Friday, May 24, 2002

TERRORISM OF GLOBAL REACH: Apparently Richard Reid, the "shoe-bomber," may have links to Hamas and Hezbollah, "which would mark a dramatic shift in tactics by the militant groups."
Eventually I will publish my long-in-the-works post about why there is no reason to assume that Palestinian terrorists won't attack the U.S., and why a Palestinian state will make such attacks more likely.
HAMAS SUPPORTER TO GIVE HARVARD COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS: This is not a joke. Check out Matthew Yglesias' site for all the details and relevant links: he owns the story.
JUST ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE: Israel has apparently intercepted bombs being transported by people posing as journalists. (Via Best of the Web.)
CIA=CYA, CONT'D: An excellent New Republic piece on why the CIA probably leaked the news of the August memo to President Bush.
WHY DO WE CARE, AGAIN? Slate has an unintentionally hilarious piece of selections from European newspapers stating that the cause of U.S.-European tension is President Bush's unwillingness to listen to their sagacious counsel. Or something like that.
Now, for the take-downs:
1) In the Times of London, Michael Gove:

This unseemly pattern of resentment towards US power, free-riding on US strength, and then patronising insistence that US decisions be subjected to “civilising” restraint, marked EU behaviour before September 11. And it has got even worse since then. From griping about Guantanamo Bay to deprecating the vulgarity of the axis of evil and sniping at US support for democracy against terrorism in the Middle East, Europe has never missed an opportunity to bite the hand which shields it.
...The current trajectory of European political development is driven by elites who, unlike America’s political leadership, find the moral burden of operating in a world of nation states too onerous. The direct accountability of parliaments is being supplanted by the closed power-broking of European bodies insulated from effective scrutiny.
...Instead of being able to project power against threats to our interests and values, Europe’s leaders seek to manage conflict through the international therapy of peace processes, the buying off of aggression with the danegeld of aid or the erection of a paper palisade of global law which the unscrupulous always punch through.
Europeans may convince themselves that these developments are the innovations of a continent in the van of progress, but they are really the withered autumn fruits of a civilisation in decline. Elites that shy away from electoral competition, demur at shouldering military responsibilities and temporise in the face of danger are destined for eclipse.
The Middle Kingdom sought to convince itself that behind its ramparts a uniquely cultured mandarinate preserved values to which the West’s barbarians could never aspire. Now, behind the tariff walls of the common agricultural policy and the borders hostile to new immigrants, Europe’s elites tell themselves that their low-growth, low-birthrate, low-wattage home still has something to teach America. It does. The dangers of failing to keep your nation free, open, vigorous and proud.

2) The inestimable Charles Krauthammer:

Everyone knows that all the talk of the "coalition" in Afghanistan was a polite fiction. Europe, in particular, was reduced to the sidelines because its technology is so far behind America's that what little aircraft, munitions and transport it might have contributed would only have gotten in the way.
For a continent that for 500 years ruled the world, this impotence is difficult to accept. It helps explain Europe's petulant complaints about American "arrogance" and "unilateralism." It also explains why NATO, as a military alliance, is dead. It was not always so. For four decades the alliance fielded huge land armies that successfully deterred the Soviet Union at the height of its power. With the end of the Cold War, however, NATO lost its enemy. With the demonstration of its military irrelevance in the Afghan war, NATO lost its role.
What to do? Madeleine Albright, never at a loss for offering yesterday's conventional wisdom, says that we should make clear to our allies that they must modernize their militaries. Why? Europe is a collection of democracies. And grown-ups. They make choices. Toward the end of the Cold War, they made the conscious, near-continental decision to radically reduce their military forces and turn inward in order to build "Europe."
They slashed defense spending and essentially demobilized. It was a perfectly reasonable response to the end of the Soviet threat.
Why should we be hectoring them to reverse that, to divert money from their cherished welfare states to their militaries? So they can become America's junior partner in policing the world against "axis of evil" threats that they believe are exaggerated in the first place? To join us in wars that they have no desire to fight anyway? If Europeans want to rearm and join the posse, fine. But we should not be pressuring them. America neither resents nor inhibits European strength. On the contrary. For a half-century, we supported the project of European integration and enlargement. For almost as long, under the rubric of "burden sharing," we urged the Europeans to increase defense spending.
They politely declined. Why should we be greater advocates of European power than the Europeans themselves? They have practiced international affairs long enough to know that diminished power means diminished influence -- and a radically diminished NATO, their place at the decision-making table.

3) Finally, Steven Den Beste:

I saw some sympathy, but I saw damned little solidarity in the aftermath of the September attack. I saw the US make plans to take out al Qaeda and the Taliban, and I saw round denunciations of nearly everything we planned or did from the capitols of Europe. I saw us accused of war crimes; I saw us being told repeatedly that we were going to lose; I saw us being told that we were going to cause a humanitarian catastrophe. None of those things happened.

I saw NATO invoke Article V, and the total extent of NATO commitment was to move half a dozen AWACS planes from Europe to the United States, to free up American planes to commit to combat. Also, a small number of NATO ships were moved into the eastern Mediterranean, far away from any potential combat. The only other thing NATO did was to try to claim that because Article V had been invoked, that the US no longer was permitted to do anything militarily unless it got permission from Europe first.
Oh, yeah, and the French moved one frigate into the Arabian Sea to help protect American carriers from any potential attack by the Afghan navy.
"If you'd just listen to what we're saying, you'd come to agree with it. We've explained it to you a dozen times before, so why can't you see the wisdom of our words? Surely it must be an intellectual deficit in you, Mr. President. Perhaps a problem with the water in Texas, or inbreeding. But we're your friends, and we're patient and kind, and we'd be glad to explain it yet again, more loudly. And maybe this time you'll come to agree with us, if only you'll attempt to apply your pea-brain fully to the task of trying to comprehend our position which is the product of our vastly greater intellectual prowess, worldly experience, and wisdom."
It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that we in the US fully understand the European position, and still disagree with it. We understand their point of view. We understand all the arguments for that point of view. We've heard them every time in the past that they've lectured us about it. And we still don't agree. Listening to it yet again isn't going to change that.
Good and honest men can come to different conclusions about things. It's not time for Bush to listen; and it isn't time for Europe to listen either. It's time to agree to disagree.

THIS IS WHAT PASSES FOR OPTIMISM: On baseball, that is. Seriously. Thomas Boswell recently interviewed ex-comissioner Fay Vincent, who provides the best reason for fans to hope that the World Series will be played:
["]I know for sure that the banks are owed over $3 billion. That's a big number," said Vincent, who set up the credit line for almost half that amount. "I think Bud bailed out Tampa Bay and Phoenix [from bankruptcy] after the World Series last year.
...The day the players go out, the banks will give baseball one week to make a deal.
And [union president] Don [Fehr] knows it. He has all the cards."

Let's hope so. Maybe fans should be encouraging the players to strike ASAP, so as to get a deal finalized and not risk destroying next season when the owners try to implement their system.

THE ANTI-DEMOCRAT: Slate recently had a wonderful piece on the profoundly anti-democratic activities of Jimmy Carter.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

DOCUMENT REVIEW: Ze'ev Schiff reviews what Israel has found in the documents seized during Operation Defensive Shield.
NOT TO KICK A DEAD HORSE, BUT... For all those who are tempted to subscribe to Camp David revisionism, this extended interview with Shlomo Ben-Ami, the dovish foreign minister under Ehud Barak, should be sobering.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

MY BELATED ADVICE TO THE PRESIDENT: Just in case he's reading this blog (and why shouldn't he be?).
When President Bush appointed Tom Ridge as Director of Homeland Security, I was under the mistaken impression that Ridge would use his special connection to the President to recommend and help implement sweeping changes to the government bureaucracies and organization. In the cruelly accurate words of Josh Marshall, Ridge has "been reduced to something between administration roadkill and the bloody chum that saltwater fisherman put into the water to get the big fish biting." I modestly submit that it's time to consider an idea that occurred to me right after September 11.
Have the President appoint a bipartisan commission, with a very short time-frame (no more than 3 months), to recommend a sweeping reorganization of the federal government to deal with the War on Terrorism, which would be presented to Congress in a package for a vote. (If Congress authorizes this commission, then they can also mandate restricted debate or amendment power regarding the commission's recommendations - similar to military base closings. I'm optimistic that if this project is undertaken with the requisite seriousness, it won't be necessary to have any such restrictions.)
Who would lead this commission? I think the ideal candidate would be someone who:
1) Possesses a vast knowledge of the federal government's minutia;
2) Is a Democrat - the more noteworthy the better, so as to enhance the bipartisan credibility of the enterprise;
3) Doesn't have too many strong allies, counterproductive as that may seem (if he or she is a bit of an outsider within Congress and the bureaucracies, the risk of capture is lessened); and
4) Doesn't have anything better to do right now.
Who meets those criteria? I submit...Al "Reinventing Government" Gore. It would be perfect politics and great for the country. Why not put his wonkiness to good use?
Other members of this commission could be:
Tom Ridge - as a consolation prize; he can give a steak's-eye view of the hunters in the various bureaucracies to be reorganized.
Justice Stephen Breyer - his regulatory expertise would be useful.
Dr. Richard Carmona - the unconventional Surgeon General nominee.
Professor Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown who has drafted a model public health statute for all 50 states.
James Kallstrom, former top counter-terrorism investigator of the FBI and now director of NY State Public Security.
Experts (preferably sensible ones) on immigration, customs and transportation are also needed - not to mention the CIA. If anyone has any other nominees, please e-mail them to me and I will post the best choices.
This commission should have been appointed immediately after 9/11. Unfortunately, the Administration will probably get another chance.
THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD REALLY BE WORRIED ABOUT: Since the end of the Cold War, the India-Pakistan conflict has taken up at least 8 spots on any list of the "Top 10 Scenarios Most Likely to Produce a Nuclear War." This is why.
For a pro-Indian view of the whole thing, see this blog by Suma Palit.
Jim Hoagland has also written extensively about how Musharraf's vaunted "cooperation" with the U.S. in the War on Terrorism is a sham, and how Musharraf is a graduate of the Yasser Arafat School of Manipulation.
UPDATE: As always, Steven Den Beste has a skillful post on the subject - specifically, outlining a nightmare scenario. Let's hope he's wrong.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Hoagland is at it again.
SOMETHING NEW: Derek Lowe, a chemist employed by a major drug company (and who shares a name with the best pitcher in the American League this year) has an outstanding blog on science and society. Check out this post on cancer treatments.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

THE HUMAN TRAGEDY: William Saletan defends the Bush administration against the hindsight-based charges of negligence regarding the threat of September 11 in a fascinating way, by comparing the reports of Al Qaeda warnings to parallel warnings of Tamil attacks.
His analogy is wrong, though, in one fundamental way: it ignores the simultaneous notifications & warnings that Al-Qaeda terrorists were in fact in the U.S., training at flight schools. Someone should have put that information together with the predictions cited by Saletan and sounded an alarm.
If we had, or do have, intelligence that Tamil terrorists are in the U.S., training to steer submarines (however one would obtain such training) or other activities consistent with their past attacks, then someone should have the foresight to put that intelligence together with the predictions cited by Saletan and sound the alarm. The problem isn't that the government didn't follow every possible mode of attack. the problem was that the government ignored distinguishing intelligence which would have told them which possibilities to focus on and which to ignore.
Has this problem been fixed? I doubt it.
A GOOD GUIDING PRINCIPLE: In response to the most recent suicide bombing in Israel, here is a great example of a "yes,but..." statement of equivocation from Hanan Ashrawi:

"On our side, the people who do it are people who are individuals or small groups who are driven to desperation and anger by the Israeli activities, whereas when Israel does it, it does it as a matter of policy," she told the BBC.
"We don't see the same horror as the result of the massive killing of thousands of Palestinians."

For those who are not as gullible as the BBC, Steven Den Beste has the
definitive take-down:

The "individuals or small groups" to which she refers are the PFLP and Hamas, both of which are large and well organized and well financed. But she's trying to claim that suicide bombings aimed directly at Israeli civilians going about their everyday lives is the same as Israeli military operations which are directly targeted at Palestinian militants who actively plan attacks against Israel.
There is evidently no difference at all between arresting and deporting top officials of al Aqsa Brigade and breaking into a five year old girl's bedroom and blowing her brains out as she slept.
And then there's Ashrawi's last statement. One good reason we're not seeing horror about "massive killing of thousands of Palestinians" is that there haven't been "massive killings of thousands of Palestinians."
What there have been are inept attempts by the Palestinians to fool the world into thinking there were such massacres in Jenin even though there weren't any. What she's really bitching about is that we refuse to be gullible and to swallow Palestinian fabrications and propaganda.
I've reached the point where I assume that anything that any high ranking Palestinian says is a lie unless I see independent evidence supporting it. Ms. Ashrawi has not convinced me to change that policy.

A wise policy.

DOESN'T ANYONE REMEMBER THAT THERE'S A WAR ON? The government has apparently decided not to allow pilots to carry guns onboard planes.