forces. Many of Saddam's men will die at the hands of mobs before we restore order.
- 7:39 AM, 5 March 2003 [link]
Michael Moore's movie, "Bowling for Columbine", is filled with factual errors and outright lies, as Spinsanity and others have documented. This doesn't bother the French, who have made the movie a part of their national curriculum, and named it the best documentary of all time. In most American classrooms, there would be kids who could spot some of the errors in the film, but the French kids exposed to it will not have the knowledge to refute it.
- 8:48 AM, 4 March 2003 [link]
Two More Strange New Hawks: In this Times of London column, William Rees-Mogg highlights two speeches from the recent British debate, both from women who might be expected to oppose using force to remove Saddam. Labour's Ann Clwyd has been supporting the Kurds since the 1970s and now sees force as necessary to finally end their persecution by Saddam Hussein. Lady Nicholson belongs to the Liberal-Democrat party, which opposed the war, but for reasons like those of Ann Clwyd, spoke for using force to overthrow Saddam. Genocide, she said, has been committed against the Marsh Arabs, and so those who signed the conventions against genocide are required to act to end it. Ann Clwyd and Lady Nicholson would be on the far left and the moderate left, respectively, in the United States. Despite this, their knowledge of Iraq and their consciences have led them to stand by George W. Bush against the Iraqi dictator.
- 8:27 AM, 4 March 2003 [link]
British Troops in Iraq: Like the American Special Forces, the British SAS are already on the ground in Iraq. If there were any doubts about Tony Blair, this should end them.
- 7:54 AM, 4 March 2003 [link]
Smaller Classes Make Meaner Kids? That's the finding of a British study. I am skeptical about the study, but then I have been skeptical of almost all class size studies since I saw a review of nearly thirty studies. Half of the studies showed that smaller classes hurt achievement, and half showed that they helped. If you wonder how smaller classes might hurt, here are some thoughts. In the primary grades, reducing class size might well reduce the average quality of the teachers. Something just like this seems to have happened in California in the last few years. In high schools, reducing class sizes may mean that more classes are taught by teachers who are outside their areas.
- 8:57 PM, 3 March 2003 [link]
Duct Tape finds still another use, curing warts. Not that long ago, I learned that one thing duct tape is not good for is—taping heat ducts. Tests at one of the national laboratories showed that it broke down too quickly to be good for anything except temporary fixes in that application.
The third item in this science notebook is thought provoking, too. Why should there be so many more medical errors for kids with serious medical problems, especially boys from wealthy homes?
- 8:46 PM, 3 March 2003 [link]
No License From the UN Required for War: Three posts down I argued that Michael Kinsley, and others like him, were being cynical in their claim that international law required the approval of the United Nations Security Council for a war. After I finished the post, I ran into a column by Walter Mead with these facts:
The sad truth is, the Security Council doesn't count for much when nations contemplate war. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, since 1945 there have been 26 international wars, with total deaths estimated at 3.5 million. Only three of those wars had Security Council authorization, including the recent conflict in Afghanistan; the largest, the 1950-53 Korean conflict, was only a U.N. operation because Josef Stalin was in a snit and had ordered his Soviet representative to boycott council meetings.(The column is from the Los Angeles Times, but is good enough to justify their annoying registration process.) This history exposes Kinsley's claim that "international law" requires the approval of the Security Council before force is used for what it is, nonsense. No president has taken this position since the founding of the United Nations, and no other great power has followed it. So, why did Kinsley make this argument? The only motives that come to mind are bad ones, so I will leave the question open and end by saying that Kinsley has some explaining to do.
- 8:32 PM, 3 March 2003 [link]
NASA's Dysfunctional Culture: The loss of the shuttle Challenger in 1986 led students of NASA to conclude that the bureaucracy had developed a dysfunctional culture in which the engineers' worries could not penetrate upward into the managers' culture of certainty. As this article shows, that culture has not changed. Changing it, as anyone familiar with bureaucracies knows, will be a monumental task.
- 9:47 AM, 3 March 2003 [link]
War Plans: Yesterday the Washington Post published two speculative articles on war plans for Iraq. First, the Post's guess about the overall strategy. (Note that, just as they said earlier, parts of the war began weeks ago, with psychological warfare and Special Forces operations inside Iraq.) An old name for Iraq is "Mesopotamia", meaning the land between rivers; any war there will necessarily be "A War of Bridges". Donald Sensing always has interesting posts on war plans. His latest are here, here, and here.
- 9:35 AM, 3 March 2003 [link]
Cynical Democratic Partisans like former New Republic and Slate editor Michael Kinsley have been searching for arguments they could use against President Bush on Iraq. In this column, Kinsley begins with a non sequitur, attacking Defense Secretary Rumsfeld for saying that using human shields was a violation of the laws of war. Rumsfeld is of course right in his argument; the laws of war do indeed ban the use of human shields. And, as Kinsley should know, Rumsfeld said this not to attack Saddam, but to criticize the foolish "human shields". (Who now seem to have realized that they are idiots and are returning from Iraq)
Having just argued that the laws of war are not all that important, Kinsley immediately does a 180 degree turn and argues that international law, of which the laws of war could be considered a part, should govern our conduct toward Iraq. For Kinsley, appeals to international law are invalid if they are made by a member of a Republican administration, and valid if they are made by a critic of a Republican administration. There is no other plausible explanation of his U-turn.
To make the rest of his argument, Kinsley needs one more piece and supplies it with the brazen claim that international law includes this commandment:
Thou shalt not use military force without the approval of the Security Council--even if thou art the United States of America and some idiot long ago gave veto power to the French.There is no such commandment in international law, nor can one be deduced from generally agreed principles of international law. The United States did not give up its sovereignty when it joined the United Nations. Like every other nation, we can make war without the approval of the United Nations, without violating international law.
(Kinsley is using a common rhetorical trick when he appeals to "international law". He wants you to think that "international law" is similar to national law, when, in fact, it is so different that some authorities have long thought that it should not even be called "law". My 50 year old Britannica has this quotation from a British judge, Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, summarizing the differences:
Strictly speaking, international law is an inexact expression and it is apt to mislead if its inexactness is not kept in mind. Law implies a lawgiver and a tribunal capable of enforcing it and coercing its transgressors, but there is no common lawgiver to sovereign States, and no tribunal to bind them by decrees or coerce them if they transgress. The law of nations is that collection of usages which civilized nations have agreed to observe in their dealings with one another.Efforts to create the International Criminal Court, and similar bodies, show international "law" has not gotten beyond that "collection of usages".)
The rest of Kinsley's argument rests on a hotly disputed point, that the United States and its allies do not now have authorization from the United Nations to attack Saddam. Kinsley does not even mention that it is disputed in the column. Here is what Kinsley leaves out. The first Gulf War ended, not with a peace treaty but a ceasefire. As a condition of the ceasefire, Saddam had to destroy all his weapons of mass destruction and meet other requirements. He has not met those requirements, especially since 1998 when the inspectors left Iraq, so we have every right to end the ceasefire. If that were not enough, United Nations resolution 1441, passed unanimously last fall by the Security Council, required Saddam to immediately keep the ceasefire agreement or "serious consequences", meaning war, would follow. Since Saddam has not met the demands in that resolution, force can be used against him at any time.
I began by calling Kinsley a "cynical Democratic partisan". The evidence for that charge is in a bit of history. In 1998, Democratic President Clinton reached the same conclusions that the Bush administration has. Saddam was violating the ceasefire and the UN resolutions and so force was the appropriate American response. Clinton even signed a bill that made regime change in Iraq a national goal. With Britain and some tacit support from a few other nations, Clinton unleashed a four day air attack on Iraq. Did Michael Kinsley then complain that Clinton was violating international law, that he needed the approval of the United Nations? No. In fact, he does not even now say that Clinton's attack on Iraq was a violation of international law, though it must be by his own argument. Apparently, for Kinsley, international "law" binds Republican presidents, but not Democratic presidents. (My own conscience is clear on this subject. I thought Clinton was correct to try to do something about Saddam in 1998, though the means he chose did not seem up to the goal.)
- 9:10 AM, 3 March 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Joshua Muravchik's sobering account of our failed attempts to appease North Korea. Read it and you will agree with Muravchik that:
Given this history, only a fraction of whose tortuous windings and humiliating frustrations I have been able to convey, it is nothing short of astonishing that today, political leaders like Jimmy Carter and even Senator Joseph Lieberman, as well as columnists like the New York Times's Paul Krugman, the Washington Post's Richard Cohen, and Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, rushed to lay the entire crisis at the door of George W. BushIf anyone has a good idea for solving the North Korea nuclear problem, they have kept it a secret. That so many supposedly intelligent people see this mainly as a chance to sneer at President Bush shows that sound judgment is not among the job requirements for columnists. Those cited by Muravchik are not even the worst; as I noted here, Eric Margolis seemed positively delighted by North Korea's nuclear threats.
- 7:56 PM, 2 March 2003 [link]
Did Saddam Bribe French Officials? That's the sensational claim in this Weekly Standard article. Saddam claimed that he had, and newspapers in France have found what the article calls "tangential links" but no direct evidence. France has certainly had more than its share of high level corruption in the last two decades, some of it connected to foreign countries, so, if true, this would not be a complete surprise.
- 7:33 PM, 2 March 2003 [link]
Victims of Communism seldom get much publicity, as these two examples show. First, the sad story of some former Soviet slave laborers, who survived, but still have not been able to leave Siberia. Will anyone advocate reparations for these former slaves, who fully deserve some repayment? Or even get them a little public money so they can return home before they die? Probably not. Second, these Afghan bombing victims had their lives and village destroyed by the Soviets twenty years ago and are just now able to return. Will any European leftists who demonstrated against our efforts to free Afghanistan from the Taliban sympathize with these real bombing victims? Probably not. Most didn't care even at the time of the bombing, and certainly don't care now. About one million Afghans died in the Soviet effort to make the country a satellite, and the Soviet Union probably drew less criticism for that than the United States did for our efforts to liberate them from the Taliban.
- 7:18 PM, 2 March 2003 [link]
Fat Makes Men Stupid: That's the latest finding from the Framingham study, which has yielded so many insights on health, especially heart disease. Strangely, fat did not seem to reduce the intelligence of the women in the study. So there may be something in the "fathead" insult, at least when directed at men. (The British stone is equal to 14 pounds, or 6.4 kilograms, if you are wondering.)
- 7:47 AM, 2 March 2003 [link]
Property Boom in Baghdad: While anti-American demonstrators across the world are predicting that a war will cause disaster in Iraq, investors closer to the scene are bidding up property values. As with the rise in the small Baghdad stock market, this suggests that many in the region see the removal of Saddam, even through a war, as a good thing. Iraqi property is especially attractive to those who hope to have a nearby escape from Islamic rules against alcohol and other temptations.
- 10:13 AM, 2 March 2003 [link]
Fantastic! The capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed was a great victory, and some of the details in the capture show progress in the war on terrorism, and make me think we can expect more victories soon. Mohammed is usually described as the second or third ranking man in al Qaeda, and the operational head of the terrorist organization, the man who made the day to day decisions. (This assumes that bin Laden is still alive. I think, as I've written earlier, that bin Laden is probably still dead. If so, then we captured the top or second ranking man in the organization.)
He was captured in Pakistan as the result of a tip from the CIA. This shows good cooperation with the Pakistani government, which is important because so many low level al Qaeda people are said to be hiding in Pakistan. (Most are said to be in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, which neither Pakistan nor the British empire before them, have ever completely controlled.) He was captured without injury, perhaps because there were not enough men in the house to mount a 24 hour watch. (Reports I have seen this morning say that just one or two men were captured with him.) This suggests that, even for a top leader, al Qaeda has so few resources that they can not guard him adequately. A computer, documents, and cell phones were seized during the raid. All are likely to provide many leads to other members of al Qaeda. Here are the lead articles on the story from the Washington Post and the New York Times, if you want to read more.
- 10:01 AM, 2 March 2003 [link]
British Judge Apologizes to Rapist: And, even worse, the judge reduced the sentence he had just given the rapist. Rapists are likely to repeat their crimes when released, until they become too old. There is a strong chance that this judge's decision will result in more rapes, since the man he sentenced will be only 38 when he is released.
- 8:28 AM, 1 March 2003 [link]
Worrisome: A Russian nuclear security expert has been found murdered in Moscow. Sadly, all one can do is hope that it was an ordinary crime, not connected to his work.
- 8:07 AM, 1 March 2003 [link]