March 2003, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Mike Murphy makes the same argument in this article that I did in this post. Public opinion is often a poor guide to foreign policy, and was disastrously wrong before World War II. Murphy's poll numbers, from that period, are sobering. Large majorities here, and in Britain, were unwilling to face the danger of the Nazi regime.
- 8:45 AM, 20 March 2003 [link]
Nazi Sympathizers and Anti-Americanism: I am not a big fan of Ann Coulter, but at the end of this meandering column, she makes an interesting point. In his much discussed article on European anti-Americanism, British historian Simon Schama relies on one very dubious witness, the great Norwegian novelist, Knut Hamsun:
The Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, who spent two miserable periods in the American Midwest in the eighteen-eighties--working as, among other things, farmhand, store clerk, railroad laborer, itinerant lecturer, and (more congenially) church secretary--treated the street parades of veterans "with tiny flags in their hats and brass medals on their chests marching in step to the hundreds of penny whistles they are blowing" as if the events were curiously remote tribal rituals. The fact that streetcars were forbidden to interrupt the parades and that no one could absent himself without incurring civic disgrace both interested and unsettled Hamsun. Something ominous seemed to be hatching in America: a strapping child-monster whose runaway physical growth would never be matched by moral or cultural maturity. Hamsun gave lectures about his stays in the United States at the University of Copenhagen, and then made them into a book, "The Cultural Life of Modern America," that was largely devoted to asserting its nonexistence. Emerson? A dealer in glib generalizations. Whitman? A hot gush of misdirected fervor. For Hamsun, America was, above all, bluster wrapped up in dollar bills. "It is incredible how naively cocksure Americans are in their belief that they can whip any enemy whatsoever," he wrote. "There is no end to their patriotism; it is a patriotism that never flinches, and it is just as loudmouthed as it is vehement."What Schama must know, and what he does not tell his readers, is that Hamsun was not just a great novelist, but a long time Nazi sympathizer, who welcomed the German conquest of Norway. (Coulter says he was a Nazi, not just a sympathizer, but I am not sure he ever formally joined the party.) After World War II, he was so disgraced that the Norwegians convicted him of profiting from the Nazi regime. If it had not been for his age (mid 80s) at the end of the war, he would most likely have been convicted of treason. This is the man that Schama considers worth quoting on the United States.
Knowing Hamsun's Nazi sympathies puts a strange light on the Hamsun statements above. He hated the harmless parades of Civil War veterans, but admired Hitler's stormtroopers. He was unhappy about the "loudmouthed" American patriotism, but thought the racist German patriotism propounded by the Nazis just wonderful. For some time I have argued that much of the European anti-Americanism comes from anti-democratic European extremists of the left and right. Hamsun's career is a vivid illustration of that point.
- 8:31 AM, 20 March 2003 [link]
Iraqi Army Deserting? I hope that these reports, that much of the Iraqi army has begun to desert, are accurate. (In this post, I explained why I thought that many in the Iraqi army would not fight.)
- 7:51 AM, 20 March 2003 [link]
Safire has more on the French connection to illegal exports of missile fuel to Iraq. In months, perhaps even weeks, we'll have Iraqi records and Iraqi witnesses to show just how big this story is.
- 7:39 AM, 20 March 2003 [link]
Routine Anti-Americanism, Part 5: With war approaching, some turned to prayer. Talk show host John Carlson of KVI gave what he said was his first prayer on the air, reciting FDR's famous prayer from World War II. Others made one last argument about the war, on one side or another. Most people wished for a quick success for the allied forces, and the fewest possible innocent people killed. The Guardian's American correspondent, Matthew Engel did nothing so obvious or decent; instead he reviewed his stale complaints about the United States. This sneering piece, with its causal distortions and falsehoods shows more about Matthew Engel than the United States. I counted more than ten errors before I gave up, and many may be able to better that mark. One deserves comment, though, simply because it is so funny. Engel (or just possibly his editor at the Guardian) is so ignorant that he thinks a member of our lower house is a "congress man", not a congressman.
- 8:20 PM, 19 March 2003 [link]
Public Expects a Difficult War: Public opinion, first here in the United States and now in Britain has been moving toward support of a war to remove Saddam. (I have my own theory about why public opinion has shifted in the two countries, which I will explain in a future post.) Remarkably, this has happened in spite of the fact that the public does not expect an easy victory, as you can see in one of the answers in this Gallup poll. In their sample, 71 per cent think that the combined casualties will be high or moderate. (Astonishingly, only 79 per cent think we will succeed in removing Saddam. I would be fascinated to hear from anyone in that 21 per cent who do not expect success.) Similar support for the war, coupled with skepticism about a quick victory, can be seen in this Telegraph poll from Britain. Of those with an opinion, half think that we will be defeated or that it will take more than a month to defeat the "bulk of the Iraqi forces". The same task took a few days in the first Gulf War, when Saddam was far stronger. Although I think our victory will be almost as easy this time as last, I am pleased to see this attitude. We should never go to war with a light heart.
- 1:51 PM, 19 March 2003 [link]
800 Posts So Far: Many thanks to all who have visited this site. Since most readers have come here recently, you may have missed some early posts. Here are some from the first few months you may find of interest:
- 1:19 PM, 19 March 2003 [link]
What Do the Iraqis Want? Arguments for removing Saddam from power can be broadly divided into two categories, which have any number of names. Here I will call them interests and values, what benefits the United States, and what we think right. Realists will appeal to our interests, and human rights advocates to our values. Interests and values are not independent. Realists will sometimes agree that our interests are served by supporting human rights. Many believe that the Helsinki agreement, which gave support to human rights advocates behind the Iron Curtain, helped bring down the Soviet Union. Human rights advocates will temper their positions with prudential arguments. The Children's Crusade, in which thousands of European children marched off to death or slavery, could not be a just war because it had no chance of success.
The values arguments for removing Saddam have always seemed stronger to me than the interests arguments. (In a later post, I will examine how our interests could be helped, or hurt, from the removal of Saddam.) Put simply, people in the Middle East would be better off if Saddam were removed from power. Most of all, Iraqis would be better off with Saddam removed, so much better off that even a war would be justified. Remarkably, in spite of the fact that they live under a brutal dictatorship, the Iraqi people seem to agree with that argument. Their agreement is conditional. They can accept a war as the price of removing Saddam as long as it is quick and not many civilians are killed.
Determining what the people under a dictatorship think is not a trivial problem, to say the obvious. (And an even more difficult problem is to determine what they would think if they had free access to information.) We can have more confidence in our result if we get the same answer from a variety of ways of judging Iraqi opinion, and, in fact, we do. Different methods yield the same result, that the Iraqis would accept a war as the price of removing Saddam.
The simplest argument is from religion and ethnicity. At one time in the United States, knowing that a voter was Catholic would make it very likely that they would vote Democratic. (Now, of course, knowing that a voter is religious makes it very likely that they will vote Republican.) In the rest of the world, ethnicity and religion are generally even stronger predictors of how people will feel about political issues, and this is certainly true in Iraq.
Saddam has based his power on the Sunni Arabs of Iraq, who are a minority of the population. Exactly how small a minority is not easy to tell since supposedly authoritative sources disagree about Iraq's demography. (For example, my 2003 Britannica Almanac says that Arabs make up 64.7 per cent of Iraq's population, while the CIA Factbook puts that at 75-80 per cent. They disagree by large amounts on other groups, too.) For this crude analysis, I will guess that Sunni Arabs make up about 20 per cent of the population, Shiite Arabs 50 per cent, Kurds 20 per cent, and others (Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Persians, et cetera) 10 per cent. After the first Gulf War, both the Kurds and the Shiites rose in mass rebellions, so we can judge that they want Saddam out from the most powerful of evidence; they risked their lives to drive him out. Many Sunni Arabs, and many in the smaller ethnic groups also have reason to want Saddam out, though we would not expect them to be as strongly in favor as the Kurds and Shiites. If you guess that 90 per cent of the Kurds, 80 per cent of the Shiites, and 50 per cent of the Sunni Arabs and other groups want Saddam out, then we can estimate that 73 per cent of the population wants him out. Obviously, there are many possible errors here, so it would be better to say that somewhere between 50 and 90 per cent of Iraqis want Saddam out, even at the cost of a war.
This conclusion is supported by the closest that we have to an actual Gallup poll in Iraq, a study done of Iraqi opinion by the Brussels based International Crisis Group. They interviewed Iraqi citizens in the cities of Baghdad, Mosul, and Najaf during a three week period last fall and found them surprisingly frank. They were not able to do a true probability sample, but they tried to interview a representative sample. From the Overview of their report, we have this key finding:
Attitudes toward a U.S. strike are complex. There is some concern about the potential for violence, anarchy and score settling that might accompany forceful regime change. But the overwhelming sentiment among those interviewed was one of frustration and impatience with the status quo. Perhaps most widespread is a desire to return to "normalcy" and put an end to the abnormal domestic and international situation they have been living through. A significant number of those Iraqis interviewed, with surprising candour, expressed their view that, if such a change required an American-led attack, they would support it.Remember that these Iraqis said they would support an American attack, in spite of the danger from Saddam's minions. Many others must agree, but are unwilling to risk their lives by voicing that opinion. (You can read the entire 16 page report here.)
The conclusion gets further support from interviews in Iraq by professional journalists like John F. Burns of the New York Times, most recently in this article. Here are the key paragraphs:
The striking thing was that for many Iraqis the first American strike could not come too soon.Burns has made this argument since last fall when he interviewed many Iraqis. Then and now they thought that the situation in Iraq so bad that they would accept a war, as long as it was brief and there were relatively few innocents killed, to remove Saddam.
Another journalist who has come to the same conclusion from interviewing Iraqis is the Johann Hari, as you can see in this article. Here's what he says about Saddam:
If Britain were governed by such a man, I would welcome friendly bombs - a concept I once thought absurd. I might be prepared to risk my own life to bring my country's living death to an end. Most of the Iraqi people I encountered clearly felt the same. The moment they established that I was British, people would hug me and offer coded support (they would be even more effusive towards the Americans I travelled with). They would explain how much they "admire Britain - British democracy, yes? You understand?"(Most but not all journalists who interviewed Iraqis have come to similar conclusions. One of the exceptions works for the Seattle PI, and after the liberation of Iraq, I look forward to doing a full treatment of his errors.)
The conclusion gets even more support from the views of Iraqi exiles, who number, according to reports I have seen, about 4 million. Overwhelmingly, they want Saddam removed, and the great majority are willing to have a war to achieve that removal, even though most have relatives in Iraq. Most, in fact, are in contact with relatives there and report that those relatives share their views. (In a separate document, I plan to collect statements from Iraqi exiles to document their views. If you have seen any that are especially impressive, please send me the link.) Finally, there is a small, amusing straw in the wind from the Baghdad stock market. It has been rising as it became more likely that Saddam would be removed.
All these separate strands of evidence make a powerful case that a majority of the Iraqi people want to live normally, without Saddam. Those who think values arguments important, those who care about the Iraqi people, will want to honor their wishes and help them remove Saddam.
- 10:22 AM, 19 March 2003
Update: I added some current links to articles by John F. Burns and Johann Hari.
- 5:28 PM, 19 March 2003 [link]
Portugal and Spain have bravely stood by the United States and Great Britain against France and Germany. This Telegraph editorial rightly praises their leaders, Spain's Jose Maria Aznar, and Portugal's Jose Manuel Durao Barroso. Thanks to them for their support, which shows true political courage.
- 10:53 AM, 18 March 2003 [link]
French Corruption: For decades, France has influenced African nations by bribery and military interventions. Much of the bribery has gone through the French oil company, Elf. As often happens with dirty money, some began to flow in the opposite direction to politicians in France. Now, a trial in France threatens to reveal the whole dirty mess. You can learn more about scandal in this Telegraph article or this Times of London article. Here's what the principal defendant and former Elf CEO Le Floch-Prigent, now says:
[A]ll Presidents of the Republic, all their chiefs of staff, were informed about the sums and the destination countries . . . (President) Chirac knows everything I know, exactly as Mitterrand did.Interestingly, one of the bribes went to Germany, where it helped undermine Helmut Kohl.
- 10:46 AM, 18 March 2003 [link]
Blix Trix: Many have wondered just how serious UN inspector Hans Blix was in his efforts to disarm Saddam. His interview on MTV, of all places, described here, should settle the matter. Hans Blix thinks destroying Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is desirable, but not all that important. No wonder his efforts have been so half-hearted.
- 8:50 AM, 18 March 2003 [link]
France and Germany Abet Genocide in Sudan: That's the sensational charge in this article from the Boston Globe. Colin Powell has rightly called Sudan the world greatest tragedy. The numbers and brutality are staggering:
For the past 20 years, the regime in Khartoum has bombed, starved, and enslaved black Southern Sudanese with impunity in an effort to subject them to Islamic rule. As a result, over two million black non-Muslims have perished. A further five million have been driven off their land.And what have France and Germany done? They have supported the Sudanese government with supplies and military intelligence, and blocked efforts to condemn slavery there. So far as I know there is no significant objection to this policy in either country.
- 8:43 AM, 18 March 2003 [link]
Ann Clwyd, the brave, honest and leftist Welsh Labour MP, thinks that those who oppose removing Saddam should: "See men shredded, then say you don't back war." Among the many ghastly tortures that Saddam used against his people was a shredding machine, into which people were placed live. She even calls Saddam's Baathist regime "fascist", the ultimate condemnation on the left. (The Baath ideology does not neatly fit into the usual Western political categories, but "fascist" is the closest.) Warning: Her frank description of the tortures used by Saddam is not easy to read.
- 8:21 AM, 18 March 2003 [link]
Who Armed Iraq? Thanks to this letter to the Times of London I found the answer for some major countries:
Arms Sales to Iraq, 1973-1991
The data comes, by way of a man who works in a dermatology laboratory, from an expert on Iraqi arms, Anthony Cordesman. Here's a Cordesman paper with the data (page 22). And, here's a catalog of his organization's papers, if you want to explore further. (Thanks to Ken Hirsch for sending me these links.) It is not coincidence that those who now object to disarming Saddam are those who armed him in the past.
You also often see the charge that the United States provided some of the germ cultures for Saddam's biological weapons. This is true, but misleading. A private company in Virginia, American Type Culture Collection, has long provided germ cultures to scientists all over the world. Until recently, they would sell them to almost anyone who had a degree after their name, regardless of the country. This looks terribly foolish in retrospect, but is understandable if you realize that the company was thinking that its customers were trying to prevent and cure diseases, rather than spread them.
- 10:40 AM, 17 March 2003
Update: Ken Hirsch sent me a link to a Cordesman document, which I have added above. I have also identified the biological supply company and corrected its location to Virginia, from Maryland.
- 5:00 PM, 19 March 2003 [link]
What Moore's Law really says is not what most people think it says. For the facts, see this article, which links to an interesting site with other common mistaken quotations. (I had the wrong versions of about half of them.)
- 8:11 AM, 17 March 2003 [link]
Rail Transit Follies: All across the nation, including here in the Seattle area, cities are spending billions to create or extend rail transit. In this lucid summary, Rachel DiCarlo explains why this is foolish:
- 8:01 AM, 17 March 2003 [link]
Will the Iraqi Army Fight? Mostly no, in my judgment. This Wall Street Journal article describes the weaknesses of the Iraqi army that we discovered in the first Gulf War. Even then, they were poorly led, short of equipment, and filled with conscripts who had every reason to hate Saddam. They are far weaker now, and many know from their experience in the first Gulf War how mismatched the conflict will be. Already, according to this article, Iraqi soldiers have begun to desert in large numbers:
Between 10 and 15 per cent of troops in front-line divisions covering the northern approaches of Baghdad have deserted over the last month, a senior British defence source said yesterday.There is every reason to believe that far more, including whole units, will desert when the shooting starts. (The article also gives an educated guess as to the general plan for the campaign. I would give fairly high odds that the actual plan is different in important respects.)
The problem of leadership for the Iraqi army deserves a bit more comment. Competent officers are a threat to leaders like Saddam. The more successful they are, the more likely that they will turn on the leader. The Roman empire gives us many example of this dynamic. Perhaps the most famous is the conflict between the emperor Justinian and his great general, Belisarius. Belisarius made great strides toward recapturing parts of the empire that had been lost to the barbarians, including North Africa and most of Italy. His very success made Justinian fear him, limit his reinforcements, and recall him. (Fans of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy will remember that Asimov used this theme, an emperor's fear of a successful general, as the key to one of the stories.) Saddam can not afford to have competent leaders in his army; fortunately for us, he has no gift for generalship himself.
- 7:18 AM, 17 March 2003 [link]
Stormtroopers: Sometimes a single word is enough to show a journalist's bias. In this article, Roy Greenslade describes the forces in the 1991 Gulf War as "desert stormtroopers". For him the coalition that drove Saddam out of Kuwait, including soldiers from the United States, Britain, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and many other countries, were the equivalent of Nazis. Greenslade is a former editor of the Daily Mirror. (For those not familiar with British newspapers, the Mirror is one of the largest circulation tabloids there.) Why is he using the language of unreconstructed Stalinists? And why did the Guardian publish this piece?
- 6:47 AM, 17 March 2003 [link]
The Threat of Hot-Cross Buns: In Britain, some local authorities "have banned schools from serving hot-cross buns this Easter, for fear that the symbol of the Cross might offend those of non-Christian faiths". This, in a country which is still officially Christian, and despite the fact that no Muslims had complained about the buns. Mick Hume describes more examples of wimpishness in this article, and argues that they show that "moral conviction" is in short supply. Americans can think of too many similar examples here for us to feel superior.
- 6:27 AM, 17 March 2003 [link]
The American Spectator is back, as you can see in this column, which chuckles at the French bashing, nails Pat Buchanan with a parody of his own rhetorical tricks, and comes up with some astonishing news. New York Times executive editor Howell Raines has just married the daughter of a Communist apparatchik, 21 years younger than he is.
- 10:02 AM, 16 March 2003 [link]
Heather MacDonald asks: "What's a cop's life worth?" The answer, for many "civil rights" leaders, depends on the policeman's race. For people like Al Sharpton, white cops, killed by black criminals, deserve no sympathy. Black criminals, however heinous, killed by white policemen, are often made into heroes. And, black policemen, killed by criminals, get a little sympathy. That these attitudes make black neighborhoods more dangerous is obvious. That the mainstream news media generally supports them is disgraceful.
- 9:51 AM, 16 March 2003 [link]
Bush's North Korea Policy: In this thoughtful article, Jonathan Rauch argues that, despite the critics, the Bush administration does have a policy toward North Korea, and that it might succeed. Rauch explains why bilateral negotiations won't work:
Suppose the United States cut a bilateral deal with Pyongyang. Suppose Pyongyang then broke the deal -- not a big stretch, given that North Korea promptly broke the 1994 nuclear deal, and given that it clearly wants both to extort concessions for its nukes and to build the nukes anyway. Other countries in the region would immediately call for America to avert war by making yet another deal. Washington would have to either submit to never-ending nuclear blackmail or face the nightmarish prospect of taking military action, and quite possibly igniting a nuclear war, without its allies' support. Thus bilateral talks lead all too easily to precisely the catastrophe they are supposed to prevent.China, Russia, and South Korea, all have borders with North Korea. Japan has strong historical connections to Korea, and is just a short distance away. All, especially China, have strong interests in seeing North Korea's nuclear ambitions restrained. Let those nations put some effort toward solving this problem. (We may want to say in advance that any negotiations by Jimmy Carter will have no support from our government. His earlier, unrequested, intervention did much to worsen the current problem.)
- 9:38 AM, 16 March 2003 [link]
Sweatin' for the Ladies: Here's another reason to exercise, guys. Your sweat makes women feel better. A study found that men's perspiration "brightened their moods and helped them feel less tense." Now, who wouldn't want to do that?
- 9:21 AM, 16 March 2003 [link]
What Does France Want? Power in international affairs. That's my opinion, and that's the opinion of MSNBC analyst Dan Goure. To gain power, French leaders feel that they must oppose the temporarily dominant power, the United States. That power is so important to them that, as Goure says, they can accept an "Iraq with weapons of mass destruction" as the price. That this is foolish, and that it ignores the best interests of the French people, is obvious. It is, however, the traditional view of how nations act. Historian A. J. P. Taylor put it this way:
As a private citizen, I think that all this striving after greatness and domination is idiotic; and I would like my country not to take part in it. As a historian, I recognize that Powers will be Powers. (p. 279, The Origins of the Second World War, second edition)My own studies of history make me think that this way of acting is, if you will, natural. It is the way most primitive tribes behave. I also think that we can move beyond this amoral pursuit of power for its own sake. We can only hope that some time France will choose leaders who are adult enough, or perhaps civilized enough, to move beyond this endless quest for power.
If it is all about power for the current French government, then we can change their behavior by making them lose power when they act against us. According to this post, which discusses a Wall Street Journal article, the French so far feel they have very little to lose by opposing us, and much to gain. (Don't miss the comments on the post, by the way) After we liberate Iraq, we should take steps to convince them otherwise. How to do that is a large subject, and one that I may come back to. We should also begin the slow process of civilizing the French leadership by openly making the moral arguments against their behavior.
- 8:12 AM, 14 March 2003 [link]
Saddam Can't Take a Joke and tried to have the Kurdish commedians who were telling anti-Saddam jokes in the free part of Iraq killed. Soon, everyone in Iraq will be free to tell those jokes.
- 8:30 AM, 14 March 2003 [link]
Helping Tony Blair: Some, like the Instapundit, have suggested that Americans show their gratitude to Prime Minister Blair by staging demonstrations to support him, perhaps at the British embassy in Washington. I agree that we should help Tony Blair, but I think we should face an unpleasant reality in choosing our tactics. Bluntly, given the widespread anti-Americanism in Britain, especially in the left wing of the Labour party, Blair might be better off if we demonstrated not for him, but against him. What kind of anti-Blair demonstrations would be most helpful? Probably attacks on Blair for holding back the fight against terrorism. Demonstrators should charge that Blair is controlling Bush, a charge the left wing of the Labour party will find all too easy to believe. If the demonstrations were staged by American Evangelicals, who inspire intense bigotry on the British left, that would be even better. (This bigotry shows how far the Labour party has moved from its historical roots. The early Labour party was strongly influenced by what we would call evangelicals, especially the Methodists.) Time for Karl Rove to call Jerry Falwell.
- 8:20 AM, 14 March 2003 [link]
T-Shirts, 9/11 Memorials, and a Little Perspective: Several protestors in the Crossgates Mall in Albany, New York were arrested by a security guard for wearing anti-war T-shirts, and bothering other customers. (The mall has a right to do this, since it is private property and can set its own standards. For more on the controversy, along with many links, see this Instapundit post). The security guard, who says he was following the orders of management, was fired after the arrests drew widespread criticism. (I even saw a letter in the conservative London Telegraph claiming that the arrests showed that United States could not claim to be a supporter of freedom.)
Last Sunday, in La Habra, California, "peace" demonstrators vandalized a 9/11 memorial on private property, burning American flags and destroying signs. Earlier, police had seen some of the demonstrators disrupting the memorial by rearranging red, white, and blue cups that spelled "Support Our Troops" into an anti-war message. The police did not arrest any of them, seeing it as a matter of freedom of speech. (For more details on the incident, see this article.)
People on the left have tried to use the first incident as evidence that we are losing our freedom to protest. People on the right have tried to use the second incident to show that "peace" demonstrators are America haters who do not respect other's freedom of speech. Both are over-reacting. In a nation with nearly 300 million people, a few individuals in any large cause will misbehave. We should not judge administration supporters by the actions of a single security guard (or, more likely, his manager), and we should not judge the peace demonstrators by the actions of a few vandals. Neither incident, by itself, shows much about freedom of speech in the United States.
(There are serious threats to freedom of speech in the United States, nearly all of them at our universities. Many universities still have speech codes. Many university departments have what are, in effect, political tests for hiring. Many universities tolerate the disruption of speeches by left wing activists, giving them a "heckler's veto". For years, there has been more than a little truth in Abigail Thernstrom's quip that universities were "islands of repression in a sea of freedom". Even with the universities, some perspective is helpful, though. Nothing stops the students from walking off the "islands" and saying whatever they like. Faculty members may have to be more careful, so as not to damage their careers, but, if they get tenure, they are, in principle, protected.)
- 8:00 PM, 13 March 2003 [link]
UN Resolution 687, passed March 2 1991, made the ceasefire with Iraq conditional on the elimination of all Iraq's prohibited weapons. Resolution 1441, passed unanimously by the Security Council just last fall, reaffirmed that part of Resolution 687. Since Iraq has not eliminated its prohibited weapons, the ceasefire can be ended at any time. The case is really that simple, but if you want to know more details, read this patient editorial from the Times of London.
- 6:51 PM, 13 March 2003 [link]
Perfidious France? William Safire finds an interesting connection between France and prohibited weapons in Iraq. Was the French government tolerating this violation of UN sanctions? Probably.
- 6:28 PM, 13 March 2003 [link]
Drunken Pols: This column by Joel Connelly shows his strengths. Washington state Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge was arrested for drunken driving about a week ago, which triggered considerable discussion in the state. Connelly, with his great knowledge of both Canadian and American politics, goes through a set of similar incidents and shows how attitudes have evolved. I didn't know, for example, that Quebec Premier Rene Levesque actually killed a transient when driving, perhaps while he was drunk.
And his weaknesses. As I understand it, George Bush concealed his arrest for drunk driving, but did not lie about it. And Connelly does not even mention the Al Gore incident that came out a few days before the story about the Bush arrest. On a national television show, Gore told a story about how he had been riding a motorcycle with too many people on it. When he saw a police officer, he quickly dodged into an alley to avoid arrest. Was Gore drunk or high at this time? Very probably. Putting too many passengers on a motorcycle is one of those things that makes more sense to people who are high, than to people who are sober. Even if he was not, Gore's behavior in dodging the policeman is an interesting contrast to Bush's behavior. The policeman who arrested Bush guessed that he was intoxicated because he was driving too slowly and too cautiously. Comparing the two incidents, we see that Gore was more reckless and showed less respect for the law.
- 4:14 PM, 12 March 2003 [link]
Demonstrations or Elections? Two Seattle newspaper columnists, the Seattle PI's Robert Jamieson, and the Seattle Times's Nicole Brodeur make the same argument. Both say that President Bush and the Congress should ignore the results of elections, and instead respond to recent demonstrations. Now, of course neither columnist mentions last fall's elections, so let me fill in that part of the argument for them. Last fall the Republican party made almost unprecedented gains in Congress and state legislatures. They did so after a campaign made it clear that the Republican party was united behind President Bush's policy, and the Democratic party was confused and divided. Mandates are rare in elections, but the election last fall was a mandate for Bush's policies toward Iraq.
To argue, as Jamieson and Brodeur do, that our elected officials should now ignore that election and respond to noisy demonstrations by a small minority, is profoundly undemocratic. Often, as in this case, demonstrators do not represent majority thinking. (Those who have seen interviews with rank and file demonstrators may want to quarrel with the term "thinking" when applied to the demonstrators. Feeling, perhaps, but not thinking. Many of the leaders in the demonstrations do think, but their thoughts are so extreme that sympathetic journalists have taken pains to conceal the Communists, anti-Semites, and America haters who play such an important part in organizing the demonstrations.) Majorities, like those who voted to support the Republican party last fall, not noisy minorities, should make policy in a democracy.
Or, to be more precise, majorities should choose the officials who make the policies. The United States is a representative republic, not a plebiscitarian democracy, with simple majority rule. Public officials should make decisions on what they think will be best for the nation, not on what a majority happens to believe at the moment. Voters decide if they are right at elections. Demonstrations are a way to persuade other voters, not a way to choose policies. (My apologies for this recitation of elementary ideas from high school civics classes, but Jamieson and Brodeur must not have been paying attention during those lessons.) What Jamieson and Brodeur want is not quite mob rule but far too close to it for my taste.
(Reading the columns may make you wonder about other work by the two. Briefly, Jamieson is sometimes awful but, from time to time, very good, as in this more recent column. I have never seen a column by Brodeur that impressed me.)
- 3:34 PM, 12 March 2003 [link]
Miss Bell and Iraq: This Guardian article describes Gertrude Bell, the remarkable English woman who drew the boundaries of Iraq in 1921. Her accomplishments, from winning an Oxford degree, to mountain climbing, to ruling Iraq, are impressive, but it is hard not to think that her suicide in 1926 was motivated partly by the knowledge that she had made a mess of things in Iraq.
- 9:28 AM, 12 March 2003 [link]
South Korean Arrogance: The United States is endlessly accused of unilateralism and arrogance, often falsely. Sometimes those charges come from people who show a bit of arrogance themselves. The new South Korean government rode a wave of anti-American sentiment into office. It promised to reduce our influence there and to change the reliance on American forces for Korean security. Quite naturally, our Defense Department has been drawing up plans to comply with the campaign promises the new government made. Now, as you can see in this New York Times article, the South Korean government is having second thoughts, which is understandable. But, look at the arrogant way their Defense Minister discusses the movement of American troops. He "will not discuss any possibility of movement of U.S. troops before the nuclear issue is resolved", and wants American troops kept there as "hostages". Imagine the outrage, not just in South Korea, but in all of Asia, if Donald Rumsfeld said that South Korea could not move its own troops, and that we wanted to use them as "hostages". (Via Moira Breen, who links to this Carey Gage line by line treatment of the article.)
- 9:10 AM, 12 March 2003 [link]
A New Low for Paul Krugman: In this bizarre New York Times column, Paul Krugman compares President Bush to a mad Roman emperor, Caligula, while making two false claims about the administration, one foolish, and one disgusting. Krugman claims that Bush threatened Mexico with retaliation if they did not vote with us in the UN, which is foolish. Far worse, Krugman claims that the Bush administration would try to stir up sentiment against Mexican-Americans, if Mexico voted against us, which is disgusting. Krugman has no credible evidence for either of these sensational charges.
Krugman makes the argument that Bush said he would retaliate against Mexico by a willful misreading of Bush's answer to a question posed by a reporter from the Copley News Service. The reporter asked if Bush would retaliate against countries, specifically Mexico, that did not vote with us. Bush said that the government would not retaliate, but some citizens might be unhappy, as they are now with the French. Bush then noted the importance of NATO and concluded:
It's like saying are you going to be the president of the people who don't vote for you. Yes, I am. And there will be a certain sense of discipline. But I look for -- I expect Mexico to be with us.Now this is not the clearest statement in the world, but I think it possible to work out Bush's meaning. Here is how I understand it: Alliances like NATO are important, but they require some discipline and willingness to listen to others, just as Bush must listen to all the people, not just those who voted for him. He expects Mexico will have that sense of discipline and will be with us on the vote.
The confusion on the subject came from the original Copley news story, which they corrected here. (Thanks to the "Lonewacko" for the pointer.) Note that, even in the original, Bush laughed at the idea that he "keeps score" of which countries support us and which don't.
One last point, which should be obvious to anyone except a partisan obsessed with Bush bashing, before I move on to Krugman's second charge. Although in most cases it is counterproductive to openly threaten or promise other nations, in return for their UN votes, there is nothing inherently objectionable about it. In fact, were a president not to use such tactics, he would hurt the United States and, often, the cause of peace. To think otherwise is to say that we should not reward our friends and punish our enemies, something every president in our history has done, often to our benefit.
The only evidence that Krugman has for his second charge, that the Bush administration is threatening to stir up people against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, is a quotation in the Economist from an "anonymous American diplomat". Neither I nor Krugman know whether any American diplomat actually said such a thing, but it should be obvious to anyone who has followed Bush's almost obsessive courtship of Hispanic voters that the idea is not, and never will be, administration policy. The New York Times has covered this courtship in many articles, for years. Krugman may write for the newspaper (assuming the column is not actually done by a grad student), but he obviously doesn't read it carefully.
There is a nation that has openly threatened to stir up people in the United States. Unfortunately for Krugman's argument, that country is Mexico, not the United States, and the people Mexico hopes to stir up are Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. In this post, the "Lonewacko" reminded us of this statement from the Mexican foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda:
What's important is that American society sees a possible migratory agreement in a positive light. We are already giving instructions to our consulates that they begin propagating militant activities -- if you will -- in their [Mexican] communities.This was not an idle piece of chatter from Castaneda. The Mexican government has, for years, interfered in our politics in just this way. This blatant interference from the Mexican foreign minister in our politics got very little attention at the time, and certainly none from Krugman.
It is irresponsible and contemptible for Krugman to make these foolish and ugly charges, with no evidence to support them, and no effort to check on their plausibility, much less their truthfulness. Krugman's column will be used to spread hatred of the United States in other countries, especially Mexico, which has Bush bashing journalists even less responsible than Professor Krugman. (In the corrected Copley story, there is an example of what they gently call "an apparent blatant fabrication" in the newspaper Reforma. It could, I suppose, be an error, or a mistake in translation.) This column is one of many in which Krugman's obsessive hatred—a phrase I use after careful thought—takes him out of the bounds of rational discourse. Why any newspaper with standards would continue to run his column is beyond me.
(Finally, one should note that Krugman is not even original. Like Molly Ivins, he often borrows from the less respectable parts of the far left. He is even worse than she is about acknowledging his sources. Here's the article from the far left American Prospect, which he seems to have used as the basis for his column.)
- 8:44 AM, 12 March 2003 [link]
The 1968 New Hampshire Primary Myth: In this article, Matthew Engel of the Guardian recycles an old myth. In 1968, Minnesota senator Gene McCarthy challenged President Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. McCarthy lost to Johnson, even though Johnson was not on the ballot and did not campaign. (His supporters organized a write-in campaign.) Since McCarthy opposed Johnson on the Vietnam war, this was widely considered a defeat for Johnson and a rejection of his war policies. This was true, though not in the way understood by most at the time. A survey of primary voters found that those who supported McCarthy were slightly more hawkish than those who supported Johnson. (The survey was reported in The Real Majority, among other places, if I recall correctly.) In other words, many New Hampshire voters agreed that Johnson was not prosecuting the war correctly, but voted for McCarthy because they wanted more, not less, force. Those who are familiar with with how McCarthy campaigned in New Hampshire will not be entirely surprised by this, since, again despite the myths, he did not base his campaign on a direct argument for surrender in Vietnam. Instead, he talked vaguely about the failure of the war effort, something those who wanted a tougher policy could support.
Later that year, as voters became more aware of candidate positions on the war, they did begin to sort themselves out so that those backing McCarthy were more dovish than those backing the administration. The real test of public opinion on the war came in the general election, in which the two candidates favoring a tougher policy, Nixon and Wallace, received about 60 per cent of the vote between them.
(Finally, there is one wonderful irony about McCarthy's campaign. Almost all his funds came from a few very wealthy men. Under current campaign finance laws, he would have been unable to run his campaign, especially starting as late as he did.)
- 8:12 AM, 11 March 2003 [link]
Count Your Blessings every day and you may be healthier, both physically and mentally, according to a new study. Nicer, too. Caveat: The short science notebook piece does not give any details on the size of the study, how long it went on, or any of the other variables that you would want to know about, before you believed it completely.
- 8:12 AM, 11 March 2003 [link]
British Clergy are increasingly being attacked by criminals. Or, are they all just criminals? Could some of the attacks be coming from Muslim youths? I am not certain about this—and I would be grateful if those who know more than I do would enlighten me—but I believe that both York and "estates" (public housing?) are places likely to have high concentrations of Muslims.
- 8:22 AM, 11 March 2003 [link]