Thursday, September 26, 2002

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF OUR TIME, VOL. II: Having analyzed the comparison between "Cheers and Seinfeld," Bill Simmons now takes on an even tougher dilemma: Al Pacino v. Robert De Niro. According to him, he's thought about the issue all summer.
WHY "WMD" IS A BAD ACRONYM: In other TNR news, Gregg Easterbrook argues that biological and chemical weapons should not be lumped together with nuclear weapons in the term "weapons of mass destruction;" as it is far harder to use the former to cause mass casualties than the latter.
AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ARE DIRECTING A SUDDEN INFLUX OF PIGS IN THE AIRSPACE, AND THE TEMPERATURE IN HELL JUST DIPPED BELOW 32 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT: The New Republic has published an editorial critical of Al Gore - specifically, regarding his speech on Iraq:

[T]he former vice president's speech almost perfectly encapsulated the evasions that have characterized the Democratic Party's response to President Bush's proposed war in Iraq. In typical Democratic style, Gore didn't say he opposed the war. In fact, he endorsed the goal of regime change--before presenting a series of qualifications that would likely make that goal impossible.
First, Gore said that war with Iraq would undermine America's primary mission: fighting terrorism. This mission, he explained, requires ongoing international cooperation. And he suggested that "our ability to secure this kind of cooperation can be severely damaged by unilateral action against Iraq. If the administration has reason to believe otherwise, it ought to share those reasons with the Congress." But surely Gore also has an obligation to share his reasons for believing that war with Iraq will "severely damage" the war on terrorism. The argument, after all, is not self-evident: Germany, the U.S. ally most vocally opposed to attacking Iraq, has simultaneously intensified its assistance in the war on terrorism--signaling that it will take over the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. In fact, Gore provides no evidence to support his claim. And thus he fails the very evidentiary standard that he calls on Bush to meet.
Gore's second complaint concerns the timing of the administration's push on Iraq. "President George H.W. Bush," Gore noted approvingly, "purposely waited until after the midterm elections of 1990 to push for a vote. ... President George W. Bush, by contrast, is pushing for a vote in this Congress immediately before the election." But as we argued two weeks ago, it is far better, in a democracy, for legislators to vote on critical issues before an election--so citizens know where they stand when they go to the polls--than to delay such votes until after an election and thus shield legislators from accountability for their views. Gore went on to pronounce "a burden on the shoulders of President Bush to dispel the doubts many have expressed about the role that politics might be playing in the calculations of some in the administration," before adding, "I have not raised those doubts, but many have." But, of course, that is exactly what Gore was doing. And he should have taken responsibility for raising those doubts himself.
Gore's final critique of the administration's preparations for war is that they are proceeding without sufficient regard to international opinion. "[I]n the immediate aftermath of September Eleventh," Gore said, "we had an enormous reservoir of goodwill and sympathy and shared resolve all over the world. That has been squandered in a year's time and replaced with great anxiety all around the world, not primarily about what the terrorist networks are going to do but about what we're going to do." But this ignores the fact that there is not now, nor will there likely be in the foreseeable future, broad international support for regime change in Baghdad. The two honest ways to resolve this problem are to privilege regime change above international consensus--while trying, as the Bush administration has, to pressure and cajole as many allies as possible to go along--or to forego regime change in the name of solidarity without our allies. Instead, Gore swore fealty to both regime change and international consensus, while refusing to acknowledge the conflict between the two. The closest he came was a suggestion that "if the [Security] Council will not provide such language [authorizing force], then other choices remain open." But would Gore support those "other choices," i.e., war? From his San Francisco speech, you wouldn't know.
...[H]is speech--which included, as a two-sentence aside, the charge that on the domestic front the administration was conducting an "attack on fundamental constitutional rights"--consisted of neither honest criticism nor honest opposition. Rather, it sounded like a political broadside against a president who Gore no doubt feels occupies a post that he himself deserves. But bitterness is not a policy position.

I guess Martin Peretz really isn't in charge of TNR anymore!
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has a better headline for this development.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

A CHILLING THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: The Armed Liberal has one regarding a hypothetical nuclear attack on America by unknown parties. He asks the following questions:

For the hawks: How strong is the temptation to nuke somebody…anybody…who might have had anything to do with this, regardless of whether it gets the people who really planned it?
For the doves: How long after this happens does the first column come out in the New York Times that suggests that nuking Iraq won’t bring back our dead or rebuild our economy, and that we should pull in, buckle down, and take care of our own?
See, I see two likely outcomes from an event like this, (which I personally don’t believe would be all that hard to pull off).
One is that we go berserk, and turn the Middle East into a plain of glass.
The other is that we surrender our role as leader of the world, the economic and security benefits that come with that, and attempt to retreat into a Fortress America.
As you can imagine, I see problems with both.
What do you see as the outcome of a scenario like that? And how does it influence your thoughts on what to do today?

Good questions. I see this hypothetical as another reason to attack Iraq before the scenario materializes, since - as the anthrax episode shows - it may be very difficult to establish the identity and/or sponsorship of the perpetrators of such an event after it happens, and I can already visualize the editorials he expects.
SPEECHES AND MORE SPEECHES: On the Gore speech, check out Donald Sensing's lengthy demolition and Dan Drezner's concise dismissal. Drezner, who was an adviser to Condoleeza Rice during the 2000 campaign, says:

[D]uring the campaign, I pored over a lot of what Gore was saying about foreign policy during the campaign. I obviously disagreed with some of it, but certainly not all of it. I thought it was competent.
Gore's speech on Iraq, however, is not competent. Or coherent. Or consistent with Gore's previous musings on the topic. It's a grab-bag of objections, none of which has a great deal of substance (it also looks like it was drafted three weeks ago and no one bothered to update it in light of recent developments). My personal favorite, for example, is the claim that, "Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against terrorism." Gee, I thought great powers were capable of doing more than one thing at a time. That's why they're called great powers. As for the facts, funny how in the same week that Bush promoted dealing with Iraq, significant progress was made on breaking Al-Qaida's back. Great powers can walk and chew gum at the same time.
...I disagreed with Gore before, but I did think he was serious. Not now.

For sheer over-the-top, delightful nastiness, you can't top Michael Kelly:

This speech, an attack on the Bush policy on Iraq, was Gore's big effort to distinguish himself from the Democratic pack in advance of another possible presidential run. It served: It distinguished Gore, now and forever, as someone who cannot be considered a responsible aspirant to power. Politics are allowed in politics, but there are limits, and there is a pale, and Gore has now shown himself to be ignorant of those limits, and he has now placed himself beyond that pale.
Gore's speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts -- bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.

Not wanting to be upstaged, Tom Daschle has attacked President Bush for allegedly "politicizing the war" (based on a misinterpretation of a line delivered by the President at a campign appearance). Drezner also explains why Daschle's speech was a disaster for the Democrats.
A TEASER: I have a longer post on related thoughts in the works. For now, I'd like to offer this post up, without further comment:

They say: "America supports tyrants."
We say: "Okay, we'll take those tyrants out."
They say: "NO! We didn't mean that."
All right.
They say: "America doesn't share aid with these countries."
We say: "Okay, we'll give aid to these countries, and trade with them."
They say: "You're supporting tyrants!"
They say: "You created Saddam!"
We say: "All right, we shall correct our error."
They say: "NOOOOOO! Don't touch a hair on his precious head!"
Fair enough.
They say: "This embargo is killing the Iraqi people!"
We say: "All right, we'll take out Saddam and immediately end the embargo."
They say: "NO! We should give the embargo more time to work!"
They say: "The Iraqis claim that some of these SAM attacks have resulted in civilian casualties!"
We say: "Okay, we'll get rid of Saddam so that the air raids are no longer necessary."
They say: "Wait a minute! These air patrols are a cost-effective method of containment!"
I see.
Or rather: I don't see, and I don't think I'm expected to see. Whatever America does, it's wrong.
They don't have policy prescriptions, i.e., a systematic plan for what America should do. All they have is bitching. No matter what action America takes, they reserve the right to bitch about it. Trade with Iraq? We're supporting a tyrant. Embargo Iraq? We're killing Iraqi babies.
When they're confronted with this, they always retreat to the stock answer "Well America created this situation in the first place!" In other words, confronted with the fact that they criticize all possible present and future American actions, they claim that it is past American actions that have brought about this odd state.
Not only is this wrong -- Saddam seized power himself without the aid of the CIA -- but it is irrelevant even if true. Even if America caused some problems in the past, surely there is some action we could take that would satisfy the Confused Left. But no-- if we do A, they whine. If we do not-A, they whine louder.
Further, as Christopher Hitchens points out, if it is true that America "caused all this," that makes it all the more morally necessary for America to solve the problem. The Left whines that America "created" the Taliban. Okay then-- doesn't that mean that America has the responsibility of removing the Taliban from power?
Of course not.

UPDATE: Welcome to all VodkaPundit readers! Just to clarify, all credit for the above should go to the author of this post (and technically, to a
commenter on Megan McArdle's blog who brought it to my attention). But one of our mottos here is that we are happy to free-ride on the labor of others, and we try to spread that happiness around. I hope that when I do get the longer post finished, Mr. Green will have a similarly high opinion of it.
LAUGH SO HARD YOU'LL CRY: Today's edition of the Onion is one of its best ever.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

IF REGIME CHANGE IS THE ANSWER, WHAT IS THE QUESTION? I just found this old Peter Beinart piece, where he argues convincingly that if a regime wants nuclear weapons badly enough, international non-proliferation agreements are unable to stop it, while such agreements are irrelevant to a regime that doesn't want them. His argument is based on the cases of India, Pakistan and South Africa.
This is why Saddam must be overthrown ASAP, as inspections are unlikely to work and Saddam has proven over the last decade that he will not be dissuaded from attempting to pursue such weapons.
AIRLINE SECURITY IS REALLY GETTING SERIOUS NOW: The Transportation Security Agency has banned the old Transformer toys from airplanes.
As a commenter writes in the Corner (which provided the link):
It's also significant that Megatron and Shockwave are singled out and banned from airplanes -- "Toy transformer robots (this toy forms a toy gun)". What about the rest of the Decepticons? What about Starscream, who turns into a fighter jet with missles?
We eagerly await clarification from the TSA.

YOU THOUGHT BERNARD LEWIS WAS HARSH? Newsweek's editor-in-chief of its Arabic edition is in favor of the upcoming war on Iraq, for the following reasons:

Some Arabs are proud of Saddam’s development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. The more the Bush administration tries to prove that Saddam possesses those weapons, the further it gets from achieving its goal of winning converts to its cause. But the irony is that only an actual invasion of Iraq and the overthrowing of Saddam would produce a radical shift in public opinion, changing the terms of the reference of the public debate.
For now, the rhetoric used to convince American public opinion does not work at all to convince Arab public opinion. In fact, this rhetoric has become a source of inspiration for Arab sloganeering. This is in part the result of widespread anti-Americanism. But, more importantly, it’s a result of the fact that the Arabs are living part of their daily lives in a dream world. They sink into a political dream world, fed by the backlash to American rhetoric that is eagerly seized upon and spiced up by Arab intellectuals. The leaders of the Arab world are afraid to dispel or challenge those dreams, since they have no way to justify their own ineffective governments. As they see it, they have to employ doublespeak. In terms of the current crisis, this means publicly rejecting a strike against Iraq, while privately insisting that it should be a painful and final blow to a ruler and regime they all despise.
The Arabs need shock therapy, some kind of tremor that would bring them back to reality and away from their political dreamscape. Egypt’s loss in the 1967 war against Israel was the sort of shock that did away with the nationalist slogans prevalent since the July 1952 revolution carried out by Gen. Gamal Abdul Nasser. If the 1967 shock laid the ground for the spread of Islamism as an alternative to the nationalism, the “Saddam Shock” might be what is needed to launch the era of pragmatism. The Islamist mantra has not been dropped yet, but it was tested in the Afghan war and did nothing for its supporters except spark a few demonstrations here and there, which soon died out.
... But if the Afghanistan war has embarrassed the Islamic movements, there are at least two things that have prevented the collapse of the Islamic credo. The first is that, in purely operational terms, Osama bin Laden’s attack against the United States was successful and very painful, and it changed the face of America. The second is the uncertainty about the fate of bin Laden, the lack of clear-cut evidence that he was killed by American firepower. The mystery surrounding bin Laden’s fate has given the Islamic movements a chance to regain their balance. The fall of the Taliban was not a major coup for America, but the uncertainty about what happened to bin Laden is considered a coup for his supporters.
Nonetheless, the American war on terrorism will continue to weaken the Islamic movements. Most Arab regimes are only too happy to use this opportunity to further diminish their influence. I believe that the Islamic movements realize that it would be a mistake to support Saddam Hussein at this stage, and that they will not repeat the mistake they made when they supported him after the invasion of Kuwait.
Saddam’s fall will cause the Arabs to be shattered psychologically. Political depression will set in. I do not rule out the possibility that some Arab regimes will suffer from domestic unrest, triggered by public outrage. Those regimes will find themselves face to face with their people, forced to deal with domestic issues after the United States succeeds in shutting down the last despot who maintained the illusion that Arab slogans can nurture a people. If Washington should also succeed in making the Arab countries mediators in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than parties to a broader Arab-Israeli endless war, then the region will really be transformed.

IN DEFENSE OF THE U.S. NEWS COLLEGE RATINGS: Here's an interesting by Richard Just in The American Prospect dedicated to that defense. He makes some good points:

Without the U.S. News rankings, elite colleges would likely be turning over even larger numbers of coveted spots in their undergraduate classes to athletes, imperiling racial and intellectual diversity at the nation's top breeding grounds for future scholars and leaders. And state schools -- accountable to lawmakers and, ultimately, the public -- could find themselves pressured to squander even more money in pursuit of national championships many of them will never even come close to competing for.
... Sports is the only thing colleges do that can be quantified. It provides the only concrete claim a college can make to being better than another college. Is Harvard better than Yale? Impossible to say. But which school won the Harvard-Yale football game last year? That's an easy question to answer.
The U.S. News rankings have changed that. Critics of the rankings charge that they're meaningless, but the critics are missing the point. Of course it's meaningless to say that the University of Virginia is the twenty-third best school in America and Georgetown is the twenty-fourth. But the point is not whether the rankings are accurate in any sense, as if such rankings could ever be anything but vaguely arbitrary. The point is that by trying to quantify educational quality -- however imperfectly -- U.S. News sends a strong message that college academics matter and provides an incentive for universities to counterbalance the longstanding athletic arms race with an academic arms race. And that balance is a good thing for higher education as a whole.
.... In the absence of U.S. News, the only quantifiable game in higher education is sports. And that situation has real consequences for educational quality.
...By creating another highly-publicized arms race, U.S. News has diluted the sometimes-harmful influence of the athletic arms race -- and somewhat refocused the public's attention on the primacy of academics in higher education. In April, everyone knows who won the Final Four. In January, everyone knows who won the Bowl Championship Series. And now, in September, a decent percentage of Americans know what the number one school in the country is -- and more importantly, how the public schools in their states, which are funded with their tax money, measure up. Whether these ratings are impeccably fair is less important than the fact that they exist. It's the spotlight they shine on academic quality, not the precision of the measurements, that really matters. And it seems safe to assume that without them, the pressure for colleges to make unwise choices in pursuit of athletic glory would grow even more overwhelming than it already is.

TALK ABOUT MISREADING YOUR AUDIENCE: This gem from a New York Times article on "Dr. Phil" and other daytime TV shows:
And while many television executives held high hopes for psychic talk shows modeled on the John Edwards show "Crossing Over," they were let down by the low ratings of "Beyond With James Van Praagh," the psychic's efforts to contact ghosts of loved ones. Nielsen, it turns out, does not include the dead in its sample pool of viewers.

PRIMARY DOCUMENTS: Here is the official assessment of the Iraqi threat by the Blair government.
And click here for the text of the new National Security Strategy of the U.S. government. It apparently conforms to Dr. Manhattan's Official Guidelines for Policy Analysis(TM), which state that the advisability of a policy can be accurately measured by the number of heart attacks it induces among the members of any or all of the following institutions:
1) The State Department;
2) The United Nations; and
3) the New York Times' editorial board.
JOINING THE 21ST CENTURY: The New Republic now has a blog called "&c." It looks good.
ALL SPINE AND NO BRAINS MAKE AL & HANK DEAD CANDIDATES: Al Gore is criticizing the impending war with Iraq.
The NYT argues that Gore's address:
...suggested a shift in positioning by Mr. Gore, who has for 10 years portrayed himself as a moderate, particularly when it comes to issues of foreign policy, and repeatedly invoked his 1991 vote on the gulf war resolution as a way of distinguishing himself from the rest of his party.
Many people are too stubborn to learn from their mistakes, but Gore is exceptional: he refuses to learn from his correct decisions!
In response to Mr. Gore's speech, VodkaPundit has an open letter to Gore that must be read in its entirety. Also, Andrew Sullivan points out:
As to the coalition argument, Gore, of course, spent eight years assembling a wonderful international coalition on Iraq, which agreed enthusiastically to do nothing effective at all. Now he wants us to wait even further, claiming that the administration has abandoned Afghanistan, while vast sums of U.S. money are being expended on rebuilding the country. And then he reiterates the bizarre notion that undermining one of the chief sponsors of terrorism in the world will somehow hurt the war against terrorism. Huh?
More damningly, Sullivan and Henry Hanks both point out that seven months ago, Gore was calling for a "final reckoning with Iraq."

Meanwhile, Jason Rylander has been looking for Democrats to make good arguments against the war, and recently praised this op-ed by Democratic congressional candidate Hank Perritt. Mr. Perritt deserves credit for stating his views with such forthrightness (unlike most of the rest of his party) and enabling voters to consider such information in making their choice. Regardless of party affiliation, any candidate deserves credit for submitting to the accountability of the voters. Personally, I wouldn't vote for Hillary R. Clinton if my flesh was being flayed with metal combs (sorry, the Yom Kippur liturgy is still on my mind) but she deserves credit for putting herself on the electoral line, while eminences such as Colin Powell prefer to cling to a reputation of eminence from unelected positions via leaks to sympathetic journalists.
However, Mr. Perritt's bravery and integrity does not make his arguments any smarter.
He has a summary list of reasons for oppposing the war, each of which deserve consideration:
[N]o justification exists; an attack would cause a reaction that would threaten Israel's existence; it would undermine America's ability to lead international opinion; it would violate international law; it could mire the United States in a nasty, prolonged conflict; it would profoundly destabilize international relations to the detriment of U.S. interests because it would stimulate a rush to develop weapons of mass destruction to deter future U.S. action.
In turn:
1) [N]o justification exists;
The editors who published Mr. Perritt's piece do not agree:
Two decades ago, having consolidated his Iraqi dictatorship with blood baths and traded billions of petrodollars for modern weapons, Saddam Hussein set out to make himself master of the Middle East and its oil fields. He launched successive wars of aggression against Iran and Kuwait, amassed a large arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and raced to acquire nuclear arms. On his orders, his army committed some of the most horrific war crimes since World War II, gassing whole villages and massacring tens of thousands of innocent civilians at a time. Even after his crushing defeat in the Persian Gulf War, the dictator refused to give up his ambitions. He boldly preserved and even sought to expand his chemical and biological arsenal in defiance of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions; even as his own people starved, he proudly awarded stipends to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. President Bush's assertion that the Iraqi regime remains a deadly menace to the region and a challenge to international order is not new; President Clinton made the same claim throughout his eight years in office, and the Security Council repeatedly agreed with him. Nor is Mr. Bush's insistence on ending Saddam Hussein's dictatorship a leap; Congress passed a law four years ago endorsing regime change as U.S. policy. For years the central question facing both the United States and the United Nations has been whether they are prepared to follow through on their own decisions.
Mr. Bush's choice to fully confront this challenge has been precipitated by two developments since his election. First came the crumbling of the containment policy that Mr. Clinton relied on to manage the Iraqi threat; then came 9/11. The administration's attempts to explain the implications of these events have been awkward and sometimes confused. It has asserted that Saddam Hussein has connections to the al Qaeda network but has provided no public evidence that this is so. It also has suggested that terrorists could strike the United States with chemical or biological arms supplied by Saddam Hussein; though this is plausible, again there is no evidence that the dictator has adopted such a strategy. The real case for acting now on Iraq is more intangible: It is that the breakdown of containment, and the new flow of resources that breakdown has provided to Saddam Hussein, has decisively raised the cost of postponing a confrontation; and the shock of 9/11 has given this country the lesson that, in an era in which enormous harm can be done by seemingly weak adversaries, threats such as that posed by Iraq must not just be managed but treated aggressively.

Alternatively, the Economist recently editorialized:

The danger Mr Hussein poses cannot be overstated. He is no tinpot despot, singled out for arbitrary American punishment. Nor is Iraq a banana republic. With the possible exception of North Korea, but perhaps not even then, Mr Hussein is the world's most monstrous dictator, who by the promiscuous use of violence has seized unfettered control of a technologically advanced country with vast oil reserves. He has murdered all his political opponents, sometimes squeezing the trigger in person. He has subdued his Kurdish minority by razing their villages and spraying them with poison gas. In 1979 he invaded Iran, thus setting off an eight-year war that squandered more than 1m lives. In 1990 he invaded and annexed Kuwait, pronouncing it his “19th province”. When an American-led coalition started to push him out, and though knowing Israel to be a nuclear power, he fired ballistic missiles into Tel Aviv, in the hope of provoking a general Arab-Israeli conflagration. Next time you hear someone ask why, in a world full of bad men, it is Mr Hussein who is being picked on, please bear all of the above in mind. He may very well be the worst.
And yet it is not simply in his record of aggression, cruelty and recklessness that the peril to the wider world resides. If that were all the story, the danger might be easily contained. The unique danger in Iraq is that this country's advanced technology and potential oil wealth could very soon give this aggressive, cruel and reckless man an atomic bomb.
The unique danger in Iraq is that its advanced technology and potential oil wealth could soon give this aggressive, cruel and reckless man an atomic bomb
How dangerous would that be? To judge by the reaction of Mr Bush's foreign critics, the magnitude of the threat is in the eye of the beholder. But it is not difficult to see why, after September 11th, Americans in particular find it hard to be sanguine about the prospect of a sworn enemy equipping himself with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In the worst case, these might one day be used against the United States, either directly by Iraq itself or by some non-state group to whom Mr Hussein had transferred his lethal technology. At a minimum, a nuclear-armed Mr Hussein could be counted on to revive his earlier ambitions to intimidate his neighbours and dominate the Gulf. Prophesying is difficult, especially about the past. But if Mr Hussein had already had nuclear weapons when he invaded Kuwait 11 years ago, he might still be there.

Finally, to quote Peter Beinart:
...Saddam is prone to recklessly underestimating America's resolve--which is part of the reason he wasn't deterred from invading Kuwait. ... [W]hile deterrence "worked" vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, there's no guarantee it would have continued to work had the USSR endured for another 50 years. (Even during the cold war, after all, there were some very close calls.) The United States relied on deterrence against the Soviet Union not because deterrence was foolproof but because we had no other choice: We could never have preemptively attacked the USSR; the costs would simply have been too great. But the United States can preemptively attack Iraq. Deterrence is no longer our only option, and it isn't our safest one.

Next is Mr. Perritt's contention that
an attack would cause a reaction that would threaten Israel's existence;
Then why are the Israelis so strongly supportive of the impending attack? They are usually pretty good at judging threats to their existence- after all, they've survived for over 50 years while surrounded by enemies pledged to their destruction.
Also, what about the risks of leaving Saddam in power? Even if it was stipulated that renewed inspections could prevent or substantially delay Saddam's ability to obtain nuclear weapons (which is a pretty big stretch), Saddam has still been underwriting suicide bombers and training terrorists to attack Israel. The UN has not been known for its efficacy (or intentions) at stopping such activities.
it would undermine America's ability to lead international opinion;
It's amazing what showing conviction on the one hand, while throwing the "dogs of peace" a UN-flavored biscuit on the other, can do to lead international opinion.
Next try:
it would violate international law;
Never mind the innumerable UN resolutions of which Iraq is in defiance. More importantly, in the words of the Economist's editors:
[W]ith all due respect to the Security Council, the legal arguments its members deploy to justify their prior political choices are not especially gripping. The issue here is not Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a quarrel about small print. It is the danger Mr Hussein poses to the world, and whether that danger is big enough to justify the risks of a war.
If you believe that the danger posed by Iraq is truly great enough to justify a war, than international law proscribing such war (assuming it exists, which is a big assumption) is irrelevant. If you believe the danger is not so great, it is unnecessary.
Let's try again:
it could mire the United States in a nasty, prolonged conflict;
It could. On the other hand, this is a country whose troops surrendered wholesale in 1991, and whose military has been much degraded since then. Why is that outcome the likelier one?
If Mr. Perritt is not elected to Congress, he should have an easy time obtaining employment as a writer for the New York Times. All he needs to do is insert the word "quagmire" into the above.
it would profoundly destabilize international relations to the detriment of U.S. interests because it would stimulate a rush to develop weapons of mass destruction to deter future U.S. action.
This is the point Perritt spends the most time on. Unfortunately, he again fails to consider the costs of not acting. If Saddam gets nuclear weapons, then that will do far more to incentivize other countries to do so than the U.S. failing to attack now, beacuse: 1) his neighbors will justifiably feel threatened, and 2) he will be able to deter us from interfering with his next plans to control the Persian Gulf, an example which other undesirables will wish to follow. Making an example of Saddam, by contrast, may help deter some other undesirables. Failing to do will provide a massive contrary incentive.

Mr. Rylander: if this is the best the Democrats can do, give it up.
PRIORITIES: I forgot to blog this gem-filled Charles Krauthammer piece:

The vice president, followed by the administration A Team and echoing the president, argues that we must remove from power an irrational dictator who has a history of aggression and mass murder, is driven by hatred of America and is developing weapons of mass destruction that could kill millions of Americans in a day. The Democrats respond with public skepticism, a raised eyebrow and the charge that the administration has yet to "make the case."
Then, on Sept. 12, the president goes to the United Nations and argues that this same dictator must be brought to heel to vindicate some Security Council resolutions and thus rescue the United Nations from irrelevance. The Democrats swoon. "Great speech," they say. "Why didn't you say that in the first place? Count us in."
When the case for war is made purely in terms of American national interest -- in terms of the safety, security and very lives of American citizens -- chins are pulled as the Democrats think it over. But when the case is the abstraction of being the good international citizen and strengthening the House of Kofi, the Democrats are ready to parachute into Baghdad.
...My point is not to blame France or China or Russia for acting in their national interests. That's what nations do. That's what nations' leaders are supposed to do. My point is to express wonder at Americans who find it unseemly to act in the name of their own national interests and who cannot see the logical absurdity of granting moral legitimacy to American action only if it earns the approval of the Security Council -- approval granted or withheld on the most cynical grounds of self-interest.

A WAKE-UP CALL TO EUROPE: When Fareed Zakharia tells you to cut the crap, you know you're in trouble:

For the past 10 years France and Russia have turned the United Nations into a stage from which to pursue naked self-interest. They have used multilateralism as a way to further unilateral policies. The dust from the Persian Gulf War had not settled when the French government began a quiet but persistent campaign to gut the sanctions against Iraq, turn inspections into a charade and send signals to Saddam Hussein that Paris was ready to do business with him again. "Decades from now, when all the documents are available, someone is going to write an eye-opening book about France's collusion with Saddam Hussein in the 1990s," says Kenneth Pollack, who worked at the CIA and the National Security Council during those years.
...And then there is Germany, which cannot even claim the rationale of national interest for its bizarre actions. Pandering to public opinion, Gerhard Schroeder has broken with 50 years of tradition and publicly denounced American foreign policy. He has encouraged an atmosphere of anti-Americanism in his country, which hit its lowest note when his justice minister compared President Bush to Hitler. Schroeder is opposed to an attack on Iraq even if the United Nations authorizes it. He must think Saddam Hussein is harmless, except that his own chief of intelligence, August Hanning, told the New Yorker last year, "It is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years." Oh, well, then, no need to worry about it.
...If France and Russia seek a world in which nations act purely on the basis of interest and power, they will get it. In it, America will do just fine. As the president's recent national security strategy document makes clear, it will remain the "hyperpower." But as France and Russia might have noticed, they're not very powerful anymore. They have seats on the U.N. Security Council only because they won the last great war 50 years ago. (I use the word "won" loosely when speaking of France.) Unless they act responsibly, they are now in danger of losing the next one.

TAKE YOUR MEDS, PROFESSOR: Paul Krugman bravely criticizes 19th-century imperialism, and concludes with the following:
It's hard not to suspect that the Bush doctrine is also a diversion — a diversion from the real issues of dysfunctional security agencies, a sinking economy, a devastated budget and a tattered relationship with our allies.
The upcoming war with Iraq may have imperialist bases, but ones which have more in common with the Japan occupation after WWII than any 19th-century Kiplingesque adventures. Much more on that to follow.

Monday, September 23, 2002

THIS IS WHAT A "CHILLING ATMOSPHERE" MEANS: Khaled Abu Tomaeh recently wrote an extensive and gripping article in the Jerusalem Post about how the second intifada, supposedly a spontaneous outbreak prompted by Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000, was in fact extensively planned by the Palestinians following the breakdown at Camp David:

In conjunction with the political offensive, which began almost immediately after Camp David, the PA was also preparing for a possible military confrontation with Israel. PA security officials interviewed in the local media openly talked about a looming armed confrontation. Some even warned that the PA areas would be turned into a "graveyard" for the IDF if Israel decided to reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Their statements came in response to remarks made by former IDF chief of General Staff Shaul Mofaz, who warned that Israel would use tanks and jets if the Palestinians launched an armed offensive.
...As the Camp David summit was under way, Arafat's Fatah organization, the biggest faction of the PLO, started training Palestinian teenagers for the upcoming violence in 40 training camps throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Some PA officials and newspaper commentators also started calling for the adoption of the Hizbullah strategy, which, they believed, led to the withdrawal of the IDF from southern Lebanon a few months earlier. Hizbullah leaders, including secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, appeared on Arab satellite television networks to mock Arafat and his negotiators, arguing that Palestine could be liberated only through the use of force, and not at summits like the one held in Camp David.
BY NOW the atmosphere in the Palestinian street was one of "the eve of war." PA ministers and representatives stepped up their criticism of Israel and the US as part of the PA's efforts to refute accusations that it was responsible for the collapse of the Camp David talks and that the Palestinians had missed yet another historic opportunity.
PA-appointed imams in West Bank and Gaza Strip mosques began referring to Israel as "the Zionist enemy" and urged all Muslims to mobilize for the war against the "infidels." In the words of one Gazan preacher, "All weapons must be aimed at the Jews, at the enemies of Allah, the cursed nation in the Koran, whom the Koran describes as monkeys and pigs, worshipers of the calf and idol worshipers."
Other imams spoke of the need and duty to liberate Palestine from the Zionist aggressors. This time the talk was not only about liberating the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Now the demand was for Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and Ashkelon.
...An August 3 [2000] poll conducted by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research indicated that two-thirds of Palestinians supported a new intifada against Israel. This was the first time since the signing of the Oslo Accords that a majority of Palestinians said they supported violence against Israel.

In other news, Mr. Toameh has apparently had his life threatened by a senior aide to Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei in response to a different story for the paper. The aide has been arrested.