Friday, October 18, 2002

WORLD SERIES PREDICTION: I predict it will be won by the first team to win four games.
(Well, after the All-Star Game, you never know...)
Seriously, the teams look pretty evenly matched to me.

Points in the Angels' favor:
Slightly better bullpen, including the "K-Rod" (and I love that nickname) X-factor
A manager who's learned from his one postseason boneheaded in-game move
Home-field for seventh game
Lineup prone to unstoppable phases

Points in the Giants' favor:
Bonds
Slightly more reliable starting pitching
A manager who looked great compared to his NLCS counterpart
My brother's in-laws as fans

Both teams have been clicking on all cylinders and strike me as exceptionally solid from 1-25 on the roster, as opposed to relying on front-line talent as the Yankees did in their recent run.
Because I must make a pick, it'll be Angels in 7.
Check out Rob Neyer and Derek Zumsteg for some good analysis of why the
Angels should pitch to Bonds more often than not.
MORE NORTH KOREAN FORESIGHT: Andrew Sullivan cites a Charles Krauthammer column from 1994 on the accord with North Korea:

(1) The NPT is dead. North Korea broke it and got a huge payoff from the United States not for returning to it but for pretending to. Its nuclear program proceeds unmolested. In Tehran and Tripoli and Baghdad the message is received: Nonproliferation means nothing. (2) The IAEA, if it goes along with this sham, is corrupted beyond redemption. It is supposed to be an impartial referee blowing the whistle on proliferators. Yet if Washington does not want to hear the whistle, the IAEA can be bullied into silence. (3) American credibility - not very high after Clinton's about-faces in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti - sinks to a new low. This is a president easily cowed and dangerously weak. Said one government official to the New York Times, "It's one of these cases where the administration was huffing and puffing and backed down." Better though, said another, than "falling on our own sword over phony principle." If nonproliferation, so earnestly trumpeted by this president, is a phony principle, then where do we look for this president's real principles? This administration would not recognize a foreign policy principle, phony or otherwise, if it tripped over one in the street. The State Department, mixing cravenness with cynicism, calls this capitulation "very good news." For Kim Il Sung, certainly. For us, the deal is worse than dangerous. It is shameful.

On the other hand, Sullivan also cites an interview Jim Lehrer conducted earlier this year with the hapless Wendy Sherman (the coordinator for North Korean policy in the Clinton administration, cited below). Regarding the inclusion of North Korea in Bush's "axis of evil" formulation, Ms. Sherman said:

It was very understandable as a rhetorical device to rally the American people to cause against terrorism and to the cause against weapons of mass destruction, which none of us want. What I think was wrong about it in terms of North Korea is North Korea has negotiated successfully with us. We have a 1994 framework agreement that stops the production of fissile material, which is the plutonium, the kind of plutonium needed to build nuclear weapons. They agreed to that framework agreement. They have principally kept to that agreement and taken the steps that were necessary for it to take. It's not finished yet. We still have a ways to go, but they do and can follow through. We need to hold them to it. Our agreements have to be verifiable. They need to be tough but it can be done.

Read that again - "They have principally kept to that agreement and taken the steps that were necessary for it to take." I have nothing to add.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

WORLD SERIES PREDICTION: Coming tomorrow. I need to think a little more.
GIVING BLAME WHERE BLAME IS DUE: Via InstaPundit, James Lileks has it all figured out regarding the Bali bombing. I especially liked this bit:

[I]n retrospect, Indonesia looks quite wise. If they had bowed to U.S. pressure, al-Qaida would think they'd joined Bush's mad crusade. Now they have a chance -- a precious, rare chance -- to show that wiser heads know best what to do: nothing. But we're not counseling rash inaction -- no, Indonesia must proceed with care, consulting friends and neighbors, before deciding which form their inaction should take. (After a suitable debate, that is.)

You think that's funny? Read the last sentence in this New York Times article, quoting Wendy Sherman, the Clinton administration's North Korea policy coordinator (time for Ms. Sherman to edit that part of her resume):

"One has to be careful, or you may end up in a circumstance that could be more precarious than you began with," Ms. Sherman said. "The administration ought to be multilateral, deliberative and very thoughtful about how we proceed here, because it is serious."

Life imitates Lileks...
MEDIA MANIPULATION 101: Franklin Foer has a tremendous piece in the New Republic about how Iraq manipulates its coverage by the international media. Here is the first paragraph, with its unbelievable conclusion:

If the bombs begin falling on Baghdad, a broad swath of the TV-viewing world will quickly become intimate with Jane Arraf, CNN's Iraq correspondent for the past four years. Arraf files her reports from the third-floor landing of a blocky white building a few hundred meters from the Tigris River, with the ancient city's minaret-filled panorama behind her. CNN shares the building with the BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, and the handful of other news organizations that have a permanent presence in Baghdad. But there's an uncomfortable fact about this building to which these tenants don't often call attention: It's the Iraqi Ministry of Information.

Read the entire piece; it's very chilling.
I strongly believe that after the U.S. overthrows Saddam, there will be a tremendous unwillingess amongst leftists to admit that they were ever opposed to the U.S.' actions.
TWO-SCORE YEARS AGO: Rob Neyer hs a fascinating piece on how the Angels' and Giants' peaks may each have come in 1962. (Presumably, he's only referring to the period after the Giants moved to San Francisco; they won a number of World Championships in New York.)
MORE ON RABIN: Ha-aretz discusses the question of "what if Rabin had lived?" The author quotes a Netanyahu ally, who observes:

Had Rabin lived, he said, he would "most likely" have lost the elections to Netanyahu, who had a big lead in the opinion polls - even before the wave of suicide bombings in March 1996. "The Labor Party would then most likely have replaced Rabin with Ehud Barak and history would have played out the way it has."
Elitzur said the claim by many on the left that "the world would have been fundamentally different" had Rabin not been killed, was an attempt by the supporters of the Oslo accords to explain away the great failure of the process which Rabin led. "But in the end I don't think history would have been different. Yigal Amir did not change Oslo. The failure of Oslo was not the result of Rabin's absence."


There is much truth in those observations. Netanyahu led Rabin by 22 points in January 1995 and by 23 points in April 1995. Rabin's assassination gave Shimon Peres, by contrast, a big lead in the polls. Having been in Israel at the time, I can attest to the fact tha there was never less opposition to the peace process than in the aftermath of Rabin's murder. What changed the picture was an orgy of bus-bombings by Hamas. (A reading of the list will show that there were a large number of such bombings when Rabin was alive, as well - a large contributing factor to his low poll numbers.)
More importantly, ascribing the failure of the peace process to Rabin's murder ignores the proximate cause of the war of the last two years: the refusal of the Palestinians to compromise on the demands which they entered the Oslo process, most notably the "right of return." That final phase of bargaining would have arrived regardless of whether Rabin had lived, and I haven't seen a good argument that Rabin would have made any difference in the Palestinians' refusal to cross that line.
It is a natural tendency to assume that the most dramatic events were the most pivotal events, as well. But that is not always the case.
MORE ON NORTH KOREA: Lots of embarrassing things were written several years ago regarding the accord which has now been blown to bits (pun not intended, hopefully). TNR's blog has one. More excruciating is a NYT editorial unearthed by Jonah Goldberg, which I will reproduce in full.

Diplomacy with North Korea has scored a resounding triumph. Monday's draft agreement freezing and then dismantling North Korea's nuclear program should bring to an end two years of international anxiety and put to rest widespread fears that an unpredictable nation might provoke nuclear disaster.
The U.S. negotiator Robert Gallucci and his North Korean interlocutors have drawn up a detailed road map of reciprocal steps that both sides accepted despite deep mutual suspicion. In so doing they have defied impatient hawks and other skeptics who accused the Clinton Administration of gullibility and urged swifter, stronger action. The North has agreed first to freeze its nuclear program in return for U.S. diplomatic recognition and oil from Japan and other countries to meet its energy needs. Pyongyang will then begin to roll back that program as an American-led consortium replaces the North's nuclear reactors with two new ones that are much less able to be used for bomb-making. At that time, the North will also allow special inspections of its nuclear waste sites, which could help determine how much plutonium it had extracted from spent fuel in the past.
A last-minute snag, North Korea's refusal to resume its suspended talks with neighboring South Korea, was resolved to Seoul's satisfaction. If Washington and Pyongyang approve the agreement, and if the North fulfills its commitments, this negotiation could become a textbook case on how to curb the spread of nuclear arms.
Hawks, arguing that the North was simply stalling while it built more bombs, had called for economic sanctions or attacks on the North's nuclear installations. The Administration muted the war talk and pursued determined diplomacy.
Reassuring the North paid off in the end. Given the residual mistrust between the two sides, the U.S. will now sensibly provide more tangible reassurance. It is moving toward diplomatic recognition, in the form of an exchange of liaison offices, and economic cooperation, in the form of heavy fuel oil from others in the U.S.-led consortium and the start of construction of new nuclear reactors.
In return, the North will put its nuclear program in a deep freeze by not refueling its nuclear reactor, arranging temporary safe storage of the spent fuel rods removed from that reactor and sealing its reprocessing facility to prevent the extraction of plutonium from those fuel rods. Implementing the freeze and allowing it to be verified are important tests of the North's good faith.
Then, in elaborately choreographed stages detailed in a confidential note, nuclear dismantling will proceed step-by-step with reactor replacement. That gives both sides leverage against reneging. At the end of stage one, with construction of the first reactor well under way but before key nuclear components have been supplied, the North will allow special inspections of its nuclear waste sites.
In stage two, as construction proceeds on the two reactors, the North will gradually ship its 8,000 spent fuel rods abroad for reprocessing. In stage three, as the second replacement reactor nears completion, the North will dismantle all its bomb-making facilities, including its old graphite reactors and reprocessing plant.
Critics say the U.S. is in effect bribing North Korea to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Yet Washington has previously provided inducements to others, including South Korea, to refrain from bomb-making. It has gotten the North to do a lot more than the treaty requires, like dismantle its nuclear installations.
From the start, the hawks' alternative to diplomacy was full of danger. Their solution -- economic sanctions and bombing runs -- might have disarmed North Korea, but only at the risk of war. President Clinton, former President Carter and Mr. Gallucci deserve warm praise for charting a less costly and more successful course.


Those "hawks" look a little smarter now, don't they? At least Josh Marshall has enough intellectual integrity to admit that on many of the big foreign-policy questions over the last couple of decades, the "hawks" were right.
This John McCain quote cited by Rod Dreher holds up a little better:

On at least eight previous occasions, North Korea has lied to the Clinton Administration. With this agreement, Administration officials have willingly acquiesced in Pyongyang's almost certain further deception. Yet again, the Administration has mistaken resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis with merely postponing its apogee.
...I suspect that the Administration's willlingness to delay the resolution of this crisis is premised on their presumption that the bankrupt North Korean economy will force the regime's collapse before they violate the agreement. Unfortunately, their economy may be salvaged during the interim period by the hallf a billion tons of oil they will receive annually, the opening of trade relations with the U.S., and greater trade with its Asian neighbors, which the agreement [provides for]. Thus, the Administration has accomplished the remarkable feat of allowing the North Koreans to have their carrot cake and eat it too.

IN CASE LOU PINIELLA ISN'T AVAILABLE: You, too, can apply for the Mets' managerial opening by filling out this application.
THIS SOUNDS LIKE A HOAX: But it's funny.
WISE WORDS FROM THE ECONOMIST: Here are excerpts from this week's lead editorial:

Reasonable people can and do disagree about whether it is worth going to war to defang Iraq. But how has the balance of that argument changed in light of the unsurprising fact that the terrorists have struck again? Did thinking about Iraq lower America's guard in South-East Asia, or anywhere else? There is no jot of evidence for this. Since September 11th, the Americans have intensified their intelligence-gathering in every sphere. Just recently this has led to a spate of arrests of al-Qaeda suspects around the world. If there was a failure in Bali, it does not seem to have been a lack of American attention but Indonesia's failure to heed the timely warnings it received from both America and others.
None of this is to argue that the Bush administration has performed flawlessly. As in any war, there have been both tactical errors and strategic ones. A tactical error in Tora Bora enabled the al-Qaeda leadership to escape. The Economist submits that it was a strategic error to confine Afghanistan's international peacekeepers to Kabul; and to give Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military dictator, a green light to undermine what was left of his country's parliamentary system. There is, furthermore, serious force in the argument that an American war against Iraq might turn more Muslims against America. The war against Islamic terrorism must in large part be a war for the hearts and minds of Muslims. That is uncontroversial. The hard question is how to win this part of the war.
Some of America's critics counsel a generalised flaccidity, in the style of Mrs Megawati: keep a low profile and do nothing at all that might stir up the hornets. Others compose a list of useful chores for the superpower to take on right away, the one common feature of which is that none of them is Iraq. Solve Palestine, solve Kashmir, end world poverty, turn Muslim leaders into democrats, make the lion lie down with the lamb. Curiously, it is assumed in the case of Iraq that American intervention is pre-ordained to be incompetent and that the looked-for benefit will be outweighed by the unintended consequences. Everywhere else, American omnipotence is taken for granted. Solve Palestine? A decade of intensive American peacemaking led by Bill Clinton failed, yet it is blithely assumed that America has now merely to brandish a magic wand or big enough stick to make Israel disgorge the occupied territories it has been choking on for decades.
Even in its present muscular mood, even with its present unchallenged power, an America that is asked to do the impossible, or which promises it, is bound to disappoint. Deliver us from evil, goes the cry from every point of the globe; just make sure not to stir up any hard feelings while you're about it.
This is an impossibility. America cannot fight al-Qaeda without offending the millions of Muslims who persist in thinking that al-Qaeda has half a point. And though all the items on that list of chores matter, all require a long slog. The regional conflicts in Palestine and Kashmir are a thicket of thorns. Democracy? America can preach and nudge, but cannot at a stroke impose pluralist values on all the countries where people are denied them. In the meantime, one of the weapons America must deploy against al-Qaeda is traditional statecraft, which often entails opportunistic alliances with the sort of regimes—in Egypt, Kazakhstan, Pakistan—Americans would not choose to be governed by themselves. There may be ways to assuage some Muslim “grievances” without tipping into appeasement. But do not expect too much. The chain of causation that is said to lead from Palestine to the decision of a terrorist to murder young partygoers in Bali is not going to be easy to interrupt by making an adjustment in diplomacy.
Above all, America must not let the things which it cannot do right away stop it from doing the things that it must do right away. In the view of this newspaper, one of those is preventing Mr Hussein, a proven sociopath, from acquiring an atomic or biological bomb, and so the ability to threaten or kill millions of people. It is possible, if the UN cannot do this peacefully, that the only way to stop him is by war. It may also be possible that such a war will further inflame Muslim opinion against the West (even though millions of Iraqis will doubtless rejoice in his removal). But all of these things were true last week, before a gang of terrorists killed hundreds of innocents in Bali. How perverse it would be if that crime were to distract the world from an action that could yet save millions.


Read the whole thing.



A REVIVED KOREAN CONFLICT: A couple of thoughts:
1) How ironic - and predictable - is it that not long after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, one of Jimmy Carter's signature accomplishments - the 1994 accord with North Korea - has been publicly revealed as a fraud? Geitner Simmons has more in a wide-ranging post.
2) Andrew Sullivan is right. I'm not sure that the Clinton administration had a better option, but the effect is the same; a foreign policy turns out to have been a short-term palliative at best, with the Bush administration left to clean up the mess.
IN HIS MEMORY: Today is the seventh anniversary under the Hebrew calendar of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. I mostly agree with thisthis Jerusalem Post editorial:

[W]e believe it is both idle and disreputable to speculate what Rabin would have done had he lived. At the very least, his memory should rise above partisan squabble.
...What is inarguable is that Rabin's legacy goes beyond the potentialities, illusions, and mistakes of Oslo. It goes, rather, to his participation in the 1941 Palmah raid into Syria; his role in freeing 200 illegal immigrants at the Atlit detention camp in 1945; his role in opening the road to besieged Jerusalem in 1948; his historic tenure as chief of staff in 1967; his distinguished ambassadorship to the US; his first turn as prime minister, during which the successful raid in Entebbe was carried out in 1976; the peace he signed with Jordan in 1994. As much as Oslo, all of these heroic chapters in Israel's history are a part of Rabin's legacy, and they must not be forgotten.
What is also fairly clear is that Rabin thought of himself, above all, as a champion of Israel, and that everything he did, Oslo perhaps above all, followed from that self-conception. This is very different from being, as Peres seems to be today, a disinterested advocate of "peace" or some other supranational interest. It means making loyalty to the Jewish people in their homeland the supreme criterion, which at times might entail striking peace treaties, at other times going to war, but never putting a mere idea ahead of the flesh and blood of a single Jew.
After Rabin's assassination, as Palestinian terrorism mounted, Rabin's epigones in Labor spoke of "making sacrifices for peace," even as those sacrifices entailed hundreds of Jewish dead. But blood sacrifices for "peace" was a logic alien to Rabin. To him, ideas existed in the service of men, not the other way around.
In coming years, as hagiography gives way to history, it will be fitting for Israelis to examine Rabin's life and legacy in a colder, more sober light. And indeed, the record is far from spotless. As with other martyred statesmen, from Gandhi to Kennedy, the reality of the man never fits the storybook version, and Rabin will merit close scrutiny no less than the others. This also is to the good. And Rabin's ghost, as blunt and unpretentious in eternity as he was in life, will smile on approvingly.


Wednesday, October 16, 2002

BACK TO BASEBALL: David Pinto, via STATS Inc., lists the top 10 finishers in each league in Bill James' "Win Shares."
A couple of notes on the leaders:
1) I'm surprised Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada are so close; they were further apart under the short-form method of figuring Win Shares. Texas must have played as a really great hitters' park this year. I had thought that it would be a travesty to give Tejada the MVP over A-Rod; this indicates that they're closer than I thought.
2) One fascinating item in Bill James' book introducing Win Shares was a description of how often a team has the top two pitchers in the league. It happens surprisingly often, and occurred again this year in both leagues. But in the NL, Arizona had the top 3 pitchers in the league - which happens much less often.
EVEN IN THE GUARDIAN.... Clive James argues that the bombing in Bali shows the foolishness of blaming the West for the terrorist attacks it suffers - an argument bordering on heresy at the Guardian. Here, he has some choie words regarding the war on terrorism and the Arab-Israeli conflict:

On Monday morning, the Independent carried an editorial headed: "Unless there is more justice in the world, Bali will be repeated." Towards the end of the editorial, it was explained that the chief injustice was "the failure of the US to use its influence to secure a fair settlement between Israelis and Palestinians." I count the editor of the Independent as a friend, so the main reason I hesitate to say that he is out to lunch on this issue is that I was out to dinner with him last night. But after hesitating, say it I must, and add a sharper criticism: that his editorial writer sounds like an unreconstructed Australian intellectual, one who can still believe, even after his prepared text was charred in the nightclub, that the militant fundamentalists are students of history.
But surely the reverse is true: they are students of the opposite of history, which is theocratic fanaticism. Especially, they are dedicated to knowing as little as possible about the history of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A typical terrorist expert on the subject believes that Hitler had the right idea, that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a true story, and that the obliteration of the state of Israel is a religious requirement. In furthering that end, the sufferings of the Palestinians are instrumental, and thus better exacerbated than diminished. To the extent that they are concerned with the matter at all, the terrorists epitomise the extremist pressure that had been so sadly effective in ensuring the continued efforts of the Arab states to persuade the Palestinians against accepting any settlement, no matter how good, that recognises Israel's right to exist. But one is free to doubt by now - forced to doubt by now - that Palestine is the main concern.

TWENTY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN WAR: Barry Rubin plays the game and offers some answers.
A "MEASLY, MOTH-EATEN NATION:" Steven Den Beste really dislikes France and its UN machinations regarding Iraq.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

FORGET "CROSSFIRE:" I want to see this talk show.
ON HITLER IN HISTORY AND THE PRESENT: I agree with very little of what Michael Lind writes, but he has a fascinating piece in the Washington Post on Hitler analogies:

What is at issue here is a matter of moral intelligence, not just good taste or historical accuracy. This kind of casual and unreflecting use of the Hitler smear trivializes both Hitler and the radical evil of the Holocaust.
...The Holocaust cannot reasonably be assimilated to other historical events and trends. The mass death in Cambodia under the communist regime of Pol Pot was not an episode of "autogenocide" comparable to the Holocaust; most of the victims died of a famine caused by socialist agricultural policies, which produced the same result in Mao Zedong's China and Josef Stalin's Soviet Union. The mass executions of political opponents and "class enemies" in Cambodia and other communist states were monstrous crimes, but of a kind all too familiar from the history of dictatorships and revolutions. Nor was the ethnic cleansing of Albanian Kosovars by Serbia comparable to the Holocaust. While the Serbs carried out mass executions of military-age men and mass rapes of women, they aimed to deport, not kill, most of the Albanian population. The Nazis, by contrast, sought to extinguish entire categories of people.
Common sense is missing altogether when the plagues that decimated American Indian populations after their contact with Europeans are called a "Columbian holocaust." Conquerors and traders from Europe exploited and enslaved native Americans, but they cannot be held morally culpable for spreading Old World diseases by sneezing. If they could, then Americans suffering from AIDS and West Nile virus, diseases which spread from Africa, could be called victims of an African attempt at genocide in North America.


I agree, up to a point. Lind is correct to note the influence of early 20th-century theories of eugenics on the Nazis, but he argues:

Even if there had been no Jews in Germany or German-occupied Europe, there would have been a Holocaust of some kind -- the planned, putatively "scientific" extermination of so-called "dysgenic" groups. Stigmatized by pseudoscience as literal "subhumans," homosexuals, the mentally and physically handicapped, and ethnic minorities such as Jews and Gypsies could be exterminated like animals, using methods like those used in industrial agriculture -- the cattle car, the slaughterhouse and Zyklon B, an insecticide used against crop-destroying pests.

Perhaps, but (a) it would've been on a totally different scale, and (b) Lind fails to appreciate the centrality of anti-Semitism to the Nazis program. At most, the eugenics component provided a framework; the animating principle was anti-Semitism.
Lind concludes:

It follows from all this that there should be an absolute ban on Hitler analogies in every sphere of society and every form of partisan rhetoric. Hitler should not be revived in Baghdad, or the White House, or Denver, or the Maryland suburbs, or on the "Today" show. Hitler should be left in Hell, where he belongs.

Sounds good. But the arguments prove too much. Used intelligently (and I'll stipulate that it usually isn't, including most of the examples Lind cites), the Hitler example is: (a) a useful reminder that world-threatening evil does and can exist if we are not careful, and (b) provides a useful standard for inspiring action against lesser horrors. Not for lack of trying, Saddam may not equal the depravity of Hitler. But, as Quentin Tarantino, (of all people) might say, it's "not the same thing, [but] the same ballpark."
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has more on the subject.


MORE ON GLENN REYNOLDS' HASHEMITE FANTASY: This Jerusalem Post article argues that the U.S. should revive the old "Jordanian option" of returning the West Bank to Jordan, and sweeten the deal for Jordan by giving it the lower two-thirds of Iraq. The remainder of Iraq would become an independent Kurdistan.
Without getting into many of the problems of that scenario (especially for Turkey, which would not want an independent Kurdistan on its border), I'll just say that the scenario is extremely unlikely; the Hashemites want more Palestinians in their territory, having learned the futility of trying to deal with Arafat back in 1970. I think it's more plausible that Jordan would be willing to give up some territory as part of a new Palestinian state, if that meant they'd be able to shed Palestinians along with the territory. The article is an audacious attempt to meet some real concerns (the viability of Jordan, the inability to trust the Palestinians with a state, but unlikely to actually occur. The writer himself indicates that the idea isn't presently being considered.
PEANUT-FARMER PERSPECTIVE: VodkaPundit has an excellent summary of the record that warranted Jimmy Carter's Nobel Peace Prize. And Richard Cohen napalms the political considerations of the Nobel committee:

In their official announcement, the Norwegians -- the Peace Prize is the only one not awarded by the Swedish academy -- contrasted Carter's approach to the Iraq crisis to Bush's and then, as if no one got the point, its chairman, Gunnar Berge, told a reporter he was "unequivocally right" when he asked if the prize represented "a kick in the leg" to Bush. Unequivocally wrong! The kick was aimed a bit higher than that.
I have some questions for Berge. What if Bush is right on Iraq and Carter is wrong? What if the president's seemingly steadfast march to war mobilizes the rest of the world to finally do something about Saddam Hussein's concurrent march to acquire weapons of mass destruction? What if Bush actually gets the United Nations to enforce resolutions demanding that Iraq abide by the agreements it has signed? Who then will deserve the Peace Prize?
Or, to put it another way, what would you say, Mr. Berge, if the United States and its allies did nothing and Hussein got his hands on a nuclear weapon? What if he was then able to intimidate his neighbors or obliterate Israel, a nation where most of the population lives in two metropolitan areas? What would you say then, Mr. Berge?
In honoring Carter, the committee evoked the smugness of little powers -- the many nations whose role is to carp from the sidelines while America does the necessary business of protecting them from their own folly. In this regard, it will be a minor miracle if next year's prize does not go to French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who criticized the United States last week for its "simplistic vision of the war of good against evil."
"Young countries," Raffarin told the National Assembly, "have the tendency to underestimate the history of old countries." Oui! But old countries are sometimes world-weary and cynical, urging a "realism" that is sometimes a misnomer for the moral corruption they know so very well. I will take the idealism of the young any day.

THE DEFINITIVE HIGH-SCHOOL YEARBOOK COMPANION: Bill Simmons has the last word on yearbook quotes.
UPDATE: The column proved so popular that Simmons added more.
THE HEIR TO THE ENGLISH MR. BLAIR: Check out Tim Blair's page for important coverage of the Bali bombing. It appears that the attack may have a similar impact in Australia as September 11 did on the U.S.
THE FBI NEEDS ALL THE HELP IT CAN GET: Jim Henley is one of the best places to go for news & commentary on the D.C.-area sniper. He has two plausible suggestions to help identify the killer; click here and here to read them.
MOTHER'S MILK: If you want to read a truly heartwarming story, click here. (Via Iain Murray.)

Friday, October 11, 2002

FORGET THE CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTION; WE'RE DEFINITELY GOING TO WAR NOW: Apparently the President has Oprah Winfrey on his side regarding war with Iraq. That may be Bush's most impressive political achievement. I may just become a fan of hers.
THE THREE KINGS PRINCIPLE: I saw the movie Three Kings when it was released to rapturous reviews in 1999. It was a very good movie (albeit not quite as great as some of the reviews made it sound, in my opinion). There was one particular disconnect between the reviews I'd read and the actual movie. It had been billed as an antiwar movie, and David Russell certainly had nothing good to say about the Gulf War. The most specific criticism made by the movie, though, was that the U.S. should have supported the rebels after the official end of hostilities and not allowed Saddam's forces to massacre them. A very good critique. But the implication of the ostensibly antiwar film was that we stopped killing people too soon! It's a unique antiwar movie whose moral is that we didn't kill enough people. And if you put it to the director in those terms, he'd probably recoil. But that's what the message was.
I've been reminded of that inconsistency a lot lately. A while ago I linked to this post, which crudely and effectively made a point that I'd been noticing for a while: that critics of American foreign policy generally, and of the war on terrorism and/or Iraq specifically, often make arguments whose logical implications are exactly the opposite of what they intend.
A good example of this phenomenon is the debate over what to do with Iraq after we've effected "regime change." Josh Marshall speaks for many administration skeptics when he argues:

Everyone who's thought this through believes that success will require a long-term committment of a robust and quite American peace-keeping force. The phrase peace-keeping really doesn't quite do it justice. What you're talking about is really an army of occupation and reconstruction -- more on the order of post-war Germany or Japan, than Bosnia or Kosovo. Ideally a substantial number of these troops would come from NATO and other well-situated Muslim countries. But a dominant US presence would be required to make the whole thing work.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to suppose that the Bush administration has the stomach for an operation of such scope or duration. Very difficult.

This is a reasonable point, and the logical next step would be to agitate for a post-WWII-style occupaton and nation-building of Iraq after the war (and take credit for recent reports that the Bush administration is planning precisely that.) And, as reporters such as Bill Keller point out, it is Paul Wolfowitz and his fellow "velociraptors" who are the administration's foremost advocates for such an approach. Those people should be the greatest allies of advocates of nation-building such as Marshall.
Elsewhere, though, Marshall argues for deferring to Colin Powell's judgment in planning for war in Iraq:

Getting rid of Saddam really is necessary. But it has to be done right. So, Mr. President, when the time comes for you to make a decision about Iraq, talk with Paul Wolfowitz and let him tell you what the goal should be. Escort him to the door and lock it behind you. Then sit down for a serious talk with Colin Powell.

(The article doesn't say anything about briging Wolfowitz back into the room for postwar planning. Perhaps it was cut for space reasons.)
There's only one problem. The "nation-building" advocated by Marshall, among others, violates several of the rules in the "Powell Doctrine." Within the group of senior administration officials, Powell is as unenthusiastic as anyone else about undertaking the effort Marshall calls for. Ask Bill Keller:

This is a notion regarded with deep skepticism at the State Department, where Powell and others tend to see the aftermath of an invasion as a long, world-class headache administered by an American general. Not only within the State Department but elsewhere where foreign policy is discussed and formulated -- including the Capitol Hill offices of leading senators of both parties -- there reigns the view that Iraqi democracy is a utopian fantasy, that the country will fragment like a grenade into ethnic enclaves, that American garrisons will be targets for an eruption of Arab fury, that oil supplies will be endangered, that Americans lack the patience and generosity to midwife a free and pro-Western Iraq.

Marshall's beliefs about what to do in Iraq and his distaste for Richard Perle & Co. are pulling him in opposite directions.

THE APPROVAL: Congress has approved the resolution giving the President to go to war with Iraq. Here's the text of the resolution. Click here to see how your Representative voted and here to see your Senators' votes.
UPDATE: Steven Den Beste notes:

We will now observe one of those marvelous paradoxes which keep appearing in politics. Since Bush won't require UN authorization for war, he'll get it. If the bill which passed Congress had included a requirement for UN authorization, it would not have happened. Isn't political logic grand?
...[It] will be evident to the members of the Security Council that the train is going to leave the station, and they can be on it or under it. With an authorization for war not requiring UN approval in his pocket, Bush will be far less subject to attempts at extortion by the veto powers, and they will recognize that refusing authorization will only harm the UN without any commensurate benefit. UN approval will still be useful, and Bush will be willing to pay a small price to get it, but he doesn't require it and he is in a good position to negotiate.
But if Congress had required Bush to obtain UN approval, then the veto powers in the Security Council would have had him up a tree, and would have attempted to extort huge concessions in exchange for their votes.
...In another of those marvelous political paradoxes, you're now going to see a lot more cooperation internationally. Denunciations will become rare and quiet, and offers of assistance and progressively more vocal support will appear. This is a critical political event for another reason: it will deflate those around the world, especially in Europe, who had still entertained the conceit that we actually cared what they said and that they could still influence the course of events by lecturing us. By its act of ignoring international criticism and obstruction today, Congress will actually encourage more international cooperation and less criticism and obstruction.
Because there is no requirement for a coalition, there's going to be one.



THIS AUTHOR MUST HAVE BEEN A NEW YAWKER: This assessment of Frank Lautenberg is one of the best New Jersey disses I've seen:

Lautenberg, despite his grandfatherly reputation, is scrappy, sometimes mean, unpopular, occasionally nasty, and insecure. In short, he's New Jersey.
...As a legislator, Lautenberg became known for two things: nursing New Jersey with the bottle of federal largesse, and making sure the rest of America didn't stay out past curfew. He pushed laws that banned smoking on domestic airline flights, raised the national drinking age to 21, and nationalized legal intoxication for drunken driving at .08 blood-alcohol content. His instincts are reliably liberal—he's willing to federalize anything, he's liked by the Sierra Club, and he's loathed by the National Rifle Association. A 1996 amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act bears his name: The Lautenberg Amendment prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence, even a misdemeanor, from owning a gun. For that, the NRA dubbed him "an unprecedented danger to civil liberties."
Fortunately for Lautenberg, and unfortunately for his opponent, Doug Forrester, that's the kind of talk that gets you elected in New Jersey.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

NOW THIS IS A TAX CUT THAT EVEN DEMOCRATS SHOULD SUPPORT: Tony Woodlief discusses the "Incompetence Tax" we all pay every day.
THE TAXONOMIST: In honor of the impending Congressional approval of the invasion of Iraq, check out this Mark Steyn item which I forgot to blog until now:

War is hell for left-of-centre parties. The British Labor Party is bitterly divided between those in favour of war with Iraq and those opposed to it. In the U.S. Democratic Party, meanwhile, it's even more complicated:
Faction A (the David Bonior option) is openly anti-war despite the party's best efforts to turn off their microphones. (Congressman Bonior appeared on TV live from Baghdad yesterday.)
Faction B (the Paul Wellstone option) is also anti-war but trying hard not to have to say so between now and election day in November.
Faction C (the Al Gore option) was pro-war when it was Bill Clinton in charge but anti-war now there's a Republican rallying the troops.
Faction D (the Hillary Rodham option) can go either way but remains huffily insistent that to ask them to express an opinion would be to "politicize" the war.
Faction E (the John Kerry option) can't quite figure which position alienates least of their supporters and so articulates a whole all-you-can-eat salad bar of conflicting positions and then, in a weird post-modern touch, ostentatiously agonizes over the "inherent risks" in each of them.
Faction F (the Jay Rockefeller option) thinks the priority right now should be to sit around holding inquiries into why the government ignored what it knew about al-Qaeda until they killed thousands of Americans. To Senator Rockefeller, it's vital that we now ignore what we know about Saddam so that we can get on with the important work of investigating the stuff we ignored last time round.
I may have missed a couple of dozen other factions. But, taken as a whole, the Democrats' current positions on Iraq form the all-time record multiple-contortionist pretzel display.

MARITAL DISCORD IN THE EU: Andrew Stuttaford has an interesting observation in The Corner.
IRAQ EDITORIAL ROUND-UP: In the New Republic, Jonathan Chait exhorts liberals to get over their hatred of President Bush and support the war (which is very credible, considering the source):

As American liberals contemplate the current president's proposed war with Iraq, it's worth pondering his predecessor's logic. For if you accept Clinton's reasoning--and few liberals objected at the time--you can hardly help but resolve that we must eliminate Iraq's nonconventional arsenal by any means at our disposal, including, if all else fails, war. Two things have changed since Clinton's comments: First, in late 1998 Saddam effectively shut down U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, breaking the back of the already ailing inspections regime and granting himself four largely unfettered years in which to continue developing weapons of mass destruction; and second, in early 2001 Clinton was replaced in office by a Republican. The first of these points unquestionably strengthens the case for war: Saddam has provided strong evidence that he will not allow anything to deter him from pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
But many of my fellow liberals appear driven more by the second point. When asked about war, they typically offer the following propositions: President Bush has cynically timed the debate to bolster Republican chances in the November elections, he has pursued his Iraq policy with an arrogant disregard for the views of Congress and the public, and his rationales for military action have been contradictory and in some cases false. I happen to believe all these criticisms are true (although the first is hard to prove) and that they add more evidence to what is already a damning indictment of the Bush presidency. But these are objections to the way Bush has carried out his Iraq policy rather than to the policy itself. (If Bush were to employ such dishonest tactics on behalf of, say, universal health care, that wouldn't make the policy a bad idea.) Ultimately the central question is: Does war with Iraq promote liberal foreign policy principles? The answer is yes, it does.
...Deluded by the hope that they can have multilateralism and disarmament without the risk of war, liberals have concentrated their intellectual energies on the slim possibility that the United Nations will approve an airtight inspections system and that Saddam will submit to it. If that happens, they would not support a unilateral Bush war. And for that matter, neither would I. But the chance of that happening is small. We have eleven years of accumulated evidence suggesting that the United Nations will not approve loophole-free inspections and that even if it does, Saddam will defy it once more. Which is why it's strange to find so many liberals who consider themselves antiwar conceding that, if all else fails, they would support military action against Iraq. "All else" has failed for more than a decade. And barring a profound character reversal by Saddam, "all else" will likely fail again in the coming months. Just how many times are we supposed to go down this road before we realize our last resort may be our only option?


In the same issue, Robert Kaplan argues that Saddam is worse than Slobodan Milosevic, and that those who supported the interventions of the 90s on humanitarian grounds have no business objecting to the proposed invasion of Iraq:

Saddam is not just another dictator with whom we have to live. On a moral plane, even by the dismal standards of the Middle East, he is sui generis. The degree of repression is so severe in Iraq that whenever I would journey from Saddam's Iraq to Hafez al-Assad's Syria in the 1980s, it was like coming up for liberal humanist air. In Syria, despite the repression and the personality cult, you heard grumbling about the regime and could travel freely about the country, talking easily with people. Iraq was like the vast exercise yard of a penitentiary lit by high-wattage lamps, in the sense that nobody whispered a political complaint, and police permission was required to travel from one town to the next.
After I had my passport taken away from me for ten days by the Iraqi security police in 1986, an American diplomat in Baghdad told me that Iraq's was the most cowed population in the Arab world, and if the security services get it into their heads that you are suspicious, there is nothing anybody can do for you. Three years earlier, an American technician for Baghdad's Novotel hotel, Robert Spurling, had been taken away from his wife and daughters at Saddam International Airport and tortured for four months with electric shock, brass knuckles, and wooden bludgeons. His toes were crushed and his toenails ripped out. He was kept in solitary confinement on a starvation diet. Finally, American diplomats won his release. Multiply his story by thousands, and you will have an idea what Iraq is like to this day--at least, that is, until a Western leader has the gumption to stop it.
The only sensible comparisons with Saddam are Joseph Stalin, Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu, and Ethiopia's Communist tyrant Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose forced collectivization program in the '80s led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands in addition to the million or so who died of famine. Milosevic may be a war criminal, but his dictatorship was in many respects a subtle one that allowed for open power struggles and even for party politics and street protests. Milosevic did his share of political killing, but retaining his hold on power was often a matter of bribing and manipulating his political adversaries. Saddam only kills.
...Reagan's decision to deploy the nuclear missiles--a turning point in the cold war--could not by itself be defended by any universal morality, but it had a vast and profound moral result. The same will be true of an invasion of Iraq, just as it was of our invasion of Afghanistan. Make no mistake: This is a Reaganesque moment. For years intellectuals have pined for simple and consistent moral leadership on life-or-death foreign policy issues, leadership that does not cleverly parse words or twist and turn in the winds of politics and opinion polls for the sake of a tactical career advantage. Well, now they've got it. All of them, not just the neoconservatives, should support President George W. Bush's and Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposed humanitarian intervention in Iraq.


More notably, the Economist defends Israel against those who would equate its "defiance" of UN resolutions with that of Iraq. Of course, the article does not harp too heavily on the obvious points that Israel is neither run by a bloodthirsty dictator nor a pathological menace to its neighbors. But this is the Economist we're talking about here.) Perhaps they're trying to improve.
SUGGESTIONS FOR A SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE SKIT: I wish that this poll of British writers was in fact a skit. It certainly reads like one. Unfortunately, I think it's serious. (Thanks to Diane E. for the link.)
FEELING THE JOY: Michael Kinsley once wrote:

In the great philosophical dispute of our time—cable or satellite dish?—a big plus for the satellite is that it allows you to live out one of humanity's deepest fantasies: telling the cable company to go away.

Our apartment building has finally completed the installation of DirecTV. We had it installed on Monday. It doesn't even work perfectly yet, thanks to installers whose incompetence and non-responsiveness were worthy of a cable company. And the Yankees' early exit from the playoffs and the October date meant that the long-awaited availability of the YES Network wasn't too meaningful. (Although there are few experiences more surreal than watching the "Mike and the Mad Dog" talk show on TV.) But with all that, the joy of telling Cablevision to go away is something that every person should experience at least once in their lifetime.
WOKE UP THIS MORNING, WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN: Apparently Tony Soprano got himself a blog.
AS A NEW YORK TIMES READER, IT'S REFRESHING TO READ AN EDITORIAL THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE: The Washington Post's lead editorial today mostly does so, as it advocates Congressional approval of the resolution giving the President the power to attack Iraq.

President Bush is correct in his assessment of the dangers in a world where Saddam Hussein is permitted, in long-standing defiance of United Nations demands, to assemble arsenals of chemical, biological and, in time, nuclear weapons. As even Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a critic of administration policy, has acknowledged: "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed." But we also believe that the congressional vote will be a step in a continuing diplomatic process, not a concluding declaration of war. As Mr. Bush said in his speech Monday evening, the course of U.S. policy is not yet set.
Both chambers of Congress this week have been conducting a serious and useful debate. Critics have emphasized risks that the administration had skated over and have urged an effort to build alliances, to which the administration had not always seemed committed. What the critics have not done is offer a cogent alternative policy. One could make a case that the risks of disarming Saddam Hussein outweigh the risks of living with his regime -- that he can be contained and deterred, that he will eventually die in his sleep or at an assassin's hand, that the unpredictability of war poses greater dangers than the threat of his regime. We would not be persuaded, but the argument is respectable; the dispute is a matter of judgment, with evidence carrying you only so far.
For the most part, though, the critics have not taken this tack. They have, rather, like Mr. Kennedy, acknowledged that Saddam Hussein is an unacceptable danger but then objected that Mr. Bush is responding too quickly or too aggressively. Or they have tried to have things more than one way, as in this statement from Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.): "Let there be no doubt or confusion as to where I stand: I will support a multilateral effort to disarm Iraq by force, if we have exhausted all other options. But I cannot -- and will not -- support a unilateral, U.S. war against Iraq unless the threat is imminent and no multilateral effort is possible." But if Saddam Hussein is dangerous now, he will grow only more so as he rearms without the restraint of international inspectors or meaningful trade sanctions. And if the threat is so great as to justify a war, can it really be safe not to act just because U.S. allies won't go along?


I agree with just about every word. The only possible slip-up in the editorial is the following:
In the end, much of the criticism can be understood as unease with the Bush administration's approach rather than disagreement with its assessment of Saddam Hussein.
That sentence glosses over the real reason - the Democrats' political difficulties with the issue; they fear getting killed with their base if they support the war and getting killed by the voters if they don't.
THE GODDESS SPEAKS: Megan McArdle sums up her arguments in favor of war on Iraq.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

WELCOME BACK: VodkaPundit returns with a bang:

A very wise man once said that if we throw away our freedom, if we renounce our heritage, there can never be another America. Never again on this planet will the political, geographical, and philosophical stars align the way they did in 1776. There are no new continents to find, explore, settle, and to which to escape all the bloody history of the Old World. This is it – humanity’s one shot at a new creation.
But we might just blow it if Washington can’t protect it.
Be afraid of George W. Bush if you must. But your real fear should be your neighbors, if Bush fails us in this Terror War. We’re just one more attack away from trading a lot of freedom for a little security – and getting the neither that we deserve.
With al Qaeda hurt and scurrying, our biggest danger now lies in Iraq. Iran’s government is rotten fruit, ready to fall on its own. North Korea is starving. Saudi Arabia exists at our whim. Syria is hapless. Libya is like Italy under Mussolini – loud but mostly laughable. Pakistan is worrisome, but mostly to itself, not to us. Only Iraq has the combination of means and menace to threaten us directly.
A nuclear-armed Saddam doesn’t actually have to level Los Angeles or New York to put National Guardsmen on every street corner. He doesn’t actually have to spray us with smallpox to bring our economy to a halt. He doesn’t actually have to lob Sarin missiles into Israel to blow apart our foreign policy.
Saddam only has to demonstrate that he can. Then we become a very fearful people again, much worse than we were on September 12.
Part of what makes America special is our simple physical separation from the Old World. We have no Kaiser on our northern border, rattling his sword. Our southern flank is poor Mexico, not expansionist China. Enemy warships don’t patrol our coasts, threatening our lives and livelihoods. Those simple facts accord us much of our freedom. 9/11 showed that none of those facts count like they once did. So now we must either police our threats, or police-state ourselves.
Most civil libertarians fear what will happen to us if we attack Saddam. I fear what will happen if we don’t.
ELECT THIS MAN TO CONGRESS: James Lileks expertly dissects those in Congress who consider alliances to be ends rather than means:

Would these people have supported the Vietnam war if the US had a pocketful of UN resolutions saying “go get ‘em, lads” and we had a multinational coalition spewing defoliants over the jungle canopy? Would they have cast a solemn YEA in favor of funding the Contras if the UN had passed a dozen resolutions condemning the Sandinistas, and sanctioned a multilateral force made up of armies from El Salvador and Guatemala? Sweet smoking jumped-up Judas on a Vespa, GIVE IT A REST! If the US cannot act without UN approval, then pass a resolution that gives command of the Armed Forces to Kofi Annan and start whistling “Hail to the Chiefs” when the Syrian delegation take their seats.
The more these people whine about the need for UN blessing, the more I wonder whether they wouldn’t vote yes to a UN-levied tax on American paychecks - why, our “go-it-alone” tax policy must be enflaming the world, to say nothing of our “go-it-alone” highway system. And of our “go-it-alone” Apollo program in the 60s, well, the less said the better. Did we get a permission slip to leave earth and plant a unilateral boot on the Moon’s virgin soil? I don’t remember.
...In either case: if any of my local Senators had bitched and moaned that the US was giving in to One-World Government and insisted that the US never work in concert with allies or coalitions, I would have thought they were flaming sacks of bat crap. These were instances that required remedies, and if the task fell to us - for whatever reason - the greater good that came our action outweighed any silly paranoia about the UN, and whether our participation in a coalition would lead to detention camps in South Dakota guarded by blue-hatted Dutchmen. Coalitions are fine, if they attend to the danger at hand. If they do not, then the entire idea of a “coalition” can be tossed out the window without a moment’s thought. It’s nice to have allies. But it’s not necessary. If you believe that coalitions are always necessary, then the worst thing about the JFK assassination wasn’t the president’s death, but the possibility that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone.
The Senators insisting on a coalition above all else are the left’s equivalent of the nutlog right-wing UN conspiracy crowd. The only difference is that Wellstone starts to worry if he doesn’t hear the black helicopters.

ROSENBAUM GETS MUGGED BY REALITY: Many have linked to this already, but Ron Rosenbaum's account of how he has rejected leftism is the definition of a must-read. He reported from an anti-war protest in Central Park, and was not impressed. The article is too good to excerpt.


BACK TO TRIVIAL THINGS: This item is very portentious; Hamas seems to have taken over the Gaza Strip:

Many senior Palestinian Authority security officials in the Gaza Strip have gone underground, fearing retaliatory attacks from Hamas activists following two days of clashes.
"Commanders of PA security forces are afraid to sleep in their homes," sources in the Gaza Strip said. "Many of them have stopped showing up at work."
..."Today the PA's power is effectively restricted to some neighborhoods in Gaza City," explained an academic living in Gaza's Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. "The fact that the colonel was kidnapped from this neighborhood is a slap in Arafat's face."
"Arafat has to face the fact that his forces have lost control over the majority of the Gaza Strip," said the Gaza academic. "The people here have more sympathy for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, because they believe they are their authentic representatives."
On Monday, a furious Arafat issued instructions to send 3,000 policemen to arrest suspects in the officer's murder at Nusseirat refugee camp. But only 400 policemen participated in the mission, which ended in failure after hundreds of civilians and Hamas gunmen blocked their way.
What makes matters even more complicated for Arafat is the fact that the killing took place shortly after 14 people were killed by the IDF in Khan Yunis.
Hamas leaders were quick to vow revenge against Israel. But, with the same breath, they also attacked the PA, accusing its top officials of helping Israel in its efforts to quell the intifada. Their veiled message to the Hamas gunmen is that the PA is also an enemy.


This may clear the way for more Israeli strikes in Gaza.

UPDATE: See James Bennet's piece for the New York Times for more. The "Arab Revolt" in the late 1930s ended in failure and spurred a near civil war of recriminations; it appears the current war started by the Palestinians is following the same pattern.

MORE BASEBALL: A while ago, I discussed an assessment of Billy Beane written by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker.
I received the following e-mail from Mr. Surowiecki, from which he has permitted me to quote:

A couple of things: you're absolutely right that signing young players to long-term contracts has been key to the A's success. That point got left on the cutting-room floor because, well, I couldn't get it all into 950 words. I also think that that strategy isn't what's most distinctive about Beane's approach, since, as you point out, the Indians used it to such great effect in the 1990s.
On the question of how lucky the A's have been, though, I think the issue is more complicated than you make it sound. Schoenfield's historical analysis is interesting, but I think he in effect begs the question that he's trying to answer: namely, is Billy Beane's acumen the fundamental cause of Oakland's success. Schoenfield looks at history and effectively says, "No other team
has produced three homegrown star starters in a two-year span, and only the Braves did it in a three-year span. Therefore Beane must be lucky."
What if, though, Beane really is just better than anyone before him at drafting young pitchers, and what if the A's are better at developing pitchers and (very important) keeping them healthy? Then of course you'd expect him to have better results than anyone before him, precisely the way he does. Historical comparisons are useful, but by their very nature they can't tell us why things are different, only that they are.
I think there are some concrete reasons to think that Beane really is better, too. Take the most obvious fact about the three A's star starters: they were all college pitchers. Traditionally, baseball GMs have wasted draft picks on high school pitchers, when we know that very few high school pitchers -- and almost no right-handed high-school pitchers -- ever become stars. I don't
have the information, but I bet if you looked at the staffs of all the teams Schoenfield surveyed, a huge number of the pitchers were high-school pitchers. So it's not surprising that only a very low percentage of all the pitchers would be stars. Beane, by contrast, never wastes high draft picks on high-school pitchers, so he's got a big advantage right there.
The A's are also incredibly rigorous about pitch counts, not just for minor-league pitchers, but for their starters as well -- much more rigorous, maybe, than any team in history. You probably know this, but in the early part of the season the starters have much lower pitch counts than they do later in the season. That's crucial to keeping young pitchers healthy. And Rick Peterson, the A's pitching coach, is obsessive about mechanics, arm strength, and health. One of the reasons they kept Ted Lilly on the DL so
long after the Yankees' trade was to build up the strength of his back muscles. Again, all this increases the odds that Oakland would have successful starting pitching.
Finally, I think the A's general philosophy on pitching, which Beane and Peterson have inculcated through the whole organization, is a recipe for success: throw strikes, get groundballs, don't give up home runs, and don't worry too much about strikeouts. Again, this is far from conventional wisdom in baseball, especially when it comes to young pitchers. Hudson and Zito are great, but I don' t think they would be as great if they were pitching for a lot of teams in baseball. (Mulder probably would be.)
Anyway, sorry for going on like this. It's still very possible that Beane is lucky. But in this case, I think whatever luck he's had really is the residue of design, and he deserves credit for it.


I don't really disagree with Surowiecki's points. The one thing I'd stress is that it is far too early to determine whether Oakland's methods really constitute a better mousetrap in terms of developing pitchers, or if it's just a matter of three pitchers who've been lucky enough not to get hurt yet. Surowiecki is right that Oakland is doing just about everything that analysts recommend in terms of developing young pitching. But the actuarial statistics on pitchers are so gruesome that, even though it seems clear that Oakland is reducing its odds somewhat by its program (especially drafting college rather than high-school pitchers, for which there is copious evidence as to its lessening the chances of catastrophic injury), it's just way too early to say that the program yields better systematic results.
I draw on two particular points of caution:
1) The Atlanta Braves have a program where pitchers throw every day, rather than taking days off completely as most pitchers do. For much of the 1990s, the Braves had a deserved reputation for keeping their pitchers healthy. In 1999-2000, though, so many pitchers broke down at all levels of the organization that Baseball Prospectus joked in one of its books that the team was getting "bulk discounts on Tommy John surgeries."
2) The Seattle Mariners got religion a few years ago and, among other things, have gotten strict with pitch counts at all levels of the organization (including the big club) Perhaps as a result, they have started producing young pitching at a great rate. Two of their best prospects, Gil Meche and Ryan Anderson, have broken down in career-threatening fashion despite being handled very carefully. (Admittedly, they were both drafted out of high school.)
SO WHAT NOW? The Yankees are at a pivotal stage. Their minor-league system has been very depleted due to a combination of Johnson and Rivera graduating to the majors, the failure of Marcus Thames and Drew Henson to progress, the Weaver trade and a few strategic injuries (most notably to Brandon Claussen). They need to get younger, especially in the pitching staff. Also, for the first time in a while, they're stuck with several bad contracts which they may find diffcult to get rid of due to the new collective bargaining agreement. Here's a preliminary mission statement. I'm not going to speculate on which players from other teams may be made available, with a few exceptions.
A - Pitching
1. Be stricter with pitch counts for all the starters. Under Torre, the Yankees' starters have (at least since about 1998) historically had the highest pitch counts in the league. That was partially due to the fact that they were the best in the league and thus didn't get knocked out early too often, but I think that they should be stricter so as to save pitches for the postseason. I can't find a link, but Thomas Boswell had a column in 2000 pointing to increased pitch counts early in the season for Mike Mussina as a reason for an early-season slump that year. Torre should look for opportunities to pull them early, and cut 10 pitches off the number he'd usually let them throw.
2. Don't commit big bucks for Roger Clemens. He's just not that good or physically reliable anymore, and already has $10.3 million coming to him from the Yankees due to the weird extension he signed a couple of years ago. If he wants much more than that, let him go.
3. Pick up Andy Pettite's option, assuming his elbow is OK. If so, open up talks on a reasonable extension. He's not a truly great pitcher (and his last few postseason starts should put the lie to any claims of his being a "big-game pitcher," but he's reliably above-average with the potential to have an outstanding season.
4. I know he has a no-trade, but I'd rather trade David Wells than El Duque. Wells was not nearly as good as his won-lost record would indicate, and I don't like his chances to have another big season. I think he will combust suddenly when the time comes.
5. Notwithstanding the above, I would trade El Duque if he can fetch good prospects. I doubt that he will, due to age and unreliability.
6. Make Sterling Hitchcock disappear. Please?
7. Notwithstanding the need for youth, I'd sign Greg Maddux if he can come at a reasonable price (and especially if money is cleared by numbers 2 and 6 above). I know he can't pitch too long in a game and has issues with the postseason, but he's still great, even if not as great as he once was. He'd be an improvement over Clemens, for example.
8. Only re-sign Mike Stanton if he'll come cheap.
9. Re-sign Ramiro Mendoza.
10. Look seriously at the Cuban defector, Jose Contreras, if he becomes a free agent. If he is good, he would represent improvement without having to give up players.
11. Play vulture: pluck the bones of franchises in chaos. The commissioner's office may not approve a vulture-like trade with Montreal, but look to Florida, a franchise with great young pitchers (if Jeff Torborg hasn't blown their arms out), clueless management and no money. A promising combination.
B - Lineup/Defense
1. Strongly consider moving Derek Jeter to third base. Seriously. Third base would utilize his strenghts (coming in on softly-hit ground balls, strong arm) while minimizing his serious weakness - very little range, especially to his left. I'm not sure who would replace him at short, though.
2. I have to see the final defensive numbers on Soriano before deciding whether his defense is so bad that he needs to be moved, but I know it's not good (especially on turning the double play). Have him work extensively on his defense (and plate discipline) in the off-season.
3. Sign Hideki Matsui. He's allegedly very good, and there are two more important reasons: 1) He wouldn;t cost players, and 2) since the Hideki Irabu misadventue a few years ago, the Yankees have essentially ceded the Pacific Rim to the Mariners and Dodgers. The Yankees cannot afford to write off an entire region and maintain their dominance. Signing Matsui can help, even if he's not quite as good as advertised. (See this Keith Olbermann piece for a description of how the signing might work in a luxury-tax-friendly manner.)
4. Continue to reduce the number of games Giambi plays at first base in favor of Nick Johnson.
5. Move Bernie Williams to left field; his Gold Glove days are far beyond him. If not other moves are made, Juan Rivera can probably play a better center than Bernie at this point.
6. Make Rondell White and Raul Mondesi disappear. Pretty please? (As an aside, isn't it amusing how many people who ripped the Yankees for making the move out of "gluttony" are now falling over themselves to point out how bad Mondesi is now? If so, weren't the Yankees doing the rest of baseball a favor?)