Date ►►► January 31, 2007
9/11... Not Your Grandfather's Kind of Apocalypse!
More and more, Big Lizards seems to be zeroing in on the insanity of the big-box media. I don't mind; it's a topic that is critical, amusing -- and endlessly giving.
I am undeterred by the fact that a couple of bloggers I regularly read, Real Clear Politics and Patterico's Pontifications, have already posted on the infamous L.A. Times opinion piece that argues 9/11 wasn't so bad after all. As always, we have our own take... and we shall actually argue the case why global jihadism is indeed an "existential threat" to the United States; and how, if anything, we have underreacted -- not overreacted -- to that threat. Read on...
All the news sources cite some subset of the same three paragraphs from the Op-Ed piece by David Bell in the Los Angeles Times:
Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?
Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies' objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.
Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the "Islamo-fascist" enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler's implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy. The conservative author Norman Podhoretz has gone so far as to say that we are fighting World War IV (No. III being the Cold War).
In place of analysis, Bell uses a classic technique of demagoguery; the first time he introduces his thesis, he phrases it as a question:
Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong?
The second time, it has assumed more certainty, even though he has not actually argued the case:
[D]esire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.
Finally, the third and subsequent visitations return to the question form... but instead of questioning the accuracy of the original statement, its truth is treated as so obvious that it can be used as the standard by which to judge contrary opinion:
So why has there been such an overreaction? Unfortunately, the commentators who detect one have generally explained it in a tired, predictably ideological way: calling the United States a uniquely paranoid aggressor that always overreacts to provocation.
Here, the overreaction has magically pressed forward from possible to probable to certain, without ever visibly moving. Repeated assertion, each time a bit more emphatically, replaces the bothersome need actually to argue the case (and define the terms). I call this the Snark Fallacy: "What I tell you three times is true."
(Let's see how he likes it.)
Not to fall into Bell's own penchant for vagueness or "Snark"-iness, let's define our term right off -- what it means to say something is an "existential threat," in five easy pieces:
- The United States is not simply a geographic location on the map, nor does it comprise nothing but a given set of people.
- Thus, it's possible that a country might no longer be legitimately "the United States" even if it still retains that name and still has roughly the same population it had before.
I hope you already see where I'm going with this: Bell's claim that global jihadism cannot destroy the United States is based entirely on the idea that the terrorists cannot kill all 300,000,000 of us... as if that were the sum total measure of a country's existence. Just look at his first paragraph, which I haven't seen quoted anywhere:
Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.
There is no question that throughout Bell's piece, he unconsciously (or covertly) defines an existential threat as a threat to wipe out the entire population of the United States; if a mere 20 million people are killed, he argues, that isn't existential... after all, the Soviet Union lost that many, yet continued being the Soviet Union.
It's true that such a loss of life did not transform the Soviets from a constitutional republic to a Communist dictatorship; but that's only because they were already a Communist dictatorship even before the war. WWII likewise did not destroy England or France, because they are both "linguistic" nations: tribally defined, where the "tribes" are intimately correlated to language. No other country speaks English or French except those that were once colonies of England or France... and that includes us. (Under the later Czars, the official language of the Russian court was French; but this was not the language of the Russian people.)
Here is another instance from Bell:
Even if one counts our dead in Iraq and Afghanistan as casualties of the war against terrorism, which brings us to about 6,500, we should remember that roughly the same number of Americans die every two months in automobile accidents.
Again, the distinction should be clear (even to a "professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and a contributing editor for the New Republic"): accidents, no matter how deadly, do not fundamentally alter the United States. We may demand seatbelt laws or better enforcement of drunk-driving laws; but nobody demands that cars be abolished and people be restricted to their homes.
Our response to traffic accidents doesn't endanger what is unique about America; but the response that citizens would demand to a series of increasingly horrific terrorist attacks well might.
England would still be England, even if it were a Nazi dictatorship. Heck, France remained France, even though Vichy France was a Nazi dictatorship. But this is irrelevant to the question of whether global jihadism can destroy America. We are simultaneously more robust as a culture and more vulnerable to losing our way than a typical country... which the next two steps in my definition of "existential threat" will make clear, I hope:
- Unlike language-based or tribe-based countries (France, Mexico, Japan), the United States is unique: it was the first country founded on an ideal, liberty, and a creed, government by the consent of the governed -- which together constitutes the core of the Constitution (all else is dicta).
- If this country were ever to alter or abolish either of those two critical elements, directly or by proxy, it would no longer be the United States of America -- no matter what it called itself, no matter how many citizens it still had.
Finally, we arrive at the definition:
- A threat to the United States is "existential" if, unchecked, it's likely to result in a change to our nation's core fundamentals so drastic, that what remains can no longer be called "the United States of America" as we know it today.
With this definition in mind, let's return to Bell's own example from his opening paragraph. Let's suppose that 9/11 were followed, every six hours, by a similar successful attack on the United States.
How many days would it be before the president declared martial law?
How long before we simply started rounding up all Moslems and all persons of Arabic descent? How long until we had concentration camps (a "super-Manzanar"), a Group Areas Act, surveillance of everyone at all times approaching that of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the suspension ("for the duration of hostilities") of habeas corpus?
The citizenry would demand it. The first duty of any government, before all others, is to safeguard its citizens from deadly peril. When a government fails of that primary duty, the mass of its citizens demands immediate, often ill-considered changes, hoping to restore that security. When people are afraid to go outside for fear of being killed, questions about liberty, fairness, decency, and justice pale into insignificance: safety overrides everything else.
(Benjamin Franklin famously remarked that "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." In this case, the devil is in the qualifiers: essential and temporary. When the liberty is not essential or the safety is not merely temporary, all bets are off.)
Under the absurdist Bell Scenario, America would probably cease being America within just a few days. Americans would not stand for such a staggering onslaught of murderous assault; they would demand it be stopped by any means necessary.
Now, there are loons who claim we already have everything listed above: they claim that Guantánamo Bay is already a "concentration camp," that we already have "surveillance of everyone," and that we're just plucking up Arabs and Moslems left and right and imprisoning them without a trial for no reason. But this is moonbattery raised to the level of Lyndon LaRouche, who famously called Queen Elizabeth the world's biggest "drug dealer."
We do, along with every other govenrment, engage in a certain amount of deprivation of liberty (though we're more sensitive to it than anyone else). We did have Manzanar during WWII; we do have some degree of surveillance; and Abraham Lincoln did, without question, suspend habeas corpus during the Civil War.
We also have some level of restriction on "government by the consent of the governed." Members of Congress have too high a rate of reelection, and they often listen to lobbyists more than ordinary folks, enacting earmarks for the rich and powerful.
But our divergence from the absolute is both necessary (to some extent) and trivial. These characteristics are not binary operations; liberty is not like a traditional lightswitch, where it's either all the way on or all the way off. It's more like a dimmer switch: we have at all times a range of liberty, as does everyone else. But we prefer our liberty to be set very much brighter than other countries; while Bell's example of the Soviet Union already had its liberty switch set so dim, it was almost indistinguishable from darkness (hence the title of one of the greatest anti-Communist books written by an ex-Communist (the category has hundreds of examples): Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler).
So long as such depredations against our ideal and our creed are carried out with a very light touch, so that liberty and self-governance burn very brightly, America is still America. It may be a horror for those caught in the shadows of darkness such dimming inevitably causes: blacks trapped first by slavery, then by Jim Crow had neither liberty nor self-governance; and for them at that time, "America" was less American than it is now; we rightly rose up against such racism and did our best to abolish it -- or at least make it terribly costly.
But the very fact that such a phrase, "America was less American," is possible shows our uniqueness. After all, nobody said that Russia under Josef Stalin was any less "Russian" than it was under the Czars, or under Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky, or under Boris Yeltsin. Russia is Russia, no matter how free or tyrannical it is, because it's defined geographically and tribally (in the case of the Soviet Union -- and even Russia alone -- the tribal definition is a defined collection of tribes, organized into linguistic subgroups).
France remained France, even when it was run by a puppet government that took its orders from Adolf Hitler in Berlin. But America would not be America if we became a full dictatorship; any more than Coke would still be Coke if you filled all the cans with tomato juice instead.
So the question is now this: does the threat of global jihadism rise to a level where, if unchallenged in its early phase, it threatens to change the very nature of the United States? I argue that indeed it does... and is every bit as dangerous to us as were Naziism and Communism.
Global jihadism differs from earlier ideologically based violence in three ways:
- Irrationality: We see no rational connection between the stated jihadist goals and the targets of violence; jihadists seem to kill merely for the joy of killing, as if committing human sacrifice to appease "a dark and a vengeful god;"
- Martyrdom: Many jihadis embrace death so eagerly that it's easy to believe them when they say, "the West loves life, but we love death." People who initiate an attack hoping to die cannot be stopped by any means short of killing them or physically wrestling them to the ground and hog-tying them: they cannot be threatened by arrest, capture, or the threat of death or injury, techniques that worked on Nazis and Communists alike, on both micro ("stop or I'll shoot") and macro (Mutual Assured Destruction) levels. Jihadis, by contrast, are like Terminators;
- Apocalyptic vision: Rather than mere conquest, many jihadists -- especially the Shiite "Twelvers" inspired by Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- want to bring about the literal End of Days, the final war of all against all... Armageddon, Ragnarok, call it what you will; their only evident goal is the complete destruction of the world, so that Allah can rule through the Mahdi.
Thus, anyone can be a target of jihadis at any time; the attacks needn't follow any rational plan or strategy; and "halt or I'll shoot" produces only "Allahu akbar!" in response, as the jihadi presses the button and blows up himself and ten other people. The Japanese at the end of WWII had a small number of kamikazes who launched suicidal airplane attacks against Allied ships; jihadis seem to deploy almost nothing but kamikazes!
This renders impotent most of the normal, WWII-style defenses against jihadis (such defenses may work well against state supporters of terrorism, however). As these are the only defenses most Americans know, they are far more frightened of global jihadism than they were of the Nazis, the imperial Japanese, or the Communist bloc: as big and scary as these threats were, we fundamentally understood what we needed to do to overcome them.
But the war against global jihadism is fought in the shadows of back alleys off Haifa Street, across the internet to interdict fundraising and terrorist organizations, and in corporate and financial boardrooms from Switzerland to the Cayman Islands to small banks in Africa and Central Asia.
Our weapons are not just armies and air power, as we have used for the last few decades; but also tiny, 5-25 man units spread across scores of countries around the globe, trying, in between killing bad guys, to teach the fundamentals of civilization to people not much advanced from the days of Mohammed himself... or for that matter, the days of Ogg the Troglodyte, 10,000 years ago. (See Imperial Grunts, by Robert Kaplan.)
Most people really don't understand how to fight this kind of war, against this kind of enemy. Uncertainty and doubt lead inevitably to fear; and fear can lead to irrational responses (such as the suggestion that we "negotiate" with Iran, our greatest, bitterest, most relentless, and most irrational enemy in the Middle East, how best to stabilize the Middle East along American-policy lines).
Under such a terrorist pounding as Baghdad is taking, we would be in grave danger of an irrational response that would change America's character... if we do not undertake the thoroughly rational responses in the war against global jihadism that President Bush and his defenders advocate -- and probably the even more drastic, yet still rational responses proposed by others: Arthur Herman, Mark Steyn, Thomas P.M. Barnett, and so forth.
If I am correctly evaluating this threat as one that, left unchecked, could lead to such a wholesale change in America that most of us would not longer call it "the United States of America" -- note I do not simply assume that I am correct, merely because I have repeated it often enough to hypnotize myself -- if I'm right, then far from overreacting to the threat of global jihadism, we have more than likely under-reacted.
Not all reaction must be warfare, though that will be an essential tool throughout this period (assuming I haven't gone totally around the rocker). But we have underreacted by not treating the war against global jihadism as a total war, one that requires for victory the resources of every component of our society and the West: military, political, economic, artistic, and especially social. We desperately need:
- Soldiers to kill jihadis;
- Statesmen to support our soldiers -- but also to construct modern nations in the "Non-Integrating Gap," where there are now only failed states and tyrannical regimes;
- Financial geniuses to find ways to defund the global jihad -- but also to funnel money to the Gap and teach the people there to use such revenue streams rationally, to privilege civilized behavior and punish primitive thinking;
- Books, paintings, sculptures, music, and especially movies and television shows that accurately portray global jihadism, without sugar-coating, without an anti-American, anti-Western gloss, and without tendentious partisan mudslinging; we need ciizens who understand what we're up against -- but also understand that we're neither helpless nor destined to be defeated;
And we need a social understanding that the long-term solution is to civilize the rest of the world... starting with civilizing ourselves and our country: assimilating immigrants into the American culture (or Western culture, for other countries' immigrants); unabashedly exporting American "Borg" culture to the rest of the world; and dumping the culturally suicidal (and cement-headed) idea of "cultural relativism." Some cultures are perfectly vile, and they should be expunged from face of the Earth.
"Multiculturalism" is fine, so long as it's understood to be restricted to native cuisine, native music, and native costume (the latter only on special dress-up days)... trivial "flavorings" to the greater culture of Western liberal democracy -- liberty, government by the consent of the governed, and Capitalism. Nothing else works, by any rational definition of "works."
If we don't have each and every one of these elements in play, we will lose this war. But I believe we will have them all in play... eventually; American Borg culture is the least suicidal culture on the planet. The only question is how long we wait in denial before giving in to reality... and how much pain we must suffer in the meanwhile.
David Bell does not agree. All right; it's still a free country -- for now. I suspect that reality will eventually rear up and bite us in the fundamentals, though that's just my opinion... and I'm not even a professor of history at Johns Hopkins or anywhere else.
Yet certainly, Bell's analysis was superficial at best: the gravest threat is not that jihadis will individually kill each one of us by car bombs and Galleria shootings... it's that they will inflict so much random, senseless damage that we jettison our own, extraordinarily successful culture in a misguided attempt to "fight irrationality with more irrationality."
I don't want that to happen. So for God's sake, let's fight their irrationality with our total war -- of rational responses to global jihadism, both destructive and constructive: let's kill the jihadis, destroy their organizations, rebuild the Gap states, and transform ourselves into the sort of culture warriors who will stand up and defend our culture without quibbling.
That is victory.
Democrats May Become Critics of President Bush
Of all the stupid things written in all the stupid drive-by media sources, this has to rank as one of the stupidest...
The hearing [about our "botched" (AP's word) training of the Iraqi National Police] comes as lawmakers increasingly line up against President Bush's escalation of the unpopular war in Iraq, many citing the findings of the Iraq Study Group as they urge an end to U.S. involvement there.
Then AP lists the lawmakers finally coming out of the closet as opponents of the strategic change of course in Iraq:
- Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT, 100%)
- Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%)
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%)
Oh, no, we've lost the Democratic leadership! They now oppose Bush's Iraq plan. Quelle horreur!
Next week's breaking news: Sen. John Kerry (D-Kennedy, 100%) thinks he should have won in 2004. Remember, you read it here first...
Date ►►► January 30, 2007
The Little Generals - 535 of Them
In a burst of audacity and ingenuity that one wishes were aimed at America's enemies instead of the president, congressional Democrats now assert the sweeping authority to be co-Commanders in Chief; and in the case of one constitutional-law "expert," to dictate strategic and tactical military policy to the president, who in this scenario must simply salute and say "Yes sir."
This goes far beyond what they did during their successful effort to turn the Vietnam victory into defeat; in that shameful episode, Congress merely utilized the power of the purse, which everyone (even George W. Bush) agrees they have. Nay, one must go all the way back to the Civil War, when Congress routinely issued marching and battle orders to Union generals, to find a comparable moment of hubris in congressional history.
The first shot across the bow comes from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 63%), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee began laying the constitutional groundwork today for an effort to block President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq and place new limits on the conduct of the war there, perhaps forcing a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.
They were joined by Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who led the panel for the last two years, in asserting that Mr. Bush cannot simply ignore Congressional opposition to his plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.
“I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole decider,” Mr. Specter said. “The decider is a joint and shared responsibility.”
Back a few days ago, in our previous post None Dare Call It Cowardice, I pegged Specter as likely to join the efforts to seize command of the military away from the president:
[T]he only other Republican senator who scores lower than the top of this liberal group (Voinovich, 68%) is Sen. Arlen Specter (PA, 63%)...
(In this case, I based my semi-prediction not only on Specter's liberalness but also upon his vanity and tendency to preen before an audience.)
But what exactly is Specter saying here? Nobody denies that Congress is the "decider" when it comes to funding the military; the president's power is entirely negative: he can veto the funding legislation. And Bush's "decider" remark -- actually, he said "decision maker" in the most recent incarnation -- was very clear about what he was deciding: he said he was the decision-maker about implementing the plan, not funding it.
Thus, when Specter says “The decider is a joint and shared responsibility," he is literally saying that Congress has as much say as the Commander in Chief over determining the rules of engagement, repositioning the troops within Iraq, and sending U.S. forces from point A to point B. If Congress had any role at all in those types of decisions, it was whether to authorize the use of military force in the first place... which they did in 2002, with no time limit and no restrictions about exactly how they could be used in the upcoming war (though such restrictions would probably have been unconstitutional anyway).
Specter is not unaware of the enormity he's trying to pull off; he knows this is not our traditional understanding of the relationship between the branches... he is very much aware that he is trying to seize the most important power of a republic, the strategic and tactical specifics of waging war, away from the president and into Congress:
Mr. Specter said he considered a clash over constitutional powers to be “imminent.”
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) is behaving more honorably than Specter: he is brazenly trying to cut off all funding for the war, which is at least a bona-fide congressional power. But even he is drunk on Congressional power, at the expense of the presidency, that goes beyond unseemly to the realm of the imperial:
Senator Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who acted as chairman for the hearing, said he would soon introduce a resolution that would go much further. It would end all financing for the deployment of American military forces in Iraq after six months, other than a limited number working on counterterrorism operations or training the Iraqi army and police. In effect, it would call for all other American forces to be withdrawn by the six-month deadline.
“Since the President is adamant about pursuing his failed policy in Iraq, Congress has a duty to stand up and prevent him,” Mr. Feingold said.
Mr. Feingold was joined by only two other Democrats at the hearing, Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, perhaps reflecting the wariness in the party’s caucus about any direct attempt to thwart the president’s strategy.
When did they inherit this duty? I see nothing in the Constitution to justify it: Congress has these powers anent war:
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.
By contrast, the president has the following powers:
The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.
I don't want to judge before all the facts are in, but I'd have to say that being "commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States" trumps any congressional wartime power on the narrow issue of who gets to move around the pieces on the chessboard.
It's important to realize that not all Republicans are involved in trying to sabotage our efforts in Iraq; so far, the effort is still limited to a subset of the group we listed in None Dare Call It Cowardice:
- Sam Brownback (KS, 100%)
- Susan Collins (ME, 32%)
- Olympia Snowe (ME, 32%)
- Norm Coleman (MN, 64%)
- Chuck Hagel (NE, 96%)
- George Voinovich (OH, 68%)
- Gordon Smith (OR, 58%)
- John Warner (VA, 88%)
Not even Specter has come out and said he will support the Warner "Surrender Slow" resolution; and Hagel was the only Republican to support the Biden-Hagel "Surrender Swift" resolution. At the moment, the only GOP supporters of Surrender Slow, according to Daily Kos, are Hagel, Collins, Smith, Coleman, and Warner.
But Specter and Feingold have come as close as one could imagine to coming right out and saying that Congress, not the president, is the "decider":
Mr. Specter read the results of a survey of service members conducted by The Military Times, which found that only 35 percent of respondents approved of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war. The senator suggested that in that light, the military might be “appreciative of questions being raised by Congress.” [Yes, I'm quite sure the military appreciates being told they're on a fool's errand and are destined to be defeated by the terrorists.]
Mr. Feingold insisted that his resolution would “not hurt our troops in any way” because they would all continue to be paid, supplied, equipped and trained as usual -- just not in Iraq.
I'm quite certain that Feingold is blissfully ignorant of how offensive this comment really is to servicemen and servicewomen: he sees our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as nothing more than contractors whose only concern is that they get paid; Sen. Feingold is unequipped by nature to understand how important is the mission itself, success and victory, to the military.
The most breathtaking power-grab came not from a senator but from an "expert" in constitutional law. (And let's all guess which side called him to testify!) If this doesn't make your mouth gape, you have no astonishment left in you:
Other experts testifying at the hearing said that Congress had the power not only to declare war, but to make major strategic and policy decisions about its conduct. Louis Fisher, a specialist in constitutional law for the Library of Congress, said, “I don’t know of any ground for a belief that the president has any more special expertise in whether to continue a war than do the members of Congress.”
He said that the title of “commander in chief” was meant by the framers to emphasize unity of command and civilian control over the military. “The same duty commanders have to the president, the president has to the elected representatives.”
"The same duty" would be the duty to obey orders, no matter what he thinks of them. I'm virtually certain that Mr. Fisher was called by Russell Feingold (who served as acting chair for Sen. Pat Leahy, D-VT, 100% during this hearing). But I wonder whether Arlen Specter didn't have at least the faint trace of a Cheshire-Cat smile on his lips, as he envisioned future Congresses issuing marching orders to future Subcommanders in Subchief. (And by the way... when did the president cease being considered an "elected representative?")
Naturally, the subject slopped over from Iraq to Iran; the Democrats simply couldn't contain themselves, any more than a monkey can stop itself from dropping one handful of nuts to grab another:
Even as the panel discussed issues from past conflicts, Senator Kennedy used the session to focus on a possible future conflict, asking the panel about what authority Mr. Bush would have to attack Iran. The panel’s members agreed that he had the power to take what actions he saw fit to deal with any short-term threat that Iran might pose to American troops in Iraq, but that he would need some form of Congressional authorization to begin any large-scale or long-term conflict.
(Of course, under the War Powers Act, President Bush has even more power than that: he can attack Iran, so long as the entire engagement lasts 60 days or less; then he has to report to Congress. This means that the "Herman Option" is easily within the authority of the president to order without bothering to gain permission from (or even consult) Arlen Specter, Russell Feingold, or Nancy Pelosi. Or Nancy Sinatra, for that matter.)
Sticking with Iran, the Democrats also harangued the president on his refusal to kowtow to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as the Baker-Hamilton ISG report recommended:
Republican and Democratic senators warned Tuesday against a drift toward war with an emboldened Iran and suggested the Bush administration was missing a chance to engage its longtime adversary in potentially helpful talks over next-door Iraq.
"What I think many of us are concerned about is that we stumble into active hostilities with Iran without having aggressively pursued diplomatic approaches, without the American people understanding exactly what's taking place," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told John Negroponte, who is in line to become the nation's No. 2 diplomat as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy.
It's hard not to laugh at the spectacle of Barack Obama (100%) -- a fellow who has served as a U.S. senator for two whole years -- lecturing John Negroponte, a man who has spent his entire adult life, since before Obama was even born, working his way up the State Department's ladder of responsibility (except for the two years he served as the first Director of National Intelligence) on the basics of diplomacy and negotiation. I wonder... did Obama tap his head during this speech, as if urging Negroponte to think it through?
At least in this case, so far no Republican has hurled himself against the barracades, bringing about the very intervention by Iran that he professes to be trying to stop. This time, even GOP mavericks wisely left that job to the Democrats, who have more experience at anti-Americanism. This is the absolute juiciest that AP can muster:
Senators including Hagel, George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., sounded frustrated with the administration's decision not to engage Iran and fellow outcast Syria in efforts to reduce sectarian violence in Iraq.
Even so, we appear, as in the 1860s, to have 535 spare generals on Capitol Hill, each of them having his headquarters in his congressional seat. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln (R-IL, 100%), they appear to have their headquarters where their hindquarters ought to be.
200, 250, 350, 400, 470, and Counting...
Before the "surge" has even begun, Iraqi and the US troops are taking it up a notch, engaging in fierce battles near Baghdad. The battles reveal Iranian influences on both Sunni insurgents and Shiia militia -- and show that under the right circumstances, the two groups can work hand in hand to oppose peace and democracy.
We have long suspected that the long arm of Iran was behind much of the violence in Iraq; but until last fall, the American military downplayed their influence, possibly in the vain hope that the threat of exposure might be a lever to use against Iran. But starting sometime between July and September, we became more willing to expose the Iranian connection... which probably means that we have given up the idea that Iran cares what the world thinks of it.
So let's start with some good news over the weekend in Baghdad. (As usual, AP larded up the story of a huge victory against a murderous cult with a maze of irrelevant and unrelated bad news; the New York Times did the same today -- we'll get to it in a minute -- but so amusingly, you almost want to let them get away with it.)
U.S.-backed Iraqi troops on Sunday attacked insurgents allegedly plotting to kill pilgrims at a major Shiite Muslim religious festival, and Iraqi officials estimated some 250 militants died in the daylong battle near Najaf.... [That estimate has been superceded by several higher counts.]
Authorities said Iraqi soldiers supported by U.S. aircraft [and ground troops] fought all day with a large group of insurgents in the Zaraq area, about 12 miles northeast of the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
Col. Ali Nomas, spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Najaf, said more than 250 corpses had been found. Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanemi also spoke of 250 dead but said an exact number would not be released until Monday. He said 10 gunmen had been captured, including one Sudanese.
Provincial Gov. Assad Sultan Abu Kilel said the assault was launched because the insurgents planned to attack Shiite pilgrims and clerics during ceremonies marking Ashoura, the holiest day in the Shiite calendar commemorating the 7th century death of Imam Hussein. The celebration culminates Tuesday in huge public processions in Karbala and other Shiite cities.
Officials were unclear about the religious affiliation of the militants.
"Unclear" means that the group, Soldiers of Paradise (or Heaven), seems to have had both Shia and Sunni members; all were willing to butcher thousands of Shia pilgrims, if they could.
On Monday, Bill Roggio reported that the total number of insurgents killed was actually 350; they appear to be a mix of Sunni and Shia and included some foreign fighters. They were remarkably well-equipped and organzied, having at least two anti-aircraft Stinger-type missiles and some heavy machine guns.
Early reports indicated there were both Sunni terrorists and Shia cultist involved in the fighting. "Governor Asaad Abu Gilel as saying that the militants, who included foreign fighters, had arrived in the city disguised as pilgrims in recent days and based themselves in the orchards, which he said had been bought three or four months ago by supporters of Saddam Hussain."
Today, the New York Times has more information. This stupendous victory -- as many as 470 terrorists slain (!), ten captured, and only 25 Iraqi security forces killed, for a kill ratio of nearly 19 to 1 -- is of course presented by the Times as raising "troubling questions" about the Iraqi forces. (Perhaps the Times is disappointed that we just missed a 20 to 1 kill ratio):
Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed by the ferocity of an obscure renegade militia in a weekend battle near the holy city of Najaf and needed far more help from American forces than previously disclosed, American and Iraqi officials said Monday.
They said American ground troops -- and not just air support as reported Sunday -- were mobilized to help the Iraqi soldiers, who appeared to have dangerously underestimated the strength of the militia, which calls itself the Soldiers of Heaven and had amassed hundreds of heavily armed fighters.
Iraqi government officials said the group apparently was preparing to storm Najaf, a holy city dear to Shiite Islam, occupy the sacred Imam Ali mosque and assassinate the religious hierarchy there, including the revered leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, during a Shiite holiday when many pilgrims visit....
The Iraqis and Americans eventually prevailed in the battle. But the Iraqi security forces’ miscalculations about the group’s strength and intentions raised troubling questions about their ability to recognize and deal with a threat.
I'd hate to see what the Times would write if we had lost the battle! Maybe if we wait long enough, it will turn out that we killed more terrorists in Najaf than the total number of protesters who showed up for the D.C. anti-war rally.
In any event, surely the Times and Congress are at cross-purposes: Congress says we should pull our troops out and leave the war to the Iraqis; but the Times says they're all a bunch of miserable incompetents who can't do anything without American help. I wish the anti-war Left would just pick one story and stick to it; these goalposts are walking around on chicken-legs, like Baba Yaga's hut.
This battle reminds me of ealier incident in Kabala, where terrorists disguised as American troops managed to fool Iraqi security forces. They got close enough to the Americans, who were conducting a meeting with locals, that twelve terrorists killed one American and kidnapped four, all of whom were later found dead.
The sophisticated nature of these attacks suggests highly trained and deadly terrorist forces; and that in turn suggests Iran's infamous "Qod's Force."
In fact, Iran has been operating in Iraq for years. They have aided, armed, and trained both Sunni jihadis and Shiite militias. A recent document we found during a raid of Iranian forces lays out their plan to cause absolute chaos in Iraq. So much for the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Survey Group's charming notion that Iran did not want to see civil war in Iraq.
An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms "that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups." The source was careful to stress that the Iranian plans do not extend to cooperation with Baathist groups fighting the government in Baghdad, and said the documents rather show how the Quds Force -- the arm of Iran's revolutionary guard that supports Shiite Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads -- is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna. [And so much for the equally charming notion that Shia and Sunni terrorists would never work together.]
Another American official who has seen the summaries of the reporting affiliated with the arrests said it comprised a "smoking gun." "We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to," the official said.
It turns out Iran had its own "Iraqi Study Group" which came up with this "recommendation" to foment a civil war, if possible, in Iraq. Ironically, on Monday, Iran announced a plan to "help" Iraq:
The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called “the security fight.” In the economic area, Mr. Qumi said, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction, an area of failure on the part of the United States since American-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein nearly four years ago. [Here, the Times uses "failure" in its little-known alternate definition to mean "wild success."
“We have experience of reconstruction after war,” Mr. Qumi said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. “We are ready to transfer this experience in terms of reconstruction to the Iraqis.”
Mr. Qumi also acknowledged, for the first time, that two Iranians seized and later released by American forces last month were security officials, as the United States had claimed. But he said that they were engaged in legitimate discussions with the Iraqi government and should not have been detained.
So Iran has very kindly offered to supplant the United States and Coalition forces to provide both security and reconstruction in Iraq. How selfless of them; we cannot imagine any ulterior motive on the part of the ruling mullahs.
Here is an alternative take: Because Americans are now blatantly accusing Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs, Iran is feeling the pressure. They know that once Americans level an accusation (as with our we--founded accusation that Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by Syria), we will not just back down, like the Europeans do. Thus, Iran must come up with some plausible explanation why their intelligence officers are in Iran.
Since they cannot do so, this is the best they can manage.
This tells me that Iran will never negotiate in good faith. The Baker-Hamilton recommendation is revealed as the idiocy the blogosphere has called it from the very beginning.
Date ►►► January 29, 2007
Four Walls Do Not a Wilderness Make
This story jumped out at me precisely because I don't think most bloggers will cover it... yet it cuts right to the heart of the conflict between Right and Left -- more specifically, between conservationists and environmentalists.
Back in July of 2006, a "small group of environmentalists" won a victory in federal court, when U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii ordered a halt to seven reconstruction projects in Yosemite National Park. The projects had begun pursuant to two major plans: the Merced River Plan and the Yosemite Valley Plan.
Both plans were written shortly after a devastating flood of the Merced River back in 1997; the flood wiped out campgrounds, employee housing, hotels, trails, roads, sewer and water lines, electrical lines -- virtually the entire infrastructure of the park in that area.
The rebuiding aimed to restore much of what was lost -- while simultaneously relocating most employee housing outside the park, reducing the number of hotel rooms, and designating more areas off-limits to private cars, forcing visitors to park and ride on more environmentally friendly buses:
Together, the documents provided an ambitious blueprint to reinvent Yosemite. The Wilderness Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, the American Alpine Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council eagerly endorsed them....
Californians, too, overwhelmingly approved of the plans, according to a statewide poll commissioned by the defense council shortly after the plans were announced.
But two small environmental organizations, Friends of Yosemite Valley and Mariposans for Environmentally Responsible Growth, opposed the plans. They sued, arguing that the Merced River Plan was hastily written, used flawed data and favored development [Note that last cause of action; it is the key to this entire case].
U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii agreed and rejected the plan in July. He ordered the Park Service to draft a new plan, a process the Park Service says will take 33 months. In October, Ishii shut down several construction projects until the new plan is drafted.
The ruling by Judge Ishii -- a Clinton appointee -- followed a 2004 ruling by the notoriously liberal Ninth Circus Court of Appeals overturning an earlier Fresno judge's ruling against the environmentalists. The Ninth issued an injunction, also stopping construction; Judge Ishii's ruling last July was whether the Merced River plan could be "tweaked," or whether it would have to be completely junked and a new plan started from scratch.
Judge Ishii held the latter. Now any reconstruction must await an entirely new plan -- and nearly three more years of planning (during which more lawsuits can be filed, possibly "delaying" the rebuilding indefinitely).
Reading a bit between the lines, the real agenda of the environmentalists appears to be to wall off Yosemite from tourism:
The case may come down to the challenge facing all of America's parks: Should they remain open to everyone, or should access be limited in the interest of protecting them?
The SFGate story goes into more detail about the same basic conflict:
[The environmenatlist plaintiffs] believe the Park Service has crafted a plan to urbanize Yosemite and create a theme park resort. They argue it will expand Yosemite Lodge, cede the valley to tour buses and push traditional campers aside in favor of RVs. They say the plan does little to restore the valley's beauty....
"We see the proposals at Yosemite as benefiting the wealthy and the corporate interests over the people," he said. "It's mass-transit, tour-bus tourism."
Note the irony: the entire point of the "mass-transit, tour-bus" plan is to dramatically reduce the number of private cars driving up and down the valley... a goal with which Friends of Yosemite Valley and Mariposans for Environmentally Responsible Growth both agree. They're opposed to private-car tourism in Yosemite.
But they're also opposed to tour-bus tourism. About the only conclusion left is that Friends and Mariposans simply want nearly all ordinary people to stop coming to Yosemite altogether, leaving it "protected" from everyone but hikers who are intrepid enough to hike all the way into the area -- dozens of miles -- a trek that would take many days: that's what they mean when they say reject any plan unless it "respects the river and works toward protection."
Here is the basic dichotomy; it's between conservationists and environmentalists:
- Conservationists want to protect nature for humans;
- Environmentalists want to protect nature from humans.
The Yosemite park planners are at a loss for what the environmentalists want them to do:
The plaintiffs' reading of the plans stuns park officials and their supporters. Yosemite Superintendent Mike Tollefson says Adair's claims are "so bogus."
"Before the flood, we had twice the number of rooms at the lodge," he said. "Cutting the number of rooms in half is not urbanization. We've lost more than 300 camping spaces. That's not urbanization. We've got a plan to move 600 more employees out of the valley. That's not urbanization. We've got a shuttle system that gets people out of their cars. That's not urbanization."
Yet the environmentalists' position has now been read into law, first by the Ninth Circuit and now by Judge Ishii. At this point, it would seem the only relief for the people of the United States, who might think they had some claim on land set aside especially for them, would have to come from the U.S. Supreme Court. And this is the central issue: to whom does federal land belong? To the people, collectively, of the United States of America? Or to nature-elitists, high priests of the cult of misanthropic environmentalism?
The bizarre coda to this legal danse macabre is that tourism to Yosemite National Park has been declining anyway for many years. According to AP:
In 1996, when the park had a record 4 million visitors, rangers shut gates when all parking spaces were filled. But last year, the nation's third-most popular park hit a 16-year low with 3.36 million visitors.
Park tourism has dropped a worrisome 16% in ten years; and even mainstream conservationist groups (the Wilderness Society, the NRDC, and so forth) approved the Merced River and Yosemite Valley reconstruction plans -- which actually reduce the "urbanization" of the park. Still, the environmentalists evidenly won't be satisfied until the only people who can visit Yosemite are members of Friends of Yosemite Valley or Mariposans for Environmentally Responsible Growth, many of whose members actually live near enough to hike into the area.
This is an astonishing position to take: that the purpose of the National Park System is to protect the wilderness areas from human beings, rather than to afford ordinary people the opportunity to experience nature without having to be mountain men or wilderness scouts. But it fits well with an environmentalist movement that has become less concerned about the full environment (which of course includes human beings) and simply opposed to people, ordinary people, instead.
Sachi has often asked me why, if environmentalists care so much about pollution, they aren't in China and Russia, protesting the massive contamination of water and air. I believe this case is a window into their souls: they're not all that concerned about curing environmental damage in areas where people actually live (especially not in Socialist or quasi-Socialist countries); rather, they want to rescue wild Earth from people altogether... environmentalists see humans themselves as "the problem" that needs to be cured.
Yet another in the seemingly endless chain of contradictions on the Left.
Date ►►► January 28, 2007
Narcissa of Nova Yorc
This hagiographic Hillary-ous AP piece is remarkable for the casual arrogance she displays... the contempt not only for us peons but also for her rivals for the Democratic nomination. For example, how's this?
"I am going to level with you, the president has said this is going to be left to his successor," Clinton said. "I think it is the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it."
Buried within this "how dare you!" is the offhand assumption that HRH HRC is just naturally going to be the next president of the United States. Yeesh.
She also slips into the "royal we" when not consciously fighting against it:
Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush should withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office, asserting it would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief.
"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.
"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.
Harumph. We are not amused.
We are, however, amused by the cockamamie idea that the Iraq war is Bush's mess, and as such, he should clean it up (withdraw all the troops) by the arbitrary date of January 20th, 2009... no matter what is happening on the ground. That would be like President-presumptive Dwight D. Eisenhower demanding in 1950 that Truman withdraw every last soldier and Marine from South Korea before January 20th, 1953 -- or they (Eisenhower) would stamp their feet like Rumplestiltskin (or Rumplestiltskins).
Here's more of Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham, patronization on parade:
One questioner asked Clinton if her track record showed she could stand up to "evil men" around the world.
"The question is, we face a lot of dangers in the world and, in the gentleman's words, we face a lot of evil men and what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men," Clinton said. She paused to gaze while the audience interrupted with about 30 seconds of laughter and applause.
Oh, yes, the perennial Democratic fantasy: that George W. Bush is the most evil man who ever lived, next to whom the jihadists (if they even exist) pale into insignificance.
She never did actually answer the question. Here is a near-miss:
During the town hall meeting, she tried to make clear that she thinks she would be a chief executive with enough fortitude to confront any danger facing the country.
"I believe that a lot in my background and a lot in my public life shows the character and toughness that is required to be president," Clinton said [Caesara of Chappaqua elected not to elaborate]. "It also shows that I want to get back to bringing the world around to support us again."
This is condescending in the worst way, just as she practiced during her entire first senatorial campaign: questions are effrontery; interrogators are traitors -- off with their heads!
Finally, here is a tyop that, I think, shows the true feelings of the Associated Press and many other establishment liberals -- why they're so anxious for Madame to be elected:
Clinton said he will run hard in Iowa's leadoff caucuses, an early contest her husband skipped when he sought the nomination in 1992 [He, not she; the Big He]. That year, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin was in the race and Democratic rivals opted not to challenge him in his home state.
"My participation in the Iowa caucuses is the only thing in politics that I will do that Bill has not done," she said.
I have long suspected that AP, et al, imagine that a Hillary presidency would really mean two more terms for Bill Clinton. This is a not so very secret desire to return to those days of peace and tranquility (assuming one didn't live in Bosnia, Kosovo, or Haiti), back to the womb, when nobody had ever heard of Osama bin Laden or seen any need for a United States military. As all wise men know, the quickest and easiest way to make evil go away is to pretend it's not there. That always works.
Oh well, I'm sure I'm reading too much into this piece. It's just a bit of fluff, and you shouldn't even have wasted your time reading it. Too bad I didn't tell you that before you started, eh?
For God's sake, next time, before you commence reading -- have the common sense to skip to the end and see whether it's going to be on the test, even!
Date ►►► January 26, 2007
Congressional Resolutions vs. Presidential Resolution
In contrast to the vapid congressional resolutions of irresolution floating around the Dome today -- which can only hurt the war effort -- this sort of talk can only help:
George W. Bush on Friday sought to deny widespread rumours his administration was preparing some kind of military action against Iran. Mr Bush confirmed a report in Friday’s Washington Post that he had authorised US troops to shoot and kill Iranian operatives in Iraq, but denied this was a prelude to stronger action.
“We believe we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically,” said the US president. “It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them.”
But the US president’s relatively emollient comments are unlikely to quell speculation about the reasons behind the recent escalation of White House rhetoric towards Iran.
I love this meme for several reasons:
- Note the "non-denial denial" from the Big Boss: he believes that we can resolve our problems diplomatically; but he pointedly refused to promise that we will not attack Iran.
- The Commander in Chief's actions -- setting up a sufficient force in the Persian Gulf to execute the Herman Option -- are orthogonal to his words; the mullahs have got to be sweating beneath their turbins.
Already there is some nervousness in the fundamentalist Iranian ranks. From a recent post on MEMRI (and I deep tip of the hat to Friend Lee):
In a January 9, 2007 editorial, the conservative daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami, which is close to the religious seminaries in Qom, attacked Ahmadinejad's handling of the nuclear dossier, and called upon him to let the professionals handle the dossier and to cut back to a minimum his incendiary statements on the issue. The daily also criticized his incorrect assessment of the impact of the sanctions, and called upon him to use greater prudence and not to hide their true effects from the people....~
Referring to the increasing U.S. pressure on Iran, and noting that because of it there was a need for a sane and measured policy so as not to play into the hands of the U.S., Mohsen Rezai, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, said: "America is trying to provoke Iran so that Iran will respond forcefully. But [now], unlike in the past, we are not adventure-seekers. This time, we must act reasonably and at the same time prevent America from accomplishing its goals - one of which is to block our progress..."  On another occasion, Rezai said: "We must not make concessions to the enemy for no reason, but [at the same time] we must not underestimate the enemy's [strength]... Statesmanship in Iran requires reason, wisdom and steadfastness..." [elipses in original]
Further, in a January 17, 2007 editorial titled "[Hassan] Rouhani [chief nuclear negotiator under former Iranian president Khatami] or Ahmadinejad - Who Is to Blame?" the Baztab website, which is affiliated with Mohsen Rezai, analyzed the nuclear crisis. The editorial pointed out that it was deviation from the policy of wise steadfastness, dictated by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the failure to maintain any diplomatic process with the West, that had led Iran to the direst strategic situation it had ever known....~
In an interview for the conservative news agency Aftab, Expediency Council Member Mohammed Hashemi of the reformist Kargozaran party said that since he assumed power, Ahmadinejad had been unable to thwart U.S. plans regarding Iran....
"In the past year, during which the current government has taken charge [of the nuclear dossier], we saw the [sanctions] resolution passed [by the Security Council]. I believe that with its next steps, America will realize all its aspirations [with respect to Iran]. Therefore, we need skilled, experienced and moderate individuals to save our country from crisis..." [elipses in original]
Note that the Expediency Council serves as sort of a supreme court in Iran, mediating conflicts between the Council of Guardians -- the religious body that elects the Supreme Leader (currently Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) -- and the Majlis, the Iranian parliament. It's a very powerful body controlled by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has no love for current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man who beat him in the election of June 24th, 2005. Each member is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader himself.
I take the expression "moderate individuals" above to mean non-Twelvers, Iranians who do not believe in the imminent appearance of the Twelfth (Hidden) Imam -- in other words, not somebody like Ahmadinejad and his "Self-Sacrificers."
Twelvers in Iran are millenarians who believe the End of Days is nigh, and that the best way to wake up the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam, is to precipitate the final war of Dar el-Islam (the realm of peace, Moslemland) and Dar el-Harb (the realm of strife, the rest of the world outside Moslemland).
Ahmadinejad seems to believe this will happen within the next year or two; and I think a number of "conservative" commentators -- the word here means fundamentalist Shiism of the Qom school in Iran, the pro-mullah faction, as opposed to the "reformers" -- are growing increasingly uncomfortable with President Ahmadinejad's combative and truculent tone... and increasingly worried about the "Western" (read: American) response.
(The Qom school of Shiism believes that the religious authorities trump the secular authorities and should rule, as with the mullahs in Iran. By contrast, the Najaf (or sometimes Quietist) school -- exemplified by Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- believes that religious leaders should not wield secular power. Najaf has a much longer tradition of Shiite leadership than Qom, but Qom has the force of Iran behind it now.)
- It's always better, in my opinion, to leave your enemies in a state of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) than to let them know what is actually going to happen... even if what is going to happen is an attack. Uncertainty whether you will be attacked is actually more stressful than certain knowledge you will be attacked.
Bush's mebbie-we-will, mebbie-we-won't has got to be nerve-wracking to the mullahs, most of whom are emminently practical about their delusions: they prefer to systematically go about seizing all power in the Middle East (as a stepping stone to, you know, ruling the world; and no, I'm not joking).
Ahmadinejad, by contrast, literally believes that Allah will send the Twelfth Imam and the heavenly host to fight on the side of Iran against America... thus, the greater the foe, the greater the glory! He really does want a war with the United States; I suspect he is "enraptured" by the idea -- and I choose my words with clarity and precision.
The "conservatives" seem unamused by his monkey-like caperings (Ahmadinejad's nickname in Iran is, in fact, "the Monkey"): Either he's mad as a March hatter, in which case Iran would be destroyed to no purpose; or else the supernatural hand of Allah really will reach down from Paradise, in which case we're on the wrong end of the point-spread anyway, and Ahmadinejad's brazen tauntings won't be necessary.
Either way, it's a very, very good play to keep the Iranians off-balance about what we're going to do. Let them stew and suffer.
So bravo to Bush; his cageyness on the quesion of attacking Iran will have far more of an impact on our most dangerous enemies than will the buffoonery of Congress. Which is good, because as foolish as the antics of the Cowards Corps are, that's how brilliant the president's game is.
I was going to say "I sure wouldn't want to play poker against George W. Bush;" but then I realized that the chance to meet him is certainly worth the price of my bankroll!
Eat Or Be Eaten
Democrats have charged that President Bush changed his mind about how well the war was going in Iraq after -- and in response to -- the November election losses. But now it seems that one of the most important changes, the new rules of engagement (ROEs, or new "rule-sets," as Thomas P.M. Barnett would have it), was actually made before that dreadful event... raising the specter that the "decider" might actually have made the decision on its merits, not because of crass political calculation.
Thus it might have come from the military, as Bush said -- not from Karl Rove, as the Democrats say. Great Scott!
As long ago as last fall, the Bush administration authorized our forces to kill or capture any Iranian intelligence agents or members of the Revolutionary Guards sent into Iraq (Qods Force):
The move, approved last fall, is aimed at weakening Iran's influence in the region and forcing Tehran to abandon its nuclear program that the West believes is for nuclear weapons and not energy, the newspaper said, citing the unidentified officials.
For more than a year, U.S. forces have held dozens of Iranians for a few days, taking DNA samples from some as well as photographs and fingerprints from all those captured, the report said [DNA samples allow easy and exact identification of remains after missile strikes -- a delicious prospect].
Several Iranian officials have been detained in three U.S. raids over the last month. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters on Wednesday that details of accusations against them would be made public in the coming days.
This coincides with Bush's decision to send two carrier battle groups to the Persian Gulf, to pack a bunch of ABM missiles into friendly countries in the area (such as the United Arab Emirates), and to arm-twist the Brits into sending a pair of minesweeping ships there as well.
I like these moves. In the face of aggressive posturing by Iran and Syria, I have always believed we're far better off confronting and escalating -- reraising the bluffer -- than folding -- withdrawing, apologizing, or trying to come to some diplomatic accomodation ("how about if you only take half of Iraq, and we'll call it even?")
Hezbollah is currently threatening the elected Lebanese government; the proper response is for Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to escalate to the brink of civil war, knowing that if Hezbollah "calls," there is at least a 50-50 chance Hezbollah will be destroyed (especially if the Israelis return, this time under new management); but if Siniora sits back and lets Hezbollah set the pace, then the Lebanese government will assuredly be destroyed and Siniora himself killed, no matter what promises Bashar Assad makes.
Syria has also been representing that it's about to pour across the border again; the United States should call that bluff by overflying the Syrian-Lebanese border with warplanes, making it plain that we're not going to allow Syria to roll south, as they did in the late 1970s: Damascus is not immune, and Teheran cannot protect them from American air power.
We did not destroy the Soviet Union by pulling back when they threatened, or by passively letting them seize more territory; we destroyed them by constant confrontation, containment, and a relentless pro-freedom, pro-liberty propaganda campaign waged through the 1980s.
And that is exactly how we can first contain, then roll back global jihadism: confrontation, coupled with alleviating the conditions that spawn people eager to become martyrs for jihad -- "shrinking the Gap." (Barnett's main thesis.)
You win a war by aggression, not passivity.
Shoot the Chute
This is just kind of a creepy story; I'm only interested because it almost exactly parallels a book proposal I pitched a number of years ago... which was rejected for being too unrealistic.
Two gals are best friends (this is in the town of Opglabbeek, Belgium). They're both skydivers... but one starts having an affair with the other gal's weirdo boyfriend.
The cheatin' skydiver, her girlfriend, the cheatin' boyfriend, and an extra in a red shirt jump out of a perfectly good airplane. They form a "star." Four jumpers split apart and pull their ripcords; three parachutes pop open.
The cheatin' girl plummets earthward. Astonishingly, even her reserve chute fails. After a 13,000-foot freefall, she smacks into the ground in front of a bunch of spectators, planting herself deep enough that all they had to do was shovel some dirt over the top.
But when the authorities review the footage from her helmet cam, they realize that both her chutes had been sabotaged... and now her best friend, the girl whose boyfriend was having an affair with the dead girl, has been arrested for premeditated murder.
Here's a clip from the eulogy by the dead girl's sister:
At Mrs Van Doren’s funeral, about 1,000 people heard her sister deliver a bitter eulogy. “You did all you could during that final jump to save yourself,” she was quoted as saying in the Belgian press. “But someone did not want you to live.”
Huh, maybe I should dust off my proposal and make the rounds again... nah -- now they'd just say, "it's too derivative!"
Date ►►► January 25, 2007
The Urge to Surge - UPDATED
UPDATED with illuminating analogy... see below!
Paul Mirengoff of Power Line has an interesting argument -- but it ultimately fails of its logic:
I've always believed that Senators have an obligation to vote their conscience on matters of war and peace....
So where does that leave a Republican Senator who thinks it's a mistake to "surge"?.... Many conservatives who aren't running for office have said that the surge is a bad idea. (I have expressed my reservations about it). Thus, the law of averages tells us that, political calculation aside, there will be more than a few Republican Senators who have that belief....
Most of the "wobbly" Republicans appear to be trying to balance their conviction that the surge is a bad idea against their concern over the impact of an anti-surge resolution on the war effort. This is a responsible approach.... In my view, the best resolution for those who don't want the surge but aren't prepared to block it, would be one that expresses their skepticism, but also their hope that the surge succeeds and their willingness, now that it has been decided upon, to give it a fair chance.
Paul himself touches on the point that nullifies his argument. His point would hold -- only if Congress were in a position to stop the surge; and only then if they did so privately, not as a public rebuke.
Given the powerlessness (and rightly so!) of Congress to decide upon the particular strategies and tactics used by our military forces to fight the war (that clearly being an area where the Constitution clearly gives the Executive full control), Congress has no business smashmouthing the decisions of the generals or the Commander in Chief, a.k.a. the president.
It is functionally the same as when Gen. Douglas MacArthur was insubordinate to President Harry Truman anent the Korean War and whether we should invade China: once the decision is made, it is the duty of all those who do not have the power to reverse that decision to do everything they can to support it and help it succeed.
Nothing that Congress is doing in these resolutions helps the war in any way. And while conservatives who are not in public office always have the right, under the First Amendment, to express disapproval, however vehemently they choose to do so... such a "right" does not extend to the Congress of the United States in its official actions: the Congress, as a branch of the government, cannot morally or ethically repudiate wartime decisions in a way that will undercut the war effort itself. That's not patriotic; it's puerile.
And nobody has yet articulated any reasonable way in which these resolutions would help the war effort. Paul tries, gamely but vainly, to do so:
On the other hand, some say that such resolutions signal to the Iraqi government that our patience is not limitless and thus will induce it to improve its behavior.
But that is not the signal these resolutions of irresolution send: rather, they send the message that we a are a government divided, that we will pull out and abandon our allies in Iraq, that we have no stomach for the fight. If Congress wants to send a message, they should send it to the president... not try to conduct ad-hoc foreign policy by long-distance proxy. They can tell President Bush that they will not endlessly vote funding if there is no measurable progress on the ground.
But these resolutions are the worst of all worlds -- expressing fear and loathing without lifting a finger to do anything about it. "You're going to lose, you're going to lose! But don't expect me to stop you." (And neither of the two resolutions, so far as I have seen, expresses any hope at all that "the surge succeeds.")
Thus, much as I understand Paul's reluctance to support the Kagan strategy, and his discomfort at telling off senators for supporting what he, himself proposed a couple of months ago, he must take into account that the decision has already been made: and there is nothing honorable left but for Congress to support it, whole-heartedly and full-throatedly, until such time as they have an actual, constitutional decision to make.
There is never a good enough excuse to vote an extra-constitutional slap in the face to the American military in the midst of a difficult war, especially when the only possible motivation is to vent one's spleen -- having nothing better to contribute.
UPDATE, a few minutes later: Here is an analogy to demonstrate why I think Paul's argument fails...
Suppose you have a serious illness -- cancer. You discuss it with your doctor and your family, and you decide that surgery is your best option.
You arrange for the date, you show up at the hospital, and you're all prepped. Then, just before they wheel you into the operating room, your next-door neighbor shows up -- she has no familiarity with surgery, with surgeons, with this particular surgeon, or with the various medical treatments for your type of cancer -- yet she says, "surgery is against your health interest; you're just going to die in there!"
Now, she may have the sincere conviction that surgery is bad; after all, she once had an aunt who died in surgery -- in 1974. But that makes no difference; the decision is already made, and you're not going to change your mind because some random, uninformed acquaintance thinks surgery is barbaric.
Which means the only possible result of her outspoken resolution is to scare the living daylights out of you at just the moment you most need emotional support. In fact, she might even make it less likely you survive, because you'll be in such a fright that you might not react well to the anaesthesia.
Is there any imaginable scenario under which her action would be anything but despicable?
A New Liz-ard?
I just devoured a killer OpEd piece in the Washington Post that reads so brilliant, so clear and concise, and so inarguable that it could have been a Big Lizards post. The author is a former "principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs;" she heads the Iran-Syria Operations Group (ISOG), which uses its $80 budget to promote democracy (that is, regime change) in Iran and Syria; and she is married to Phil Perry, the General Counsel of the United States Department of Homeland Security. This gal has gravitas.
In fact, she is even a "Liz-ard," so to speak; her Christian name is Elizabeth, and she goes by Liz... some young gal named Liz Cheney.
I believe she has a famous father, but I don't think I've heard of him.
There are so many great quotes from this piece, I hardly know where to begin. Dang, I sure wish she were a senator, governor, or president! Here are a few excerpts, beginning with, well, the very beginning:
Sen. Hillary Clinton declared this weekend, "I'm in to win." Anyone who has watched her remarkable trajectory can have no doubt that she'll do whatever it takes to win the presidency. I wish she felt the same way about the war.
A few more, just to give you a taste of the joy you'll experience savoring this piece:
We are at war. America faces an existential threat. This is not, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi has claimed, a "situation to be solved." It would be nice if we could wake up tomorrow and say, as Sen. Barack Obama suggested at a Jan. 11 hearing, "Enough is enough." Wishing doesn't make it so. We will have to fight these terrorists to the death somewhere, sometime. We can't negotiate with them or "solve" their jihad. If we quit in Iraq now, we must get ready for a harder, longer, more deadly struggle later....
Beware the polls. In November the American people expressed serious concerns about Iraq (and about Republican corruption and scandals). They did not say that they want us to lose this war. They did not say that they want us to allow Iraq to become a base for al-Qaeda to conduct global terrorist operations. They did not say that they would rather we fight the terrorists here at home. Until you see a poll that asks those questions, don't use election results as an excuse to retreat....
Our soldiers will win if we let them. Read their blogs. Talk to them. They know that free people must fight to defend their freedom. No force on Earth -- especially not an army of terrorists and insurgents -- can defeat our soldiers militarily. American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield. And by the way, you cannot wish failure on our soldiers' mission and claim, at the same time, to be supporting the troops. It just doesn't compute.
This is a rousing bitch-slapping of Sen. Hillary, but also of Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME, 32%) and Susan Collins (ME, 32%); and it's a bastard-slapping of Republican Sens. Warner, Hagel, Coleman, Brownback, Voinovich, and Smith. All of these Republicans (everyone listed above except Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, 100%) collectively form the Cowards Corps.
I listened to Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN, 63%) on Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday, and I was rather amused that he did not spend one, single minute explicating why it would help the war effort to send our troops into battle accompanied by the announcement that they're sure to be defeated. (St. Crispin's Day, it ain't.) Rather, Coleman spent the entire interview desperately (and laughably) arguing that the Warner amendment does not say the surge won't work.
Doddering octogenarian Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) resolution calls, instead of the strategic change of course that the president has already selected, that instead we should announce that we'll be withdrawing by 2008, and that instead we should negotiate with Iran and Syria, begging them to "stabilize" Iraq when we leave.
At the most, it forsees a really tiny surgelet, and only in Anbar province to fight Sunni terrorists... to heck with Baghdad, to heck with democratizing Iraq, to heck with everything else. It's about as anti-surge as the Biden-Hagel amendment, except it doesn't use the Vietnamesque word "escalation." Has Coleman even read it?
Perhaps Mrs. Cheney-Perry could telephone the Cowards Corps and personally tell them just how clownish they are being. (She certainly seems to have more testosterone than any of the males in that group. Well, more than Snowe and Collins, too, of course; but that's not as funny.) Not only are they damaging the country, but even worse from their perspective, they're damaging their own political careers: being a cowardly Republican won't help if their constituents actually want a principled, anti-American Democrat.
Speaking of which, Power Liners John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson followed Coleman on Hugh Hewitt's show, and they tried manfully to find some way to harmonize his current antics with his former stand-up attitude on the war. The best Scott could do was suggest that Coleman's "political viability" in Minnesota politics would be damaged if he did not nakedly undermine our troops. (Evidently, the typical Minnesotan is praying that we lose the war, so America will be humbled and broken.)
I would send a message to Mr. Coleman: dear Senator; if the only way you could maintain your political viability would be to sell out your country during a war -- then you have a duty to sacrifice your political career by doing the right thing instead.
I know it's giddy optimism, but I think there really is a chance that some of these Republican senators will come to their senses -- before they put Congress on record saying we're going to lose the war, and it's too late.
(For comparison's sake, here is how King Henry Vth of England sent off his troops on St. Crispin's Day -- with himself at the head of them... at least according to that Shakespeare fellow; click the "Slither on.")
From King Henry the Vth, Act IV, Scene 3:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Date ►►► January 24, 2007
The Lizards React to the State of the Union
I have to be honest: I'm often more affected in the long term by speeches delivered low-key than by ringing, declaiming barn-winders by William Jennings Bryan wannabes; I will not crucify Mankind upon a cross of rhetoric. So to cut to the climax before we've even left the introduction, I absolutely loved the State of the Union speech last night.
The mix between domestic affairs and foreign relations was a little too skewed towards the former; but the domestic agenda that President Bush raised is by and large sound:
- Keeping the economy rolling without tax increases;
- Holding the line on spending. The Democrats have already killed the Gregg amendment, which would have allowed the president to send unvoted earmarks back to Congress to reconsider -- in the full light of day; so if this is to happen, it will have to be through presidential vetoes (I'm pleased that the GOP found enough of a spine to filibuster the minimum-wage increase until there are proper safeguards for small businesses);
- Earmark reform in general (the Democratic House reluctantly supports it; the Democratic Senate recoils as from a leper);
- Reform of "entitlement" programs: Medicare, Medicaid, and of course Social Security; as Lawrence Kudlow explained: "The real problem with Social Security is not bankruptcy. It's the dreadful investment return (barely 1 percent) that future retirees have to look forward to."
Expanding "No Child Left Behind" -- eh, it's probably a minor improvement. Nobody is championing my personal solution: the real problem with American public education is not lack of money, oversized classes, the specific curriculum, or the particular mix of administration to teachers: the real problem with American public eduction is that most teachers are plain lousy.
The solution is to fire the incompetents; all else is dicta. At a minimum, teachers who cannot pass subject-matter tests at least at college level (for teaching primary school) or graduate level (for teaching secondary school) should be sent packing: if you cannot pass a mathematics test equivalent to a GRE, you have no business teaching high-school math.
- A tax deduction for health-care insurance: I never met a tax cut I didn't like; but this is "DOA" in the Democratic Congress, or at least "wounded on arrival," as Ron Pollack of the ultra-liberal Families USA put it (link is subscriber only, but you can find the same sound-bite elsewhere);
- Comprehensive immigration reform -- you know where we stand on this one!
- More nuclear power plants, coal, solar, wind (yes); more ethanol (yeesh); and although Bush referred to us being "on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil," I wanted to hear more about advanced reactor designs -- and especially high-temperature ceramic engines;
- A straight up-or-down vote in the Senate on all federal judges appointed by any president: this is so no-brainer that even Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 96%) probably supports it!
But where Bush really shone was in his ringing defense of the war in Iraq as part of the larger war on global jihadism. From the recitation of several huge, ghastly terrorist attacks that we thwarted after 9/11; to the chilling quotations from the jihadis themselves about their murder, mayhem, and bloodlusting plans for our future; to the brief explication of the split among the jihadis between Sunni and Shia... all of it was grand and necessary.
And it seems to have had some effect. John Hinderaker at Power Line buried this great news at the bottom of a post about Sen. Lurch opting out of the presidential race; but the news deserves its own post: a CNN poll found significant movement towards the president among those who viewed the speech (laugh at CNN's lefty spin):
Forty-one percent of 370 adults who watched the speech said they had a "very positive" reaction to it. Another 37 percent said their response was "somewhat positive." In 2006, however, the "very positive" number was 48 percent; in 2005, it was 60 percent....
Sixty-seven percent of speech watchers said they believe Bush's policies will move the country in the right direction, the lowest total of his presidency. In 2006, the number was 68 percent; in 2005, it was 77 percent.
Meanwhile, 53 percent said they believe the speech will lead to more cooperation between Bush and the Democrats who control Congress. Forty-three percent said it will lead to more disagreements.
Among the speech viewers, 51 percent said they were very or somewhat confident that the United States will achieve its goals in Iraq. After Bush's 2004 speech, the number was 71 percent.
But before Bush's 2007 speech -- which is the proper comparison -- the number was 25%. Which means that before Bush's January 11th speech, 25% - 29% of people thought our strategic change of course in Iraq would help; but now, after that speech and after the State of the Union speech (among those who actually listened to it), the percent that believed the new strategy would help more than doubled.
Note, these are two separate pools of respondents: most of those surveyed on January 11th had not watched the president's speech -- and it was heavily skewed towards Democrats. The CNN poll had a much smaller partisan advantage, and those polled were all interested enough to have troubled to watch the SOTU. The wording of the questions was also marginally different. But those differences do not account for all of that rise, in my opinion.
I think this speech did change people's minds. Some people, at least; perhaps only Republicans and some portion of Independents... but that's a start. The reason Bush's approval rating is so incredibly low (especially with such a good economy) is that many of his core supporters have deserted him -- mostly on the war.
The word "dire" is being flung about by everybody now (they got it from the Baker-Hamilton ISG report); even Lt. Gen. David Petraeus used it during his testimony a couple of days ago. But for God's sake, "dire" describes Dunkirk, not Baghdad. "Dire" describes the retreat down the "frozen Cho-sen" in 1950. "Dire" is the word you'd use for the beleagured 20th Maine Volunteers, commanded by Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, on Little Round Top, at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863...
And it's important to note -- three fights far more dire than what we've got in Iraq... yet we won every one of those wars.
Iraq is neither so dire nor so bloody, by orders of magnitude, as World War II, the Korean War, or the Civil War. But those were fought by a different class of American, I reckon... a class that had the courage of their convictions, and just plain old courage. Don't we want to take them as our model, rather than Murtha, Pelosi, Hagel, and their ilk?
I believe this speech by Bush has called us all to courage by the simple act of patience: remember that we're Americans, he urges, and give our change in strategy some time to work.
I think both the speech and the underlying strategic change have already started to work; the panic has abated somewhat, and we're killing and capturing both Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squad members at a joyful clip. Fear is the mind-killer: when the shroud of fear lifts, and people can start to look with dispassionate eyes, they will see that we're really not doing anywhere near as badly as the knee-knockers pretend.
Are we doing as well as we would like? Hell no; but that always happens in the midst of a war. The proper reaction is to figure out what we're doing wrong, fix it, and move forward towards victory.
That is what President Bush, David Petraeus, and the rest of the American military command are doing. What about Congress? As a number of us are asking, what conceivable purpose does it serve, when the strategy is already decided and in motion, to pass a resolution expressing Congress's firm belief that we're going to fail and go down to horrible defeat?
As Sachi put it, these resolutions may be non-binding, but they are not non-damaging.
We only have one question for the nitwits dithering about whether to sign aboard either "surrender swift" or "surrender slow" -- the decision has been made; the die is cast. We're rolling; are you coming?
In the first (easy) test today, some of the Republican cowards found just enough courage to reject the worse, Democratic version of the defeatism resolution today, Joe Biden's (D-DE, 100%) "surrender swift":
The Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee dismissed President Bush's plans to increase troops strength in Iraq on Wednesday as "not in the national interest," an unusual wartime repudiation of the commander in chief.
The vote on the nonbinding measure was 12-9 and largely along party lines.
"We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder," said Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the sole Republican to join 11 Democrats in support of the measure.
There are two other weak-kneed Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee: Norm Coleman (R-MN, 64%) and George Voinovich (R-OH, 68%); when an attempt by Coleman to amend the bill to make it more like Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) slightly less repulsive and dishonorable defeatism resolution ("surrender slow") was defeated in a bipartisan rejection, 17-4, both Coleman and Voinovich refused to sign aboard the Biden version.
In a defeat for Democrats that heartens me a bit, an amendment by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 100%) went down 15-6; it would have capped the number of American forces in Iraq, saying they "may not exceed the levels" we had before President Bush gave his speech announcing the strategic change of course. As there are only ten Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee, that means that at least five Democrats voted against capping the troops. (AP did not deign to tell us whether Sen. Chuck Hagel voted for or against the Dodd amendment, but I suspect he voted against it.)
Speaking of not telling, here is the entirety of what Reuters said about the actual vote on the resolution in committee:
On a bipartisan vote of 12-9, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution expressing clear disapproval of Bush's Iraq policy, a day after he asked Congress to give it more time to work. The vote is nonbinding, but supporters hope it will convince the president to reconsider.
Note how "largely along party lines" (AP) becomes "a bipartisan vote" (Reuters). Reuters does not see fit to mention that by "bipartisan vote," they meant 11 Democrats and one Republican.
A later Reuters story corrected that bizarre mischaracterization (the first story was kneejerk; the second was perhaps written after consulting their "public editor," if they have one):
The 12-9 vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drew less Republican support than expected, given growing doubts in Congress about the wisdom of Bush's decision to add 21,500 troops in Baghdad and Anbar province. [By "growing doubts," they mean that liberals of both parties are increasingly against the war; only three non-liberal Republicans support any of these measures.]
Only one Republican, resolution co-author Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, voted for it, after accusing the Bush administration of playing "ping-pong" with American lives.
I'm cautiously optimistic... but the real test comes later, when the Senate is ready to vote on the Warner "surrender slow" resolution: where will Coleman and Voinovich stand then? Will they come to their senses enough to realize that, if they're worried about their constituents' dislike of the war, they can always vote against the resolutions (saying they undercut the president) -- but still badmouth the war back home?
None Dare Call It Cowardice
Here is the most current list of Republican cowards that I can put together:
- Sam Brownback (KS, 100%)
- Susan Collins (ME, 32%)
- Olympia Snowe (ME, 32%)
- Norm Coleman (MN, 64%)
- Chuck Hagel (NE, 96%)
- George Voinovich (OH, 68%)
- Gordon Smith (OR, 58%)
- John Warner (VA, 88%)
The first thing to note is that, apart from Brownback, Hagel, and Warner, the rest are RINOs with an average "Republican partisan score" of only 50.4%; the only other Republican senator who scores lower than the top of this liberal group (Voinovich, 68%) is Sen. Arlen Specter (PA, 63%)... every other Republican senator is more Republican than these five, according to the American Conservative Union ratings.
All right, but what about the three we singled out first? What's up with them? Chuck Hagel has been against the war almost from the very beginning; he appears to be simply opposed to the very concept of American troops being sent anywhere for any reason.
Sam Brownback is running for president -- and he appears to have drunk the media Flavor-Aid that says the American people are desperate to lose in Iraq and are just begging us to turn tail and flee. Having neither principles nor brain cells, Brownback naturally tailors his message to what CBS tells him Americans want to hear.
John Warner is a strange case, however; I can only conclude that his very advanced age -- he turns 80 years old in 25 days -- has driven him into timidity and fear; Warner has become Grandpa Simpson... "oh no, we're all doomed!" What a sad, pathetic old man. If he had any decency, he would resign from the Senate, rather than disgrace his years of fine service with end-of-career hysteria and panic.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN, 88%) is trembling in his boots a bit, but he has not yet completely jumped the shark. And of course, the shining honor roll of Democrats supporting the president on his strategic change of course in Iraq -- exactly what they have pretended to demand for months now -- has but a single member: Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT, 80%).
If the roll-call stays as it is now, and if Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 100%) has enough brass to pull the trigger, then the GOP should be able to filibuster both these insulting, defeatist, and unAmerican resolutions to death: Even if every one of the eight poltroons listed above votes for cloture, along with all 50 Democrats not named Joe Lieberman -- assuming someone channels Tim Johnson's (D-SD, 95%) vote -- that would only give the forces of darkness and despair 58 votes... not enough.
But if two more Republicans defect, or if McConnell is made of Jell-O, then we face the prospect of sending our troops into combat... with the United States Congress shouting after them, "it'll end in tears -- you'll poke your eye out!"
There are times I despise politicians so much, I want to pass a law preventing anyone being elected who actually wants the job.
Too many people grow in office these days. Was it always this bad?
Date ►►► January 23, 2007
On Wednesday, China successfully tested a satellite-killer missile:
The anti-satellite test was first reported late Wednesday on the Web site of Aviation Week and Space Technology, an industry magazine. It said intelligence agencies had yet to “complete confirmation of the test.”
The Chinese test, the magazine said, appeared to employ a ground-based interceptor that used the sheer force of impact rather than an exploding warhead to shatter the satellite into a cloud of debris.
There are many ways to respond to this test; the most direct response would be to use our own laser-based ASATs (anti-satellite weapons), not to destroy an American satellite, but merely to "blind" it. This would demonstrate a much more sophisticated approach than the crudity of hitting a large satellite -- falling in a fixed orbit known in advance -- with a medium-rang ballistic missile, technology the Russians were deploying 30 years ago).
Besides, blinding a satellite would not produce a debris field that could disrupt other satellites, both military and civilian.
In the 1980s, we conducted our own tests of using missiles to destroy satellites; but we fired the missiles from a moving platform, an F-15 Strike Eagle... again, far more impressive than the Chinese launch from a ground-based facility.
Our own ballistic-missile defense (BMD) systems are far more advanced than the Chinese satellite killer: both the Ægis and THAAD (Theater High-Altitude Area Defense) systems fire interceptor missiles that locate the incoming missile and crash directly into it at high velocity, destroying it. The ability of our missiles to determine their own trajectories "on the fly" (to hit an incoming missile) puts them lightyears beyond the klunky Chinese demonstration last week.
The instant reaction from the usual suspects -- pacifist groups, from the Stimson Center to the Union of Concerned Scientists -- to this eye-roller of a "threat" is to (wait for it) sign a new treaty!
Treaties are panaceas; they solve everything, as Neville Chamberlain can surely affirm:
Michael Krepon, cofounder of the Washington-based Henry L. Stimson Center, a private group that studies national security, called the Chinese test very un-Chinese.
“There’s nothing subtle about this,” he said. “They’ve created a huge debris cloud that will last a quarter century or more. It’s at a higher elevation than the test we did in 1985, and for that one the last trackable debris took 17 years to clear out.”
Mr. Krepon added that the administration has long argued that the world needs no space-weapons treaty because no such arms exist and because the last tests were two decades ago. “It seems,” he said, “that argument is no longer operative.”
In the first place, Krepon cites no attribution to this alleged argument by the Bush administration; we have no verification that they ever said such a silly thing. (And "space weapons" of the type China used last Wednesday have existed since the 1970s.) More important, however, there is a much better argument why we absolutely do not need a new "space-weapons treaty."
The most serious objection to any proposed space-weapons treaty is that it would be virtually unenforceable... even more so than most other treaties, since external inspection would be impossible -- unless we built a Space Shuttle for the U.N. It's unenforceable precisely because... it's so easy, even the Chinese can do it!
Rocket science made easy
In the first place, as we just saw, all you need to shoot down a satellite in LEO (low-Earth orbit, up to 2,000 KM, 1,240 miles) is a medium-range ballistic missile or better. You can shoot from a fixed site, a ship, or an airplane. Such missiles are indistinguishable from any other type of medium or intermediate-range missile.
How do you prevent China from simply pointing them at our satellites? There is no way we would know -- until the launch, that is.
Faster, satellite! Kill! Kill!
Second, the technology of space-based "killer satellites" (satellites that can match orbit with another satellite and destroy it) is available to anyone who can launch a satellite. Once launched, they look just like any other satellite... until they match orbits with the target and go boom. They don't even need to get that close: once in the target's orbit, if the killer-sat just blows itself up, it can leave a lethal debris field right in the path of the target. Except for certain highly maneuverable military satellites, the target will just blunder on in, and we can do nothing to stop it.
The technology is relatively easy; it should be obvious that if you can launch a satellite with a payload, an instrument package, e.g., you can make the payload explosive. Killer-sats don't require much testing, and there is nothing that we could tell from a ground test of the killer-sat that would allow us to distinguish it from any other explosive.
Thus, we can never know how many are already up there today; and God knows we can't stop North Korea, Iran, or China from launching suicide-bomb satellites (unless we attempt to interdict every launch they make, which is probably beyond our capablities right now).
The level of sophistication you need to launch a satellite is not great: Iran has its "IRIS" program to build a satellite-launching rocket; North Korea has the Nodong-2 and (despite the recent splash) the Taepodong-2 under development, either of which could likely launch small satellites. You don't need much of an explosion to destroy a satellite in orbit (or damage it beyond repair).
Reach out and touch someone
Finally, the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union -- at least -- have or had very active programs to use directed-energy weapons to destroy satellites from the ground almost instantaneously. And with the interest Vladimir Putin has shown recently in reviving Russia's ASAT warfare programs, it's likely they have considered this method as well as kinetic-kill and explosives.
The primary "directed energy" weapons we use are lasers and masers. Lasers and masers are functionally identical to each other; they only differ in the wavelengths used. Lasers use electromagnetic wavelengths from X-ray (nanometer range), through ultraviolet light (.1 micrometer range) and visible light (micrometer range), up to infrared (milimeter range).
An emitter using a wavelength from microwave (centimeter range) to radio waves (meter range) up through long waves (ten meters and up) is called a maser. (The terms are acronyms: Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation; Microwave/Molecular Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation.)
We, the Russians, and the Chinese have already demonstrated using lasers to blind satellites; add power, and you can destroy them, as well.
Fundamentally different are particle-beam weapons; these are directed beams of particles that actually have rest mass, such as protons, electrons, and neutrons. While they're harder to control and direct than is a laser or maser, they have more destructive power. They also take more energy.
We extensively tested particle-beam weapons at Lawrence Livermore during the 1980s, as part of research for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). But we don't know how far we got, whether we're still continuing to work on them, or whether we abandoned them. In any event, scientific breakthroughs happen all the time; and such a breakthrough in particle-beam weapons could happen tomorrow -- or may have happened five years ago and been kept out of the newspapers.
Everyplace to hide
But the upshot of all this should be clear: there are so many ways to shoot satellites out of orbit, many of which can remain undetected until the moment of impact, that "signing a treaty" outlawing AST is as foolish as signing a treaty outlawing cheating on treaties: such a treaty lasts simply as long as nobody sees an advantage in breaking it by attacking a satellite.
But if nobody sees an advantage in attacking a satellite, then nobody will attack a satellite, even without the stupid treaty. The only purpose of a treaty is to give the illusion of progress, to satisfying the "do something!" mantra.
Doing something lame and foolish is generally worse than doing nothing, especially where Congress is concerned... a point that should also be made to those desperately trying to cobble together a statement of defeatism that could garner bipartisan support: sometimes the best resolution is to resolve not to enact a resolution.
Or not to sign another useless, unenforceable treaty.
Upgraded to Movable Type 3.34...
Sorry for the light posting, but it took a while to upgrade to MT 3.34.
Part of the problem was that we use an alternate edit_entry template developed by Dan Wolfgang; it gives us a huge number of editing buttons, so we don't have to keep typing HTML code. Alas, the template was written for MT 3.2... and under MT 3.3, it has a slight difficulty: you can't save posts!
Obviously, this is a drawback when trying to write and publish blog posts. It took me a bit to discover a workaround: if you click Preview, you can save the post from that screen. I just sent e-mail to Wolfgang, asking if he is going to update the template for MT 3.3; but I haven't heard back from him yet, of course (not everybody spends all day hovering over the keyboard, waiting for e-mail).
In any event, with the workaround, we can now start publishing again. Working on a fat, new post right now...
Date ►►► January 22, 2007
Republican Sen. John Warner (R-VA, 88%), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on the desperate need to garner more support for the Iraq war:
Mr. Warner said that while he saw “no direct parallels” between the Iraq situation and the United States involvement in Vietnam, he said that he vividly recalls the decline of American public and political support for the Vietnam war, when he was Navy Secretary. Restoring support for the Iraq mission and assuring American success there is essential, he said.
...And that's why he's co-sponsoring one of the two Senate resolutions saying the president's plan is doomed to fail!
John Warner: rocket scientist.
Lay Low, Sweet Sadrite
President Bush's strategic change of course in Iraq was initially received with a lot of skepticsim. The Democrats' reaction was predictable; more disturbing are the craven retreats of a number of Republican senators -- the "Beltway Boys" (Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke) put up a graphic Saturday of some seven or eight squishy Republicans who indicate they will climb aboard one of the two defeatist resolutions circumnavigating the Senate: either Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) "surrender slow" or Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI, 100%) "surrender swift."
The biggest disappointment has got to be "conservative" Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS, 100%): he announced his candidacy for president on Saturday, and they immediately joined the rat pack. That has to be some kind of a record: to inaugurate and immolate your candidacy on the same day!
Even some sevicemen in Iraq have voiced their concern; but in their case, the reason appears to be concern about our old "rules of engagement" (ROE) and whether they will actually change.
The problem in Iraq is not a lack of men; it's a PC driven set of cumbersome regulations that hogtie our soldiers and Marines. According to an active duty serviceblogger, Buck Sargent, the Mahdi Militia has been operating quite brazenly in recent days: They stage fake checkpoints to disrupt traffic and terrorize residents; they roam the streets of Baghdad in black uniforms and toting weapons openly; and they roust ordinary citizens, point guns at them, and threaten to kill them for the least bit of real or imagined "dissing." Buck Sergeant says that "residents call driving to work 'Iraqi Roulette.'"
Under the old ROE, even when known militia men walked around with military weapons on full display, American troops could do nothing unless Americans or Iraqi citizens were physically threatened:
[I]t's our own ROPE (Rules of Previous Engagements) that have us really tied down in the desert.... But they (Islamists) do recognize cultural squeamishness for what it is: a fundamental weakness to be exploited.
• Insurgent revolving door justice
• Mosque armory sanctuaries
• Politically connected untouchables
• Failure to identify, protect, and fully develop civilian sources
• Over-reliance on local sources with their own agendas
This is practically a ready-made recipe for how to blow a counterinsurgency war at the buzzer.
That is why we have argued that the actual "surge" of 5 brigades of Americans and 18 brigades of Iraqis is really the least important element of President Bush's plan: the main point is to change the restrictive ROE.
That change will serve as a "force multiplier" for the extra troops -- about 70,000 total focused in specific neighborhoods in Baghdad and thousands more in the al-Qaeda stronghold of Anbar province. Not only will we have many more forces to call upon, but they will be allowed to hit harder and won't have to get a "permission slip" from the Shiite government. Nor will they be released whenever a member of parliament calls and says "that guy is my cousin... let him go!"
However, the success of the plan still depends a lot upon Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's commitment. Fortunately, preliminary indications are that our ROE really has changed -- along with Maliki's attitude. In "the past few weeks," Multinational Forces - Iraq (MNF-I) captured 420 Mahdi fighters... including "several dozen senior members;" they were seized during 56 separate operations, starting three months ago.
The new "facts on the ground" are clearly rattling Sadr's men; they actually confess to developing a seige mentality:
Two Shiite militia commanders said Thursday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Madhi Army under pressure from Washington, while the fighters described themselves as under seige in their Sadr City stronghold.
Their account of an organization now fighting for its very existence could represent a tactical and propaganda feint [right -- they're trying to fool people into believing they're cowards and weaklings who will flee rather than fight], but there was mounting evidence the militia is increasingly off balance and has ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.
And on Friday, Sadr's top aide was arrested... which is especially encouraging. We seized Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, whom Captain Ed has dubbed "the Mouth of Sadr" (it's a Lord of the Rings reference -- read the books or watch the movies!)
Here is the best part of that operation:
An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, denied the government knew in advance about the raid, in which Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji was captured and said the detention was not part of the new operation aimed at quelling Baghdad's sectarian violence.
"There was no coordination with the Iraqi political leadership and this arrest was not part of the new security plan," the adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, told Al-Arabiya. "Coordination with the Iraqi political leadership is needed before conducting such operations that draw popular reactions."
In other words, we no longer feel bound to warn the Iraqi government before moving against a senior Shiite militia commander -- which before, inevitably resulted in the Iraqi government warning the target.
Speaking of Captain Ed, he reports this excellent piece of news:
The change has had an effect on the streets of Baghdad. Where the militias operated openly as late as October, most of the militia members have faded out of sight. Checkpoints run by the Mahdis have disappeared, and weapons no longer get flashed on the street. The luckier ones now try to get passports to get out of Baghdad and Iraq altogether, and the poorer fighters have worked to stay out of the way. Most impressively, all of this has happened while hundreds of Mahdis sit in jails; normally, that would start street fighting and massive protests, but the Mahdis have suddenly discovered discretion.
And all this before the first troop of the "surge" has arrived.
Many skeptics have predicted -- as if this invalidated the entire operation -- that the militia members would "melt back into the population" until the new troops went away... then just move right back into their old positions of control. However, these critics beg the most obvious point: you pay a severe price for making yourself invisible for 12 to 18 months.
Groups like the Mahdi Militia or the Badr
Brigades Organization have no natural hegemony; they rule by violence and intimidation. Like the Mafia, once gone, they're forgotten.
Even better, while the death squads are hiding out and laying low, the Iraqi Army and National Police -- and the local police, who are probably even more accepted in these neighborhoods -- will move in and establish themselves as the hegemonic authority. The longer they stay unopposed by the extremists, the more Iraqis come to perceive the elected government as having "fitness to rule," which is the actual definition of hegemony.
When we start withdrawing troops, and the militiamen pop out of their holes and caves and saunter down the streets to take back what they see as rightfully theirs, they're going to get the surprise of their lives: the cops and soldiers aren't going to give up the power, and the citizenry is going to resent the return of the swaggering bullies. More than likely, such a long interregnum will destroy the last shred of legitimacy the militias now enjoy. They'll probably be ridden out of town on a rail.
We cannot let Republicans acting like lily-livered cowards (and Democrats acting like, well, Democrats) to throw away our best chance for actual victory in Iraq. When Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 96%), Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 32%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 32%), Sam Brownback, John Warner, and the rest of the fleeing-rat pack stop quaking in their boots, we absolutely must hold their feet to the grindstone: they must give the president's plan time to work; if they sign aboard either of the two surrender-resolutions, we will no longer consider them Republicans.
They can go join the ghouls, the eaters of the dead, over in the other party.
Date ►►► January 20, 2007
Into the Gap, Dear Friends!
UPDATED with a correction; see below.
In the comments section of an earlier post, a commenter took exception, rather testily, to my point that none of the dissenting generals summoned to testify before Sen. Joseph Biden's Foreign Relations Committee hearings -- the generals summoned by Biden to oppose our strategic change of course in Iraq -- had any post-9/11 military experience (in fact one of them, Gen. Odom, didn't even have any post-Soviet Union military experience... he's two paradigm shifts behind the power curve!)
The commenter responded,
What the hell does that have to do with anything? What exactly changed in military sciences since 911?
Pretty much our entire military strategy. It was a seminal event, like 1917 or the dropping of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
What the commenter was asking was akin to asking, in 1950, 'What the hell does the atomic bomb have to do with anything? What exactly changed in military sciences since Hiroshima?'
9/11 was not the first indication that our entire military posture was out of whack with the world; but the earlier warnings were polite wake-up calls from the front desk at the hotel: 9/11 was the drill instructor bursting into the barracks and flipping your bed over (with you in it).
From the end of the Cold War until to the attack of 9/11, we more or less ignored the "lesser includeds" until they actually did something; and we gave no thought whatsoever to transnational non-state groups, thinking them only a "police problem." Osama bin Laden declared war on us in 1998 or so... and most Americans (including the top brass in the 5-sided triangle) just laughed. What could some bearded cave-hermit do to the mighty United States of America?
("Lesser includeds": during the Cold War, we focused entirely on fighting the Soviets... believing that if we had an army capable of handling Moscow, it could surely handle any smaller, more primitive country that threatened us, or whom it was in our national interest to attack. Hence, such countries were called "lesser includeds."
(1965-1974 demonstrated that the theory did not always work. The Soviets learned the same lesson during their occupation of Afghanistan a few years later.)
We kept an eye on some about the lesser included states -- Iraq and Iran, North Korea, the former Yugoslavia, etc. -- but we thought about them purely in nation-state terms, and more or less as a nuisance, not a threat: they might invade their neighbors, and we might have to respond, e.g., to push Iraq out of Kuwait. But they couldn't do anything to us; we were the lone superpower, the hyperpower! We would strike at our leisure, using some variation of the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming military force.
I have called that doctrine "refighting World War II;" we fought WWII six times from 1941 to 1999: Kosovo, Bosnia, the Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea, and of course the original itself. We used the same tactics and had more or less the same military understanding in each conflict.
But two years after the sixth WWII, after the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon itself (and the White House, if not for the courageous sacrifice of the passengers of United flight 93), Donald Rumsfeld realized that we had three terrible military dillemmas:
- We had the wrong military;
- We had the wrong strategy;
- We had the wrong political understanding of the threat matrix -- were were looking all the wrong directions.
Nothing was right; Rumsfeld's greatest contribution to American security was not fighting and winning two major wars... his greatest feat was the complete transformation of the American military: force structure, grand strategy, and political theory. This is something which has only been done a few times in the history of the Republic, and even more rarely so much by the efforts of one man.
Rumsfeld is certainly cognizant of the ideas of Thomas P.M. Barnett. While I don't agree with everything Barnett says, the central thesis of his seminal book, the Pentagon's New Map (2004) is bang-on.
What follows is my understanding and analysis of his points; I may not completely get it, but this is more or less what he is saying -- and especially my own thoughts on this profound subject.
Turning on a paradigm
In the early days of our military, our paradigm was that we were a struggling, young nation trying to exert some influence on a world that largely ignored us. Then we became one among many powerful nations that had to be taken into account.
World War I was a singularity point: the relationship of the United States to the rest of the world changed completely with our entry into World War I; from that point on, we were a "superpower" compared to old Europe. This understanding lasted right up through the rise of Germany and Japan: if you wanted to dominate the world, you would eventually have to conquer the United States... something Germany was loath to do, and something Japan thought they could prevent by a swift, unexpected blow in 1941.
Militarily, from 1917 through World War II, we completely altered our force structure and our grand strategy. Consider the changes in the United States Navy: we had already recognized the need for a modern, blue-water navy as early as the 1880s; in 1907, we sent a flotilla to circumnavigate the world. But the most profound changes occurred after WWI, with the rise of battleships, cruisers, submarines, and aircraft carriers -- despite periodic (and absurdly ineffectual) attempts to limit navies worldwide.
Air power was introduced in WWI, and it became a vital part of our force structure in the 1930s and especially during WWII. Armored vehicles (tanks and APCs), machine guns, jeeps and trucks, and self-propelled field artillery did not even exist in the 19th century.
[UPDATE: Commenter visarionvich points out that hand-cranked machine guns -- e.g., Gatling guns -- existed in Civil War days, and even the Maxim automatic machine gun debuted in the 1880s; it appears to have first been used in combat by the Brits in the 1890s, after the development of smokeless powder made it more effective in combat (that is, less obviously visible to enemy forces). So let's say that militarily useful machine guns did not exist until the tail end of the 19th century. The underlying point is intact, I believe.]
During WWII, we fielded armies whose size dwarfed not only the armies of earlier centuries but even our army of today.
And it was also during the period of 1917 through WWII that we first began to appreciate the power and danger of WMD -- weapons of mass destruction; in particular, poison gas and nuclear weapons. (Biowar had been practiced in primative form for centuries.)
On the strategic political front, this was the period of the League of Nations. Our first groping attempt to construct a platform for integrating all nations into modernity, where they could settle their grievances by means other than warfare, was a dismal failure -- as was our second attempt, the United Nations; but the idea was planted and began to take hold in many nations. Today, it appears our best shot at this will be through free-trade agreements that will eventually spread, we hope, to encompass all countries. To paraphrase a pop song, "trade... trade will keep us together!"
(Modernity is here defined as the particular understanding of culture, nationalism, and civilization that developed in Europe and America following the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, which ended the War of 1812 at status-quo ante.)
Our entire concept of warfare was reborn during this period, from the structure of our military forces, to the strategies we employed or anticipated from our enemies, to the uses, abuses, and prevention of warfare itself: war in 1935 was a completely different creature from war in Napoleon's day.
The end of World War II (the original) ended the era of major nation-states in the "Functioning Core" attacking one another; there has been no such attack since 1945. Rather, all state combat has included a state within the "Non-Integrating Gap" as one or both of the combatants: northern Korea invading southern Korea; U.N. forces invading northern Korea; France in Vietnam; America in Vietnam; Iraq invading Kuwait; and so forth... and at this point, I had better define those two terms, the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap.
The Core and the Gap defined
In my opinion (not Barnett's), the globalization of modernity began in the 1850s, with the opening of Japan by America.
Britain's seizure of Hong Kong in the 1840s had been a classic colonial grab: not only did they make no effort to "modernize" the Chinese, they forced them to buy opium at the point of a gun. They wanted the Chinese to remain ignorant, isolated, primitive, and ruled over by Henry Unwin Addington's Foreign Office.
But when America's Commodore Perry steamed into Uraga Harbor near modern Tokyo (then Edo), refusing to go instead to the southern port of Nagasaki (until then, the only port where foreigners were allowed), he forced the end of the isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate -- which had taken the entire "empire" of Japan "offline," closing it to the rest of the world, from 1616 to 1639 under Iyeyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun, and his grandson, Iyemitsu. (Interestingly, the closing of Japan began as an attempt to ban Christianity from the islands.)
Perry integrated Japan into the Functioning Core of modern, liberal, democratic states; the Japanese expanded their horizons, educated themselves about the outside world, and took their place among the community of nations.
Post-Perry, the Shogunate collapses into the Meiji restoration; and unlike China under the British, the Japanese eagerly embraced Western modernity, becoming the first non-European nation to do so.
This begins what Barnett calls the Functioning Core, which comprises those nations and regions that integrate themselves into the various waves of globalization that have swept across, well, the globe; those nations that interconnect and interact with each other, sharing culture and sharing a "rule-set" that determines behavior, both between different states and within a state. Japan, Great Britain, Western Europe, Canada, Mexico, modern Germany, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, post-Soviet Russia, post-Mao China, Argentina, and Israel, are (or were) all examples of countries inside the Functioning Core.
The Non-Integrating Gap comprises all states or regions that remain outside globalization's reach: all of Africa (except for South Africa), Indonesia, Malaysia, Arabia, the 'Stans, and large parts of Central and South America reside inside the Non-Integrating Gap; these are all countries or areas that remain isolated, sometimes by sheer poverty, but often because iron-fisted dictators forbid all contact with the outside world.
A bipolar world
With the end of World War II and the dawn of the nuclear age, the second great world paradigm shift occurred. The first, recall, was when the United States entered WWI in 1917 and broke the multi-year stalemate, crushing the original "axis" of Berlin-Vienna-Budapest. When Great Britain and the United States annihilated Nazi Germany, and America alone simlutaneously broke Japan, that ended the era in which Core states would directly fight one another. Since 1945, none has done so. When they do battle, they fight in the arenas of politics and economics.
Instead, we see wars of Core vs. Gap (the United States in Vietnam) and Gap vs. Gap (Vietnam vs. Cambodia, to stick with that neck of the jungle). We also saw the rise, after WWII, of the Bipolar World: the West vs. the Soviets. We fought the Soviets many times, but always via proxies among Gap nations. (During this period, China went Communist under Mao; but it wasn't until Mao's successor, Deng Xiaoping, that China transitioned from Gap to Core state.)
Our military transitioned during this period to fit the grand strategies of "détente" and "containment." Missiles and strategic aviation became the dominating factors. The purpose of ground armies shifted from fighting war to threatening to fight war -- from combat to the prevention of combat. Think of the vast armored divisions squaring off against each other at the border of West and East Germany -- forces whose only "use" was to prevent the enemy from using his own forces.
The doctrine of MAD -- mutual assured destruction -- was wholly different from any military strategy in the history of the world: it was the theory that no nation could launch a nuclear attack against any other, because the victim would launch a retaliatory strike that, in the ensuing exchange, would utterly destroy both attacker and attacked (the theory was proven correct). One of the greatest analogies in military history perfectly describes MAD: two men locked in a room, standing ankle-deep in gasoline, each holding a lit match.
So the politico-strategic concept of containment -- allowing the expansionist Soviets to do what they wanted within their sphere, but preventing them from extending outside their sphere -- was perfectly reflected in a static military grand strategy that ended direct warfare between Core states, instead fighting entirely within the Gap.
The great (internal) divide
The next paradigm shift came with the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. President Ronald Reagan's genius was to recognize as early as the 1970s that the USSR had become like a "blown egg," a hollowed out eggshell that could be shattered simpy by poking it; but he was unable to deliver that poke until he became president. By the time he left office in 1989, the breach had already occurred, though the final collapse took another couple of years.
Then came the interregnum of the 1990s, when we did not know what was coming next. This led to complete chaos in our military force structure and strategic planning: we were all set up to defend against an Evil Empire that no longer existed. Barnett describes how the Navy especially, but the entire Pentagon, broke into three main groups that fought among each other:
- The Transitioneers: "They saw a world minus the Soviets as quite chaotic, and so they believed U.S. forces needed to be out in the world, dealing with as many of those lesser includes as possible so as to assure the transition to a safer era;"
- The Big Sticks: "They were not interested in trying to manage the world, because they saw that as a drain on much-needed warfighting assets. Instead, they wanted to gear up for the next Desert Storm, figuring the Persian Gulf tussle with Saddam would prove the template for future regional conflicts."
- The Cold Worriers: "They effectively rejected any focus on the lesser includeds, preferring instead to wait for signs of the Big One -- no matter how long that took.... [T]heir real argument was that America needed to keep its powder dry and stay technologically ahead of any great power that might sneak up on us in coming decades."
(Barnett, the Pentagon's New Map, 69-70.)
This hodgepodge of grand strategies, none of which could overcome the others, played against the backdrop of the Clinton administration's military fecklessness:
- They began an 8-year program to slash the military to the bone; this pitted each service, and each group above within each service, against the others in an internecine war over funding;
- They deployed American military forces all around the world, based not on any coherent vision of national security, but rather in a higgledy-piggledy bid for popularity and the attempt to help the Democratic Party (or Bill Clinton) politically;
- Finally, after a brief and disasterous flirtation with military reform under Les Aspin, Clinton's first secretary of defense, the administration shifted to a completely "hands-off" posture... leaving the dogs of the Pentagon to war with each other for the alpha-male slot without any civilian supervision whatsoever. Barnett calls William Perry and William Cohen "two of the quietest secretaries the Pentagon has ever had"... and that's not a compliment.
We were drifting; the Pentagon was consumed by FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt); we had no idea who the next big enemy would be. Little did we know that all these debates were about to be OBE: overtaken by events.
The great (internal) uniting
On September 11th, 2001, the DI burst into the barracks and flipped all our beds over, jolting us awake in the most abrupt and alarming way.
We realized that we'd been hunting the enemy in all the wrong places: the real danger was not the rise of a new "superpower" to take the place of the Soviet Union, nor from a lesser included like Iraq or North Korea directly attacking us or our assets abroad. The real danger, which everybody had missed (yes, even the godlike Richard Clark himself), was that we would be attacked by transnational third-party terrorist groups, funded and trained by the lesser includeds, but driven by their own ideological demons.
I've come to the conclusion that Iran qua Iran will never attack us; they won't even attack Israel. Oh, Ahmadinejad may order such an attack; but if he did, the mullahs and their generals would simply remove him.
They're content instead to play the role of a mini-Soviet Union, in response to us treating them to a heaping does of "containment." Instead of attacking directly, Iran will send Hezbollah and Hamas to attack Israel, or the United States, or some other Western nation (as the Soviets used Cuba, Angola, Nicaragua, or Vietnam as proxies to attack the West). Hussein's Iraq will eager to train al-Qaeda; anti-Western elements within Saudi Arabia, acting against the express policy of the government of Saudi Arabia, are happy fund al-Qaeda; and radical elements within Pakistan, in direct defiance of President Pervez Musharaff, gleefully offer safe haven to al-Qaeda.
This is the new military paradigm of the post-Soviet, "monocular" era: no direct attack by nations in the Functioning Core against each other; no direct attack by lesser includeds in the Non-Integrating Gap against Core states; but rather attack by subnational-transnational networked armies of terrorists. And the paradigm shift has provoked just as profound an reorganization of our entire military as the other two paradigm shifts (1917 and 1945): not just force structure alone but our grand strategy -- "closing the gap" -- and the very politics of warfare.
Integration: the most urgent mission
After a decade of foundering under first Bush-41 then Clinton, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld developed our first Grand Military Strategy since containment ended; he did this by pushing his aides and the brass until they were ready to strangle him; by plaguing the Pentagon with his interminable "snowflakes," Post-It notes stuck onto computer screens, refrigerators, and memos, containing difficult questions that demanded answers before planning could proceed; and (to be perfectly blunt) by firing or retiring everyone who couldn't adjust.
I'm quite certain that Rumsfeld has read the Barnett book; certainly he is aware of the ideas: Barnett personally briefed all the deputy assistant secretaries of defense in 2002. I doubt the secretary would use Barnettian language; but various contacts Barnett reports with the Office of the Secretary of Defense's "policy shop" make it clear that Rumsfeld "gets" the point.
Our primary military and political mission now is to close the Non-Integrating Gap as much as humanly possible. Not for humanitarian reasons, though certainly that will be a stunning serendipitous benefit. Rather, we must close the Gap because its existence -- its isolation, poverty, violence, and hysterical extremism -- is a critical factor in allowing wealthy, educated terrorist masterminds to transform disgruntled, uneducated, impoverished thugs into transnational terrorist armies that existentially threaten the West.
Close the Gap, and the Osamas of the world will have nowhere to recruit.
Consider all the places where the threat posed by the funding and support of terrorism rises to existential levels: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Chechnya, the 'Stans, Africa, Yemen, Qatar, Lebanon, Syria, North Korea, Southeast Asia. What do these countries and regions have in common?
- They're not all Arabs;
- They're not all Moslems;
- They're not connected by geography;
- They are all, however, contained with the Non-Integrating Gap.
Typically, we don't close the Gap in as dramatic a fashion as we're doing in Afghanistan and Iraq; but that must always remain an option, until globalization becomes truly global, when America has successfully exported modernity to the entire world.
One of the best ways to close the Gap is via free trade and Capitalism; thus, NAFTA and GATT are actually agents of our Grand Strategy... as Gap nations begin trading with the West, they must of necessity open themselves up to the rest of the world -- which is the essence of integrating themselves into the Functioning Core.
Another element of the Grand Strategy is to enter into security arrangements with countries in the Gap, such as Pakistan, Kuwait, and Ethiopia. Look how well that worked just a few weeks ago, as Ethiopian troops -- with U.S. cooperation, planning, and air support -- drove the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Courts Union out of Somalia, a task that we ourselves, plus the U.N., failed to do to extremist warlords (such as Colonel Mohammed Aidid) in the 1990s. Ethiopia was much more effective in Somalia than we because it was fighting in its own backyard.
Another is classic containment, as we're doing at the moment to Iran: isolating the worst offenders and blockading them, so they cannot exploit the Gap to expand their power or sponsor terrorist attacks against the Core.
Finally, we retain the ultimate Weapon of Mass Integration: regime change by force. As with Afghanistan and Iraq, at times it becomes a vital American national interest to remove a particularly dangerous regime within the Gap -- the Taliban, the Baathists, and perhaps the Iranian mullahs, if containment fails -- and replace it with a functioning, modern, integrated democratic state. Sometimes we will succeed; sometimes we will fail... but when we fail, it only means we must try again later; we will never be safe from transnational terrorism until we completely close the Non-Integrated Gap, bringing globalization to everyone... whether by cajoling, bribery, or force of arms.
This is America's most vital mission, for our own survival: to close the Gap. It's wonderful that it will have the extra benefit of relieving pandemic misery and terror that infects those who have the misfortune to live "off the grid" of the world; but, like true Capitalists, we must ultimately function according to "the virtue of selfishness."
Then, when we succeed -- and we must not fail -- we'll be ready for the next great paradigm shift. And who knows what that will be?
Date ►►► January 19, 2007
How DARE They!
The New York Times seems positively affronted that President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales were able to work out an agreement, anent the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, between the administration's need for speed and flexibility and the FISA court's (FISC's) desire to give some level of judicial oversight to the intercepts. I might go so far as to say the Times is downright testy:
In a four-paragraph letter on Wednesday announcing that the Bush administration had reversed its position and would submit its domestic surveillance program to judicial supervision, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales used one phrase three times. A secret court, he said, had fashioned a way to allow the program to be monitored by the judiciary without compromising the need for “speed and agility.”
That phrase also captures, some critics say, the administration’s moving-target litigation strategy, one that often seeks to change the terms of the debate just as a claim of executive authority is about to be tested in the courts or in Congress.
I picture my eight year old sister, when I would come home late, pointing an accusatory finger and yowling "I'm telling!"
There is no evidence as yet that the administration plans to drop its appeal of the appalling ruling by District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, in ACLU v. NSA, that the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was "unconstitutional" and violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); in fact, the Times sidesteps the question entirely:
The announcement about the surveillance program came two weeks before a federal appeals court in Cincinnati was to hear the first appellate argument about the lawfulness of the program. Government lawyers now say that case is moot, but their claim is open to question.
Which "government lawyers" are those? Who said it was moot? It wasn't Alberto Gonzales. The Times wants us to believe that the Bush administration is just running from a potentially adverse decision... but the only "evidence" the paper offers is its own vague and unsupported word.
And let's not forget the underlying point here: the administration was "going it alone," but now they've found a way to compromise with the Judiciary and work in conjunction with the FISC. And the Democrats at the New York Times are pitching a tantrum.
Let me try to explain, by way of a simple analogy, why the New York Times is full of ammonium nitrate...
Imagine you own two adjoining buildings separated by a fence. The fence has a gate, but the gate is kept padlocked for "security reasons."
You frequently have to move items from one of your buildings to the other. But each time you get to the locked gate, the doddering ancient who mans it is away somewhere. You scream and you pound and you scout around trying to find him, but it generally takes a half-hour before he can be located (usually sound asleep and unable to hear you through his deafness).
This is intolerable; he works for a gatekeeping company, not directly for you, so you cannot simply fire him. You start negotiating with that company to see if something can be done.
But as you're hunting around for the gatekeeper one day, you notice the fence itself has a wide hole in it. So from then on, whenever you cannot rouse the gatekeeper, and the cargo you're moving is fairly small, you just duck through the hole in the fence. Sometimes, when you're moving something big, you have no choice but to use the gate; but you avoid it whenever you can.
A group of busy-bodies who live nearby invariably yell at you for not using the gate; but they have nothing to do with your business and no idea how absurd it is to stand there waiting so long for the tardy gatekeeper. You tell them that you own both buildings, you have the legal right to cut through the fence; they argue that you don't own the fence itself, and besides, it sets a bad example. Your employees espouse your cause: there is no other way to get through the fence quickly enough.
But at last, after several years of negotiations with the company that supplies gatekeepers, you manage to get the ol' poop fired; instead, they hire an eager, young lad who stays right there at the gate and is always quick to let you through. "Great!" says you; "I no longer need to wriggle through the hole in the fence. I can just pass through the gate, like a normal human."
(Of course, you always bear in mind that, if they ever switch back to the eldrich horror that used to man the gate -- you can always go back to using the hole, until they come to their senses.)
But as soon as the busy-bodies notice you using the gate, they loudly proclaim, "aha, you've reversed your position, and you will now submit to the authority of the gatekeeper. You have admitted that not even you believed your previous argument that you were legally entitled to use the hole in the fence between your two properties. You've admitted you were lying all the time!"
And then some of your employees start grumbling: "You said we had the right to use the hole -- but now you admit that you were lying all that time. You betrayed us! You made us look like fools!
We leave it to the alert reader to decide who is represented by each group.
Computer Problems - Sorry For Light Posting
I'm working with a (near) catastrophic computer problem here: when I boot, it shows the Windows XP splash screen... then the entire screen goes dark. Sometimes, after 30-40 minutes, the machine boots up; other times, it just sits that way for hours.
I spent all afternoon on the phone with some Microsoft tech-guy in India, Mr. Nahasapeemapetilon, I think he said. Mr. Nahasapeemapetilon appeared to be in the midst of a tubercular fit of some sort: for the entire conversation, he insisted upon coughing -- horrible, wracking, gagging coughs -- directly into his microphone. Hence, my ear.
In the end, he admitted he had no idea in the world what was wrong. But some "senior technician" is supposed to call tomorrow... and by golly, this time, I expect some results! After all, if you can't trust Yogananda from Bangalore, then who the heck can you trust?
It's up now, and I have internet access (no problems with my internet connection, fortunately), so I'll get cracking on a real post.
Again, my apologies.
Date ►►► January 18, 2007
General Who? (Minor Attributional Update)
UPDATE: We should have provided a link to the policy paper "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" (hat tip to commenter Tomy); also, Gen. Jack Keane was not the primary author but one of the secondary authors. Everything said about the plan itself is accurate, however, as is Keane's advocacy of the plan to the president, and the fact that it formed the basis of the president's final decision.
Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- now chaired by noted moderate Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) -- called several retired generals to testify that increasing our troop strength in Iraq was exactly the wrong thing to do... that we should be decreasing them instead.
The generals who testified were:
- Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, Commander in Chief of Central Command from 1991 through 1994, after the Gulf War;
- Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, Commander in Chief of Southern Command from 1994 through 1996;
- Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Headquarters, Department of the Army 1981-1985 and Director of the National Security Agency 1985-1988. Odom is mostly known for saying we should not have deposed Saddam Hussein; for demanding our "immediate withrawal" of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2005; and for opposing the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program;
Army Gen. Jack Keane, Vice Chief of Staff and Acting Chief of Staff of the United States Army (ret. 2003). Keane's views on the surge were not reported by the New York Times... likely because he is the one of the authors of a policy paper this month titled "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" [the principal author is Frederick W. Kagan, not Keane, as we incorrectly reported yesterday]. This paper was instrumental in persuading President Bush to adopt the change of course in our Iraq strategy that included building up our troop strength in Baghdad and Anbar provinces.
The Times notes only that Keane said that if we start pulling out -- as the other retired generals advocate -- “We will be shot at as we are going out;” they more or less imply that he joins the others in testifying against the policy that he, himself persuaded Bush to adopt... which is rather underhanded practice on the Times' part, I must say!
Note that not a single general (except Keane) has any military experience post-9/11; in fact, Gen. Odom has no military experience after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Conspicuous by their absence are such previously celebrated retired military officers as Gen. Eric Shinseki, former Chief of Staff of the United States Army; and Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Commander in Chief of United States Central Command. They were earlier trotted out (by anti-Bush Democrats) as the cream of the cream of military advisors -- back when Bush had rejected increasing the troop levels, and Shinseki and Zinni forcefully argued that we needed to do just that to win the war.
Is that why they appear to have gone from sine qua non to personae non gratae in one quick election?
Say, here's a thought: wouldn't it be effective were the president to set up a video conference between Shinseki, Zinni, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, President Bush -- and Commander of Multinational Forces - Iraq, Lt.Gen. David Petraeus, to explain the entire strategic change of course... and see if we can enlist Shinseki and Zinni to promote it?
What would Slow Joe Biden say then, I wonder...?
Hooray for the Fairness Doctrine!
Ah ah, now I know what some of you are thinking: some portion of you will read the headline, then race off to write blogposts saying Big Lizards has gone Socialist! I suggest, to avoid embarassment, that you read to the end (not short; sorry) before firing up Movable Type, TypePad, or WordPress (or LiveJournal, Blogger -- oh, fill in the blank yourself.)
Seriously, measure six times before you leap...
First, it's important to understand the history of the "Fairness" Doctrine -- in particular, its enforcement. The doctrine itself has been around in one form or another since the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) was founded in 1927; when the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) succeeded the FRC in 1934, they kept the doctrine... on paper.
But in reality, it's hard to think of a time when it was enforced to truly bring about "fairness." Although there was some anti-war agitation allowed on radio in the 1930s (especially from the Left during the Hitler-Stalin Pact), after Pearl Harbor, I don't believe any station would have dared broadcast such. There were, of course, still plenty of people who espoused the pacifist point of view, even after Nazi Germany declared war on us; but those folks were quite rightly deemed to be lunatics and were denied a broadcast forum.
In the early 1950s, radio and television were pretty conservative; think of shows like I Love Lucy, Ed Sullivan, and the early days of Gunsmoke (in the days of Chester, when it was 30 minutes and in glorious black and white). They reflected the zeitgeist of the days of President Eisenhower and the McCarthy hearings.
That is when the American Left began a concerted and relentless campaign to take over the airwaves, following their successful seizure of Hollywood in the 30s and 40s. By the late 1950s, TV shows like Walt Disney's Zorro were hitting many themes of liberalism, from race relations to Indian nationalism to anti-vigilantism... themes that could easily be supported by many conservatives, but which were a serious problem for the budding movement of libertarian conservative Republicans, such as Sen. Barry Goldwater (to the extent that such programs extended beyond the public to the private sphere) -- and especially for conservative Democrats ("Dixiecrats").
You might point to this era as a time when the Fairness Doctrine was being used to bring more fairness to the airwaves; and that would be true, if the pendulum had stopped when it hit equality. But in reality, the Left never had any intention of allowing equal time for conservatives or traditionalists. As the Left commissioned more and more of their own into the positions of power (producers, editors, writers, and especially network executives), they captained the vessel right past the midpoint of the ocean of unfairness and headed, full steam ahead, into the rocky shoals of leftist monopoly.
As we entered the late 1960s, it was very hard to find a show on the air, either on radio or television, that did not enunciate a number of very liberal viewpoints; heading into the 1970s, this accelerated. The first few seasons of All In the Family were relatively even-handed, balancing the ranting of Archie Bunker with the shallow sloganeering of Mike and Gloria Stivik. But in the later seasons, this changed: in short order, every show was about Archie's insanity running head-on into the "reality" of liberalism -- and liberalism always got the better of it.
Even cowboy shows like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and the Pig Valley went decidedly left. If you watch a 1970s season of Bonanza, you might wonder whether it was produced by the Democratic National Committee: nearly every other episode was about some rapacious (conservative) businessman exploiting poor blacks, Indians, or Hop Sing; or about some sleazy, underhanded racist stirring up the citizens of Virginia City to lynch some innocent minority (usually for the murder committed by the underhanded racist himself -- or his weak and cowardly son).
Throughout the 70s and 80s, fiction shows like M*A*S*H and Hill Street Blues reliably cranked out very liberal bromides to an increasingly apathetic TV audience. The "Fairness" Doctrine was gone fishing.
On the news front, the same thing was happening. During the 1960s, Walter Cronkite of the CBS Evening News was the preeminent news anchor. He was always skeptical about the mission in Vietnam; in 1967, he turned decisively against it, even going so far as to falsely report the result of the Tet Offensive, portraying it as a huge victory for the Viet Cong and a catastrophic defeat for America (in fact, militarily, it was precisely the opposite, and the VC were finished as a military force from that moment). From then on, Cronkite beat the anti-war drum louder and louder, and more blatantly.
How well was the Fairness Doctrine enforced during the period of 1965 through its demise in 1987? Simple: it was not enforced at all for private broadcasts. Who was the pro-war, conservative counterpart to "Uncle Walter?" There was none. Neither the (Chet) Huntley-(David) Brinkley Report nor (after 1970) the NBC Nightly News (Brinkley and John Chancellor), nor the then-minor ABC News, were "pro-war" to counterbalance Cronkite's emphatically anti-war tilt. At best, they were a little more neutral -- but they still took their cues from Cronkite, particularly about the Tet Offensive and its significance.
Other news shows besides the nightly news leaned left even more markedly, from 60 Minutes to 20/20. Again, the FCC never seemed to order these shows to give equal time to conservative viewpoints; on This Week, for example, conservative commentary was limited to one Republican against two or three liberal Democratic commenters, such as Sam Donaldson and Cokey Roberts and whoever was guest commenter (e.g., George Snuffleupagus); David Brinkley tried to hew a middle line between left and right, making it 2 or 3 to 1 with one abstention. Worse, the lone Republican was George F. Will -- who is a big-government, statist Republican -- making it 3-1 with two abstentions. Where was the vaunted Fairness Doctrine during its last two decades?
In 1987, the FCC commissioners appointed by President Ronald W. Reagan voted to abolish the doctrine. The Democratic Congress tried to restore it; but when Reagan vetoed the act, the Left could not muster enough Republican votes to overturn the veto. The "Fairness" Doctrine sank into mostly deserved oblivion.
Its death prompted the largest eruption of free speech across the airwaves -- especially talk radio -- since the advent of broadcast radio itself. Cable TV also took off after the FCC (and the courts) made it clear that the FCC lacked regulatory authority over non-broadcast television.
Much of that content was decidedly conservative, especially the medium of talk radio, led by the Rush Limbaugh Show; political talk-shows had existed for decades, but their growth was stunted by the "Fairness" Doctrine itself: liberal political shows on talk-radio were allowed to proceed unimpeded; but their conservative counterparts were mercilessly pummeled by the FCC throughout the 70s and early 80s.
It's natural that the Left should now pine for the return of the doctrine; they assume that it will be as before, with dyed-in-the-wool liberals and lefties enforcing the policy as if it were the Liberalness Doctrine instead. "Right-wing radio" would probably disappear, and (the Left appears to believe) so would Fox News Channel. We would return to the good old days, when the Left had a virtual monopoly on broadcast speech... and the best the Right could extort was a 2-minute response to a station editorial.
I doubt that would happen; conservatives were rolled like drunks back in the 50s; they never saw it coming. Today, new media itself would fight back against such a resurgence of de facto censorship. Even so, it would be a terrible thing for the Fairness Doctrine to be revived -- for private TV and radio broadcasts.
But back to the title of this post: given this history, how could I possibly say "hooray for the Fairness Doctrine?" I mean that only in the most limited possible sense:
During the doctrinal days, there was one broadcast venue that consistently gave significantly more airtime to conservative and anti-liberal viewpoints more than any other... public TV and radio. Mind, they still tilted very strongly left, especially with shows such as Point of View and Frontline. But they did pay rather more than lip service to free-speech fairness with shows like the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour and William F. Buckley's Firing Line, along with various financial shows. Michael Medved was one of the two reviewers on Sneak Previews (the other being ultra-leftie Jeffrey Lyons) from 1985, replacing another ultra-leftie, Neal Gabler.
And in fact, assuming one can get past the essential free-speech contradiction of taxpayer-supported political speech at all, then surely public political speech should in fact be balanced between a multitude of different viewpoints.
Best of all would be no taxpayer-supported political speech at all; if you want taxpayer-funded classical-music concerts or shows about making cheese -- or even quasi-political, mostly science shows like Cosmos, or historical shows like the Adams Chronicles, or artsy stuff like I, Clavdivs (well, that's how it looked on the screen!) -- I don't mind: it's a cheap way to promote American and Western culture.
But there are degrees of wrongness; and taxpayer-supported political speech that is entirely (or mostly) one-sided is much more abominable than taxpayer-supported political speech that makes a strong effort to be at least bipartisan, if not multipartisan.
And at last, I think you can see where I'm going: I fully support the Fairness Doctrine -- but only applied to public TV and public radio broadcasts, and only if we cannot eliminate public funding of them altogether. As well, we should create a sub-commission of the FCC that has binding authority to say whether the doctrine is being fulfilled on the public airwaves -- a panel with equal numbers of members appointed by the two major parties -- though I doubt that can be justified constitutionally (congressional usurpation of executive authority). Maybe some way can be got around that (make it voluntary but traditional to let the out-party appoint half) to avoid the FCC running amok when president and Congress are both controlled by the same party.
In that respect only do I support the putative Fairness Doctrine... and even that would be unnecessary if we didn't use public funding to promote political views at all. Somehow, however, I doubt that liberals will be interested in this compromise.
Foxhogs and Hedgebirds
Since I'm reading Thomas P.M. Barnett's fascinating book the Pentagon's New Map, I decided to peruse his website -- which ironically enough is titled thomaspmbarnett.com. Surfing his site (when my wife thought I was beavering away at rewriting the new novel), I stumbled across Barnett's columns for the Knoxville News Sentinel. And -- hot dog! -- I found a piece I can really light into.
See, I've been itching to find something to complain about ever since he dissed naval air on Hugh Hewitt's show, implying that we ought to do away with carriers (if they weren't so "cool"). So this is it: his column of January 6th, Enough of the Hedgehog. (Is that the most long-winded introduction you've ever seen in a blogpost?)
In the piece, Barnett divides all presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush into either "foxes" or "hedgehogs." He takes the terms from an aphorism attributed to "the ancient Greek poet Archilochus," who allegedly said (I wasn't there, and neither was Barnett) "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." (Actually, he said it in ancient Greek, if he said it at all. So we're all wrong.)
What does this mean in practice? Barnett uses the terms thus: a "hedgehog" president has one big idea; he puts his head down and charges after that one idea, come hell or spilled milk. But a "fox" president has wide-ranging interests and engages on many fronts at once:
Our democracy regularly requires painful compromises to balance the extremes against the large, mushy middle that encompasses most American voters. After all, this republic is ruled by the majority, which sometimes craves the hedgehog's unwavering consistency and at other times welcomes the fox's intellectual agility.
At the end, Barnett bemoans our sorry state, having a (by definition) monomaniacal hedgehog as president right now... and yearns for a brilliant, young fox to come along and rescue us from Bush's tunnel-vision.
The first problem should be readily apparent: since no president has exactly one idea, and none has an infinite number of ideas, where exactly does one draw the line between a hedgehog and a fox? Barnett might argue this is a trivial objection, but I demur: his main thrust is that Bush is a hedgehog, when what we need now is a fox... but taking his taxonomy seriously, he's saying that Bush is more like Ronald Reagan ("a quintessential hedgehog"), when what we really need is the foxy Richard Nixon!
Barnett evidenly believes that Bush thinks only and always about Iraq; but in fact, he also thinks about tax cuts, restructuring the military, comprehensive immigration reform, stem-cell research, a return to the Moon followed by a manned mission to Mars, integrating China into the global economy (which an earlier Barnett would have applauded as shifting China more firmly into the "Functioning Core" of nations integrated into the world economic and social system), privatizing Social Security as much as possible -- how many more "big things" does it take to move Bush from hedgehog to fox status? Is there a pamphlet somewhere that explains the exact division?
The second problem is that Barnett appears more or less to equate clever and intellectually curious "foxes" with presidents willing to flirt with Socialism. Here are Barnett's foxes over the last 75 years of presidents:
- Franklin Roosevelt: His flirtation with statism and Socialism -- at times even Communism, as his ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies, so ably testified in Mission to Moscow -- did absolutely nothing to alleviate the Great Depression... until he got us into World War II. At that point, Americans were just as deprived as before; but it wasn't poverty -- it was patriotic rationing!
- John F. Kennedy: Definitely not a Socialist, the only exception to the rule. He was a social liberal, however, breaking with his party to champion racial equality -- the pre-eminent social issue of the day.
- Lyndon B. Johnson: The "Great Society." 'Nuff said.
- Richard Milhouse Nixon: Wage and price controls, revenue sharing, affirmative action, "we're all Keynesians on this bus."
- George H.W. Bush (Bush-41): Massive tax increases.
- Bill Clinton: His first two years, when he had a Democratic Congress... need I say more?
By contrast, the hedgehogs in Barnett's taxonomy are mostly a bunch of capitalists: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan (!), and George W. Bush (Bush-43). (One exception here too: Jimmy Carter.)
I suppose it may only be coincidence that Barnett generally equates intellectual "nimbleness" with Socialism and single-minded predestinarianism with Capitalism, but it still makes me mutter "hm" out loud (thereby making my wife think I've fumbling for exactly the right way to rephrase a paragraph in the novel... hey, this is cool!)
In fact, some of Barnett's "hedgehogs" seem more like hummingbirds, sipping first from one flower then another without any rhyme or reason: Bill Clinton springs to mind, as he hovered from gays in the military to dot-com mania to Paula to Somalia to Haiti to Monica to collapsing our military to impeachment to Kathleen to Camp David to Hugh to Marc. Intellectually (and physically) curious he may be; but his curiosity was of the fleeting, infantile-oral kind.
Near as I can figure, Barnett believes hedgehogs see everything in black and white, while foxes see nothing in black and white -- everything is vibrant, 32-bit color. This may be a useful characteristic for a Grand Vizier... but not necessarily for the Sultan, who must make real-world decisions -- collapsing Schrödinger's wave equation of all possible choices down to a single state. This becomes a binary operation: the choice the president chose becomes a 1, while all possible contrary choices become 0s: once you have chosen to invade Afghanistan, you cannot also choose not to invade Afghanistan.
Thus, any effective president must see not only the rainbow but also pure blacks and whites... and be able to shift between them at will. I actually use a different taxonomy (never having studied my "ancient Greek poet Archilochus"). Rather than hedgehogs and foxes, I sort people along a scale that runs from Spockian to Bonesian: all the way Spockian is pure logic; all the way Bonesian is pure sentiment.
Of course, nobody is all the way one or the other. In fact, the ideal state is the Kirkian Mean, whence the person can move either in the Spockian or Bonesian direction at will, depending on circumstances: when planning a military invasion, he should be much closer to Mr. Spock; but after a terrible disaster (natural or anthropogenic), he should veer much more towards Dr. McCoy, to try to heal the nation.
Barnett more or less has Spockians and Bonesians -- but where is the Kirkian Mean in his taxonomy?
The trouble with a two-category taxonomy is that everybody must be divided into one of two categories. In the real world, there are two types of people: those who can be neatly divided into one of two categories -- and those who cannot.
(Hm. I may have to rethink this...)
In any event, it is clearly tempting for an analyst -- the quintessential foxian job, to borrow an adjective from Barnett's column -- to envision a fox as the best person to lead us to the promised land of a Functioning Core that encompasses the entire world, and a Non-Integrating Gap that has shrunk down to encompass only the Secretary of Jungle's swimming pool in Dar es Salaam. But the more likely reality is that we need a person who can be either fox or hedgehog as the circumstances demand... which is actually a much better description of Ronald Reagan than simply calling him a hedgehog because he liked Capitalism (which, by the way, is a much more "foxish" economic theory than the "hedgehoggish" Socialism).
Alas, I think I heard somewhere that Reagan is no longer with us, so we'll have to find somebody else. In the meantime, we'll interview bushels of Spockians and Bonesians alike, thankyouverymuch, looking for the elusive Captain Kirk hiding among them.
But I still highly recommend Thomas P.M. Barnett's book -- even if you're a fretful porpentine.
Date ►►► January 17, 2007
Another Bush "Surrender" That Isn't
The media refer to President Bush's announcement that he will not reauthorize the NSA al-Qaeda interecept program... now that the FISA court has finally stepped up and issued orders allowing the very same program to proceed with judicial support, making it virtually impossible for majority Democrats to kill off. Surprise, surprise on the jungle cruise tonight (no surprise to "George Orwell," however), the MSM play this story as if it were a historic victory over Bush.
I have the pleasant task of bursting the latest anti-Bush liberal triumphalism: the media take is complete rot. The only reason they bypassed the FISA court in the first place was that it was too slow... and at last, the court has agreed to reforms, crafted by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that not only dramatically speed up court review when necessary but also leave in place blanket approval of communications intercepts whenever there is probable cause to believe it's an al-Qaeda or related terrorist communication. Per the New York Times:
Mr. Gonzales told the committee’s chairman and ranking Republican that the secret court issued orders on Jan. 10 authorizing the government to monitor communications “into or out of the United States where there is probable cause to believe that one of the communicants is a member or agent of Al Qaeda or an associated terrorist organization.”
The administration may have to prove that probable cause later in court, should any criminal charges arise; but I suspect it's their call in the first place, since there's still that ex post facto element in the FISA authorizaiton process. The only probable cause required is a very minor one: that at least one party to the communication is "a member or agent of al-Qaeda" or related group, not that each and every member of the communication is planning to engage in terrorism.
AP has a strikingly similar graf:
Gonzales said a judge on the secret FISA court recently approved a government proposal allowing it to target communications into and out of the United States when probable cause exists that one person is a member of al Qaeda or an associated terrorist organization.
In other words, for all the shouting, it was the FISA court that accepted the Bush rationale... not the other way around.
Yet again, a Bush victory in the war on global jihadism is touted instead by the drive-by media as Bush caving in to pressure from his "critics." Bear in mind that the original NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was launched by executive order; should the FISA court fail to live up to its agreement to allow the administraiton a free hand to intercept terrorist communications... well, I'm sure President Bush can find a copy of his original order and just sign it again.
Let's keep our heads, shall we? The president who designed and authorized this program isn't going to just give it away; and there is no reason to doubt the elite media when they quietly admit, in the body of the articles, that indeed the FISA court gave Bush and Gonzales exactly what the administration itself proposed.
Date ►►► January 16, 2007
Comment Thread for Meat Oaf
Ruminations and hysterical, gibbon-like screeching about our Michelle Malkin post Meat Oaf.
There is a type of indictment I call a "draft-dodger" -- because it's an indictment that's never served. (Ba-dum BUM!)
Here is an example: former head of the United Nations Oil for
Food Fraud program, Benon Sevan, has been indicted by an American federal court for bribery and conspiracy, having accepted a boatload of money ($160,000) from Iraq via one Ephraim Nadler, the brother-in-law of former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (the former Secretary General is best-known today for being a punchline on an episode of Seinfeld):
Michael Garcia, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that Sevan, a Cypriot, allegedly received about $160,000 from Nadler on behalf of the Iraqi government.
Garcia said the United States had issued warrants for the arrest of Nadler and Sevan and will seek their arrest and extradition to New York.
I cannot envision how that warrant will ever be served. Sevan is not enough of an idiot to wander back to New York; thus, we would have to extradite him from his native country, the island-nation of Cyprus.
However, the extradition treaty we have with Cyprus does not obligate that country to extradite its own nationals to the United States (Article 3, Section 1); we can request, but Cyprus can (and almost certainly will) refuse: Sevan is a very powerful and important man in Cyprus, and they're not going to hand hm over -- bribery or no bribery.
So that's that. The best we can do is use the power of the indictment to restrict his travel and keep him from returning to his beloved U.N.
Is that enough? I suppose it will have to be.
The Gathering Swarm
In our previous post Iran Strategies 6: Preparing For the "Herman Option?", we introduced a well thought out line of attack against Iran that was discussed in a November Commentary column by Arthur Herman, titled Getting Serious About Iran: A Military Option.
Herman describes the prepositioning for the attack:
The first step would be to make it clear that the United States will tolerate no action by any state that endangers the international flow of commerce in the Straits of Hormuz. Signaling our determination to back up this statement with force would be a deployment in the Gulf of Oman of minesweepers, a carrier strike group’s guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis-class cruiser, and anti-submarine assets, with the rest of the carrier group remaining in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy could also deploy UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) and submarines to keep watch above and below against any Iranian missile threat to our flotilla.
In our previous post linked above, we reported that there were now two carrier battle groups (CVBGs) in the Persian Gulf, or perhaps split between the Gulf and the Indian Ocean: the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Assuming the normal support complement of a CVBG, that means we already had the following in the PiG:
- 2 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers;
- 4 Ægis-equipped guided-missile cruisers;
- 4-6 Ægis-equipped guided-missile destroyers;
- 2 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates;
- 4 Los Angeles class fast-attack submarines;
- 180 aircraft (counting fixed- and rotary-wing), split between fighters, attackers, ASW, and assault helos that can carry Special Forces.
- An "air defence battalion equipped with Patriot missile batteries to protect America’s Gulf Arab allies from possible air attack from Iran."
And today, the UK Times Online announced that Great Britain is sending two minesweepers to the PiG:
Britain’s contribution is two minehunters HMS Blyth and HMS Ramsey, which will remain in the Gulf for an unusually-long two-year mission to keep shipping routes open in the event that Iran attempts to block oil exports.
The White House has insisted that it has no plans to take military action against Iran. But Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, described the build up as an evolving strategy to confront Iran’s “destabilising behaviour”.
We described Herman's scenario thus in our previous post linked above:
- Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
- Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
- Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
- Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
- Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
- Continue the campaign to destroy all of Iran's gasoline refineries;
- Finally, American Special Forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island.
The beauty of the plan is that we kill very few Iranian civilians and destroy few civilian facilities, which means we do not turn the pro-American youth away from us; but we end up with the ability to turn Iranian oil exports and gasoline imports on and off at will -- which means we can turn everything off now; and then, if the current regime of mullahs is overthrown and a more acceptable regime replaces it, we can turn it back on again.
The Times consults an "Iranian expert," Dr Ali Ansari, who warns that such an aggressive build-up could "accidentally" provoke a war between the West and Iran:
“There is a distinct possibility that the current cold war could turn hot,” he said. “This is an accidental war waiting to happen. Even with the best will in the world crises are not easily managed. Before you know it you can lose control of the situation.”
Can the UK Times be as dense as their American counterparts in New York and Los Angeles? We have just committed to the Gulf every element necessary for the Herman Option, or some similar attack. Does the UK Times really believe we haven't considered the possibility that the Iranians might decide to attack us first?
It has not escaped Big Lizards' notice that, were the Iranians to attack our ships in the Gulf, we would have carte blanche to respond... and nobody, not even the Democratic Congress, could muster much of an argument against it. (We can, of course, use the very plan we'd already developed.)
The scenario seems not to have escaped the Iranians' attention either: all of a sudden, they want to make nice with us. President Ahmadinejad -- and supposedly Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei as well, though they may have had to bring Bob Woodward in to commune with the dead or comatose -- just sent a letter to Saudi Arabia begging the Sunni kingdom to try to smooth things over between Shiite Iran and the Judeo-Christian United States of America:
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani delivered letters to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah from Iranian leaders, Saudi media said on Monday, in a visit which comes amid rising tension over Iraq and Tehran’s nuclear programme....
Larijani delivered the king a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and key royal diplomat Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
A Saudi official said Iran wanted Saudi leaders to relay a goodwill message to Washington on a desire for cooperation, but gave no more details. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to arrive for talks in Riyadh on Monday and Tuesday.
At the moment -- or as soon as the Blyth and the Ramsey arrive on patrol -- we will have every necessary piece in play; all we need do is launch the attack, either pre-emptively or in response to Iranian aggression.
We may end up in a fast and decisive hot war with Iran sooner than we realize; in fact, by the time we heard it had started, it would be all over but the shouting and screaming and worldwide faux horror... masking a global sigh of relief.
Oh, and it goes without saying [not that that's ever stopped me before] that all credible threats to Iran -- such as a couple of CVBGs in the PiG -- improve the chances that the change of course on our Iraq strategy will actually succeed, bringing us to victory there. Even if we don't get the chance to exercise the Herman Option.
Date ►►► January 15, 2007
Polling Dos and Don'ts
Immediately after President Bush's speech on the change of course in our Iraq strategy, pollsters at both AP/Ipsos and ABC/Washington Post released surveys -- mostly conducted before Bush even spoke -- that purportedly showed huge public opposition to increasing troop levels in Iraq.
The Democrats seized upon these polls (which was the whole point) to rally Congressmen of both parties to do something, anything, to stop Bush's plan for victory before it could be implemented -- and possibly succeed.
The problem is that the very polls used as a basis of opposition by the Democrats were fundamentally flawed.
Since contemporary American pollsters -- most recently, AP/Ipsos and ABC/Washington Post polls -- evidently have a continuing problem with the basics of the science of polling, I thought I should issue a small primer (speaking as a complete non-expert in statistics and polling):
DON'T wildly overpoll members of one party, especially when asking about the policy of the other party.
The AP/Ipsos poll, to its credit, actually includes a question about party affiliation. The answer is illuminating:
Do you consider yourself a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent or none of these?
Republican ....................................... 24%
Independent ..................................... 26%
None of these................................... 12%
Not sure.......................................... 3%
Note that the largest group among respondents is Democrat, followed by Independent; Republican is dead last; note also that the number of Democrats polled was 46% larger than the number of Republicans. It seems rather self-evident that if you poll such a huge bunch more Democrats than Republicans about a Republican policy, you're going to get a lobsidedly negative response.
Most contemporary pollsters insist this sort of question does not measure party registration, merely party identification: the purpose of this argument is to deflect criticism that they're deliberately overpolling Democrats. "No," they argue; "the Republicans' stupid policies are just causing more people to identify with the Democrats... it's really measuring a surge of support for Democrats!"
The problem with this argument is twofold:
- If this were true, we would see such a surge in actual votes. And yet, despite the 2006 vote, no such surge is apparent: the country remains divided almost 50-50, moving sometimes left, sometimes right -- which it has been since about 1992.
- If this were really true... then why did Ipsos shift, for this question alone, from polling "adults" to polling "registered voters?" For no other question on this poll were responses limited to registered voters.
An "adult" may well take the question to mean which party he currently likes more; but a person who is a registered voter is far more likely to take it as asking under which party he is actually registered. So in this case, I think it very likely that what we're seeing is, indeed, a huge overpolling of Democrats.
The ABC/Washington Post poll does not tell us who they polled; but considering that another question had respondents saying that they trust Democrats, by a 47% to 36% plurality over Republicans, "to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq" -- when in fact, the Democrats have never enunciated any plan at all... I think it's awfully likely that, like AP/Ipsos, they overpoll Democrats.
DO ask party affiliation -- and then DO publish the cross-tabs, so we know who is driving the response
What is the point of asking party affiliation if they're not going to bother telling us how each response broke down by party? There is a very big difference between having 70% of everyone thinking we shouldn't send more troops, and having Republicans split 50-50, Independents split 55-45, and Democrats split 99-1 (with that one being named "Joe").
DON'T poll on a technical question that respondents are simply not equipped to decide
Such as, for example, complicated strategic military questions that require several years study of military history and philosophy in order to have an informed opinion.
It's like polling people to find out whether Boeing or Lockheed Martin should build the Joint Strike Fighter... how the heck would the average American know?
DO try to include all the main points of a plan in your summary... not just those you hope will be unpopular.
In both polls, the only element of the new strategy they inquire about is the troop build-up; as AP/Ipsos phrases it:
Would you favor or oppose sending more troops to Iraq?
Surprise, surprise, when put that bluntly, 70% of respondents said "oppose," and only 26% said "favor." (In the similar ABC/WaPo poll, the response was 61% to 36% negative). But as we noted in our last post, this is actually the least important part of the change of strategic course.
It's also the most controversial... and taken in isolation, without all the other elements, even I would probably oppose it. But it should not be taken in isolation; consider this analogy:
You're a major stockholder in a company that is losing money hand over teakettle, $100 million in the last quarter alone. You determine that the problem is a VP in charge of technology who simply cannot get the new product out the door; the prototype is working great, but he's afraid to send it to production. So you go to the BoD and suggest the following:
- Sack Vice President of Technology Hammond Cheese;
- Promote his top manager, Flash Groton, who was actually in charge of the project and has been champing at the bait to send it to production;
- Accelerate testing and release of the product;
- Pour $10 million some money into advertising and promoting it, to try to recoup the company's losses.
But then, when the BoD puts it to a vote, this is how they phrase it:
DON'T precede the vital question with a series of questions designed to put people in a bad mood
What is -- or should be -- the point of this poll? To determine what Americans think about the president's new strategy -- not to see what people think of President Bush in general, or how Bush has handled Iraq up to this point, or whether the country is headed in the right or wrong direction. Those questions are of marginal interest (given that Bush is term-limited, and we'll have a new president in 2009, come hell or high ball); but this isn't the place for them.
And especially not when AP/Ipsos knows in advance that the eight questions they ask before getting to the point will prejudice the response decidedly against President Bush... just before asking the most important question about the new policy by President Bush. Regardless of what people might have thought of the policy at the beginning of the poll, by the time they've been asked these eight questions, they wouldn't support a Bush policy to encourage the Pledge of Allegiance!
Here is what they asked before troubling to inquire about "sending more troops to Iraq":
- Is the United States on the right track or wrong track? (67% negative)
- What's our most important problem (an entirely negative question to make people think about problems, not solutions)
- Bush's job approval (65% negative)
- How is Bush handling the economy? (55% negative)
- How is he handling domestic issues? (59% negative)
- How is he handling foreign policy and the war on terror? (60% negative)
- How is he handling Iraq? (68% negative)
- Congressional job approval (62% negative)
- "Would you favor or oppose sending more troops to Iraq?" -- 70% negative.
Yes, we get it, we get it: Bush isn't very popular right now; and I have no doubt AP/Ipsos knew exactly what the response on those first eight questions would be. But what does that have to do with the change of course in our Iraq strategy?
We're changing the rules of engagement, reworking the entire Iraq strategy, and in that context, increasing our troop level to actually win this war. The efficacy and wisdom of these steps have absolutely nothing to do with Bush's popularity.
So why ask them first -- other that to sour the pool before hitting them with the real question?
Rather than honestly engage the policy itself, asking about each element of it and doing so without prejudicing the sample, AP/Ipsos chose instead to use a sleazy pollster's trick: If you want a big negative response on some message, precede it by five or six -- or eight, as in this case -- questions that will get respondents angry, depressed, and bitter about the messenger. Et voilà! Instant trashing of the message itself.
Because AP/Ipsos begins numbering the questions anew with the troop-increase question (calling it number 1 again), I thought perhaps this was a separate poll separately conducted. But the poll report only mentions the total number and type of respondents once, at the very beginning; and the dates are the same for all questions.
There is no indication that they split the sample and asked one half the political questions and the other half the "strategery" questions. And the AP write up of the poll mingles responses to both parts in the same paragraphs -- in fact, the same sentences -- making it quite clear that all questions were asked of all respondents.
The only conclusion, from a mathematical standpoint, is that this was a deliberate, cold-blooded attempt to bias the sample. The ABC/WaPo poll pulled the same trick, though to a lesser degree (and they got a less negative response -- interesting). Before asking any questions about the new policy, they first asked the following:
- Bush's job approval (64% negative)
- Was the Iraq war worth fighting? (58% negative)
- Who do you trust, Republicans or Democrats, to handle the Iraq "situation"? (47% - 36% Dems)
- Did you listen to any of Bush's speech? (58% none)
- "Do you support or oppose Bush's proposal to send approximately 22,000 additional U.S. military forces to Iraq?"
This is not quite as bad as AP/Ipsos, as there are fewer negative questions (four instead of eight); but it's worse in the sense that ABC/WaPo makes a point of calling it "Bush's proposal," more firmly tying the strategy to the man -- after reminding respondents how much they dislike the man right now.
All in all, a shabby (and overused) trick designed, not to probe the public's response, but to push it firmly against the new strategy.
DO construct a poll that elicits real information; DON'T release a divisive push-poll in the middle of a war
The very science of polling is under fire today in America; and this kind of polling is one big reason why. Most people understand exactly what Mark Twain meant when he wrote:
Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
Autobiography of Mark Twain, 1904 -- though nobody has found any record of Disraeli remarking this.)
We all know instinctively that pollsters can manipulate questions and reponses to get whatever answers they (or more accurately, their clients) desire. But the discrediting of polling in American politics stems not from the knowledge that political pollsters can manipulate polls -- but rather from the deep suspicion that they do manipulate them, nearly every time.
Similarly, we don't distrust the media because it's possible for them to lie, but because most of us believe they lie like a Persian rug every blessed day. And why, in both cases? Because liberals believe they, the "Anointed," are so much smarter than we, that we simply must be led, like children, for our own good... otherwise, we might draw the wrong conclusions, acting against "the Vision," thus falling into mortal sin.
It is utterly clear that the editors and publishers at the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and ABC, along with the pollsters and polling directors, share belief in a number of leitmotifs about the Iraq war:
- Iraq has nothing to do with the larger War Against Global Jihad;
- Terrorism is not a major threat to the United States;
- Bush and the GOP suffer from "Islamophobia;"
- We went to war in Iraq to steal their oil;
- We failed to steal any oil, therefore we've already been defeated;
- We must admit defeat and get out, having learned a hard lesson about trying to steal other people's oil;
- "Changing course" can only mean withdrawal from Iraq; adding troops, no matter what other strategic changes we make, constitutes "staying the course" -- which has already been discredited;
- If enough Americans demand that we get out, Bush will have to comply;
- The most urgent goal is for Democrats to win the presidency: all other goals, including national security, take a back seat.
They see polliing, not as a scientific or mathematical tool to understand the electorate (or the citoyens) -- what they think, what they want -- but as a political tool to shape and mold public opinion to support Democratic and liberal goals and initiatives. As we have noted many times before, if these errors and mistakes in polling were random, they would favor the Right as often as they favor the Left. Instead, they always line up to promote Democratic policies and damage Republican policies (the Restaurant Check Fallacy: errors in toting up the check always favor the restaurant, never the customer).
Rather than turning polling into the scientific-political tool the Left wants, however, they have only succeeded in tainting all polling as disreputable -- today, even good polling must scale a wall of incredulity to be heard. That is the natural outcome when ordinary people -- who may not have specialized training but are much smarter than the elites think they are -- realize how they have been bamboozled and beguiled by polling in the past.
This is a sad turn of affairs, and it will take many years to undo. But the healing can only begin when the self-inflicted injuries cease.
Shame on AP/Ipsos and ABC/Washington Post pollsters, for allowing liberal politicos to make fools of them.
Date ►►► January 14, 2007
Big Box Media: Engineering the Unthinkable
Let's review the bidding:
- The New York Times blew the NSA al-Qaeda communications intercept program, tracking the phone numbers, length, and time of phone calls that either originated or terminated abroad, to or from known terrorist telephone numbers -- a program the writers and editors later claimed to believe was unconstitutional;
- The Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times revealed our program to track terrorist financing via SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication -- a program that everyone involved, including the writers and editors of the various newspapers, admitted was perfectly legal, and indeed exactly what everyone (themselves included) said was the most vital kind of terrorism intelligence;
- And now, the New York Times leads with an article blowing yet a third program to gather critical intelligence on terrorist activities and plots within the United States: they revealed today that the Pentagon has been tracking funding for terrorists -- those who have infiltrated the U.S. military or are plotting to attack military installations -- by sending "national security letters" to banks, credit-card companies, and other financial institutions requesting information on specific, identified people suspected of terrorist involvement. Everyone likewise admits this counter-terrorism program is perfectly legal, since compliance with the letters is voluntary.
Each of these revelations (and "lesser included" exposés en passant), but especially the concatenation of all of them in succession, defies all reason; it's as if the media were to telephone a terrorist target before a raid and warn them it was coming (oh, wait -- they did that, too).
There is only one circumstance where all this would make sense: if senior writers and editors of the major print media in this country actually want to see another horrific terrorist act succeed in the American homeland... so they can say, "see? President Bush's fascist counter-terrorism programs cannot keep us safe. Let's junk them all and go back to the Clinton era of peace and prosperity instead!"
Very much like the SWIFT program, the terrorist-financing intelligence program that the Times blew today is a perfectly legal method of trying to "follow the money," which every expert (including the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, as well as each of these newspapers in editorials) argued was the best way to expose terrorists and their plots before they came to fruition:
The F.B.I., the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and espionage, has issued thousands of national security letters since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provoking criticism and court challenges from civil liberties advocates who see them as unjustified intrusions into Americans’ private lives.
But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.
I'll bet it was "not previously known" to the terrorists, either. Thank goodness the New York Times has undertaken to keep them up to speed.
And once again, it appears that anonynous "intelligence officials" are the original source of the Times' information about the program (which they are now blowing), though "Pentagon officials" may also be leaking -- in fact, the leakers could be "military intelligence officers," who would fit both descriptions:
Military intelligence officers have sent letters in up to 500 investigations over the last five years, two officials estimated. The number of letters is likely to be well into the thousands, the officials said, because a single case often generates letters to multiple financial institutions. For its part, the C.I.A. issues a handful of national security letters each year, agency officials said. Congressional officials said members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been briefed on the use of the letters by the military and the C.I.A.
So not only is it perfectly legal -- in the entire article, the New York Times never even questions the legality -- but in addition, the Bush administration has kept Congress well informed via the intelligence committees of what it's doing. (The closest the Times comes to suggesting something is wrong with the program is to note that "Some national security experts and civil liberties advocates are troubled," and that one attorney defending a chaplain initially suspected of aiding terrorists was "disturbed.")
It may be illustrative to put this into ordinary criminal terms, so we can examine the pheneomenon without the extra baggage of terrorism, the military, the CIA, and the Bush administration. Imagine that the New York City police are investigating the Gambino Mafia family:
- They start clandestinely intercepting phone calls either to or from known members of the Gambino crime organization; but the New York Times prints a front-page exposé of that operation, claiming there is a problem with the warrant that may, perhaps, render the phone intercept illegal. The Gambinos cease using their phone for crime-related purposes, shifting to other forms of communication.
- Next, the city obtains search warrants for two different businesses owned by the Gambinos and suspected of laundering money for them. On the eve of each search, a reporter from the Times telephones the casino and asks, "you're about to be searched by the NYPD... how do you feel about that?" In each case, when the cops search the next day, the financial records appear sanitized.
- Then the city starts using provisions of RICO (the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act) to obtain bank records for the Gambino family and companies that it owns; the Times swiftly runs a front-page story to that effect -- admitting that the city was in full compliance with the law in trying to get that information -- and the Gambinos shift to banks in the Cayman Islands for all future banking, while all compromised individuals flee to countries with no extradition treaties with the United States, continuing Gambino operations from those locations.
- Finally, NYC sends letters to various credit card companies, requesting that the companies voluntarily turn over the records of named individuals and companies who are known members or affiliates of the Gambinos. The New York Times even outs that voluntary attempt as soon as they hear about it, again not even bothering to allege that there is anything illegal about this... merely citing "civil liberties advocates" who are "troubled" by all this attention paid to a group of people who haven't yet been proven guilty.
At this point, I believe an independent observer could be forgiven for concluding that the newspaper did not want the Gambinos stopped or prosecuted, but would rather they were allowed to continue their nefarious activies without police interference. In fact, I don't think it unreasonable to say that the New York Times, in this hypothetical, has functioned as an accessory to those crimes. It has certainly been on a crusade to run interference for them, alerting them to every attempt by the city to obtain enough evidence to prosecute.
It can't be illegality that has been driving the elite media's crusade to run interference for terrorists in America, because they don't even allege it except for the NSA program. So what does drive them? A pair of grafs buried deep in the Times story reveals what's really eating at the newspaper (and by extension, the elite media in general) about anti-terrorism intelligence programs:
The Pentagon’s expanded intelligence-gathering role, in particular, has created occasional conflicts with other federal agencies. Pentagon efforts to post American military officers at embassies overseas to gather intelligence for counterterrorism operations or future war plans has rankled some State Department and C.I.A. officials, who see the military teams as duplicating and potentially interfering with the intelligence agency.
In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has complained about military officials dealing directly with local police -- rather than through the bureau -- for assistance in responding to possible terrorist threats against a military base. F.B.I. officials say the threats have often turned out to be uncorroborated and, at times, have stirred needless anxiety.
In other words, the Times editors are upset because they believe that the State Department (and their conjoined twin, the CIA) -- rather than the Department of Defense -- should take the lead in all terrorist investigations... because State's orientation is entirely towards "solving" the problem of global jihadism (or "sacred terror," as Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon call it) by sitting down with jihadis and negotiating... understanding them, feeling their pain, and offering them political and economic bribes to go attack someone else instead.
It may be appropriate, as Thomas P.M. Barnett argues in the Pentagon's New Map, that State take the lead in constructing the new "rule-sets" by which the democratic nations in the "Functioning Core" identify the lawless regions of the "Non-Integrating Gap" and move them, by force if necessary, out of their isolation and into the global network of democratic decision-making. But he also argues that enforcement of those new rule-sets often requires the brute force of the military; you cannot get by on mere cajoling, begging, and bribing by diplomats alone.
Even when enforcement is required, the media prefer the FBI (not DoD) to handle it, because they see terrorism as "just a crime," after all (albeit a large one that kills hundreds): It should be handled entirely by terrorists being arrested, extradited, and granted fair trials in American civilian courts... where they can be represented pro bono publico by the biggest and most powerful law firms in the country.
Which is, of course, tantamount to wanting them to be acquitted and released. Civilian courts are ill-equipped to handle trials of global jihadists, because they are vulnerable to the standard defense technique of demanding so many critical, classified national-security documents in discovery motions -- motions that are routinely granted by many Clinton-appointed federal judges -- that the administraiton eventually has to drop the case rather than compromise our most vital anti-terrorism secrets.
The Times is not unaware of this loophole.
If somebody can suggest a more honorable reason for such a relentless crusade to blow every, single anti-terrorism program we have, I wish he would suggest it. It's horrible to think that the people controlling what is ultimately our only source of national and international news deliberately manipulate that news in order to engineer a successful terrorist attack on America's heartland, for political reasons of their own; but I have yet to think up an alternative motvation that fits the facts.
Comment Thread for Qods Piece
Thoughts, agitations, emancipations, and gastric vibrations for our post on Michelle Malkin, Qods Piece.
Stop me if you've heard this before...
Date ►►► January 13, 2007
Embryonic Steak Cells
Here's a juicy post...
The whole point of stem cells (embryonic, placental, uterine, or adult) is that they can be made to grow into any kind of cellular tissue needed; and you needn't grow the entire organism in order to produce, say, pancreatic tissue, liver cells, or neurons. Or, for that matter, muscle tissue, grown from a "myoblast" stem cell... which brings up a very interesting scenario.
What is another name for the muscle tissue of a steer, a castrated male bovine? Try ribeye steak, or T-bone, or rump roast. Another name for the muscle tissue of a pig is pork roast or bacon or sausage.
All right, you're way ahead of me; but the scientists are way ahead of us both, because I didn't even think about this until I read this article: biological researchers in the United States and the Netherlands have been experimenting in growing meat directly from animal stem cells, without having to grow the entire pig or steer:
In different parts of the world, rival research teams are racing to produce meat using cell-culture technology. Several patents have been filed. Scientists at Nasa has been experimenting since 2001 and the Dutch Government is sponsoring a $4 million (£2 million) project to cultivate pork meat.
The idea may be stomach-turning, but the science for making pork in a Petri dish already exists.
(Actually, they use adult animal stem cells; I just liked the sound of "embryonic" in the title... drags a little ersatz controversy into the post.)
I accept that some people's stomachs may be upset by the thought, but I don't understand why. In fact, this would be a Godsend to billions of starving people all over the world. Not to mention millions of religious vegetarians, as they could start eating meat without making even a single animal suffer!
Put simply, the process relies on a muscle precursor cell known as a myoblast, a sort of stem cell preprogrammed to grow into muscle. This cell is extracted from a living animal, and encouraged to multiply in a nutritional broth of glucose, amino acids, minerals and growth factors -- [Winston] Churchill’s “suitable medium” [Churchill suggested such a technique back in 1936]. The cells are poured on to a “scaffold” and placed in a bioreactor, where they are stretched, possibly using electrical impulses, until they form muscle fibres.
The resulting flesh is then peeled off in a “meat-sheet”and may be ground up for sausages, patties or nuggets.
There are still some major hurdles to overcome:
- Blood vessels: Nobody has yet grown an artery or a vein from stem cells; without blood, meat could only be grown in ultra-thin sheets, since each cell needs to be hydrated and nourished during growth... which means the "meat-sheet" must be thin enough that the growth medium will contact every cell.
- Taste: Since this is brand new, nobody knows how much of taste in inherent in the meat, and how much is added by what the animal eats, drinks, and how much exercise it gets. Experience tasting the meat in many different countries tells me that a great deal of taste is nurture, not nature.
- Luddite hysteria: every advance in food science is met by shrieks of "Frankenfood!" from portly, aging hippies who have never skipped a meal in their entire lives; and who have devoted those overfed lives to protecting the world's starving masses from the "wrong kind" of food.
I strongly suspect that the first two barriers will be broken; they're just engineering details: we'll learn to grow arteries, veins, and blood; and we'll learn how to artificially modify the natural taste of lab meat to give the distinct flavor of, e.g., Kobe beef or Finnish reindeer.
At that point, the world will experience a terrible war over the third hurdle: Do we proceed with the mass manufacture of such "in vitrio" meat and give the Third World the greatest nutritional gift in human history?
Or do we label it "Frankenfood" and condemn billions of people to starvation because our sensibilities are offended? (See if you can guess which answer I hope prevails; I tried to hide my biases as well as the elite media does.)
I first encountered the idea of growing meat in one of the best science fiction novels ever written, the Space Merchants, by Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth (1953, first serialized as "Gravy Planet" in Galaxy Magazine, June/July/August 1952). In that dark, satirical book, the vast population of the Earth is fed meat sliced from "Chicken Little," a colossal (building sized), pulsating, quivering, artificially grown chicken heart.
Although the Space Merchants was intended as black humor, I was captivated by the idea of growing meat as easily as we grow vegetables, fruits, and grain in hydroponics greenhouses. It was incidental to the story, which was a satire on the world of advertising; but it was seared, seared in my memory.
All of this relates to the greatest promise of stem-cell research and cloning research: if we can grow specific body parts of humans from cells taken from the patient himself, there is almost no limit to what diseases, conditions, or injuries we can cure -- other than death itself. (And even that may fall within our lifetimes; the definition keeps getting narrower and narrower.)
Can we grow a human pancreas, to replace one lost to pancreatic cancer, without having to grow an entire human? Can we grow a chunk of brain tissue for a person who lost part of his brain to head trauma or Alzheimer's disease?
How about this: Can we grow a chunk of brain tissue to surgically implant into a healthy person to make him smarter? If that thought terrifies you -- you're reading the wrong blog!
And to wrench ourselves back to the topic, can we grow a living leg of lamb without having to grow an entire lamb? And if so, then minor distribution questions aside (whose solution may require invasion and regime change around the entire "Non-Integrating Gap," as Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the undeveloping world in the Pentagon's New Map), then why can't everybody in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, India, and China eat fresh meat morning, noon, and night, every day of the week? (If they develop cholesterol problems, we can sell millions of prescriptions of Lipitor.)
To borrow even more from Barnett, consider this question: As we construct the new "rule sets" for the post-9/11 world, the most urgent task is to integrate the entire world into what he calls the "Third Globalization"... which should be done by force, if necessary, as it is precisely those countries and territories that isolate themselves from the rest of the world that become breeding grounds for extremism, terrorism, and jihad.
Does that mean we must simply begin supplying such "Frankenmeat" to the Non-Integrating Gap, no matter what the local governments have to say about it? I say Yes; and if Zaire, Zimbabwe, and Nepal don't like it -- they can go boil an owl. Or some artificial owl meat.
(Did I mention you can use this technique to make meals out of endangered species without endangering even a single individual of that species? For that matter, you could use it to grow human flesh to peddle to cannibals, weaning them off "long-pig" on the hoof.)
The world can no longer tolerate mass stupidity on such a genocidal scale: just as we should never again tolerate a holocaust like what the Nazis did in Germany (or what the Tutsis and Hutus did in Rwanda-Burundi)... we should also no longer tolerate mass starvation in order to save the face of some isolationist, totalitarian, Marxist or sharia state. It is too much to ask of the rest of us to put up with gross, catastrophic incompetence and indifference.
Free Chicken Little! And have a heart, guys... on me.
Date ►►► January 12, 2007
Comment Thread For "Jamil, We Hardly Knew Ye"
It's new! It's you! It isn't even blue! Discuss the joys and raptures of Jamil, We Hardly Knew Ye right here...
Date ►►► January 11, 2007
Building a Case for Casus Belli
It's a sad fact that in today's world, no good deed goes unpunished. America is the most generous of all countries, not just of our treasure but our blood: no other country on earth would have led a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein when it was so much easier just to mass troops along Iraq's border and threaten war -- in order to extort a huge oil-lease jackpot, like everyone else was doing.
No other country contributed as much to Tsunami relief as did we. No country has done as much to help the poor around the world. No other country has stood up to tyranny and injustice as we have. And what do we get in exchange? Faugh.
Yes, I said "faugh," and I meant it to sting!
Now we have the ludicrous situation where Iran is frantically trying to develop nuclear weapons; Iran controls the largest terrorist organization on the planet; Iran repeatedly -- incessantly -- nakedly threatens to obliterate another nation, wiping Israel from the map; Iran has been caught red-handed shipping high explosives into Iraq to kill Americans... yet we still would become world outcasts were we to attack Iran without iron-clad evidence that they had declared war on us first.
Unfortunately, we cannot live without international commerce; the days of Fortress America are long gone, if they ever existed at all. Therefore, before actually doing anything about Iran -- the "Herman Option," for example -- we must build the case for casus belli.
Fortunately, it shouldn't be a hard case to build... and even more fortunately, we have a president who seems determined to lay out exactly such a case. Thus, today we raided an Iranian government building in Irbil (not a consulate, as has been erroneously reported) and captured six Iranians:
The forces entered the building about 3 a.m., detaining the Iranians and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled northern part of Iraq, 220 miles from Baghdad.
A resident living near the building said the troops used stun bombs and brought down an Iranian flag from the roof. As the operation went on, two helicopters flew overhead, the resident said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
At the Pentagon, a senior U.S. military official said the building was not a consulate and did not have any diplomatic status. The six Iranians were taken in a "cordon-and-knock" operation, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
I'm not sure why, but the extraordinarily ungrateful Kurds seem to be hopping mad. But the Iranians are showing a great deal of restraint... the kind one shows when one has been caught with his hand in the milk bottle:
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state-run radio the raid was "against a diplomatic mission" since the "presence of Iranian staffers in Irbil was legal." Hosseini claimed the action by coalition forces reflected a "continuation of pressure" on Iran, aiming to "create tension" between Iraq and its neighbors.
Note the tortured logic to imply what they seem wary of saying out loud, lest they be called up on to prove it: they do not actually claim that those in the building have "diplomatic immunity," but boy do they try to imply it! Evidently, any Iranian in Iraq legally is, therefore, on a "diplomatic mission." What does that say about those Iranians in Iraq illegally... such as those four we caught in December? We're still holding two of them; the other two actually did have diplomatic immunity -- which shows the Iranians are not shy about asserting it when they can prove their case.
And what about this minor incident? Do the Iranians think we've forgotten that we seized from Iraqi Shiite militia members a batch of Iranian-made weapons and munitions -- with a manufacturer's date of 2006?
U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.
This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official....
Evidence is mounting, too, that the most powerful militia in Iraq, Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, is receiving training support from the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah.
Each of these incidents is just another brick in the wall; but when the wall has enough bricks, I believe we're actually going to drop it on someone: something along the lines of the "Herman Option;" and in Bush's speech announcing it (while it's already going on), I believe he will lay out each piece, brick after brick, until even the Democrats will be stymied.
After all, what will they argue: that we should announce to the world that it's open season on Americans?
In his most recent Mullings (the January 11th, 2007 edition), Rich Galen notes an interesting conundrum for those Democrats who have come out hard and angry against President Bush's new strategy:
- If the change in strategy works, and we make measurable and unambiguous progress in the Iraq War, then the bitching and moaning Democrats will look like cowardly, defeatist, un-American dolts;
- If the change in strategy fails, then what are they going to say? "See, we told you America was finished!"
Americans love a winner; but even if we lose -- and everyone has to lose now and again -- they still love a man who goes down swinging, rather than one who won't even step up to the plate, because he knows he's going to strike out anyway.
So let's give George the bat and get the hell out of his way.
RIP R.A.W.: Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007
I just got word that Robert Anton Wilson has left his body to head... who knows where? (Maybe like his close friend Timothy Leary, he's merely on the outside looking in.)
This is personally very sad for me. I was always a huge fan; and when I lived in Santa Cruz, I attended three or four of his multi-day workshops on -- well, on the world in the RAW. (I also took a couple of workshops from Timothy Leary, who at the time was very closely involved with Wilson on a number of software projects. I share Leary's birthday.)
Wilson coined the phrase "politically non-Euclidean," which I have used ever since; his politics was an eclectic mix of Left and Right, independent, and Karmic... he inevitably took the most optimistic and exciting way of looking at a problem, no matter what the provenance.
While I was at UC Santa Cruz (1980 to 1985), my friend Ron Record and I formed the Student SMI²LE Society, or S³, which was a student organization organized to promote the Timothy Leary/Robert Anton Wilson program of "Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension" (and, to be bluntly honest, to get school money to throw cocktail parties for authors and others we liked).
As part of that club, we brought Wilson to lecture several times at UCSC (we also brought the Tim Leary/G. Gordon Liddy debate series to campus), and we co-sponsored at least two of Wilson's workshops.
My fine, feathered friend Brad Linaweaver was closer to the man personally, though not as conversant with his fiction and alleged nonfiction... though Brad was personally closer to Bob Shea than Bob Wilson.
I believe both Bobs were associate editors at Playboy -- editors of the letters page, as I recall -- when they got the idea for the Illuminatus! trilogy; all those letters quoted in the beginning of the book about weird happenings are actually real... real in the sense that they were actual letters published in Playboy; not necessarily real in the sense that what they described actually happened. (In fact, I know at least two were written by Wilson and Shea themselves, and probably many more.)
While the Illuminatus! trilogy (the exclamation mark is part of the title, I think) was the best known of Wilson's work, and certainly his best-selling fiction, I thought his Schrödinger's Cat series was more mature and interesting. But to my taste, his literary works hit their zenith in Masks of the Illuminati, a detective novel in which Albert Einstein teams up with James Joyce to solve a bizarre series of crimes.
Wilson also wrote a lot of utterly fascinating and absorbing "nonfiction" (I use qualifiers because I'm still rather skeptical about some of it). His first was a book for Playboy Press, Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words (1972, but I've never even seen a copy of it). His next three were also for Playboy Press: the Sex Magicians (1973, ditto), Sex and Drugs (1973, re-released in 1987), and the Book of the Breast (1974, revised and re-released in 1989 as Ishtar Rising).
But his first post-Illuminatus! nonfiction work was probably his most widely read nonfiction: Cosmic Trigger, now called Cosmic Trigger I (1977). He introduced Leary's 8-circuit map of human consciousness, discussed all the themes that would permeate his later work (space colonization, intelligence increase, life extension, psychedelic drugs, James Joyce, and skepticism raised to such a high peak that he was even skeptical of skepticism itself).
And Wilson also discussed the most horrible thing that ever happened in his life: when his youngest daughter, 15 year old (Patricia) Luna Wilson, was beaten to death in a robbery at the store where she worked. Wilson and his wife Arlen had Luna's brain cryonically preserved. (They have two other children, Graham, and Luna's older sister, Karuna.)
Of his nonfiction, the book I found most fascinating was the New Inquisition, 1986 (probably And/Or Press, but I'm not sure).
Wilson considered himself a Joyce scholar; having never been able to get through either Ulysses or Finnegans Wake myself, I cannot possibly comment. But he also considered himself a great student of physics and mathematics, and there I have to say he really didn't understand all that much about either.
He was a great student of the works of British poet, magician, metaphysician, occultist, loony, and mountain climber Aleister Crowley, and it was through Wilson that I became interested in Crowley myself, reading a dozen or so of his books, plus four biographies of the man. Crowley was once called "the wickedest man in Christendom," and was villified not just while he lived but even decades and decades after his death. I'm grateful to Wilson for giving us a portrait of the man that is simultaneously sympathetic -- and skeptical.
But none of that matters; until the last decade of his life, Wilson was the most optimistic, exuberant, and neophillic person I've ever met, with the except of his mentor, Timothy Leary himself.
He had detereorated markedly the last time I saw him: he was in a wheelchair and looked much older than his 73 years. At one point, he dropped a lit cigarette in his lap and could not even fish it out himself (he had an attendant). Decades of booze and tobacco were probably what did him in.
But he left a wonderful legacy of literary achievement, even if he was never really recognized by the science-fiction community. I'll miss him; but I've been missing him for five or six years now, and at least now he can get on with the next stage of existence, whatever that may be.
It is altogether fitting that Robert Anton Wilson died on the 101st birthday of Albert Hoffmann, the Swiss scientist who invented Lysergic acid diethylamide-25... more commonly known as LSD.
President Bush Speaks - FAQ
(With a cool nod towards Dean Barnett, who does this sort of thing a lot on Hugh Hewitt's blog.)
Q: Didn't Bush seem really nervous last night?
Somewhat; I wouldn't say "really." My guess is that he and his national-security team were working on the speech right up until the day of delivery, so the president had no time to thoroughly rehearse some parts of it.
But how he delivered the speech is less important than the content: the new plan sounds a lot better than the old plan.
Q: What makes you think this will work? Adding more troops never worked before!
Although it gets all the headlines, "adding more troops" is not the most important change in strategy enunciated last night.
The big-box media would love to have Americans believe that all we're doing is "adding more troops." Put it that way, and you get substantially negative reactions ranging from disappointment among Republicans to outright frothing at the ears by Democrats. AP-Ipsos and ABC/Washington Post polls found that large majorities -- weighted heavily towards Democrats, as usual -- opposed "sending more troops to Iraq" and thought it wouldn't work. While the polls are fundamentally flawed (see next post), it's clear that if we were merely sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq, nothing would change.
The more important changes are:
- A redeployment of troops -- 18 Iraqi brigades (more than 60,000 soldiers) and five American brigades (17,500 soldiers and/or Marines) -- within Iraq to be able to capture and hold strategic chokepoints within Baghdad; and an additional 4,000 American forces and an unknown number of Iraqis into Anbar Province, home of the Sunni terrorists, including al-Qaeda, to work with local tribal sheikhs -- who have recently turned strongly against al-Qaeda -- in sealing the border with Syria;
- A committment to "hold" captured territory much longer than before, up to 18 months, to prevent the return of enemy forces; this provides the critical middle section of "capture, hold, release": take control of territory used by the enemy; hold it for a significant period time to thoroughly scour it of enemy presence; release the territory to local Iraqi forces to maintain security and keep the enemy from returning;
- A committment (probably written) from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that no combatants are off-limits, including Shiite militias (e.g., the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Militia);
- A significant loosening of the rules of engagement (ROE) against those combatants.
Without these changes, simply adding 21,500 soldiers under the old rules and understandings would indeed be futile. Fortunately, George W. Bush and his military advisors are not utter fools, as the Democrats imagine they are (simple projection, I assume).
Q: What are "rules of engagement?"
Rules that govern when a military (or police) unit is allowed to use force, and what level of force is allowed under what circumstances. Such ROE can range from absolutely restrictive -- as in our Beirut deployment as "peacekeepers" in 1983, where even the sentries were unable simply to fire upon a vehicle for trying to run the barrier -- to almost wide open, as in a "free fire zone," where American forces are permitted to open fire on any identifiable enemy soldiers, no matter what they're doing (except surrendering), without receiving specific permission first.
Until now, we have operated under a frighteningly restrictive ROE. For example, we were not allowed to attack known armed militia forces merely because they appeared in public heavily armed; we had to wait until they did something, then apply to the Iraqi government for permission (unless they attacked us, of course).
I don't know how loose they will now be; but I suspect that Bush put it pretty harshly to Maliki in their recent 2-hour video conference: if Maliki wants to remain prime minister, he will have to get over his love affair with Muqtada Sadr and actually give us license to fight this war as a real war.
The troop "surge" will take at least a month or so (we'll probably bring the new troops in from Kuwait, where they're already sitting); but the change in ROE can happen immediately.
If we shortly begin hearing about many more engagements with first Sunni terrorists, then Shiite militias, it will be a very, very good sign.
Q: What difference do rules of engagement make anyway? Can't we already attack anyone who atttacks us or attacks Iraqi civilans?
Not necessarily. Under the current ROE, we need permission from the Iraqis to undertake virtually any sustained operation. Worse, as Tony Snow just explained it on Hugh Hewitt, we can be in the middle of an operation -- for instance, when we had cordoned off Sadr City, the Mahdi Militia's neighborhood of Baghdad, and were going house to house to root them out -- and suddenly, the commander receives a cell-phone call from the Minister of the Interior or some high-ranking member of parliament saying "I'm getting complaints... stop what you're doing and back off," or "you just arrested an insurgent, but he's my third cousin... release him at once!" -- and we would have to do it.
As of right now, that's finished: we forced agreement from Maliki that no terrorist, combatant, or lawbreaker is off-limits... including Muqtada Sadr himself; and that we don't have to get permission for every operation first. Even if Maliki later tries to back out of that agreement, we can simply ignore him or other interfering ministers, because we already have a binding agreement.
Q: But will this so-called "new strategy work?" None of Bush's other plans have worked!
I cannot possibly say that it will; but it has a much great chance of working than any previous strategy we have used: it's different in many ways from previous strategies.
We tried strategy A; when it didn't work, we tried B; when that didn't work, we tried C. Now we're trying D: the naive approach is to assume that three failures means that all subsequent attempts must likewise fail (it's a trend!) But this is an infantile projection: every plan is different; the failure of one doesn't mean another won't succeed.
This is a very different plan specifically developed after careful analysis of previous failures; it clearly has a better chance of success by definition.
Q: Then why the heck didn't we do this in the first place? Why didn't Bush just skip A, B, and C and jump directly to the working strategy, D?
Because there is no way to know, before trying a strategy, that it won't work. It's easy in hindsight to say that obviously, A, B, and C were doomed to failure. But unless your Magic 8-Ball works better than mine (mine is stuck on "Ask again later"), you know that precisely because they were tried and didn't work.
Q: Wait -- doesn't that mean we don't know for sure that this new strategy will work any better?
Yes, it means that. There is no certainty this side of the grave. But we have a pretty good idea what will happen if we fail... so unless you have a better strategy to win the war, I'm uninterested in hearing your complaints about other people's strategies.
Q: Hasn't this war been a complete failure from beginning to end? Shouldn't we just admit that we have been defeated and bring our boys home?
Let me quote from one expert analyst of what Bush has accomplished so far in the Iraq War:
And we have given the Iraqis so much. We have deposed their dictator. We dug him out of a hole in the ground and forced him to face the courts of his own people. We've given the Iraqi people a chance to draft their own constitution, hold their own free elections and establish their own government.
We Americans, and a few allies, have protected Iraq when no one else would.
This speaker is not exactly a Bush lover; but he is quite correct: each of these events he describes was a tremendous victory -- achieved against all the dire democratic predictions of doom and defeat.
Now the Democrats are making dire predictions of doom and defeat for this new strategy, as well. If anybody has a really, really bad record on such predictions... it's the Democrats, not the administration.
Q: When did you become a paid shill for the Repuglicans under Herr Bushitler?
On October 11th. That's when I received my first check for $87,000. I have received regular checks in that same amount every month since then... though I'm getting a little impatient for this month's check. Hey, Bushitler -- what the heck is going on with your accounts payable department?
Date ►►► January 10, 2007
Comment Thread for Kucinich Unhiniched
Comments, thoughts, ruminations, mullings, and blue-skying on our recent Malkin post, Kucinich Unhiniched.
Have at you.
Chalk up another victory in the "war against global jihadism," as the Bush administration now (more correctly) calls it.
In one of the recent airstrikes by United States forces in Somalia -- the AP article is not clear which one -- we managed to kill Fazul Abdullah Mohammed.
Don't recognize the name? CENTCOM believes him to have been the planner and moving force behind the terror-bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998... which was the third worst act of terrorism against the United States, in terms of the death toll (after the September 11th, 2001 attack and the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which killed 241 American military personnel, 58 French paratroopers, and one Lebanese custodian).
The 1998 American embassy bombings killed 224 people and wounded 4,000 (AP says 225 dead; I don't know where the discrepency lies... my number of 224 comes from a State Department press release about the criminal trial in 2001).
According to the AP story:
Mohammed, 32, allegedly planned the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 225 people.
He is also suspected of planning the car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya and the near simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel, 12 miles north of Mombasa. The missiles missed the airliner.
Two other suspects in the embassy bombings, still considered to be at large in Somalia, are Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Abu Taha al-Sudan; I haven't seen any word that either of these has been captured or killed; but they're evidently in the thick of the fighting, so here's hoping.
A few more attacks we haven't heard much about:
U.S. attack helicopters also strafed suspected al-Qaida fighters in southern Somalia on Tuesday, witnesses said....
U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity because of its sensitive nature had said earlier that the strike in southern Somalia on Monday killed five to 10 people believed to be associated with al-Qaida....
Col. Shino Moalin Nur, a Somali military commander, told the AP by telephone late Tuesday that at least one U.S. AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected al-Qaida training camp Sunday on a remote island at the southern tip of Somalia next to Kenya.
Somali officials said they had reports of many deaths.
On Monday, witnesses and Nur said, more U.S. airstrikes were launched against Islamic extremists in Hayi, 30 miles from Afmadow. Nur said attacks continued Tuesday.
This appears to be a major -- and very effective -- ongoing operation that is making significant inroads in the Somalia al-Qaeda element, which bubbled to the surface during the short-lived coup of the Taliban-like Council of Islamic Courts, often called the Islamic Courts Union.
The Union was more or less founded in 1999-2000 by the merger of several sharia courts that had ruled much of (Sunni Moslem) Somalia since the Somali government collapsed in 1991. The ICU was allied with al-Qaeda from the start; in 2006, the Bush administration began funding a counter-terrorism group of secular warlords called the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (which should make Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft happy).
The ARPCT fought the ICU, but the Union initially had the better of the exchange: they captured Somalia's capital city of Mogadishu in June, controlled virtually all of Somalia by August -- and were then driven out of power by Ethiopian and national Somali troops (with American support) in December. The jihadis fled into the jungle (which AP now calls by the friendlier term "forest") in southern Somalia, up against the Kenyan border.
Back in 1993, two United States MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu; 19 American servicemen were killed (one killed two days after the battle) and between 700 and 1,000 Somali militiamen. In 1999, Mark Bowden wrote the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War about the battle; the book was made into a movie by Ridley Scott in 2001.
Comment Thread for The 100 Man Lurch
Comments, carps, complaints, cavils, and chit-chat about my Michelle Malkin post The 100 Man Lurch.
Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards; it makes them soggy and hard to light. If you value your hat and coat -- wear 'em.
Date ►►► January 9, 2007
Just to keep things in perspective, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, as of today, a total of 3,015 American soldiers have been killed during the entire Iraq campaign; to be perfectly internationalist about it, not counting Iraqis themselves, a grand total of 3,266 members of the multinational Iraq Coalition have died over the last 1,392 days.
According to the Persian Journal:
Air pollution has killed more than 3,000 people during one month in the Iranian capital, Tehran, according to a local official. "Pollution has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of 3,600 people in the month of Aban [October 23 to November 23]," Mohammad Hadi Heydarzadeh, director of Tehran's clean air committee, said.
Heydarzadeh goes on to note that 80% of fatal heart problems in Tehran are pollution related, and adds this chilling assessment:
"It is a very serious and lethal crisis, a collective suicide," he said.
Remember, this is in the Islamic paradise of Tehran, where Sharia is "not just a good idea." Evidently, Mohammed had little to say about smog.
Dems Come Out Swinging! And Missing!
Back in November, just after the election, we noted in Les Cent Jours -- Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) now says it will actually be les cent heures -- that the Democrats only had three issues on which there was unanimity within the party:
- Raising the minimum wage;
- Increasing stem-cell research funding;
- And "fully implementing" the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
They moved forward on all three fronts yesterday, but especially on the third:
House Democrats moved Tuesday to implement some of the unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 commission as the first in a string of bills over the next two weeks aimed at asserting their new control over Congress....
"Here's a chance for Congress to stop dragging its feet," said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the new Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "It's been three years since the 9/11 Commission issued its report. Now is the time to put words into action."
(Rep. Thompsom, 95%, accidentally neglected to note that Bush and the GOP "put words into action" on virtually every major recommendation in the last Congress; these two or three pieces the Democrats have their teeth into are just the leftover dregs.)
All right; we also commented on this exact point before... and there is one of these "dregs," one leftover recommendation from the 9/11 Commission report that is absolutely critical... but which Democrats are no more willing to implement than were the Republicans. And that is how Congress funds the intelligence agencies:
While many recommendations of the 9-11 Commission were controversial, there is virtually no controversy among intelligence officers over this aspect: appropriations for intelligence agencies should be made by committees or subcommittees that are exclusively devoted to intelligence, not a wart on the behind of the Department of Defense. That means appropriations should either by handled by the Intelligence committees themselves (best) or at least by dedicated Intelligence subcommittees of the Appropriations committees (adequate).
We then returned to the topic a few days later (we're obsessed with intelligence!), quoting from the Washington Post about the Democratic decision not to implement this vital recommendation... and from a Reuters story about what the Democrats actually did decide to do:
If you parse through the Clintonspeak, they're not accepting the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to remove control of the funding of intelligence agencies from the Appropriations committees and give it instead to the Intelligence committees:
[Rep. Nancy] Pelosi, D-Calif. [100%], also said that one of the first tasks of the Democratic-controlled House she will lead beginning in January will be approving the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, including taking steps to make intelligence decisions more transparent.
The Select Intelligence Oversight Panel proposed by Pelosi would be made up by members of the Appropriations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, and would work within the Appropriations Committee.
Simply put, if the panel works "within the Appropriations committee," then it's controlled by that committee -- and that means Appropriations will still control the budget that will be "overseen" by the panel that it also controls:[The panel] would examine, through hearings, the president's intelligence budget, prepare the classified annex to the annual defense spending bill and conduct oversight of the use of appropriated funds by intelligence agencies.
In other words, it will not itself appropriate the funds or even (it appears) recommend to the Appropriations committees how much to appropriate or how to use those appropriations. And it goes without saying (though I'm going to say it anyway) that nowhere in this statement does Pelosi or anyone else say that Appropriations will lose budgetary control over the clandestine and intelligence agencies, as the 9/11 Commission recommended, nor that the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence will gain that budgetary authority.
All right, that was then's thener... but what about now's nower? How, in the end, did the Democrats decide to address this commission recommendation?
- Did they actually transfer budgetary authority for intelligence-agency appropriations to the existing intelligence committees?
- Did they transfer budgetary authority to some new terrorist-specific Appropriations subcommittee, not leaving it to languish with Pelosi-pal, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 75%), and the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee?
- Or did they leave it with Murtha (and his counterpart on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, whoever that will be) -- just adding an additional toothless committee to "monitor" whether the intelligence agencies actually spend the money the way the Democrats want them to do? (In other words, do nothing.)
You be the judge. From today's AP story:
The House also planned to vote on a separate measure creating a new House committee that would closely monitor the budget and actions of the U.S. intelligence community. Congressional jurisdiction over intelligence is currently spread among several committees.
I think we have our answer: it's "currently spread among several committees," and it will continue to be spread from now unto the epoch of our children's children's children.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports controversy even within the Democratic Party over the "implementation" bill... specifically over the fact that the Democrats have more or less mandated the invention of future technology by a date certain:
The bill requires that within three years, all cargo on passenger jets be inspected for explosives, as checked baggage is now. The House bill also requires that within five years all ship cargo containers headed to the United States be scanned overseas for components of a nuclear bomb.
Homeland Security Department officials say there is no proven technology for such comprehensive cargo screening, at least at a reasonable cost or without causing worldwide bottlenecks in trade.
That is, the only way to fulfill such a mandate today would be for customs officials to individually hand-inspect each and every piece of cargo on every last cargo ship headed for the United States -- except for ships carrying cars, which are unaccountably exempted from the Democratic bill (how much has Toyota been contributing to political campaigns recently?) International commerce would ebb to a trickle, and the American economy would be devastated in a way that even the 9/11 attacks themselves never accomplished.
The authors of the bill, however, say that the Department of Homeland Security is just lazy, failing to invent (or actually, force private companies to invent) technology on schedule; they just need a Democratic boot to the head:
Mr. Lieberman and Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, the new chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, want the security department to complete its tests on new technology before mandating inspection of all cargo.
But Mr. Thompson, the chief author of the House bill, and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the timetables were essential to push the department to move faster.
“We need firm deadlines to end the administration’s foot-dragging,” Mr. Schumer said Monday. [Having coordinated his trite-expression quotient with "Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson".]
Yes, the DHS has just been dragging its feet. They could invent the technology next Thursday after lunch, if they really wanted it.
Brother. What next -- a congressional mandate for antigravity devices by 2008?
However, I must admit that Big Lizards made one wrong prediction: it looks like there isn't any unanimity on "fully implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations" among Democrats, either!
Comment Thread for Jamil Hussein - What's In a Name?
Thread for comments, thoughts, and opinions on my post over at Michelle Malkin: Jamil Hussein - What's In a Name?
No spitting or biting, please.
Date ►►► January 8, 2007
Comment Thread for Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - B and iii (both)
Here you may post comments, thoughts, and suggestions anent our Michelle Malkin post, Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - B, and also for Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - iii, the third of the series.
Feeling unusually slothful, I combined the last two parts into a single comments thread.
For years, I have wondered why we assume that two persons -- call them Pat and Mike -- who eat the same portion of the same food necessarily absorb the same number of calories. I mean that it's inherently implausible: the calories you absorb depend upon the precise mechanism of digestion; since everything else in our bodies works with varying degrees of efficiency, why shouldn't the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine as well?
We've all seen people who eat, eat, eat, yet cannot gain a single pound; and others who eat no more than everyone else at table, exercise as much or more -- yet pack on the leaf-lard, year after year, regardless.
I'm in the latter camp; my agent is the in former... when Ashley described to me how he ate his way across Italy some years ago -- at least 3,000 calories per day (by the traditional measurement) -- I could only seethe with envy. The answer seemed pretty obvious to me: that "3,000 calories" for Ashley was really only about 1,500 per day; but had I eaten all that pasta and pizza, cheese-stuffed portabellas and cream sauce... it would have been about 4,500 calories per diem!
But the proof (of the pudding?) has been lacking -- until now. Last month, AP reported a stunning breakthrough in our understanding of how food calories become body calories... which will eventually allow us to perfectly manage weight, from morbidly obese, to obese, to overweight, to underweight, to skeletal:
The size of your gut may be partly shaped by which microbes call it home, according to new research linking obesity to types of digestive bacteria.
Both obese mice - and people - had more of one type of bacteria and less of another kind, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Nature.
As it happens, humans cannot naturally digest the food we eat. This isn't unusual; termites cannot naturally digest wood, either. All we can do is break the food down to itty bitty pieces: the final work of turning fats, carbohydrates, and protein to lean body tissue, blood, bone, body fat, and biochemical energy is done by bacteria that live in our digestive tract. (This is the scientific field of "infectobesity.")
There are two main types of bacteria that can do the job of actually digesting food: Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes; the latter are much more effective than the former. Firmicutes extract more body calories per food calorie than do Bacteroidetes... and the exact mix of these bacteria in Pat's and Mike's digestive system determines, to a large degree, how much weight they pack on:
In one study, Gordon and colleagues looked at what happened in mice with changes in bacteria level. When lean mice with no germs in their guts had larger ratios of Firmicutes transplanted, they got "twice as fat" and took in more calories from the same amount of food than mice with the more normal bacteria ratio, said Washington University microbiology instructor Ruth Ley, a study co-author.
It was as if one group got far more calories from the same bowl of Cheerios than the other, Gordon said.
In a study of dozen dieting people, the results also were dramatic.
Before dieting, about 3 percent of the gut bacteria in the obese participants was Bacteroidetes. But after dieting, the now normal-sized people had much higher levels of Bacteroidetes - close to 15 percent, Gordon said.
From an evolutionary standpoint, I would guess that people whose ancestors (on the mother's side) were poor and often on the brink of starvation probably have higher levels of Firmicutes in their guts; we get our necessary bacterial "infection" from our first food -- usually breast milk -- and in starvation situations, females with higher levels of Firmicutes would be much more likely to survive and breed, being able to extract more calories from the meagre amounts of available food.
Either way, this holds out the promise of finally being able to help people lose weight (or gain it) by techniques more effective than the crude "eat less and exercise more" -- which sounds great but actually works for only a fraction of the population. To lose weight, replace a portion of the patient's Fermicutes with Bacteroidetes. Similarly, by reversing that process, impoverished people in countries prone to famine could be more fully nourished by the smaller amounts of food available to them.
Millions of Americans have been waiting for just such a breakthrough... now we just have to wait until the doctors decide to do some large-scale longitudinal studies. (Pssst... I volunteer!)
That is, if the Center for Science in the Public Interest -- the folks who breathlessly informed us all that Mexican food, Chinese food, pizza, and popcorn were fattening -- will allow infectobesity research to continue... or whether they will launch a jihad against it, as they did against the synthetic fat substitute olestra.
See, the CSPI believes that suffering and hardship builds character; and by golly, they're out to make sure we get it, good and hard. What it really boils down to is this: who do you want to control your caloric intake... you and your doctor? Or a bunch of sallow, pasty-faced vegans giddy from self-induced malnutrition?
Hand me that bucket of Bacteroidetes, Mabel, and down the hatch!
Look out gums,
Look out Fermicutes,
Here it comes!
Comment Thread for Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - 1
Here you may post comments, thoughts, and suggestions anent our Michelle Malkin post, Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - 1.
Fair warning to Michelle Malkin readers: Big Lizards has a very strict comment policy, and we nuke miscreants without remorse, pity, or warning. Honest disagreement is fine, but no obscenity, personal attack, or boorish behavior is tolerated.
The complete comment policy is found in this post. The hosts are always right. Tie goes to the runner.
Date ►►► January 7, 2007
A little while ago (August 23rd, 2006), we posted on the discovery that human embryonic stem cells could be extracted non-destructively, leaving the embryo intact; then on November 9th, we noted how President Bush could make use of this stunning breakthrough, offering to fully fund federal stem-cell research with two conditions:
- That the funding be available not only for embryonic but also adult and placental stem-cell research;
- That funding for embryonic stem-cell research only be made available to researchers that used the new, non-destructive extraction technique.
And now there's this:
Scientists reported Sunday they had found a plentiful source of stem cells in the fluid that cushions babies in the womb and produced a variety of tissue types from these cells - sidestepping the controversy over destroying embryos for research.
Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University reported the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells. They reported they were able to extract the stem cells without harm to mother or fetus and turn their discovery into several different tissue cell types, including brain, liver and bone.
I believe it's now more crucial than ever that Bush and the GOP in Congress get out front of this issue by themselves proposing a huge increase in funding, including funding for amniotic-fluid stem-cell research, along with adult, placental, and even embryonic (when extracted non-destructively).
This would flummox the Democrats and take the wind out of their soles; it's particularly effective in countering the meme of "anti-science, fundamentalist Republicans" that the Democrats have so successfully wielded to turn Independents away from GOP nominees.
This is the issue; this is the time to move. There is no longer any moral case that can be made against stem-cell research... so while the Democrats are floundering around with minimum wage proposals (that the Republicans should also immediately adopt and support, bad as they are, just to get them off the table), we can come roaring forth with a proposal to help everybody live to be 150 years old.
Well, that's how we should sell it, at any rate. For a change, let's make the Democrats look like tired, old men, the "establishment," perpetually trapped fighting for yesterday's leftism. It shouldn't be hard... but we actually have to do it.
There's an old story that seems apropos:
Moishe was an exceptionally assiduous follower of every jot and tittle of Jewish law and ritual; he never failed to attend synogogue every shabbat and every holy day, he kept rigidly kosher, and he prayed constantly.
Moishe wanted to move to Israel, but he was too poor. So he began praying to God for money: "Lord, make me win the lottery, make me win the lottery. You know I'll do nothing but good works with the money -- so make me win the lottery!"
Day and night he prayed -- "make me win the lottery, make me win the lottery!" -- until the third day, on the 10,001st repetition of the prayer, the Lord God of Israel actually answered.
A burning bush appeared in Moishe's living room, and a booming voice fillled every corner: "Moishe, Moishe," said the Voice, "meet me half-way... for God's sake, buy a lottery ticket!"
Come on, folks; there is every scientific reason why we, not the technophobic New Left, should become the champions of stem-cell research and no moral argument why not: it's an issue that truly resonates with Independents, young voters, and libertarian-conservatives... and it's darned good public policy, too.
The odds on this bet are much, much better than the odds of winning a money-type lottery. So let's buy that ticket and get out ahead of the Democrats on this important issue!
So Where IS Lieutenant Kije?
At long last, after weeks of fumfahing around, the Associated Press has labored and labored and finally given birth -- to a mouse.
They managed to cajole a spokesman of the Iraq Ministry of the Interior (MOI), Brigadier Abdul-Karim Khalaf (who has also been quoted on Reuters, albeit in other contexts -- so I'm willing to accept that he, at least, exists) into admitting the existence of a Police Captain Jamil Hussein -- actually Jamil Gholaiem (or Ghlaim) Hussein -- working at the Khadra police station. So here is at least a candidate for Baghdad's own Lt. Kijé!
For those who have forgotten the earlier Big Lizards post already (yes, we are eminently forgettable), in the 1927 tale by Yury Tynyanov, the entirely ficticious Lt. Kijé is "invented" when the Czar mishears a word in his general's report. As it is death to contradict the Czar, the general must concoct a series of adventures of the mythical lieutenant. Soon it becomes a game, where everybody in the Czar's court is telling fantastical farces of daring-do by the elusive Lt. Kijé.
But half a mo'; has anyone besides AP spoken to Lt. Kijé himself about this? Back on December 21st, the MOI questioned Ghlaim (or Gholaiem), and as our dearest Michelle reports, he denied being the Jamil Hussein who was blabbing to AP:
Meanwhile, my CPATT sources informed me today that MOI officials have now questioned Captain Jamil Ghlaim at MOI headquarters. Ghlaim continues to deny speaking to AP or any other media outlet.
I may be the last skeptic standing; but I must point out, in a loud and clear voice, that we still have no independent verification that the Jamil Hussein reportedly found by the MOI is the same Jamil Hussein repeatedly interviewed by AP. We have only AP's word for it -- and a denial by Lt. Kijé himself. At the moment, the identified Jamil Ghlaim (or Gholaiem) Hussein remains as elusive as Elwood P. Dowd's 8-foot tall invisible rabbit, Harvey. (Is Jamil a Pookah?)
Of course, I'm not entirely sure I trust the MOI about Hussein's denial, either: JGH could have lied to avoid prosecution. But at the very least, if the issue is the credibility of Gholaiem (or Ghlaim) as a source, then the fact that he is inclined to lie whenever he finds it pays is certainly worth at least a mention, I should think. So I ask again: has any news source besides AP actually questioned Jamil Ghlaim (or Gholaiem) Hussein of the Khadra police station about the 62 stories for which he was allegedly AP's principal source, including more than a dozen where he was actually named?
Let's assume Hussein is not, in fact, the blabbermouth; since the AP source was explicitly identified as "Jamil Hussein" at "Khandra," didn't Jamil Gholaiem (or Ghlaim) Hussein wonder why he was being quoted, if he actually never spoke to AP? Did he think there was another Lt. Kijé of the same name, working at the same police station as he? Or does he just not read the papers?
On the other hand, if we assume he is the AP source -- then did he actually deny it to the MOI? And why hasn't he spoken to any other new agency to verify his existence, reaffirm all of his claims, and clear his good name (or names)?
Since we now know that at least one Jamil exists in a disclosed location, it should be child's play for Reuters, the Times, the Times, the Post, CNN, or some other newspaper or television network to hound the guy into an interview with them: have they? For that matter, has anybody -- other than AP -- even interviewed Brigadier Khalaf and asked him about Jamil Hussein?
I get the strong sense that a lot of news agencies are reluctant (to the point of phobic) to investigate further, lest they uncover the sordid underbelly of the rampant, promiscuous use of Iraqi "stringers" to gather putative news stories... and just how much of the last three years reporting out of Iraq may have been concocted by sources driven by their own, private agendas.
Imagine, by analogy, that everthing ever reported about global warming came from officials of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international agency that brought us the Kyoto Protocol; yet the news wires, newspapers, and TV news networks consistently failed to note the inherent bias of sourcing from the primary political organization pushing global-warming theory... especially as global-warming skeptics are never quoted. (Oh, wait...)
Meanwhile, in a long but fascinating post Friday, Confederate Yankee recaps the actual content of the AP reporting on the Burning Sunnis story, which has shifted like the desert sands of Iraq itself... and which relies, not only upon the unsupported testimony of Jamil Hussein -- who may or may not be Jamil Ghlaim (or Gholaiem) Hussein -- but also in part upon the pronunciamentos of the Association of Muslim Scholars, or the Ulema Council.
The Ulema Council is split between one faction of Sunni clerics and scholars who merely issue fatwas ordering Sunnis not to cooperate with the Iraqi government, and another faction that actively collaborates with al-Qaeda in suicide bombings against "infidels," very liberally construed. (Can we call this second faction the Baghdad Ten?)
Which faction did AP interview to get the poop on the "inflammatory" burning of Sunni mosques and the Sunnis contained therein? The merely anti-Shiite government faction, or the Sunni terrorist faction? They don't tell us. (And don't blame me for the pun above; it's Confederate Yankee's pun, sir.)
But before we even get into the specifics of what Lt. Kijé claimed in the scores of stories where he was the primary source (often the only source)... can't we at least settle the question of whether the AP's Jamil Hussein really is the same person as the Jamil Gholaiem (or Ghlaim) Hussein working at the Khadra police station? Something akin to an admission by Hussein himself (and a retraction of his earlier denial) -- carried by some news organization other than AP.
Then, perhaps, we can move on to the actual substance of the charges.
For the next X weeks (I don't know how long), we'll be guest blogging over at our dearest Michelle's joint (along with See-Dubya and the divine Ms. Ham) while she -- Malkin -- is in Eye-rack.
She made it clear she doesn't want mere cross-posts -- after the first three posts, that is... which will (oddly enough) be cross-posts of the boggling-big Eric Boehlert vexposé. But when those are finished, the rest of the posts over at Michelle Malkin will be unique, lizardly creations. (I wonder if Malkinites will be frightened -- or at least overexcited -- by the sight of so much italic and boldface type?)
We'll try to put up at least 2-3 posts here each day (our normal average when we're not being unusually slothful); but since work is a foreign concept to the lizards (we're more the "lie on a rock and bask in the sun" types), Atlas may shrug now and again; in particular, the posts both here and abroad will probably be shorter than the last three (you can cease cheering at once, or I'll post my 3,000-word essay comparing the manufacture of cheese and tofu).
Also, Jesse Malkin -- who is some sort of distant relation to Michelle, I gather, maybe a fourth cousin once removed (twice, if you count that time he was bunged out after l'affaire Krauthammer and the andirons) -- has promised that if we mess up, he'll break my spine in six distinct places. Having grown attached to my spinal column, I'll be running a parallel "Malkinblogging" open thread for suggestions, thoughts, and especially comments on whatever we've posted over at MM, since they don't allow comments over there (cowards).
That is, each piece at MM will be accompanied by a corresponding open thread over here: if we post "James Carville Arrested for Mopery With Intent to Gawk" on MM, we'll have a post titled "Comment Thread for James Carville Arrested for Mopery With Intent to Gawk" over here, with links and such back and forth, and the main category "Malkinblogging."
People reading MM can come over here and comment; but Lizard lovers can also use it to suggest topics for posting over at MM... what an incestuous relationship! (And it has not escaped this reptilian eye that a bunch of refugees from Michelle Malkin, Inc. coming to Big Lizards to post comments would significantly expand our daily Sitemeter reading. Heh.)
As always, anti-troll policies will remain in full effect: our dearest Michelle tends to attract a mourn of slope-browed, beetle-brained, anthropoid liberal ogres who make crude, obscenity-laced suggestions via e-mail; those will be bounced instanter if they show up as comments here, and their authors immediately banned for life. However, fair warning: they may appear briefly until I see them. Try not to succumb to the temptation to debate such creatures; it's like arguing with a talking dog.
But liberals who make legitimate arguments for liberalism (however wrongheaded) are always welcome, and you can argue with them to your soul's content (let's be nice ourselves and give a good impression).
This will be sort of a "People's Choice" opportunity... but please, not like last time: no more suggestions to post graphics of R-rated tubers or celebrity unmentionables; no more quizzes about leaders of insignificant and possibly nonexistent countries I've never heard of, like "Akrotiri," "Kiribati," or "Pakistan"; and most especially, no more recipes for "pig lickins," whatever that is (and I really, really don't want to know). Let's all behave ourselves in front of company, what?
If we play our cards right, we can, you know, seize Michelle Malkin! (The site, I mean; the person is 10,000 miles away and guarded by that great-granduncle on her mother's side, Jesse.) But don't spill the cat out of the beans... let's keep that part of the plan to ourselves.
Date ►►► January 6, 2007
Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - iii
Continued yet again from previous post...
The great mosaic
Boehlert wags his finger, pointing out that in the same week this "six burnt alive" story came out, hundreds more were killed:
Keep in mind that in the seven days surrounding the Burned Alive story, hundreds and hundreds of Iraqis were killed in sectarian violence.
To date, warbloggers have not raised serious questions about any of those slayings or the reporting surrounding them. Yet viewing Iraq through the soda straw that is the Burned Alive story, they insist the press, thanks to its pro-terrorist sympathies, is creating the illusion of "chaos" in Iraq.
This is simple misdirection. "Warbloggers" rightly focus on the particular source for this story, "Police Capt.Jamil Hussein," who has figured prominently in more than 60 AP articles in the last two years. It is not unfair to say that Jamil Hussein, who we have labeled Baghdad's own Lieutenant Kije, is AP's "go-to guy" whenever they need a story about innocent Sunni victims being brutalized and butchered by Shiite death squads, under the complacent eyes, if not direct orders, of the Iraqi government. That is, whenever AP needs to spread the meme that the new Iraqi government is just as bad -- nay, far worse! -- than the Baathist hell it replaces.
If he is not a reliable source -- or worse, if he does not actually exist (and despite AP's claim to have verified his existence, we still don't know for sure from independent reporters not employed by AP) -- then what are we to make of these 62 stories we have read during the last two years? Those stories are the only evidence we have of systematic, widespread slaughter of Sunnis by death squads.
Did they really happen? Did they happen the way Lt. Kije claimed? Did he make them all up? Even “warbloggers, who have virtually no serious journalism experience among” are allowed to wonder whether we can take seriously a source who gets wrong as many fundamental facts as Hussein did. At what point are we entitled, even duty bound, to say we will no longer believe a fellow who is extraordinarily reckless with the truth (or extraordinarily reckless with lies, take your pick).
But it's not just Lt. Kije; Boehlert also neglects to mention that another Iraqi “official,” Lt. Abdel-Razzaq, who has been featured in 23 AP articles, was held for questioning by the Iraqi government for unauthorized press contacts. (Hat tip Flopping Aces)
Now, Boehlert certainly has a point in one respect:
The AP also didn't think much of CENTCOM's suggestion that reporters only quote people found on the government's approved list of sources.
This is self-evident; reporters should never agree to accept only official sources, official stories, or get the approval of officials before publishing. But Boehlert seems oddly unconversant with the shameful (and admitted) history of "reporting" by his beloved mainstream media in Iraq. In 2003, after the Coalition invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein, Eason Jordan admitted in a New York Times editorial that CNN (and all other journalists) had deliberately reported Baathist propaganda during the Saddam era... because it was more urgent to keep their Baghdad bureaus than to tell the truth about that brutal regime.
Even by Boehlert's own standards, this should be even worse than chastising low-ranking police officers because they anointed themselves media sources, a task normally falling to higher-ranking official spokesmen. So... can we at least agree that Eason Jordan and Capt. Hussein and Lt. Abdel-Razzaq were perhaps not all honorable men?
As Boehlert never tires of reminding us (as if we should scuff our feet in shame), we are not professional journalists. We don't work on newspapers. Heck, we didn't even graduate from the Columbia School of Journalism (though Bill O'Reilly did; what does Eric Boehlert think of him?)
We cannot look into every story coming out of Iraq; we must, of necessity, pick and choose: We can spot check. The method is used all the time in a manufacturing; if the failure rate of sampling is too great, the entire batch is considered a failure.
It may seem like we are picking on a small stone of a big mosaic. But what the heck does Boehlert think makes up the big mosaic in the first place but the same small stones we're spot-checking? If too many stones turn out not to be true, then what can we conclude about the entire mosaic?
The bloodthirsty warbloggers
Eric Boehlert concludes that we have a secret motive for demanding on-the-ground reporting by American reporters, rather than simply taking the word of stringers, who could as easily be terrorist sympathizers as honest native journalists. Boehlert does not consider any of us to be honorable men. He believes that deep down, we're hoping to see journalists slain (yet Boehlert echoes the charge leveled earlier by Eason Jordan, and I thought we already agreed Jordan might not be an honorable man... oh, let it slide):
To watch warbloggers taunt journalists for being cowards is also unsettling. Curt at Flopping Aces wrote: "If the reporters would leave their comfy hotel rooms and actually go out and survey the scenes themselves then I am sure we would get a completely different picture." Honestly, is there any irony sharper than members of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, blogging comfortably from their air-conditioned stateside offices while obsessively googling AP dispatches in search of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that don't meet the right-wing standard of excellence, lecturing on-the-ground news reporters about the need to witness the Iraq conflict up close?… [Curt, the "fighting keyboardist," spent five years in the United States Marine Corps, followed by six years as a police officer. Just FYI.]
The notion is demented, but given their wild online rants, I don't think it's out of bounds to suggest that warbloggers want journalists to venture into exceedingly dangerous sections of Iraq because warbloggers want journalists to get killed. That's how deep their hatred for the press runs... Also, by publicly demanding the AP "produce" Capt. Hussein -- for him to hold some sort of a press conference and announce his presence at a time when Iraqi police officers are being targeted daily for assassination [Sunni police officers?] -- indicates that warbloggers don't much care whether Hussein lives or dies either, as long as they can peddle their anti-media rants.
Whew! Perhaps one of the multiple layers of mainstream-media editing at Media Matters could speak to Boehlert about the length of his paragraphs.
Putting aside his curt dismissal of Curt as a member of the "101st Fighting Keyboardists" (another unkindness from this honorable man?), Boehlert appears ignorant of such embedded bloggers such as Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, and Michael Fumento, who have each embedded with the military many times, traveling outside the Green Zone and into danger. Not to mention all the mil-bloggers who have actually fought in Iraq and currently fighting. (And also not to mention the upcoming embedding, if that's exactly the word I mean, of Michelle Malkin herself in Iraq.)
Where does Boehlert blog from, one wonders? As an honorable man, I am certain he spends quite a bit of time in the Iraq or Afghanistan war zone. If he has any military background, he certainly doesn't mention it in his presumably self-written bio over at the Huffington Post, where he also blogs (some posts may simply be crossposted with Media Matters, including this one).
The conspiracy of shared vision
There is indeed an elite "conspiracy" of a very particular sort, the kind enunciated in Thomas Sowell's seminal work the Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy... the conspiracy of shared vision.
Those who hold this shared vision (the "anointed") need not meet and decide in advance what they will write, what narrative will permeate their stories; they simply all believe the same things, a shared quasi-religious gestalt that bursts forth like Athena from Zeus's brow, full-formed and insistent. The gestalt colors everything the reporter says or writes, all he believes, every story he pursues.
Yesterday, the gestalt was that Iraq was a "quagmire" that would send "20,000" American soldiers home in "body bags." Today, the gestalt is that we only win in Iraq if it becomes violence free, a paradise on Earth; and since that is impossible, we can only prepare ourselves for the inevitable "emerging defeat." When enough agencies report the same message over and over again, the meme becomes 'the truth" in some grotesque, McLuhanesque sense.
"Warbloggers" are painfully aware of this dynamic. The Goliath media are much stronger than any number of blogging Davids. Their access to the people dwarfs ours. So what could cause Eric Boehlert, probably speaking for far more of the elites than he is willing to claim, to become annoyed enough (or scared enough) to post such a personalized attack against a handful of people?
Perhaps because Boehlert is aware that a meme need not be shouted from the rooftops (via the big-box media) in order to grow, thrive, and ultimately replace the standard media gestalt itself: it only needs to be more powerful than the memes it feeds upon... which, in the case of the vision of the anointed, is not particularly difficult: the standard media gestalt requires you to believe six impossible things before breakfast (such as that only white Europeans can handle democracy, that Shia and Sunni kill each other in Iraq because of Israel, that the more terrorists we kill the more there are, that Iraq was calm and peaceful under Saddam Hussein, and so forth).
Hence this frantic attempt to stamp it out, like a campfire spreading to the surrounding weeds. But I doubt it will work; "warbloggers" are unlikely to be cowed by Eric Boehlert. This is the only true sense in which "information wants to be free": not that books and CDs anthropomorphically "want" to be distributed for free to pimply faced teenagers who expect something for nothing -- but that truth will ultimately prevail; it cannot be suppressed forever.
Thus, this honorable men -- all these honorable men -- trying to hard to save us from ourselves, to use the vision-vaccine to innoculate us against free inquiry, are on a fool's errand; they're tilting at winos. The future looms; they know that every year, more of the population rejects them as the final arbiters of reality and seeks alternatives.
The Boehlerts know, deep down, that their hegemony won't last much longer. They just want a few more quiet years to publish their books (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, by Eric Boehlert) and write their gestalt-stories... then get out while the getting's good.
And that's the last word.
(Dafydd ab Hugh contributed to this post.)
Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - B
Continued from previous post...
You put your left foot in...
If the mainstream media has no agenda, and their misreporting can solely be blamed upon the fog of war, we should see the mistakes benefiting the both sides equally; half the time, they should wrongly report a great American victory that turns out not to be so great after all. I now pause for readers to wrack their memories to recall the last time AP, Reuters, CNN, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Herald, the Wall Street Journal, or Media Matters did so.
Go ahead; I'll wait.
Curiously enough, every time a major media source blows a story, they do so by publishing something that advances the message of the "emerging defeat" in Iraq, and that only thing we can do is to manage that inevitable defeat. (Similarly, mistakes on restaurant bills always seem to be in the restaurant’s favor.)
We have never read a headline such as “American troops kills 100 terrorists,” only to find out later that we bombed a simple wedding party. It is always the other way around; the wedding-party meme always comes first, followed by a quiet correction in a little box at the bottom of an inside page.
But let us not call it an MSM conspiracy or say that Boehlert is a part of it; for they are all honorable men, and honorable men would not sling such libelous accusations without rock-solid proof.
Let us instead examine some of the stringers upon whose reports the media (especially AP) rely:
Snuff films on Haifa Street: In December 2004, masked gunmen pulled two Iraqi election workers out of their car in broad daylight and assassinated them. An AP photographer-stringer just happened to be standing a few yards away, snapping pictures of the multiple homicide. The terrorists just happened to let him live. They even let him keep his camera and film. This was fortuitous, since the report earned an AP reporter a Pulitzer Prize.
After initial denials, AP first admitted that the photographer had been tipped off; then at last, they revealed the rest of the dirt on the endless supply of stringers ready and willing to accomodate "[i]nsurgents [who] want their stories told as much as other people." As Power Line's John Hinderaker concluded:
That makes the admission pretty well complete, I think. The AP is using photographers who have relationships with the terrorists; this is for the purpose of helping to tell the terrorists' "stories." The photographers don't have to swear allegiance to the terrorists--gosh, that's reassuring--but they have "family and tribal relations" with them. And they aren't embedded--I'm not sure I believe that--but they don't need to be either, since the terrorists tip them off when they are about to commit an act that they want filmed.
Stringing AP along: In April 2006, Bilal Hussein was taken into US custody as a member of a terrorist group. Hussein had been working as an AP photographer-stringer; he had sent AP a series of pictures taken inside the terrorists’ training camp.
He also snapped a picture of terrorists boldly posing by the body of a murdered Italian journalist. But perhaps Hussein was only tipped-off by, not embedded with, the killers.
PhotoShop phantasies: In August 2006, Reuters had to fire their Lebanese photographer-stringer Adnan Hajj, after his photo-shopped pictures were exposed by some sharp-eyed bloggers.
These are not isolated cases; the major news media have published hundreds of such photographs by Iraqi photographer-stringers, and thousands of stories by Iraqi writer-stringers. The standard media narrative of tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, as well as the entire case for "the emerging defeat" in Iraq (as Eric Boehlert gleefully puts it), is based upon the concatenation of these questionable stories... many of which have all the earmarks of enemy propaganda disseminated via the reliably compliant (and incurious) American and international media.
How can we ever know how much of what we read and see about Iraq is real, how much exaggerated, and how much simply defeatist fabrication? Is Eric Boehlert even curious to know the answer himself? Or does he, like Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles' magnum opus, believe the people will think what the media tells us to think?
If that is what he believes, and if he is right, then thank heavens they are all honorable men: just imagine what mischief they could concoct were they not!
Believing is seeing
Meet Salam Daher, AKA Abu Shadi Jradi, AKA Abdel Qader, AKA Green Helmet Guy (how many names do Moslem extremists get to use?)
In July 2006, in Qana Lebanon, in the aftermath of an Israeli attack on a rocket-launching site, the photograph of a Lebanese "civil defense worker," his face anguished as he held a dead child in his arms, was plastered across the front pages of newspapers around the globe. Yet there was something odd about the guy, a discordant note. Many bloggers pointed out that he had been photographed throughout the day for hours, ghoulishly holding up the same dead child in various poses.
Green Helmet Guy told reporters conflicting stories about the number of children found dead. And then, Germany's NDR found footage of this guy directing scenes, using the dead body of a child as a prop, toted to the site from storage somewhere. Not only that... Green Helmet Guy had done the exact, same thing 10 years ago:
This is nothing new. In Gaza, Palestinians have been staging battles and coaching witnesses for years. We even have a name for it: Pallywood. Here is an 18 minute video from YouTube, taken during the second intifada from 2000 to 2002:
For the first ten minutes, you will see Palestinians staging various events:
- A man shoots into a building as if he were defending himself; but the building is actually deserted;
- Civilians direct soldiers and crowds of "innocent bystanders" (extras) how to act prior to filming a scene;
- Footage of a funeral march in Jenin, after the "Jenin massacre," where the pallbearers accidentally drop the corpse from a stretcher -- and the dead fellow obligingly hops back aboard.
But the most telling footage starts about the 11th minute: an interview conducted by a Palestinian “reporter” with a new mother and father and with the doctor who had just delivered their baby at the local hospital. (I wonder if the reporter is a stringer for AP?)
On the way to the hospital, the reporter discusses with his staff what kind of story he is looking for: the terrible conditions that Palestinians must endure because of the wicked Israelis. At the hospital, the reporter tells the doctor that the young couple must say that the road was so dangerous, they couldn't get to hospital in time... and the young husband had to deliver the baby all by himself. In fact the doctor had delivered a healthy baby in the hospital few hours earlier.
Chillingly, all three subjects -- father, mother, and doctor -- agree; they give the interview, describing the terrible ordeal that never occurred.
How many times have we heard that eyewitnesses, bystanders, and doctors had all "verified" some calamitous event caused by the Israelis, the Americans, or our Coalition partners in Iraq? Oh, wait, here's one:
For the record, along with Hussein, the AP based its Burned Alive reporting on an account from Imad al-Hashimi, a Sunni elder who told Al-Arabiya television about the killings. (He later recanted his story after being visited by a representative of the defense minister.) The AP also spoke to three independent eyewitnesses (two shopkeepers and a physician) and confirmed the story with hospital and morgue workers.
This is from the very piece by Eric Boehlert that is the subject of this discussion.
Please also notice that the "Sunni elder" recanted... but that this was "after being visited by a representative of the defense minister." Not that Boehlert is implying any threats, intimidation, or torture... he would never do such a thing without a shred of evidence, for Boehlert is an honorable man.
So are they all. All honorable men.
Continued yet again next post...
(Dafydd ab Hugh contributed to this post)
Date ►►► January 5, 2007
Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - 1
The Iraq war -- indeed, the larger GWOJ (global war against jihadism) -- is as much a propaganda war, a war of ideas and "memes," as it is a shooting war. Paul Josef Goebbels understood the power of propaganda; so too did Tojo, Walter Cronkite, and so does al-Qaeda, of course. Alas, it appears that both the Bush administration and the GOP are completely clueless in this respect.
The Democrats and the elite media, to the extent they are not the same entity, understand perfectly, however.
When CNN broadcast the al-Qaeda propaganda video showing an American soldier being killed by a terrorist sniper, terrorists gloated that our sensationalist media was always willing to help them out by showing their recruiting videos on the nightly news. The media, for reasons of their own which appear more compelling to them than national security, long ago decided to work with America's enemies; the most charitable conclusion is that they're so deathly afraid of American military might becoming American imperialism, that they would rather see an America defeated, humbled, and on its knees than triumphant, dominant, and ascendent.
To think that the internationalists in the elite media are cheerleaders for success in Iraq, let alone the larger GWOJ, is naïve; to imagine that the tilt is so subtle that ordinary readers don't realize it -- is downright insulting.
Yet that is exactly what columnist Eric Boehlert, from Media Matters for America, does in "Michelle Malkin fiddles while Baghdad burns." Boehlert, and many others like him in the drive-by media, criticize sites such as Michelle Malkin, Flopping Aces, and Confederate Yankee (from the best of intentions!) They call us -- he didn't mention Big Lizards, but I feel some solidarity with the ones he did -- they call us "warbloggers," who are “chronically incorrect” and uninterested in the truth... unlike the perennially truth-seeking mainstream media. (Hat tip, who else? Michelle Malkin.)
In fact, while I wouldn't say Boehlert has it exactly backwards -- there are many bloggers (even "warbloggers") who are just as biased (or corrupt) as Mary Mapes and Eason Jordan -- the mere fact that there is so much more big political money in the professional media than in the blogosphere itself argues in favor of more honesty within the latter.
For Boehlert is an honourable man; so are they all, all honourable men
In fact, Boehlert himself gives us a perfect example of the deep, underlying, and contemptuous atitude of the elites in the professional media towards the upstarts "who have virtually no serious journalism experience among them." In his lengthy harangue on his Media Matters blog, he attempts to discredit Michelle Malkin -- the bête noire he seems to fear more than the rest of the blogosphere combined -- with an off-topic and puzzling slap:
It should be noted that Malkin's breathless excitement over the AP story nearly matches the enthusiasm she used to spread online smears about the press in the spring of 2005 during the Terri Schiavo right-to-die controversy. That's when Malkin backed the novel conspiracy theory that press reports about how congressional Republicans had drafted a talking-points memo in order to properly spin the Schiavo story were all wrong. In fact, according to Malkin's fact-free analysis, an unknown Democratic operative had concocted the phony GOP talking-points memo and duped the media in order to make Republicans look bad.
This was a big story, in which the honest and honorable media reported not only that a Republican wrote it -- true, Brian Darling, legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL, 100%) -- but also that the Republicans distributed it to the party faithful on Capitol Hill -- which turned out to be completely false: Martinez gave it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA, 100%), and it was then leaked to the media. By charging Malkin with having "backed the novel conspiracy theory" that Democrats wrote the memo, he paints her as a delusional loon who can simply be dismissed.
But wait... did she really push that "conspiracy theory?"
As proof she did, Boehlert links to another post on Media Matters -- attributed to "J.W.," though there is nobody listed on the masthead of Media Matters with those initials; not only does J.W. not back up Boehlert's accusation, he says precisely nothing about Malkin's position:
[Josh] Claybourn [of In the Agora] posted a March 26 blog entry claiming that four anonymous GOP Senate staffers had accused a Reid aide of distributing "distributing forged 'talking points' to members of the media and claiming Republican authorship. Though this information has since been excised from the post [J.W. must mean excised from the Claybourn post], conservative syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who has been actively following this subplot on her blog, stated in an April 7 post that In the Agora originally identified them as staff members of Martinez and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).
So all that J.W. is saying is that Malkin correctly reported that a Josh Claybourn post identified staffers for Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) as the culprits behind the false charge that the Schiavo memo was written by a Democrat. J.W. says nothing remotely like Boehlert's claim that Malkin said "an unknown Democratic operative had concocted the phony GOP talking-points memo." Eric Boehlert simply made that charge up.
But of course, Eric Boehlert is an honorable man.
In fact, it's even worse: Michelle Malkin was skeptical of Claybourn's informants' information from the beginning. On March 26th -- nearly two weeks before the J.W. post above -- Malkin published a post titled Eyewitnesses?, question mark included. In it, she quoted from the Claybourn post, then added this:
I don't buy it. Here's why:
[We skip her five reasons for rejecting the In the Agora accusation.]
Unless someone is prepared to stand up and publicly point the finger at a specific individual and explain the decision to delay disclosing the true source of the memo, I can only conclude that ITA's sources are probably lying.
Note not only Boehlert's peculiar relationship with the truth of the matter -- saying that Malkin had championed the idea that the Shiavo memo was written by Democrats, when in fact she immediately rejected it -- but also the fact that he is so dismissive of those of us who didn't go to J-school, that he thinks we won't even bestir ourselves to follow his link and see what Malkin actually said. He believes he is safe, because "warbloggers" are either too stupid or too lazy to do the least bit of research.
Eric Boehlert believes his own arrogant fantasy of pajama-clad losers warblogging from their mothers' basements. But Boehlert is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men.
The blogosphere -- threat or menace?
Boehlert's main subject, however, is the recently discredited and partially retracted Associated Press story about four mosques being "burned" and six Iraqi Sunnis being doused with kerosine and burnt alive; he latches hold of this story and tries to demonstrate how paranoid are the "warbloggers" he despises.
(Before reading further, please first read Patterico's excellent summary of what we know (as of today) AP got wrong about that story.)
In his post, Boehlert shows utter contempt towards any blogger who dares question elite media reporting (rather than simply receiving it like tablets from Mount Sinai). He mocks the very notion that the MSM could be willing accomplices (or useful idiots), out to make us lose the war in Iraq... just as Walter Cronkite helped us lose Vietnam by falsely (and deliberately) reporting the Tet Offensive -- a Viet Cong attack that failed catastrophically, resulting in the destruction of the Viet Cong as a serious military force -- as a tremendous enemy victory that meant America had already lost the war.
Boehlert equates "warbloggers" like Michelle Malkin and Confederate Yankee with lunatic conspiracy theorists, disdaining as "illogical obsession" our suspicions about the accuracy, and even the veracity, of Iraqi and Afghan stringers and informers. He crows that we only question the MSM because we cannot face the reality that we lost the war (which certainly would be news to the American military personnel fighting in Iraq; and to the Iraqis; and for that matter, to al-Qaeda or Muqtada Sadr or whomever we're supposed to have lost the war to).
Boehlert's central j'accuse is that we "warbloggers" ignore the carnage of sectarian violence, clinging instead to irrelevant minor discrepancies (such as non-existent mosque burnings and burnt Sunnis who cannot be found) like “a ray of hope.”
And he also tries to slip another one across. Unable to seriously damage the credibility of "warbloggers" by actually finding errors or maladroit reasoning in their war-related posts, Boehlert embarks upon a campaign of drive-by discrediting: he finds some post somewhere, typically unrelated or only tangentially related to the war, where the warblogger in his crosshairs wrote something to which Boehlert objects. He then trots this out as more evidence of the "warblogger" being "unhinged," "obsessed," "demented," or harboring "unbridled hatred of Arabs and Muslims" and wanting to see journalists "get killed":
Warning: Confederate Yankee is the same warblogger who recently posted a Reuters photo of an elderly Iraqi woman wrapped in a headscarf and crying beside a coffin. Confederate Yankee sensed foul play and claimed the picture had been mischievously doctored by the wire service because the Iraqi woman's face was actually George Bush's mug superimposed onto the picture. I kid you not.
Actually, "kid you" he does... because following the link to Confederate Yankee makes it perfectly clear that Bob Owens was simply joking, for heaven's sake. (Strangely, Boehlert never links directly to a blog; instead, he always links to a Media Matters redirect to the link target. I don't know why he does this; perhaps it's a pompous Media Matters house rule. But it's annoying, since I actually must click through to every source to get the URL, rather than right-clicking and selecting "Copy link location".)
Here is what Confederate Yankee writes:
Apparently, even nominal quantities of over-the-counter cold medications can cause you to see the most interesting things.
I know this, because this Reuters picture has all the earmarks of a crudely-edited PhotoShop, from the rather odd smudges and apparent artifacts around the heads of the two women on the left when the photo is enlarged, to the rather uncanny resemblance that one person in the picture has to someone I feel I should know.
After Adnan Hajj, Reuters wouldn't fall for this sort of stuff again, would they?
It’s a good thing I can chalk this up to cough syrup. If not, I might have to start questioning the media’s accuracy.
If Boehlert cannot figure out that this is a joke, then he shares his sense of humor with John Kerry. The alternative is that Boehlert knew it was a joke, but he decided to pretend it was serious, in order to discredit Owens. But I cannot imagine he would do such a thing, for Boehlert is an honorable man.
Warning: Having now seen two examples of Eric Boehlert confabulating false charges against the "warbloggers," who seem to haunt his dreams at night, I will follow the links on each and every such accusation that he makes from now on. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me 217 times in the same post, and I'll resign from the blogosphere in disgrace.
Baghdad mosques are burning down, burning down, burning down
Here is Boehlert in full cry, expounding his thesis like Marc Antony bestriding Caesar's dagger-riven body (so Boehlert's head does not explode, I confess that all emphasis is added for clarity):
By inflating the disputed incident into a monumentally important press story, warbloggers, who have excitedly pounded the story for weeks, convinced themselves that blame for the United States' emerging defeat in Iraq lay squarely at the feet of the press. Specifically, warbloggers claim that American journalists, too cowardly to go get the news themselves, are relying on local Iraqi news stringers who have obvious sympathies for terrorists and who purposefully push propaganda into the news stream -- the way Hussein did with the Burned Alive story -- to create the illusion of turmoil. Warbloggers, who have virtually no serious journalism experience among them, announced that what's coming out of Iraq today is not news at all, but simply terrorist press releases -- "a pack of lies" -- regurgitated by reporters (or "traitors") who want to see the insurgents succeed....
But warbloggers aren't interested in an honest, factual debate about a single instance of journalistic accountability. And they're not really interested in the specifics of the Burned Alive story. They're interested in wide-ranging conspiracy theories and silencing skeptical voices.
Shakespeare weeps with envy.
But Boehlert is no fool; he knows that the MSM, like everyone else (including Boehlert himself), has an agenda. Boehlert is unhinged because the media elite, which he is part of, no longer dominates the news cycle, as they used to do before first talk radio, then the blogosphere threatened their monopoly. "Warbloggers" (many of whom are former soldiers) ask too many inconvenient questions; and it is Boehlert, not Malkin or Owens or the fellows at Power Line, who is rather desperate to "silence skeptical voices."
But Boehlert is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men.
Continued next post...
(Dafydd ab Hugh contributed to this post)
Date ►►► January 4, 2007
Is Iranian "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei Dead?
UPDATE AND BUMP: No new information, but something just occurred: if we were aware that Ayatollah Khamenei was (or is still) in "grave condition," i.e., either one foot (or perhaps now both feet) in the grave, that may be another reason why we're pumping military force into the Persian Gulf, as we discussed here. In fact, it might be an excellent time to strike Iran -- if we're already prepared -- during the chaos that will inevitably ensue when Khamenei does die... whenever that is.
Pajamas Media is reporting that he might be, though an update casts some doubt on the question.
We have no further information on this, but we'll keep an eye out. It's not yet being reported by any news agency that I've seen.
Hugh Hewitt worries that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "religious guru," Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi -- far more radical than the (current or recently deceased) Supreme Leader Khamenei -- might be voted by the Assembly of Experts as the next Supreme Leader; but I think this is unlikely, given the results of the recent election: Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a "reformer" (in Iranian terms) who shares Khamenei's dislike of Mesbah-Yazdi, was the top vote getter; he would be more likely to be voted Supreme Leader when Khamenei dies (if he isn't dead already) than would Mesbah-Yazdi.
As Drudge likes to say, "developing..."
John Negroponte Demoted; Good News?
In an unexpected but I think good development today, President Bush announced that Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte will leave his position. He is widely expected to be replaced by VADM John Michael "Mike" McConnell, former Director of the National Security Agency... though that announcement has not yet been made, and the White House cautions it is not a done deal.
Negroponte will take the lesser position of Deputy Secretary of State, the number 2 position behind Secretary Condoleezza Rice; although this is considered both a critical position and a a major career assignment, it has stood vacant for several months. Dr. Rice has evidently asked several people to take the position, but has been unsuccessful. This may be due to the terrible demands on that position right now, or else because the specific people she asked were happy where they were.
This is probably a good move: John Negroponte is a career diplomat who likely hopes to be Secretary of State himself one day, and being the principal deputy is certainly a boost in that direction. But he has very little intelligence experience: as a top ambassador (to the United Nations and then to Iraq), in the Philippines in the 1990s (appointed by President George H.W. Bush), and earlier as ambassador to Mexico, he would naturally have had extensive contact with the CIA officers in the embassy; but this is not the same as running intelligence operations.
When Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras, he was aware of and supported our covert aid to the contras in Nicaragua, and many Democrats were greatly exercised about this. But even so, Negroponte is primarily a diplomat; he has no experience actually spying, analyzing intelligence, or running covert operations. He will likely be much happier -- and undoubtedly more effective -- as the principal depute at State than as the DNI.
Still, it is unquestionably a demotion: as DNI, he was a cabinet official; as principal deputy to Condoleezza Rice, he is not. It's hard to spin that any other way.
I see the switch as an admission that Negroponte had risen to his level of incompetence, à la the Peter Principle. Bear in mind that "level of incompetence" doesn't mean the person is actually incompetent... just that he is less competent at the higher position than he was at the lower position. Bush, a good manager, is shifting Negroponte back to the area he knows well, even in a lower slot, rather than keeping him in the higher slot, where he is somewhat asea.
I just heard Frank Gaffney, of the Center for Security Policy, on Hugh Hewitt, and he doesn't like this appointment; he believes that Negroponte will encourage the "insubordination" and "sabotage" of the president's policies by State; but it's hard to take Gaffney seriously, as he is always crying wolf. It's hard to see John Negroponte as being anti-Bush.
Anent McConnell to be NDI, he worries that intelligence will be too skewed towards signals intel (electronic), as opposed to Bill Casey-style human intelligence. Since both the potential NDI and the current Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), Michael Hayden, come from the National Intelligence Agency, which handles signals intel, this is indeed a concern; but I think it's a big overblown. I doubt that McConnell will suggest, against everybody else's advice (including DCI Hayden), that we forget about humint and go heavier with sigint.
Assuming Mike McConnell is, in fact, Negroponte's replacement, he seems a much better fit as Director of National Intelligence. By contrast with Negroponte, McConnell has spent virtually his entire professional career in intelligence, including a five-year stint as Director of the National Intelligence Agency from 1992-1996 (again, appointed by former Director of the CIA and rumored long-time deep-cover CIA operative George H.W. Bush). Prior to that, McConnell was Director of Joint Staff Intelligence, which is the top intelligence position advising the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Earlier in his Navy career, he served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, Japan, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean -- four very hot spots. (And also a good reason to suppose McConnell appreciates and understands the urgency of actual "spooks on the ground" to gather intelligence.)
McConnell, in "Godfather" terms, is a "wartime consigliere" with long experience in military intelligence and wartime intelligence... much more what we need as Director of National Intelligence, who in addition to being the chief intelligence advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and Homeland Security, is also the director of the National Intelligence Program -- which makes him the top intelligence officer in the United States.
McConnell was a close friend to current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when Gates was Director of Central Intelligence at the same time McConnell was Director of the National Security Agency. It's also likely, in my opinion (though I cannot find documentation of this), that current DCI Michael Hayden worked within the NSA prior to becoming its director in 1999; if so, he was very probably a senior deputy at the same time that McConnell was Director of the NSA... which would mean that Hayden once worked under McConnell and will now be doing so again! (I hope they got along.)
If McConnell is tapped, and if the Senate confirms him, it would mean the final takeover of all civilian foreign-policy intelligence agencies by military personnel (which, during a war, is not a bad idea at all):
- Director of National Intelligence: Vice Admiral Mike McConnell;
- Director of Central Intelligence: Air Force General Michael Vincent Hayden;
- Director of the National Intelligence Agency: Army Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander (also Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare);
- And, of course, the Department of Defense intelligence agencies are all headed by military personnel: Air Intelligence Agency, Army Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Marine Corps Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Nicely distributed between the services, too... though the Marines seem to have been stinted in the top three spots.
Only Robert Mueller, FBI Director, is not a senior military officer -- though he did command a rifle platoon in Vietnam as a Marine Corps officer; on the theory "once a Marine, always a Marine," the Corps can at least claim to hold one of the top intelligence positions!
There are several hurdles to overcome: both positions require Senate confirmation, and the Democrats seem poised to exploit the opportunity to rake all of Bush's policies over the dying embers of liberal wrath once more. They will likely attempt to extract firm promises from both McConnell and Negroponte that they will completely ignore anything the president says and instead take their orders directly from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%).
It's absolutely guaranteed that some Senate Democrats will mount a filibuster against one or the other (or both!); but unless something completely unexpected comes out -- highly unlikely, as each has gone through confirmation hearings several times -- the filibusters will be unsuccessful and will just make asses of the Democrats (again).
But if the switch manages to go through, I expect it will help the critical task of intelligence gathering and analysis; and Negroponte will make a much better top diplomat than he has as DNI -- assuming Frank Gaffney is incorrect that he will mold Condoleezza Rice into the next Colin Powell. So yes, on the whole, I think this does count as "good news."
Iran Strategies 6: Preparing For the "Herman Option?"
We haven't had an installment of this popular (hah) series since April. (And I haven't noticed anyone screaming for its return...) But with the publication in November's Commentary of an article by historian Arthur Herman describing a new strategy for settling Iran's hash, I decided it was a good time to dust off the concept.
Our previous posts in the series are:
- Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
- Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo, and
- Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
- Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike
- Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack
Today, Reuters reports that the Navy has just sent a second carrier battle group (CBG), the USS John Stennis, into "the Gulf," presumably the Persian Gulf. This CBG joins that of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which entered the PG last month.
The second carrier, while adding relatively few service members to the region, is valuable as a symbol of America's increased presence in the Gulf, military analysts said.
...But they miss the point like Emily Litella. It's not the number of "service members" that counts, but the fact that between those two CBGs, we've added 180 fixed-wing and rotary aircraft to the Persian Gulf.
Take a moment to look at this map of the Persian Gulf:
Iran: Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz
The narrow pinch of the Strait of Hormuz on the far right of the Gulf -- about 20 miles wide, with two 1-mile wide sea lanes for tanker traffic -- controls delivery of about a quarter of the entire world's daily oil production. It is staggeringly important to the entire world.
The biggest fear about Iran is that, in response to an attack on their nuclear development sites, they might strike back with a catastrophic terrorist attack in the strait: Iran, Hezbollah, or both could attack an oil supertanker at the narrowest part of the strait, sinking the huge ship and sealing the passage for perhaps years... and as a serendipitous side effect, causing the worst environmental disaster in human history (I'm sure the Iranian mullahs lose sleep over that one).
There is reason to fear this option: the Iranians themselves have practically boasted about it. In Arthur Herman's Commentary piece linked above, he notes this quite matter of factly:
In April of this year, as if to drive the point home, Iranian armed forces staged elaborate war games in the Gulf, test-firing a series of new anti-ship missiles capable of devastating any tanker or unwary warship. In the boast of one Iranian admiral, April’s “Holy Prophet war games” showed what could be expected by anyone daring to violate Iran’s interests in the Gulf. A further demonstration of resolve occurred in August, when Iran fired on and then occupied a Rumanian-owned oil platform ostensibly in a dispute over ownership rights; in truth, the action was intended to show Western companies—including Halliburton, which had won a contract for constructing facilities in the Gulf—exactly which power is in charge there.
A 30-page document said to issue from the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy (NDAJA), and drawn up in September or October of last year, features a contingency plan for closing the Hormuz Straits through a combination of anti-ship missiles, coastal artillery, and submarine attacks. The plan calls for the use of Chinese-made mines, Chinese-built missile boats, and more than 1,000 explosive-packed suicide motor boats to decimate any U.S. invasion force before it can so much as enter the Gulf. Iran’s missile units, manned by the regime’s Revolutionary Guards, would be under instruction to take out more than 100 targets around the Gulf rim, including Saudi production and export centers.
As Herman notes, "contingency" plans are just that, and may never come to fruition; but clearly, Iran is thinking along these lines. And why not? How could they more seriously hurt the West than to shut off the black gold (Teheran tea) that we depend upon? (I'm sure the mullahs have followed with great glee the GOP's bootless efforts to open up a teensy-tiny fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to clean, modern oil extraction... along with the Gulf of Mexico and the California coast; the efforts were of course thwarted by the then-minority Democrats, who were rewarded for their intransigence by being voted into the majority.)
But on the other hand, as the saying goes, "a plan betrayed is a plan denied." The Persian Gulf is a two-edged scimitar. Herman again:
Every country in Western Europe and Asia, including those that complain most bitterly about American policy in the Middle East, depends on the steady maintenance of the global economic order that runs on Middle Eastern oil.
But -- and herein lies a fruitful irony -- so does Iran itself. Almost 90 percent of the mullahs’ oil assets are located either in or near the Gulf. So is the nuclear reactor that Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr. Virtually every Iranian well or production platform depends on access to the Gulf if Iran’s oil is to reach buyers. Hence, the same Straits by means of which Iran intends to lever itself into a position of global power present the West with its own point of leverage to reduce Iran’s power -- and to keep it reduced for at least as long as the country’s political institutions remain unprepared to enter the modern world.
On a nutshell, Iran thinks of the PG as the lever by which it will move the world; but in reality, to a truly modern nation such as the United States, the Gulf is the lever by which the rest of the world will move Iran.
Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:
- Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
- Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
- Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
- Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
- Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
- Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.
Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:
It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)
Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:
- American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).
Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."
I would add an eighth step, per our Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack, linked above:
- Simultaneously with the American attacks above, Israel strikes hard at Hezbollah, crippling that organization with airstrikes and missile attacks.
(This assumes, of course, that we can get Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to stop quaking in his boots long enough to actually order a serious air attack. But against what, exactly? If I may quote myself from last April:
Israel strikes the primary Hezbollah incarnations: both in Gaza and also in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, which snuggles up between the Lebanon Mountains and Syria. Not in Iran; they're too dispersed... it would be needless bombing of civilian targets to no military purpose. But Hezbollah outside Iran, which represents the bigger threat anyway.
Now back to the Reuters story. The first signal that we're prepared to "go for it" would be moving one or two CBGs to the Gulf... which according to Reuters, is exactly what we have done. The next step would be for us to shift anti-submarine, anti-ballistic-missile, and anti-mine forces -- but we likely wouldn't hear about that, since it's too much "into the weeds" for the drive-by media to interest itself in reporting.
But the next step, Phase 1 of the Herman plan, would be very visible indeed: a loud announcement that we intend to defend the Strait of Hormuz against any aggressor, by any means necessary. If that happens, believe me: we'll know about it!
The nice thing about the Herman Option, even as modified by Big Lizards, is that absolutely none of this needs any congressional approval; the president, in his capacity as Commander in Chief, simply orders the forces where he wants them... and under the War Powers Act, he, all by himself, can order them to commence bombing, too. And he can send in the Marines and SF to seize the wells, too.
The benefits would be enormous:
- Iran's economy, already teetering on the brink, might collapse completely;
- This could trigger a widespread rebellion against the mullahs: despite a surge of nationalistic feelings immediately Iran is attacked, when reality sets in -- Iran at the mercy of the Great Satan -- the rage will likely turn against the idiots whose stupid policies got them into this mess;
- Without Iranian money and weaponry, how long will Bashar Assad sit easy on the throne of Syria?
- Without Iranian support, how long can Hezbollah hold out... especially if it was just hammered by Israeli air strikes?
- Without money and munitions from his paymasters in Teheran, how long can Muqtada Sadr remain kingmaker in Iraq?
- If the United States succeeds, in just a few short years, in taking down the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party in Iraq, and finally the ruling mullahs of the most dangerous Moslem country in the world, Iran... this would seriously frighten and dishearten potential jihadis, killing recruitment of terrorists.
Islam is a very "strength" oriented culture: remember Osama bin Laden's parable about backing the "strong horse" over the "weak horse" (it's the complete opposite in Christendom, where Westerners have an inbred impulse to take the part of the underdog in a fight). [Yeah, yeah, I know: "not plane, nor bird, nor even frog -- 'tis only I... Underdog!"] By shining a light upon the pathetic weakness of even the strongest nations in the ummah when up against the liberal democratic West, we can do more to slash interest in jihad than any imaginable amount of international aid, community relations, or Euro-style appeasement.
This is something we could do; as to whether we will do it... well, that's a horse of the second water. But it sure would be nice if Bush would tidy up before leaving, tying up all the loose nuts.
Date ►►► January 3, 2007
All Right, He Died Like a Man
In the end, Saddam Hussein died like a man.
There, I said it. It's an interesting phenomenon: that a despicable scum may nevertheless go to his death with courage and grace. I first encountered the idea in William Shakespeare's MacBeth: at the end, with Birnam wood come to Dunsinane, confronted with the fact that MacDuff was "not of woman born," and now in full knowledge that he is doomed to die in this very duel... nevertheless, MacBeth neither cries nor whimpers nor rails at his fate, but calls out:
I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'
I tripped across it again in Mark Twain's wonderful book Roughing It, mostly reporting his trip out west with his brother Orion Clemens, who had just been appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada.
In the section about the "road agent," John Slade, Twain (this is nonfiction) describes how the man was originally hired by the Overland Stage Company to run all the outlaws out of the territory near the stage line. Slade succeeded by astounding acts of bravery and brutality; eventually, outlaws avoided the Overland stage like taxes. But Slade grew bored and began terrorizing ordinary people in drunken shooting sprees through the town. He would rage and pick fights, once even burning a buliding. Later, when he sobered up, he was contrite and paid the damages... but it was just too much.
Eventually, he became such a bully and a menace that a hundred miners from the silver fields felt compelled to lynch him. But -- and here's the part this leads into -- when Slade's time came, he stood up, looked them in the eye, and put his own head into the noose. Slade died like a man, and folks remembered that.
I recently watched the cell-phone video of Saddam Hussein's execution. Now, I'm extremely squeamish about watching innocent people being murdered; I simply won't do it. I've never seen an al-Qaeda beheading video, and I never shall. But I have no problem at all watching guilty people being executed, whether by hanging, gas, lethal injection, or even Old Sparky. I've seen videos, and I would jump at the chance to witness an actual execution live.
So I watched with interest... and what I saw was a horrific mass murderer -- his bodycount a minimum of 300,000, perhaps as many as 5,000,000, depending on who you believe -- who nevertheless walked to his doom as a man, not a whipped dog. He must finally have understood that this was it: no last-minute reprieve, the Americans wouldn't save him, and his French, Russian, and Chinese pals cut him from their speed-dials. But as some grotesque Lefty I know remarked (broken clocks), the only person at that hanging to show any dignity or understanding of the solemnity of the proceedings was... Saddam Hussein.
For me, the capper was when Hussein heard that Sadrite idiot shouting "Muqtada! Muqtada!" The dictator sneered at the shouter and sarcastically asked, "Muqtada?" Then he says something that can be translated as "do you consider this bravery?" or "do you consider this acting like a man?"
He refused a hood or blindfold; he didn't struggle futilely or blubber like a baby. He didn't beg. He stepped forward calmly into oblivion.
I read an account by one of the execution witnesses who said he "saw fear" in Hussein's eyes; but I think that man was just whistling past the gravy train: I saw a man, standing amid a shriek of capering baboons.
I do not believe Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, would have died as well or as bravely in similar circumstances.
As I watched, I remembered I had seen this scene before! But where? Yesterday it came back... the second of Richard Lester's productions of the Alexandre Dumas classic the Three Musketeers (the movie is called the Four Musketeers) begins with the attempted execution of Cardinal Richelieu's spy, Rochefort -- played by the inestimable Christopher Lee.
He is in the course of being shot by a firing squad in the Huguenot city of La Rochelle, where he has been caught spying. They're taking forever at their task, having to prime their muskets, load their muskets, and so forth. A man comes up with a blindfold for Rochefort, but he is stymied by the fact that the spy once lost an eye and wears a patch. At length, Rochefort suggests, "I'll close one eye."
At last, the men line up, aim, and fire... and every shot misses. At this point, an exasperated Rochefort rolls his eye and says, "I could die of old age..."
I wonder if Hussein had seen the movie?
As I said, it's an interesting phenomenon: Saddam Hussein was one of the worst human beings ever to have lived, and if there is a God, as I hope there is, Hussein is right now burning in hellfire hotter than a thousand suns, breathing Cyclosarin gas and having his feet perpetually mutilated in a plastic shredder. But he was also a man; a despicable a man, but man nonetheless.
In George Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan, when Joan of Arc is put to the flame, one of the English soldiers steps forward and gives her a pair of sticks, tied into a cross, for her to hold. It was his one act of kindness in a life of brutish, thuggish, violence... and for that mercy, one day in every year, God allows him out of Hell.
Hussein was much worse a human being than that poor, vulgar soldier who was only following orders. But for the way he died, I believe Saddam Hussein will also get that one night of paradise -- perhaps only once each century.
I'm terribly glad he's dead, and I applaud the Iraqis for having the guts and good sense to string him up. Let's get on with the show trials for the rest of his atrocities. (I very much support show trials in cases like this; I mean, it's not as if Hussein could claim he had an alibi!)
Yet I cannot help but admire the way he went; and I hope, if my time ever comes, I can match the grace and dignity of that evil dictator.
The Massachusetts state legislature (a.k.a, the Massachusetts General Court; and isn't that a pompous title?), sitting as a constitutional convention (I think), has finally been shamed into allowing the people to vote on whether to restore the traditional definition of marriage... well, almost.
I must report, in some amazement, that the scolding the legislature took from the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts seems to have done the trick, even though the Court insisted there was nothing they could do to force the lege to act.
Here is what has happened: A citizen initiative was circulated to the people, and 170,000 valid signatures were collected; that means the traditionalists needed but 25% of the legislature in both houses -- in two distinct legislative sessions -- to put the initiative constitutional amendment on the 2008 ballot (primary or general, I don't know). The initiative would ban future same-sex or polyamorous marriages but leave intact the existing 8,000-odd marriages conducted while it was legal. (If it passes, there will be a rush of gays to get "married" and be grandfathered.)
Judging from the way the articles are written (badly), it appears as if, when they're meeting in constitutional convention mode, all you need is 25% of the combined total of the two chambers; there are 40 senators and 160 representatives, so the initiative needed 50 total votes to be sent along:
The amendment would need to be approved by 50 member [sic] of the current Legislature and 50 members of the new Legislature before going to voters on the 2008 ballot. On Tuesday, 61 lawmakers backed moving the measure forward, compared to 132 opposed.
The 61 votes moves the initiative one step closer to being sent to the people; this seems to have infuriated some of the more liberal members (recalling that in Massachusetts, the "more liberal members" call each other "comrade") as well as incoming Gov. Deval Patrick, who replaces Mitt Romney. In a different story, this one from Reuters, Patrick eloquently expressed what he thinks of allowing voters in Massachusetts, rather than the Supreme Judicial Court (an actual court this time, not a legislature), to decide what the state will call "marriage":
"I believe a vote to advance this question to the 2008 ballot is irresponsible and wrong," Patrick, who will be sworn in this week, said in a statement before the vote. "It would do nothing more than condemn us all to more years of debate and expense on a matter that is legally and practically settled."
By "legally and practically settled," Patrick of course means that the Massachusetts courts ruled in favor of his position. The civitas has never been allowed to vote on it, and Patrick jolly well vows to make sure they never do.
However, it appears not to be quite "settled" yet, as it's likely that this bill will, in fact, head to the people... notwithstanding a vote two hours later to "reconsider" the earlier vote. As 75 legislators voted against the call to reconsider, it's hard to see how a dozen of the original 61 votes would change their minds on the second calling of that vote, which should be Thursday, I believe. Or for that matter on the second reading of the question later this year.
Late-breaking update: according to AP, the legislature has already held the reconsideration vote... and this time, 62 members voted to send it on to the next phase -- one more than the first time (probably a member piqued at being delayed heading out to Cape Cod for a few days). From AP:
Arline Isaacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, vowed to continue the fight into the next session to ensure the question is not put on a statewide ballot.
"We have no choice. We're talking about our lives," Isaacson said. But she acknowledged: "It's a huge task. We might not be able to do it."
Deval Patrick -- the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party -- and the co-charwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus and Marching Society (why they're asking "the help," I don't know)... I detect a pattern here: everyone on the Left is truly and deeply concerned that, if this initiative actually goes to the people, the people will restore the traditional definition of marriage.
Why else would everyone supporting same-sex marriage be so panic-stricken at the thought of the people voting? They seem to know just how this will all turn out, once the vox populi speaks.
Patrick or no Patrick (alas, we haven't the option to put Romney back in), the initiative seems destined to be put to a vote by the good people of this commonwealth ("state" isn't good enough for the great Massachusetts Great and General Court).
Unlike the Massachusetts Left, I have no crystal ball; but I certainly put a lot more faith in the citizens of Massachusetts than I do in the Democratic super-dominated legislature.
Date ►►► January 2, 2007
TSA TLC: the Devil Is In the Details
Several conservative commentators, notably Michelle Malkin channeling Andrew McCarthy and Andrew McCarthy in the raw, are incensed that the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is sponsoring "sensitivity training" for its airport employees, training them in what to expect from Moslem travelers during the Hajj (which this year corresponds to the Christmas and New Year's holiday season; the Islamic calendars, all eight of them, are lunar based, causing the exact date of the Hajj to shift from year to year).
The Hajj is a religious pilgrimage that Moslems are required to perform at least once in their lives to Mecca and sometimes Medina as well. Typically, they will pray very frequently all during the pilgrimage, may seem subdued and act oddly, and will likely return from the Hajj with a jar full of holy water from the Zamzam Well in Mecca, near the Kaaba. During the Hajj, pilgrims are required to dress in the ihram, a special type of robe.
Each of these things -- intense praying, an odd, nervous or subdued appearance, traditional Arab dress, and carrying vials of liquid -- would ordinarily raise the TSA's suspicion level; all together might set off a red alert, if they did not understand about the Hajj.
And of course, there is always the danger that jihadis might take advantage of the Hajj to hide among batches of pilgrims and commit a terrorist act; so TSA employees must be trained how to spot differences between pilgrims and terrorists that are more subtle than differences between ordinary Moslems (not on pilgrimage) and terrorists. There are many reasons why such cultural-awareness training is vital for the TSA.
Alas, none of this appears in Michelle Malkin's post; here is how she puts it:
Monday morning blood-boiler: Bush kowtows to CAIR
Andy McCarthy rightly excoriates the dhimmis in the Bush administration for pandering to CAIR. [There follows a lengthy quotation from McCarthy.]
Here is a sample from the McCarthy column on NRO; note the enraged language McCarthy uses, bordering on the hysterical:
As if snuggling up to CAIR, coercing our law-enforcement and intelligence professionals to endure CAIR’s Islamic “sensitivity training,” and inviting CAIR to weigh in on our nation’s foreign policy were not enough, we now have a Bush-administration agency publishing an unedited CAIR press release on publicly subsidized, official government Internet space....
This is naked proselytism on behalf of an Islamic interest group [!]. Americans will no doubt be thrilled to learn, through TSA’s good offices, about CAIR’s delight that our travel-safety agency “has provided special training about Islamic traditions related to the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, to some 45,000 airport security officers[,]” and that this “cultural sensitivity training includes details about the timing of Hajj travel, about items pilgrims may be carrying and about Islamic prayers that may be observed by security personnel.”
Actually, yes; I am "thrilled" to learn this, though I must confess it's hardly a surprise. Because what the TSA boorishly calls "sensitivity training" in its joint press release with CAIR is more accurately termed "awareness training." There is nothing in the release, nor in the original article it's based upon, that sounds like actual sensitivity training... nothing about not using certain terms because they might upset Moslems, for example, and nothing about allowing Moslems to do things disallowed to others.
Rather, it appears to be just "cultural awareness," and it has been going on for years. In other words, since we know that many thousands of Moslems are going to travel in groups -- praying all the way -- during the Hajj, and that they're likely to bring jars of Zamzam holy water back with them, it behooves us to warn the TSA ahead of time what to look for and how to distinguish such pilgrims from groups like the "Flying Imams," who are either Islamist agents provocateurs or even actual, real terrorists.
For the same reason, when the Million Man March is coming to town, the cops train their officers in what to expect, what to look out for, and what to avoid doing to prevent rioting. It's simply the smart thing to do... as McCarthy would realize, if he weren't so intent upon chest-thumping and spewing BDS from the right.
The devil, as always, is in the details. If the TSA were to hire CAIR itself, for example, to teach these cultural-awareness classes, that would be a serious problem; CAIR is unquestionably a terrorist-supporting organization with deep ties to actual jihadist groups. But there simply is no evidence that CAIR had anything to do either with the policy being adopted or in designing the training. CAIR only shows up in the TSA's press release.
McCarthy's TSA link is in the press-release section of the website; it's clearly a joint press release between TSA and CAIR (CAIR's press release was on December 27th, the TSA's one day later). Like it or not, and in spite of (or because of) the fact that CAIR has many deep and integral connections to terrorist organizations, CAIR is the most powerful Moslem spokesgroup in the United States, eclipsing the Muslim Brotherhood's American branch, the Muslim American Society. It's not evidence of "dhimmitude," as Michelle puts it, for the TSA to collaborate on a press release... it's evidence that you cannot dismiss such a powerful organization just because it's also unsavory; you must take it into account, even if that means holding your nose as you do so.
In the original article from the State Department's USINFO website (linked above), predating both press releases, CAIR is not even mentioned; there is no evidence that CAIR supplies or is involved in the training:
[TSA spokesman Darrin] Kayser said cultural awareness has been an integral part of TSA training since the agency assumed responsibility for managing airport security after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He said the hajj briefings were essentially “refresher training” and a chance to alert officers that a larger number of Muslim travelers will be passing through the airports during this season. He said the TSA had a particular interest in performing the training this year, as the hajj corresponds with the busy Christmas-New Year holiday travel season.
(USINFO is brought to us courtesy of the State Department's "Bureau of International Information Programs.")
There simply is nothing in either the TSA's cultural awareness or its joint press release with CAIR that constitutes any evidence of "kowtowing" or "dhimmitude" on the part of the Bush administration.
But wait, that's not the end of it; there actually is something sinister... but it emanates from the State Department, the most rogue, out of control agency of the government, and the department that most firmly rejects the idea of the "unitary executive." The Department of State has had its own foreign and domestic policy throughout the Bush administration... first under Colin Powell (who encouraged them), but now even under Condoleezza Rice, who seems genuinely to want to reform them but hasn't yet succeeded.
What is far more disturbing is the next paragraph of the USINFO story, which shows that not only State but also the new Department of Homeland Security itself are still behind the power curve when it comes to the danger we face from jihadi terrorism (the story still has nothing to do with CAIR, however). The provenance of DHS makes it clear that, like the CIA, DHS is a child of the State Department... not of the Defense Department; that is the great flaw that renders both CIA and DHS less than useful in the War on Jihadism:
The training comes just one month after Department of Homeland Security personnel came under criticism for removing six imams from a domestic flight for what one passenger considered suspicious behavior. (See related article.)
In the "related article," also published by the State Department, a spokesman for DHS weighs in on the "flying imams" incident:
According to press reports, a passenger aboard a US Airways flight told a flight attendant that the six men were engaged in suspicious behavior and security personnel subsequently removed those six men from the flight. The men were questioned by the FBI and Secret Service, and then were released, according to press reports....
“Ultimately, it seems that the information had led to a misjudgment, but we’re not going to be critical of that judgment,” [Homeland Security press secretary Russ Knocke] said.
This story dates from November 22nd, 2006, or one day after the incident. Yet even the day before -- the very day it happened -- the Minneapolis Star Tribune had reported that it was not just "one passenger" but multiple "witnesses" who complained about the imams' behavior. The Strib also noted the business with the seatbelt extenders (handy weapons) that were requested, even though the imams didn't need them -- and didn't use them, laying them by their seats instead. (Via Power Line, which has been all over this story like honey on Pooh.)
By the next day (the day of the story on USINFO), the New York Times published a story on the incident that included this (again via Power Line, November 22nd):
Witnesses, including a number of passengers and US Airways employees, said they heard some of the men making anti-American remarks and chanting “Allah,” first as they boarded the plane and then when led off, Mr. Hogan said.
(This was also the first appearance of discussion about the peculiar seating arrangement the imams took, though it was not reported until days later that they were deliberately emulating the seating pattern used by the 9/11 hijackers.)
Here is the point: what in the wide, wide world of sports was DHS doing minimizing the imams' behavior by flatly stating that only "one passenger" had complained, when the MSM were already reporting that there were far more witnesses? And where did DHS get off, concluding -- just one day after the incident -- that removing the imams was a "misjudgment?"
In fact, subsequent revelations make it very clear (and even what was known at the time raised the strong possiblity) that it was excellent judgment, that the imams were clearly and intentionally trying to provoke an incident... probably to set themselves up for a fat lawsuit that CAIR would push through the courts, to scoop up millions of dollars in "damages;" but also to gain a federal court ruling setting Moslems up as a "privileged class," exempted from the behavioral profiling that is routinely applied to every other airline passenger.
There is nothing wrong (other than the goofy name) with giving "sensitivity training" -- awareness training -- to TSA employees about the Hajj. But there is everything in the world wrong with the Department of Homeland Security running interference for Islamists, backed by CAIR and by new Rep. Keith Ellison ("CAIR's congressman"), deliberately creating a security breach for purposes of using the federal courts to weaken American homeland security. The purpose of DHS is to preserve domestic security, not help our enemies endanger it.
I wish those jumping on the TSA for its awareness training had noticed this point instead; it's liable to have far more of a real-world impact and calls for a thorough housecleaning in the agency most involved with protecting the American homeland.
The First Victim of the "Big Lie"
Paul at Power Line has an interesting post up about the persistence of blindness by the drive-by media to the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel Jr. and his chargé d'affaires Curtis Moore back in 1973... a hit that appears to me to have been personally ordered by Yasser Arafat. (Paul links to a post last June by Scott Johnson, in which he goes into more detail about crime and evidence.) Please read these first before continuing...
All right, this is the line Paul wrote that caught my eye:
[W]hy has our MSM which prides itself on exposing government cover-ups ignored almost totally the cable...?
The answer... is that Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world and is, therefore, information that it would prefer the public not know.
I think Paul may be overestimating the role played by mendacity and underestimating the will to deny on the part of the elite media -- and indeed all of humanity: I don't think journalists consciously keep this information from the public; I believe they're unconsciously keeping it from themselves.
I can't believe my eyes
In my early youth, I used to dabble in magic (prestidigitation, not sorcery; sorcery was in my middle youth). I was never very good -- no patience -- but I was a magic junkie who watched every live and broadcast magic show I could find... scores of them by the time I was fifteen, perhaps a hundred individual acts or more. After a while, I caught onto the big secret of magic: the "gimmick," the actual working of the trick, typically takes place in plain view.
So why doesn't the audience see it? Because the magician tells them not to. He doesn't come out and say, "see here now, close your eyes for this bit." Instead, he misdirects their attention to this side, when the gimmick is taking place on that side.
The great magicians (Herrmann, Thurston, Kellar) were sheer artists at misdirection. It was said of Harry Kellar that when he was performing, a brass band could march across the stage behind him, followed by a half-dozen elephants, and the audience would later swear he was alone.
This demonstrates what I call "the will to disbelieve." Your eyes may see, but your brain does all the observing... or in this case, the unobserving.
Everyone who goes to a magic show wants to be fooled. Haven't you noticed that most people, if you tell them how a trick is really done, are not satisfied but instead rather disappointed? That's because, even though they asked, they really didn't want to know.
The hard-headed skeptics are especially desperate to be fooled; they're always the easiest to misdirect. (The hardest to fool are children: they haven't yet learned the knack of willful blindness. By nature, they tend to look in exactly the right place, which is exactly the wrong place for a magician!)
It may twist and turn, but this post has not careered out of control; I'm actually going somewhere with it.
Magic is a universal indicator. It's a synecdoche, which can mean many things: in this case, a small part that stands in for the whole. We all want to be fooled; the world is awash in pandemic credulity.
Song of myself
Every one of us has a "story," the story of himself. This narrative takes all the myriad observations, expectations, and subtle indications our brains receive and arranges them into a more or less coherent plot. In reality, we can say only that A precedes B. It takes a narrative to say that A causes B.
The narrative includes both "facts" and inferences. I use quotation marks around "facts" because, pace John Adams, facts are actually squirmy, gelatinous things that we only experience second-hand, by observing the effect of the fact upon us -- for example, we don't see a Ford Mustang; we observe the light reflected from the Mustang, and our brain draws the inference that a Mustang exists at that spot. But the inferences are the interesting things, because they control or modulate everything we sense... everything we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch is really an inference we have drawn from a stimulus to some part of our brains.
In mathematics -- therefore in everything else -- inferences imply rules of inference: we must have internal rules that tell us when we can take A and B and conclude C. For example, you see a Mustang speed past you and tear around a corner. Seconds later, you hear a terrible crash. Do you draw the conclusion that the Mustang you just saw has wrecked?
Probably; I would. My rules of inference tell me that it's unlikely that a completely unrelated car just happened to have an accident at that second. But of course, I'll be wrong sometimes -- such coincidences do, in fact, happen.
The best is enemy of the workable; as Mason said to Dixon, you gotta draw the line somewhere. (This whole subject is part of the branch of philosophy called epistemology, by the way: "how we know what we know.") Everybody's rules of inference are probability based: it's pretty likely that the speeding Mustang wrecked and was responsible for the accident... so that's what we tell the cops.
Believing is seeing
But the weird part of the internal narrative, the story of ourselves, is the way that the brain constantly edits the file of sensory inputs to match the eventual conclusion drawn: in our little thought experiment of the speeding Mustang, the most likely outcome is that, when the actual civil trial occurs and you're called as a witness (or even earlier, when you talk to the cops), you will say that you saw the speeding Mustang crash into the Volvo!
And you know what? You won't be lying... you will actually remember it that way. As Isaac Asimov put it in one or another of his autobiographies, we remember things the way they should have happened, not necessarily the way they actually did... which, in the absolute sense, is unknowable anyway.
Out of mind, out of sight
Which brings us back, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, to the Human Consciousness Editor.
Let me quote a man I've never read (I can't get past page 5 of anything Friedrich Nietzsche wrote!): "We are all greater artists than we realize." (Actually, I have no idea if he actually said it. Or wrote it. But it's always arrtibuted to him. And anyway, the idea is the important thing, no matter who said it... what are you, a wisenheimer?)
Memory is not like a movie film; it's more like a writable DVD that is constantly being edited by the brain, to bring memory into congruence with the story of ourselves. This applies to everybody -- not just liberals. Quite literally, if an observation simply cannot exist within the central narrative of the brain... then the brain erases it from existence. "if out of sight, then out of mind" is a trivial observation; the deeper version is "if out of mind, then out of sight." In a vivid, real, and literal sense, you cannot see what you cannot believe.
We can't handle the truth
Which brings us back to journalism, the elite media, and Arafat's hit on Noel and Moore (actually, this more or less explains absolutely everything, if you think hard enough about it): Paul was wrong; it's simply not plausible that --
Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world and is, therefore, information that it would prefer the public not know.
The far more likely explanation is that Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world, and therefore the journalists' brains erase such "knowledge" from their memory banks. It's not that they know and they're concealing it from the rest of us; it's that we look at A, B, and C and conclude that Arafat ordered the hits -- while the MSM look at A, B, and C and conclude that Arafat didn't know a thing about it and was distressed when he found out.
We cannot even say we're right and they're wrong; scientifically, about the best we can do is that our reading requires much less editing of verifiable sources than theirs!
They literally don't see it. When liberals say that there is a "100% chance" that Gore actually won the vote in Florida and that Bush stole the election, they're not lying... they really believe it. Just as most Americans actually believe there is an invisible man with a long, white beard who knows when they are sleeping, who knows when they're awake, who knows if they've been bad or good -- and who sends the bad ones to Hell (I'll bet you were expecting someone else).
Tom Tancredo probably looks at a Mexican family crossing our border and literally sees enemy soldiers invading our country; judging from some of the comments when I talk about immigration, I reckon quite a few of you see the same reality Tom does. I see a bunch of potential entrepeneurs and consumers, but that "reality" is as much a product of my own internal narrative as your "reality" is of yours. "We are all greater artists than we realize."
That is the real dilemma of speaking to the enemy: it's not that he hasn't seen all the facts, and as soon as we enlighten him, he'll come round to our point of view. Rather, we don't even agree on what "facts" are on the table: we see one set of facts (while another batch remain stubbornly invisible); and he sees several of our invisible fnords while being unable even to detect some of our critical facts. Neither party will likely be convinced, because each draws rational conclusions from self-cooked data.
Members of the MSM literally sees no connection between Arafat and the murders, just as liberals literally see no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda; and every "fact" that "comes to light" (every observation their brain-modulator allows them to see) simply confirms those non-connections. Conservatives stubbornly refuse to see any connection between liberty and sexual deviance; libertarians refuse even to notice any connection between duty and survival; the religious see a rigid cause-effect relationship between faith and morals, while the irreligious see absolutely no connection whatsoever, unless it's an inverse relationship.
Can't we all just get a loan?
So how can we communicate?
- The first step is to recognize that each of us lives in his own reality net, his own bubble of "fact" and inference, held together in a coherent shape by the web of narrative spun by our own brains. It's counterproductive to say "I'm right and you're wrong;" it's much more effective to demonstrate that my model typically predicts future events with great success, while yours typically fails.
- Recognize that some gaps cannot be bridged; concentrate on those that can.
- Start your voyage of discussion from islands that exist both in your disputant's reality sea and your own: find overlapping subsets of reality and try to expand outward from there; that makes it harder for him to dismiss you out of hand.
- Learn to argue from within the other person's reality net: it works much better. Tell a conservative that holding a job builds character; tell a liberal that holding a job connects one to the community.
- Learn to laugh. It's the best defense mechanism against screaming.
- Remember that you're not alone in being all alone; you're part of a vast community of people who share being all alone together.
- Finally, in a more practical vein, if you want your own reality net to prevail (as who doesn't?), then make it more interesting, joyful, and hope-filled than the reality next door: people who are bored or frightened by one reality net will simply change the channel... and yes, it is that easy. Keep their attention, and they'll keep watching!
That last is the biggest problem the Democrats have: their reality net is one of defeatism and fatalism, two very unpleasant modulators. That's why, even when the Democrats win, they lose: they won the 2006 election, but nobody really thinks they can solve any of our problems. (And to be blunt, they're not even trying... they're simply campaigning for 2008.)
That's the secret weapon of Republicans, whether libertarian-Republican, conservative, neoconservative, or Giuliani-Republican: hope and pride. That is what, in the end, will reel 'em back in. Fill yourself with hope and pride and always aggressively follow your bliss -- not your decadence, your bliss. That way, even if you go down, you'll die a hero's death... and hey, that's something, isn't it?
Date ►►► January 1, 2007
Saddam's Execution "Upsets" Saddamites
In a stunning display of perspicacity and sophisticated nuancing, if I'm allowed to coin that neologism, the drive-by media has discovered that long-time supporters of Saddam Hussein in Iraq are irked that he was hanged.
Rage over the hanging of Saddam Hussein spilled into the streets in many parts of the Sunni Muslim heartland Monday, especially in Samarra where a mob of angry protesters broke the locks off the badly damaged Shiite Golden Dome mosque and marched through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the executed former leader.
Sunni extremists had blown apart the glistening dome on the Shiite holy place 10 months earlier, setting in motion the sectarian slaughter that now grips the troubled land.
(I love that parenthetical second paragraph... just in case the Shia had forgotten their rage, in the joy of seeing Saddam dancing on air, AP helpfully reminds them.)
So, what are we talking about, how large a "mob of angry protesters?" Was it ten thousand rallying in Samarra? A hundred thousand rocking Baghdad? Oh, here it is:
In northern Baghdad, hundreds of Sunnis conducted a demonstration to mourn Saddam in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood.
"The Baath party and Baathists still exist in Iraq, and nobody can marginalize it," said Samir al-Obaidi, 48, who attended a Saddam memorial in the Azamiyah neighborhood. [Is he perhaps a Baathist?]
In Dor, 77 miles north of Baghdad, hundreds more took to the streets to inaugurate a giant mosaic of Saddam. Children carried toy guns and men fired into the air. ["A giant mosaic of Saddam."]
Mourners at a mosque in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit slaughtered sheep as a sacrifice for their former leader. The mosque's walls were lined with condolence cards from tribes in southern Iraq and Jordan who were unable to travel to the memorial.
Great Scott, if we add hundreds to hundreds, we get hundreds -- possibly a thousand. Out of a population of 8.5 million Sunnis. Evidently, they're not quite as upset with Saddam's execution as feminists in America are that abortion rights have been slightly trimmed, or as illegal immigrants are here that they might be made, ah, "illegal." Amazingly, however, Saddam's execution gets the old razzberry from his most ardent Baathist supporters.
(In fact, the "good news" is that, so far at least, it's not hundreds or thousands, or even just thousands.)
The rest of the story consists of the writer salivating over the final deaths that occurred in Iraq on the last day of 2006: two U.S. soldiers, six Sunni insurgents, and the alleged finding of "the bodies of 40 handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-riddled bodies" -- don't you love the multiple layers of editing in the elite media?
I write "alleged" because of the discovery that AP's long-time police source for such stories, "police captain Jamil Hussein," the Lieutenant Kije of Baghdad, has been shown not to exist... or at least AP cannot produce him, he doesn't appear on the payroll of the Interior Ministry (as all other National Police do), and nobody else can find hide nor hair of him. He appears instead to be an anonymous Sunni propagandist stringer working for AP. Thus, we can no longer trust any claim that AP makes about "police" reporting the finding of dead bodies.
In fact, here is how they phrased it:
Police reported finding the bodies of 40 handcuffed, blindfolded and bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad on the first day of the New Year. A police official, who refused to be named out of security fears, said "15 of these bodies [were] found in one place," the largely industrial Sheik Omar district in northern Baghdad.
Perhaps the Associated Press has retired the "Jamil Hussein" house name but hasn't yet thought up a replacement.
The only grafs that could possibly be considered "news" in this entire story are that we raided the offices of a Sunni member of parliament who is believed to be an insurgent running an al-Qaeda safe house (or not so safe, as it turns out)... a supposition made more plausible by the fact that when we went to his office -- the suspected site -- we were met with heavy military resistance:
Also, U.S. forces killed six people in a raid on the Baghdad offices of a top Sunni politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, on suspicion it was being used as an al-Qaida safe house, the military and Iraqi police said.
The U.S. military said [they] took on heavy fire from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades as they sought to enter the building. Al-Mutlaq is a senior member of the National Dialogue Front, which holds 11 of the 275 seats in Iraq's parliament....
Ground troops were backed by helicopters that "engaged the enemy with precision point target machine gun fire," the military said. It was unclear whether the deaths resulted from the ground assault or fire from U.S. helicopters.
Shouldn't the headline have read "U.S. Forces Storm al-Qaeda Safe House," and the lede have noted that the house was the Baghdad office of Member of Parliament Saleh al-Mutlaq? Then they could have dropped all the useless fluff about former Baathists being upset that Iraq hanged Saddam and simply included eight column inches of white space.
Happy New Year...
...For those of you who elected a new year this time.
I've been trying out used (or rather, "pre-lived") years instead the last few New Years'; they're loads cheaper, and you know how they'll turn out. 1969 is a popular one, But a lot of folks seem to prefer 1955 or 1956 (take your pick).
The problem with new years is that it takes a while for the sharp edges to wear off. The pre-lived ones are comfortable and pre-fatigued, like old shoes. Of course, if you've got hold of someone else's old shoes, they can pinch like the dickens; and the same is true for a pre-lived year that doesn't ring true.
Thoughts to bear in mind when selecting your pre-lived years (I'm reading this out of the catalog, as I haven't the faintest idea about the subject myself):
- You're not restricted to years subsequent to your own birth; it's perfectly permitted (except in Kansas) to select a year from before you were born.
- You cannot mix and match pieces of pre-lived years: it's all or nothing, baby. If you pick some year that has a bad monsoon season, you can't return it when you get soaking wet.
- Read your history carefully: stay away from obvious klinkers -- 1917, 1350, 1492 (if you're Jewish. Or Mayan), and 1976.
- Obscure years can be every bit as interesting as 1812 or 1066, but at a fraction the cost! I was able to get 1760 for a wing and a song once; it was child's play to make my way to William & Mary College and spend some time with Thomas Jefferson (he called me "squatty;" to this day, I've never quite understood why).
- Don't forget, transportation can be a problem. If you select any pre-lived year prior to 1910, be prepared to wait a long time for the bus.
- Finally, I understand that package deals will soon be available that include future years, for those of you who want a preview of what is to come. Save your shillings and pence!
But for dyed-in-the-cheese traditionalists who want to stick with the old-fashioned model of an actual new year for New Year's, Merry New Year, and I hope it works out for you.
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