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?)

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

IN MEMORIAM: It's hard to be too analytical about the Yankees' loss to Anaheim. When 9 out of 10 pitchers get absolutely shelled, there's not much else to say. The defense was bad, the pitching was awful, and the Angels played brilliantly.
It is silly to criticize the offense; it averaged six runs a game in the playoffs. It is doubly silly to say things like the following:

Under Torre's watch, the Yankees used to know how to stare down a rival pitcher, but this year the batters too often went out and took their hacks.

A few facts to consider in response to that assertion: In 2001, the Yankees drew 519 walks and had a .334 on-base percentage. In 2002, the Yankees who "went out and took their hacks" drew 640 alks and had a .354 on-base percentage.
The Yankees' revamped lineup played shoddy defense, but the players they replaced weren't much of an improvement at that stage of their careers (with the exception of Giambi v. Tino at 1B, and that wasn't what cost them the series. The Yankees' failings were elementary enough; there is no need to attibute them to other factors.

WATERING THE SWAMP: This important item in Ha-aretz states that Saddam has transferred over $15 million to Palestinian families over the last two years, and trained many Palestinian terrorists:

Rakad Salim, the Secretary-General of the pro-Iraqi "Arab Liberation Front" organization in West Bank, who was arrested by Israel last week, told his interrogators that he had close connections with the Iraqi Ba'ath party.
According to the Shin Bet report, Salim said he met with Saddam Hussein two years ago, and that Saddam himself had decided to transfer funds to Palestinian families, as well as setting the various amounts of money.
The funds were then transferred through a branch of an Iraqi bank in Amman to a Jordanian bank in the city, and from there passed to a branch of the Jordanian bank in Ramallah, where the group had an account.
...The Shin Bet report states that Salim held regular meetings with representatives of Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in order to plan terror attacks. Furthermore, the Shin Bet said, Salim had served as political advisor to Yasser Arafat. He added that the PA was also involved in the transfer of funds.
The Shin Bet said that Palestinian ministers, mayors and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council took part in ceremonies to hand over the Iraqi money to the families of victims, including the relatives of suicide bombers.
...Over the past two years, the Shin Bet has arrested 16 Palestinians who underwent training in Iraqi military camps. Most of those were under the direction of Abu Abbas' Baghdad-based Palestinian Liberation Front. Sources in the security establishment said that Iraq has clear intentions of increasing its involvement in terror attacks in the territories.

This is one reason why people aren't crazy to suggest that an invasion of Iraq will help salve the Israeli-Palestinian war, rather than inflame it further.

Monday, October 07, 2002

MORE IRAQ-NO-PHOBIA: Speaking of Jonah Goldberg, he has devoted two columns to summarizing and responding to the main arguments used by the opponents of war with Iraq. They are very good, and can be found here and here.
MORE ARGUMENTS AGAINST AL GORE FROM HIS AMEN CORNER: Peter Beinart argues that a successful war in Iraq can help the war against terrorism rather than hurting it, as has been argued by Al Gore, among others.

State Department officials say no country has even privately threatened to cut off anti-terrorism cooperation over an Iraq war. In fact, the German government, fearful that its vocal antiwar stance makes it look like an unreliable ally, has actually increased its antiterrorism assistance--allowing an Al Qaeda suspect to be extradited from Pakistan to the U.S. even though Germany has legal jurisdiction and promising to expand its role in Afghan peacekeeping.
Germany is acting rationally. Few governments want to incur Washington's wrath, and those that oppose America's war against Saddam are unlikely to compound the diplomatic damage by simultaneously stiffing us on the war on terrorism. That's especially true because shared intelligence flows both ways, and governments in places like Russia, Egypt, and Pakistan are at least as threatened by Islamist terrorism as the United States. Some dovish commentators worry that even if those governments want to maintain cooperation, public opinion will force them to cut it off. But intelligence cooperation is almost by definition covert; virtually no government policy is less subject to public opinion. If Hosni Mubarak really feels pressure to throw Egypt's anti-American masses a bone in the wake of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, it's more likely he'll announce a boycott of U.S. products or publicly spurn a meeting with President Bush than stop his regime's clandestine cooperation with CIA personnel tracking Al Qaeda fanatics in Egypt.
The third way a war in Iraq could undermine the war on terrorism, according to Kennedy, is by "swell[ing] the ranks of Al Qaeda sympathizers and trigger[ing] an escalation in terrorist acts." But while Al Qaeda might be stronger during a war with Iraq, it would probably be weaker after one. Take the war in Afghanistan as a model. U.S. bombing sparked anti-American protests in much of the Muslim world. But once the U.S. toppled the Taliban, the protests diminished dramatically. For one thing, would-be Al Qaeda recruits saw the hopelessness of confronting American power. For another, they saw that the people of Kabul weren't on their side.
An American victory in Iraq would probably have a similar effect. Once we win--which pretty much everyone concedes we will--the anti-American protests will end. The image of the United States as a paper tiger, which animated Islamists in the 1990s, will be dealt another blow. And the image of the United States suffocating the Iraqi people through sanctions, long a staple of Al Qaeda propaganda, will likely be replaced by images of American GIs being welcomed as liberators. It's true that over time the euphoria might dissipate, and an American peacekeeping force in Iraq could generate Arab resentment. But with Saddam out of power, the United States might be able to withdraw its troops from another part of the Middle East: Saudi Arabia. And given that it is the presence of U.S. troops near Mecca and Medina that led bin Laden to turn against the United States in the first place, an American withdrawal from Saudi Arabia would probably do more to undermine Islamist recruiting than an American occupation of Iraq would do to fuel it.

I think Beinart is right. More generally, I think that the assumption that a war with Iraq will hurt the war on terrorism is usually exactly that - an assumption, with little evidence cited. As Jonah Goldberg points out:

Taking America's side in a war is a very public act; cooperating with America's law and intelligence services is a very private affair. The ability to publicly snub America on Iraq while privately earning America's gratitude in the war on terror may seem like a boon to many world leaders. Pakistan's Musharaf would probably leap at the opportunity to denounce a war on a Muslim country — with a wink and a nod from the U.S. — while quietly rounding up members of al Qaeda and currying favor with America. Indeed, this is pretty much what Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Indonesia, Russia, and France have been doing for most of the last year — denouncing American belligerence toward Iraq while cooperating fully with the U.S. in the fight against al Qaeda.
Sure, if the U.S. went to war with Iraq, some nations might stop cooperating in the fight against al Qaeda. But you can't simply assert that this is so. Because the counter-argument is at least as compelling.
As for the second leg of the argument, I just don't get it. The war on terrorism/al Qaeda is not an intensively military war, at least outside Afghanistan. The numbers of military troops dedicated to the fight against al Qaeda inside Afghanistan is between four and five thousand. Roughly the same number of troops are spread out throughout the rest of the region, as well as in places like Yemen. The current military was built up on the assumption that the United States might have to wage and win two full-blown wars simultaneously, i.e., fight North Korea and Iraq at the same time. Now that the Taliban has been deposed, the war on terrorism doesn't use many tanks, aircraft carriers, artillery batteries, etc. The idea that a war against Iraq would drain the war on terrorism is simply not true if you're talking about materiel and troops.
Now, it is likely that a war on Iraq would divert some special forces and intelligence assets from Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf. Fair enough. But do we really want to make the argument that we cannot go to war because a few hundred men are stretched thin? We have an active-duty military of about 1.4 million people, and you're telling me they might as well stay in the barracks if a subgroup smaller than a softball league is busy? And if it's a matter of too few spy drones and cruise missiles, the answer is pretty simple: Buy more.