Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Sideshow has a great roundup on the new Republican plan to let us deport non citizens to countries that will torture them for us. Yes for us - because the law includes provisions to deport people to countries they didn't come from in the first place. We're not just sending people back 'home' to be tortured.

Maybe we should make torture in the US legal again, so at least it can be regulated. Who knows, maybe there could even be some review board which would determine torture inappropriate in particular cases. This grisly form of outsourcing benefits nobody.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Say what you will about Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it appears the swagger isn't all fake. He's taking on every major political party - if he's serious. Myself, I'm not sure it would be as big a change as many would hope and fear. The parties would still have enormous power once the primary was over. A candidate backed by a major party would be a huge favorite against one without. Most elections would probably end up between a Democrat and a Republican - the two candidates with the biggest parties and most money behind them would be heavy fovorites to win this new 'primary'.

Among the laundry list of propositions voters will sift through this year is a proposal to remodel the state's primary election system a change that could alter the political geometry in the Legislature Schwarzenegger loves to hate and smooth the way for his potential re-election run in 2006.

The Republican governor has not formally endorsed the initiative, known as Proposition 62, although he has said, "In principle, I'm all for that, yes." If enacted, it would abolish the familiar political party primaries in state and federal races in favor of so-called open primaries a kind of candidate soup in which all contenders for an office would appear on a single primary ballot.

The two top finishers, regardless of party affiliation, would advance to a general-election runoff. It would not affect presidential elections.

Unlikely allies

Consider this. In a fiercely contested election year across the nation, Proposition 62 has forged an oddball alliance among the state Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Green Party, the Libertarians and the Peace and Freedom Party, all which want it defeated.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

It seems the Bush administration plan for Iraq is taking shape. It doesn't seem to show long term thinking to me - so I'll try and do some. What the heck. Although we have heard of plans to pacify the Sunni triange in time for elections, even Rumsfeld does not seem to believe it. The elections will be in the Shia and Kurdish areas.

Judging from Bush's recent treatment of Allawi on his visit, it seems he expects him to win the election. I don't think this expectation is based on his popularity - that wasn't why he was chosen in the first place. I'm not sure what the administration has planned for the January elections, or what they tacitly or explicitly expect Allawi to do to win them, but we don't seem to be preparing to deal with any other leader. After Allawi did so much to support Bush, it would be hard for Bush to do otherwise with Allawi.

I think the Kerry campaign was very wrong in their suggestion that Allawi was a puppet. I think the Bush administration make think likewise, but they are probably both wrong. There is much in Allawi's disquieting history to make some suspect him of being a thug, but nothing to make us think he is easily lead around by the nose. Bush and Kerry should both keep this in mind.

One thing about a civil war - it would explain our keeping troops there in perpetuity. If we didn't do that, what would prevent Allawi from becoming another Saddam? I'm honestly not sure how many in the Bush administration have thought that far ahead, but it may now be the default direction we are headed if we don't change course. We will have the military power to win, but (at least I hope) not the willingness to slaughter civilians indiscriminately. The terrorists will be in exactly the reverse situation.

I'm not sure Kerry knows how to fix this situation. Neither do I, so I don't blame him for that. I will even vote for him because he might get the right advisors and figure it out - where Bush will stay the course until he sails over the falls.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

This post is good - but the discussion in the comment section is superb. It's pretty rare to see this much thoughtfulness and continuity in a comment section discussion, even on Daniel Drezner's blog.

What other changes might we make if we were building a Democracy from scratch? Other than that, someone would always fear the changes would be to their disadvantage. Especially, both Democrats and Republicans would fight changes that helped third parties.

Remember the horrible mutilations in Fallajah? Even Iraqi's who wanted to kill Americans thought they were wrong. They were not repeated. Somehow the terrorists care about public opinion. Hence another great idea from Mark A.R. Kleiman with the help of one of his readers:

A reader who works for a national security think-tank (not one of the ideological press-release generators, but an outfit that makes a living giving technical advice to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and other national security agencies) writes:

For three years, I have been urging an offensive information operations strategy – my analogy was “the day after” – that would be focused on Islamic and third world audiences (to get to Al Qaeda) that would make the point that the developed world would fare better in the resulting smallpox pandemic than the poor parts of the world, no matter how distant from the initial release.

Monday, September 20, 2004

As much as I admire what Dubai has done, using oil money to create jobs and build the economy instead of merely wrestling with each other over it as a supply of freebies, I'm not sure what they've built will survive when the middle east runs out of oil. Of course some would apply that to the world economy as well. But much of their industry is tourism, and much of their tourism is from the middle east. Of course many of these countries will have oil for decades after Dubai is projected to start running out, so they've at least bought themselves some time.

DUBAI: Skyscrapers, sprawling resorts, malls and residential complexes are mushrooming across the desert sands of Dubai, a Gulf emirate in the throes of an apparently endless construction frenzy.

Much of the effort is positively futuristic in both design and concept, though it is often difficult to imagine the scope of the finished product.

Dubai, which is forging ahead with a multi-billion-dollar tourism drive to meet depleting oil resources, is soon to boast the world's tallest habitable tower, the Burj Dubai, and an underwater hotel.

Grandiose projects like the 185 million square meter "Dubailand" - the emirate's answer to Disneyland - the Middle East's largest water park and its first indoor ski resort are all in the making.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

I've been wondering about this! Old fashioned reporters are starting to fact check bloggers.

But what the visitors to his blog did not know when he launched it early last week was that "Mike" is Mike Krempasky, a 29-year-old Republican political operative from suburban Washington, D.C., a detail some might have found relevant.

The conservative bloggers who ignited a frenzy this month over allegations that Rather relied on forged documents in a Sept. 8 "60 Minutes" broadcast questioning President Bush's Air National Guard service insist they are force-marching the nation's mainstream media into a new era of transparency and accountability.


Nowhere on Krempasky's site, however, did he disclose that he is the political director for American Target Advertising, a Virginia firm run by Richard Viguerie, the conservative strategist widely credited with inventing political direct mail and helping Ronald Reagan and numerous other Republicans get elected.

By Thursday, after an inquiry from the Tribune, Krempasky posted a message telling readers who he is, although he insisted his blog is a personal endeavor not connected to his employer.

Not connected to his employer officially, like the 527 groups don't have official communication. You can darn well bet he would have been fired for attacking Bush on his own time, and knew he wouldn't be fired for this. It may even be that he expects his employers will appreciate him more in the long run, official connection or not.

The Chicago tribune realizes how important this new medium is - bloggers are important enough to scrutinize carefully.

Five major risks threaten the world economy. Three center on the United States: renewed sharp increases in the current account deficit leading to a crash of the dollar, a budget profile that is out of control, and an outbreak of trade protectionism. A fourth relates to China, which faces a possible hard landing from its recent overheating. The fifth is that oil prices could rise to $60 to $70 per barrel even without a major political or terrorist disruption, and much higher with one.

Most of these risks reinforce each other. A further oil shock, a dollar collapse, and a soaring American budget deficit would all generate much higher inflation and interest rates. A sharp dollar decline would increase the likelihood of further oil price rises. Larger budget deficits will produce larger American trade deficits, and thus more protectionism and dollar vulnerability. Realization of any one of the five risks could substantially reduce world growth. If two or three, let alone all five, were to occur in combination then they would radically reverse the global outlook.

There is still time to head off each of these risks. Decisions made in America immediately after this year's elections will be pivotal. China, the new growth locomotive, is key to resolving the global trade imbalances and must play a central role in future. Action by a number of other countries will be essential to maintain global growth and to avoid deeper oil shocks and new trade restrictions.

This is a great article - but the comment discussion on Daniel Drezner's blog post linking to it makes some good points.

Bergsten neglects a large and important aspect of China's economy, the great gap between the people prospering from its economic boom and those who are not. This latter group numbers more than the entire population of the United States; dread of a slowdown in export-driven growth -- and a consequent drying up of a major source of jobs for Chinese workers -- is most likely why the Chinese government has been so reluctant to adjust its unrealistic exchange rate.

posted by: Zathras on 09.16.04 at 11:00 PM [permalink]

In fact, most of the suggestions are good ideas that have been thought of and run into various political obstacles. A few may be bad ideas which have met a well deserved grave. Maybe a few have potential with some work. But the article talks about many things that could be done - but none of the reasons they haven't.

How do you think the sanctimonious people at TV's "60 Minutes" would portray a company charged by the FCC with "serious indecency violations," that made expensive settlements with employees and others because of injuries related to asbestos and other hazardous material exposures, underfunded its employee pension, is legally accused of securities violations, employs those who widely distributed forged documents in an effort to destroy political opponents, failed to dismiss or discipline employees who violated the company code of conduct, owned offshore enterprises that paid little or no U.S. corporate tax, and operated in and/or dealt with countries harboring terrorists?
The company that engaged in all of these practices is Viacom, parent company of CBS, which produces "60 Minutes."
The folks at "60 Minutes" remind me of the preacher who damns the sinners every Sunday, but then is caught in the brothel. Viacom is a huge media company that not only owns CBS, but hundreds of individual radio and TV stations; cable operations like MTV, Showtime and Nickelodeon; Paramount Pictures; theme parks; publishing houses, including Simon & Schuster; and many other operations around the globe.
The problem with Viacom is not its difficulties with some acquisitions and operations, but that its CBS News unit has a long and continuing record of misrepresentation, hypocrisy, or worse is allowed to continue in clear violation of the company's own code of conduct and best economic interest.

Well, I'm glad the Washington Times is concerned about corporate misbehavior, even if only in media on the other side of the spectrum. I'm not saying they are wrong, although if this is what's behind the Democrats, I don't think large corporations have much to fear from the liberal media. I just wanted to quote this in the interests of balance.

Link from The Sideshow by Avedon Carol.

Moon himself has boasted that he spent $1 billion on the right-wing Washington Times in its first decade alone. The newspaper, which started in 1982, continues to lose Moon an estimated $50 million a year but remains a valuable propaganda organ for the Republican Party.

How Moon has managed to cover the vast losses of his media empire and pay for lavish conservative conferences has been one of the most enduring mysteries of Washington, but curiously one of the least investigated – at least since the Reagan-Bush era.

Limited investigations of Moon’s organization have revealed large sums of money flowing into the United States mostly from untraceable accounts in Japan, where Moon had close ties to yakuza gangster Ryoichi Sasakawa. Former Moon associates also have revealed major money flows from shadowy sources in South America, where Moon built relationships with right-wing elements associated with the cocaine trade, including the so-called Cocaine Coup government of Bolivia in the early 1980s.

But Hastert, an Illinois Republican, made news at the Republican National Convention by suggesting that liberal funder Soros may be fronting for foreign “drug groups.” In a Fox News appearance, Hastert said, “You know, I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where – if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from.…”

Soros demanded an apology for the smear. “Your recent comments implying that I am receiving funds from drug cartels are not only untrue, but also deeply offensive,” Soros said in a letter. “You do a discredit to yourself and to the dignity of your office by engaging in these dishonest smear tactics. You should be ashamed.”

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Even as Jason Van Steenwyk writes about readiness problems in the guard and reserve and The notion that we need to move now to increase active duty troop levels, he attributes all reports of problems in Iraq by Big Media as due to outdated information.

The short version: the much ballyhooed National Intelligence Estimate being touted by the chicken little press corps is hopelessly out of date.

and he quotes approvingly:

On Samarrah:

You may not have even heard about the city of Samarra. Two weeks ago, that Sunni Triangle city was a “No-go” area for US troops. But guess what? The locals got sick of living in fear from the insurgents and foreign fighters that were there and let them know they weren’t welcome. They stopped hosting them in their houses and the mayor of the town brokered a deal with the US commander to return Iraqi government sovereignty to the city without a fight. The people saw what was on the horizon and decided they didn’t want their city looking like Fallujah in April or Najaf in August.

Boom, boom, just like that two major “hot spots” cool down in rapid succession. Does that mean that those towns are completely pacified? No. What it does mean is that we are learning how to do this the right way. The US commander in Samarra saw an opportunity and took it – probably the biggest victory of his military career and nary a shot was fired in anger.

Jason Van Steenwyk has made valid points about military ignorance in some media outlets, but he's often very quick to believe the Bush administration and those who quote them uncritically.

Stars and Stripes is a Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community. Editorially independent of interference from outside its editorial chain of command, it provides commercially available U.S.and world news and objective staff-produced stories relevant to the military community in a balanced, fair, and accurate manner. By keeping its audience informed, Stars and Stripes enhances military readiness and better enables U.S. military personnel and their families stationed overseas to exercise their responsibilities of citizenship.
— Revised DoD Directive 5122.11

And they say:

But while the name has no meaning — it’s just one of those odd names the military has a habit of assigning things — Grape is at, or near, the top of the list of most dangerous roads in Iraq, according to Capt. Nathan Springer, personnel officer and acting spokesman for the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment at Forward Operating Base McKenzie.

ASR Grape runs almost within spitting distance of Samarra — so close, in fact, you can clearly see the sacred dome of the city’s historic mosque.

And Samarra, which is part of the 1st Infantry Division’s area of responsibility, has posed some serious problems.

After some terrifically bloody fights this spring, the city is now under the control of insurgents.

Not a single coalition unit has a permanent contingent stationed there.

In fact, until just last week, any coalition element that went into the city was virtually certain to be attacked, 1-4 Cav officers said.

The situation in Samarra appears to be calming down, as coalition and Iraqi government officials have peacefully entered the city in the past few days.

Still, a secondary condition of having no well-established coalition or Iraqi government presence in Samarra is ASR Grape.

Six 1st Infantry Division soldiers have been killed on that road. An additional five soldiers have been wounded seriously enough to be sent to Germany for care and they have not returned to duty, according to Springer.

Four of the soldiers who were killed were from the 1-4 Cav, including a soldier with Anvil Platoon, and one with Headquarters, Headquarters Troop. Two other soldiers were with the 1st ID’s 216th Engineers.

"Appears to be calming down" is something, but certainly more recent than April, which is the date Jason Van Steenwyk says the report the media quotes is dated from.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Soldiers from a combat unit at Fort Carson say they have been told to re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq, the Rocky Mountain News reported Thursday.

Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies last week, two soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity told the newspaper.

"They said if you refuse to re-enlist with the 3rd Brigade, we'll send you down to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is going to Iraq for a year, and you can stay with them, or we'll send you to Korea, or to Fort Riley (in Kansas) where they're going to Iraq," said one of the soldiers, a sergeant.

The second soldier, an enlisted man, echoed that view: "They told us if we don't re-enlist, then we'd have to be reassigned. And where we're most needed is in units that are going back to Iraq in the next couple of months. So if you think you're getting out, you're not."

The sergeant told the News the threat has outraged soldiers who are close to fulfilling their service obligation.

"We have a whole platoon who refuses to sign," he said.

An unidentified Fort Carson spokesman said Wednesday that 3rd Brigade recruitment officers denied threatening the soldiers with more duty in Iraq.

"I can only tell you what the retention officers told us: The soldiers were not being told they will go to Iraq, but they may go to Iraq," said the spokesman, who confirmed the re-enlistment drive is under way.

OK, so some people are hoping that we won't be stretched for troops much longer, and they don't want to permanently enlarge the army. It seems the most optimistic somehow don't believe we will need these extra troops for long enough to justify training them. In that case we need some other way to get trained troops to voluntarily come out of retirement - or at least a discussion to see if it might be possible. The problem is that the Bush administration doesn't want to discuss how overstretched we are, so the problem is dealt with by people on a lower level.

Great story from I got it from The Sideshow by Avedon Carol. I read her blog for news and links, she reads mine to make fun of the spelling. She got the link from Unqualified Offerings.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi's "Fix Albany" campaign racked up an impressive win Tuesday by pulling off the tough task of unseating an incumbent state legislator - and one from his own political party in a primary, no less.

Why do I see a metaphor for the Democratic party nationally in the Democratic party where I live? I backed Suozzi for County Executive. Sidikman was a man who fought the system. Yes he eventually decided his constituents would suffer if he kept bucking Silver without any support, but he knew change was needed. Instead of building a team to change the legislature from seasoned legislators, Suozzi put in a new guy. I don't know everything that goes on behind closed doors, but if this is really a step towards reforming the legislature I don't see how.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

It's not like I had a good answer to this, so I'm not sure it's actually bad news.

Sep 14 - Portions of Iraq’s Sunni minority who live in the more rebellious population centers may be disenfranchised, US-installed interim Prime Minister told The Australian in an exclusive interview. Allawi insisted that elections would go on as planned, but said they might not be possible in some unstable cities.

"If for any reason 300,000 people cannot vote because terrorists decide so," Allawi said, "then frankly 300,000 people... is not going to alter 25 million people voting. What we are after really is implementing the political process."

Of course there are many Shia who won't be upset - who figured the Sunni would be an outnumbered and powerless minority in any event. If Allawi is serious about making democracy work, this increases the need to make them feel included. I honestly don't know how. I gather he's trying to reach out to those, Sunni and Shia, who support the insurgency. I can't find many details in English language sources - but if he knows what he's doing it could be great news.

Monday, September 13, 2004

What's the matter with Kansas is the best book on politics I've read this year. I reviewed it on Epinions.

Since this isn't a mystery novel, I'll give away the ending, although it means a lot less without the supporting evidence and information that make up most of this book. The poorest people in the heartland are angry at what is happening to them in today's economy - the same anger that happened early in the century when communism was still popular in Kansas in some places. Somehow the anger has become refocused, so the more downtrodden they feel, the more they try to assert their own authenticity and dignity by supporting conservative religious and even economic causes. They cannot be more successful than the rich, but they can be more religious and authentic. There is a real rivalry between rich and poor - but somehow the poor express it by trying to be more conservative than the rich. Many of the rich are uncomfortable with the strident fundamentalism, but in the end reasonably content to benefit from their economic policies. Sometimes he comes close to saying the rich are manipulating the poor, more often implying that many understand and perpetuate the system but did not set it up.

I love this book, but the one thing the author doesn't do is offer a prescription. I have a starting point for the discussion, although I'm not an expert on the heartlands. I think we need to think about how antipoverty programs can be changed to make sure they help rural regions. Although the heartlands do get more tax money than they pay out, this might be the difference between some districts considering these 'liberal' programs and considering them their programs. Even to have the Democratic party talking about these areas might help.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

I just picked up the latest twists on the National Guard memos from this Sideshow post by Avedon Carol. CBS is still defending the memos. I couldn't quite buy The Poor Man's argument that the memos must be OK because the Right is always wrong about this stuff. Daily Kos studies the details and believes the memos genuine, although he concedes we will know in a few days.

I can't decide between believing it must be a false alarm because no forger would be too lazy to get an old fashioned typewriter, and believing that it must be a forgery because while this all undoubtedly happened nobody would have made records of it. Either way it's hard for me to get excited - after all, the memos are not the main basis for believing Bush is a child of priviledge who took frequent advantage of the fact. A forgery might show something important about someone on the left, maybe even CBS news.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

U.S. Forces Take Action in Areas Dominated by Iraqi Insurgents

So nobody is trying to claim that all this talk about our losing territory is just in the imagination of the media. Good start.

I've been wondering if both the US and Allawi had decided that a 'strongman' was preferable to elections. These attempts to regain territory so all of Iraq can vote might mean I was wrong - or they might be intended as an excuses to say we tried. Or Allawi may want one thing and our government another. Or our government may have different groups with different plans. It doesn't seem the Sunni triangle will see urgency in creating conditions for an election either. If they are not willing to accept the results of an election dominated by Shia, they might rather have an excuse to reject that election.

I hope I'm wrong, but the odds of a generally accepted January Iraq election seem rather slim. I don't know who might have the stature to replace Allawi even if Allawi intended to permit such a thing. I can't envision any of this happening, and can't guess at the result if it did.

How about if elections are postponed again and again? What sort of leader will Allawi be? Much of what you hear about him is hard to track down the source of, but this New Yorker article names names:

But his role as a Baath Party operative while Saddam struggled for control in the nineteen-sixties and seventies—Saddam became President in 1979—is much less well known. “Allawi helped Saddam get to power,” an American intelligence officer told me. “He was a very effective operator and a true believer.” Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer who served in the Middle East, added, “Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he’s a thug.”

Early this year, one of Allawi’s former medical-school classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, published an essay in an Arabic newspaper in London raising questions about his character and his medical bona fides. She depicted Allawi as a “big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students.” Allawi’s medical degree, she wrote, “was conferred upon him by the Baath party.” Allawi moved to London in 1971, ostensibly to continue his medical education; there he was in charge of the European operations of the Baath Party organization and the local activities of the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975.

“If you’re asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does,” Vincent Cannistraro, the former C.I.A. officer, said. “He was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff.” A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi’s personal history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat “hit team” that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. (Allawi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.) At some point, for reasons that are not clear, Allawi fell from favor, and the Baathists organized a series of attempts on his life. The third attempt, by an axe-wielding assassin who broke into his home near London in 1978, resulted in a year-long hospital stay.

Doesn't sound great.

Monday, September 06, 2004

This is a test of the emergency polling system. In the event of a real emergeny, don't sit around taking polls.

The constitutional right to bear arms means that

Government cannot regulate or monitor what weapons you own. The stuff about a well regulated militia explains but does not limit.

The guys who didn't define well regulated militia might disagree among themselves what it implied, but the founding fathers would have found some weapon owners not to be well regulated under some circumstances.

You can only bear portable weapons. No tanks, air craft carriers, or hydrogen bombs. A small nuke might be OK if you carry it around.

Arms only referred to stuff in existance when the constitution was written. No semiautomatic weapons.

You can defend yourself with the claws of a dead grizzly bear, but not firearms.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Alexa has made some changes again. Besides the lamentable alphabetical picks, I'm again paired with The Sideshow by Avedon Carol. This blog is a good source for roundups of good posts from the liberal side of the blogosphere, but I was still a little surprised. I rarely do roundups, and I try to bend over backwards when I fear partisanship might make me fail to see weakness in a liberal position.

Alexa usually pairs me with liberals - perhaps because conservatives are less likely to read a blog they disagree with than liberals? I can't imagine this applying to Drezner or his readers though. Hmmm. Maybe just a statistical artifact.

Any Sideshow readers want to say hello?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Even Fox news doesn't consider most of what the Bush administration calls good news in Iraq headline material. While it is heartwarming to build a school or a well in a place where attacks on Americans are uncommon, it doesn't really presage anything great in terms of rebuilding the country and economy of Iraq and creating jobs for those students - which requires ending the civil war. In America, very few conservatives would consider the fact that government was spending money on schools to be good news - they would ask how effective those schools really were. In Iraq, we must ask that - and also what jobs will be available to educated students.

Nevertheless, the New York Times has decided this is actually news:

This week, pursuing a similar strategy in Sadr City, where official agencies have been afraid to operate, the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, dangled the prospect of hundreds of millions of dollars in construction aid if local leaders would sideline Mr. Sadr and his militia.

In that dismal Baghdad neighborhood, which houses more than 2.5 million Shiite Muslims, the Army-sponsored sewage repair is one of only a handful the Americans have been able to start. Alluding to the continuing tensions, an Army spokesman said construction work in Sadr City was "very limited due to current activities."

Perhaps they are right. Allawi does seem to know what he's doing. Yesterday there was another article in the NY Times:

Militia Leaders Charging Betrayal by Iraqi Premier

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys. Allawi does seem smarter than Bush - and if it weren't for the rest of the history of the occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration might deserve a lot of credit for choosing him, although that would still depend on two things.

He does seem to know who to negotiate with, but he hasn't yet proved himself capable of the Herculian never-yet-accomplished task of preventing civil war without Saddam's brand of mass murder. If he's that pragmatic, is he idealistic enough to want to give up power to an elected government? Even some Americans seem to want a strong man - but if that's in the cards, every promise we make about an elected government is building more trouble for the future.

It does begin to seem the future of Iraq depends on Allawi. His history is well worth researching and blogging about. Anyone care to join me?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I do not accuse Arnaud de Borchgrave and all those who talk of the Tet Syndrome of lying, or even making assertions which have no evidence to support them. I accuse them of talking about any claim that supports their purposes as a proven fact if their are any experts who believe it, and ignoring all other evidence and informed opinion. I accuse them of accepting all positive media coverage as their natural right, and attributing all negative media coverage to bias without investigating the possibility that the media is discussing real problems - or that war proponents played a role in unreasonable media expectations.

I call this Tonkin Syndrome. There were reasons to believe American ships had been attack by North Vietnam - but also reasons to believe otherwise. There were steps that could have been taken to ascertain the truth before acting. There were those who already believed miltary action was appropriate, and perhaps even that a war started under a misapprehension would be no bad thing. Nobody noticed how easily the press had accepted their claims - and nobody would remember later why the press did not always trust the government.

When he writes that a reminder about what led to the U.S. defeat in Southeast Asia is timely, Borchgrove gives no hint that he is reminding us of a controversial theory which is rejected even by many people who supported the Vietnam war while it was happening but reexamined it later. He portrays the Tet Offensive as a brilliant victory for the South Vietnamese government and the United States war effort which would have lead to victory if not for the efforts of the liberal media, especially Walter Cronkite. The only thing that kept us from victory is collapse on the home front.

Even most of those who believe we could have won the Vietnam war don't believe that - although they usually consider it a factor. Here is a sample that is more typical:

But if it means very little to say that the war was unwinnable, what does it mean to say that it was winnable? It means that had the U.S. military and its civilian masters better understood the nature of the Vietnam War, they could have devised tactics to deal with it. There is nothing inevitable about stupidity among people in uniform, nor about feckless secretaries of state or presidents passively accepting bad advice. The tactics pursued by the U.S. military between 1965 and 1968 were downright counterproductive. But even in 1968 it would have been possible to correct those errors— at a price. (Certainly, too, since the war at its end resembled not so much a “people’s war” as an old-fashioned conventional war complete with tanks and artillery, the U.S. Army— had it still been around for the fight— surely could have stopped the North Vietnamese army.)

When one speaks of costs, however, one must never leave out the matter of politics. Because the Vietnam War did not involve survival interests for the United States, it was always necessary to consider the price of gaining a strategically important, but not critical, goal. U.S. leaders, as politicians are wont to do, chalked up “costs” not only in terms of casualties and money, but also their own political fortunes.

In sum, had it not been for a concatenation of bad military tactics, civilian overseers who failed in their duty to drag decent advice out of the uniformed military, the wavering of Lyndon Johnson’s Wise Men, Richard Nixon’s desire to shape a quick “opening” to China, and then his self-inflicted problems over Watergate, the Vietnam War actually could have been “won” at least to the degree that the Korean War was not lost.

A complete survey of the scholarly literature on Vietnam is beyond me, but I'd like to talk briefly about an article by former Vietanm hawk Guenter Lewy, published in that pinko rag Parameters, the Journal of the US Army War College. Some of what he has to say may seem harsh, but that should not surprise us. Historically, armies which honestly examined their defeats have often gone on to victory, while those who have found others to blame tend not to.

Professor Lewy talks about American equipment the South Vietnamese could not use and maintain properly, and lack of training and morale in the lower ranking troops. He also talks about corruption and the percerption of corruption by the Vietnamese people in the upper ranking officers and the South Vietnamese government, especially President Thieu and certain generals. He talks about various claims that the military could not win the war because they were not allowed to - and the real reasons we did what we did. The reason we did our bombing the way we did was not because of anti-war liberals, it was because of a real fear that the war might widen to include China. Right or wrong, the restrictions had nothing to do with opposition to the Vietnam war. I'm not going to try to summarize the whole article here, but unlike Borchgrave he examines opposing claims.

It is easy to forget that when LBJ said "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America", and "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the war" it was because he had considered Walter Cronkite an ally up until then. If the initial invasion had not been based on the Tonkin resolution, if he had told the American people to expect the casualties of a Tet offensive, would they have accepted the war? If so, then the Tet offensive would not have turned Cronkite and America. If not, many lives would have been saved.

Borchgraves essay has been blogged about a number of times - all in basic agreement. When googling Tet Syndrome I found not one word of caution. Only when I googled Vietnam revisionism did I find critical discussions of the sort of claims Borchgrave makes. This post in Useful Fools swallows Borchgraves uncritically - and provides a list of symptoms for Tet syndrome which pretty much excludes the possibility to a Democratic society deciding a war was a mistake without his diagnosing Tet syndrome. He links to similar ideas (assuming the idea of the Tet syndrome without a direct link to Borchgrave) by Bill Quick. Anti-Anti-Flag links to the list of symptoms found in Useful Fools, which is even more sweeping than what Borchgraves claims. PunditReview blames it all on Ted Kennedy. Cold fury paraphrases:These people snatched defeat from the jaws of victory; they refused to learn the lessons of history, both military and political.

Oddly enough, you will find more if you google. I have seen amazing discoveries in the blogosphere - and severe groupthink. I think we can do better.