Monday, March 31, 2003

Is Gulf II really proceeding all that differently than Gulf I?

In Gulf I, there was an extensive period of building forces, in Saudi Arabia, prior to attacking Iraqi positions. In Gulf II, the same build up is taking place, this time right outside the Baghdad city limits.

In Gulf I, there was fear that US troop positions in Saudi Arabia were exposed to pre-emptive Iraqi attack. In Gulf II, the same fears for our troops massing in Kuwait. In neither case did those attacks materialize.

In Gulf I, there was extensive bombing of Baghdad and Iraqi Army positions prior to the land attack - 42 days of it, if my memory is correct. In Gulf II, more of the same, 13-14 days and counting.

In Gulf I, there were pessimistic predictions about the number of casualties the Coalition forces would suffer. Same with Gulf II (I hope the pessimism turns out to be as inaccurate now as it was then).

In Gulf I, the Democrats were solidly against military action, partly because of their anti-war tendencies and partly because they would not support anything pushed by President Bush. In Gulf II, the Democrats run true to form.

In Gulf I, there was debate and much handwringing about the military strategy and the size of the forces committed to the attack. Same as with Gulf II.

In Gulf I, there was much concern about when the land attack (on Kuwait) would take place. Same now in Gulf II.

In Gulf I, we heard much about the strength of the Iraqi Army and the Republican Guard and how we were heading towards another Vietnam. In Gulf II, we hear more of the same - sometimes, it seems, from the same people who were so wrong the first time.

In Gulf I, we had Peter Arnett doing his best to prop up the Iraqi morale. In Gulf II, the same.

During Gulf I, during the air attacks that preceded the land attack, much was made of the fact that the Iraqi troops had not panicked and fled, that they were proving tougher than had been expected. Again, the same as now.

In Gulf I, we heard how the Arab street would rise up in anger against US military action. In Gulf II, we're still hearing that.

In Gulf I, we heard that the real problem in the Middle East was Israel. In Gulf II, Israel is still viewed as the problem with everything.

In Gulf I, Hussein refused Bush's demands that he retreat from Kuwait, later cutting a deal that left him alive and in power. In Gulf II, Hussein refused Bush's demands that he give up his WMDs and leave the country, later cutting a deal that left him........???

After Gulf I, the US acted as if it were the country that should be thankful for Arab support during the conflict, rather than the other way around. After Gulf II, the US acted as if it were.....???

After Gulf I, President Bush squandered his approval ratings and lost to Bill Clinton. After Gulf II, President Bush.....???

Sunday, March 30, 2003

I'm thinking that the car bomb attack on US Marines was not a terrorist attack....

While it certainly has similarities to terrrorist attacks in Israel (and elsewhere), I think the better description is that of a kamikaze attack - a suicide attack on a military target by a military force (in this case, an irregular military force, but a military force nonetheless).

Just like at the end of WWII, when the Japanese resorted to these attacks in a desperate attempt to deny the Allies victory, so too will the Iraqis - lacking the ability to do anything else - engage in these types of attack. And, while the Japanese attacks certainly caused significant casualties to the US, both in men and material, they ultimately failed achieve their objective. As will, I hope, these attacks by Iraqis.

Friday, March 28, 2003

I'm thinking about how this whole thing is going to play out... what exactly is Hussein's exit strategy?

A lot of commentators/experts have opined that Hussein's strategy is to drag out the fighting in the hopes that world pressure will force President Bush to accept a cease fire that leaves Hussein in power. Obviously, the success of this plan requires Bush to bow to the pressure and agree to such a deal. Since Bush fancies himself somewhat of the anti-Clinton, and sees Bush I as having made a big mistake in agreeing to do just that at the end of Gulf I, I think it's unlikely that he would ever agree to leave Hussein in charge - no matter what the French or Kofi Annan have to say.

Other writers have advanced the theory that Hussein is intending to go out in a blaze of glory, to be honored by generations upon generations of Arabs. While possible, I wouldn't characterize Hussein as suicidal.

But what if Hussein's plan actually is a combination of both theories? He's looking to to drag out the fighting, killing as many Americans as possible during the fighting, thus burnishing his reputation in the Arab world. And, then, at the eleventh hour, he then offers to leave Iraq. As much as Bush might like to kill/capture Hussein, especially after what was reported to have been done to the American POWs, Bush's stated objective is regime change. It might be hard for him to resist the pressure. After all, his father failed to resist the pressure, agreeing to end Gulf I after his stated goal (liberation of Kuwait) was achieved.

I believe President Bush must resist the pressure. Hussein must not be allowed an exit that would leave him in a position to proclaim himself the victor. We must remember how he did just that following Gulf I - through control of the Iraqi media, and a sympathetic Arab press elsewhere, he portrayed himself as having beaten the US.

My reasoning for advocating this is simple: failing to get Hussein, dead or alive, will in the long run lead to more American deaths. For the Arabs would look at this decision as yet another act of weakness on the part of the US, much as they viewed the premature end of Gulf I as weakness. They view our reluctance to incur casualties as weakness. They view our concern for Iraqi citizens, to the extent that they acknowledge our concern, as weakness. And, as we have seen in the past, it is very dangerous when the Arab/Islamic radical views the US as being weak. Therefore, President Bush must accept nothing less than Hussein's surrender or death. Preferably, the first followed immediately by the second.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Over at NRO, John Derbyshire points out that Turkey's refusal to allow US troops to use Turkey as a launching pad may have been influenced by France's threats to keep Turkey out of the (EU) club.

Well, we all know that Turkey is hot to join the EU. And, it's not surprising that France would make such threats - they've made them before, against other countries seen taking a less than sufficient anti-US position. What is surprising, and disappointing, is why the US let Turkey view their choice as not having negative consequences in terms of our relationship. After all, given a choice between good relations with the US and good relations with France, would Turkey choose France (even assuming, of course, that France actually could back up its threat)?

A number of writers have said that the US failed in its diplomatic efforts to build a larger coalition, to enlist the UN support for action, etc., etc. I've previously written that these claims miss the mark, that it was the other countries - France, Germany, China, Russia - who failed in their efforts to prevent this war from taking place. Where I will, however, criticize the US diplomatic efforts, is by pointing out that the State Department gave the world a pass. Not a single country was presented with a list of benefits that would be lost if they failed to support the US. Has Mexico lost anything? Has Cameroon? France? Germany? Well, perhaps Germany, in that Rumsfeld threatened to move US forces to other, more friendly, countries. But, as a general rule, the State Department went overboard to not pressure other countries, claiming we would look bad if we were seen doing otherwise. Was this just another case of the State Department acting in ways that are more supportive of other countries' interests, rather than our own?

France is certainly pulling no punches - why are we fighting with only one hand?

Ann Coulter is right when she takes on the NYT, Forrest Sawyer, and the rest of the media for their coverage of the war.

After all, their headlines could just as easily have read:

Having no success on the battlefield, Hussein is shooting his own soldiers in a desperate attempt to prevent widespread desertions and surrenders.

Unable to engage Coalition forces on the battlefield and running out of places to hide from Allied airpower, Iraqi troops are seeking shelter in schools, mosques and other residential areas.

Cut off from central command and abandoned, Iraqi troops are engaged in annoying, yet ultimately futile attacks on Coalition forces.

In what might be the final atrocity inflicted upon the Iraqi people, supporters of the outlaw regime kill hundreds of Iraqi civilians.

Despite threats of reprisals from Hussein loyalists, Iraqi civilians welcome Coalition troops as liberators.

US military losses still minuscule compared with US civilian casualties averted by military campaign aimed at depriving Hussein of ability to use WMDs against American targets.

Iraq is suffering 50 battlefield casualty for each US casualty - at this rate, Iraq will soon run out of soldiers.

Fears of Mideast erupting in bloodshed in response to US-led attack on Iraq have so far failed to materialize.

With each of the above headlines accurately describing the situation in Iraq, why wouldn't the networks and press use the above headlines instead of the headlines they have used? Aw, silly question, for we all know the answer...

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Following up on an earlier post....

As cold as it might seem, the Coalition forces need to bomb a few schools, hospitals and mosques. Not for the sake of doing so, but rather because doing so would shorten the war by demonstrating to the Iraqis that there are no safe harbors from which they can attack Coalition troops with impunity.

These Iraqis are not on suicide missions. They're doing what soldiers everywhere do, seeking a protected area from which they can inflict casualties upon their enemy (yes, I know that not all soldiers seek to hide in hospitals). Our stated reluctance to attack certain sites is inviting the Iraqis to use those places as a safe harbor.

Should the Coalition forces instead demonstrate that these sites were in fact not a safe place to hide, then - once again acknowledging my lack of military experience - I believe the Iraqis would stop trying to hide there.

After all, how many Iraqis will take shelter in a hospital in order to attack the coalition forces, knowing that those very same coalition forces would destroy the hospital? Not many Iraqis would attack from inside a mosque if they knew that their doing so would lead to the destruction of the mosque, and more importantly to them, their own death.

Once again, our enemy is viewing us as weak. This perceived weakness is emboldening our enemy and leading to a longer struggle and more casualties than is necessary. As I've said in previous posts, while it certainly is admirable to have a goal of minimizing the deaths of Iraqi civilians, our primary goal should be the protection of American and British lives. Our commanders have to decide whose lives they're looking to protect - our soldiers or those of the Iraqi civilians. They can't do both.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

So the military itself is responsible, says the family of Asan Akbar, the soldier accused of the fragging attack. They claim that the poor guy had to endure racism and go so far as to say that "... (it)was difficult for a black man "to make rank" in the military". Has anybody asked Colin Powell what to make of that comment? In any event, can someone explain to me why a victim of racism would complain that, upon being apprehended, "...You guys are coming into our countries, and you're going to rape our women and kill our children" ? I didn't know that Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were 'black' countries....

Monday, March 24, 2003

The fake surrender of Iraqi soldiers has some similarities to the 9-11 hijackings - they worked because they took advantage of our predictability (In Iraq, to believe that surrendering troops are in fact doing just that; in the case of the hijackings, to stay docile) and they will only work that first time - remember that the plans of the fourth hijacking group were foiled when the passengers learned of what was happening elsewhere..

Just as the days of passenger crews not reacting with force against hijackers are over, so are the days of American troops blindly accepting as legitimate a surrender of Iraqi troops.

We can be fooled once.....

For an addiitional example of this pattern, how long do you think it will be before we go back to the UN Security Council seeking their approval for action we believe to be in our national interest?

David Adesnik at OxBlog refers to the NYT quoting an American general's comment that "...in an attack like the one on the helicopters, "you have 10 guys lying on top of a building firing RPG's and small arms. You can go in and bomb that building and reduce it to rubble," but at the potential cost of many civilian lives."

Again, at the risk of really repeating myself, why are we not taking out that building? Our concern for Iraqi civilians is admirable. However, in real war, this concern is jeopardizing American and British lives - either of which is far more valuable than that of an Iraqi civilian. And, more importantly, the Iraqis are taking those positions because they think they are safe - destroy the building and the Iraqis will soon get the idea that shooting at American forces, from wherever they do so, is a good way to get killed. Only then will the Iraqis stop taking refuge in civilian locations. And only then will they stop fighting.

First off, yesterday's activities need to be viewed in context, it being very important to determine the appropriate context....

Judged against a Sheryl Crow standard of total peace, harmony and happiness everywhere in the world, then yesterday was a disaster. If, however, the appropriate standard against which to compare is the number of Americans who will not die as a result of Hussein staying in power, then yesterday's casualties are well justified.

From a military perspective, a number of yesterday's casualties are a foreseeable consequence of the strategy to attack Iraq in the way we are - a race to Baghdad, bypassing the regular Iraqi military and with little support for our flanks and supply convoys. Would a different approach resulted in fewer coalition casualties? Well, nuking Iraq certainly would have left fewer Iraqis shooting at Americans. Absent going to that extreme, maybe there would have been fewer casualties with a different strategy, maybe there would have been more, it's impossible to say.

A number of other casualties resulted from human error (the downing of the British fighter and the wrong turn supposedly made by the US maintenance group) and from equipment failure (the helicopter crash in Afghanistan). It's hard to see how any of these events add up to major setbacks or reveal significant deficiencies in any area.

Some are saying that the video of American POW's will bolster our cause in the world of public opinion. To this, I say no way. Those who hate us will view the tape with glee and will be inspired. Those who support us need no more reasons to do so. Those in the middle, such as many anti-war Americans, will change the subject - the tape certainly doesn't help their cause or advance their arguments, but it's not enough for them to admit they were wrong. Remember that many, not all but many, anti-war arguments started with the acceptance that Hussein was evil. After all, was there a single Hollywood celebrity last night who condemned the treatment of American prisoners? They bitch if some prison inmate doesn't get cable TV; for this they have no opinion?

The same dynamic holds for American efforts to avoid Iraqi civilian and military deaths - even to the extent that these efforts are leading to coaltion casualties. To those who hate us, it won't matter - none of them are going to lessen their hatred becuse of this. Nobody (in this camp) changed their mind about the Israelis after the Israelis suffered losses in the Jenin refugee camp, it won't happen with us. In fact, to many in this group, our approach only furthers their feelings that America is weak and lacks the conviction to do what is necessary.

Which is why the war for the minds of the Arab street is misguided at best. It would be great for them to like and support America. But I can't see this happening - ever. Certainly not in my lifetime - nor my kids, their kids, or their grandkids. And, since the Arab/Islamic street is not going to like us, the best we can hope for is for them to fear us. And, that's not going to happen with us prosecuting the war in the way we are.

And, a final thought on the US soldier accused of the fragging. As reported, he's Muslim, apparently a convert, who changed his name (no big deal there) who opposed the war! Am I wrong to wonder just why this guy was allowed to be in a sensitive, forward area? Let's see: we don't allow homsexuals in the military because of the fear that it might lead to a loss of unit cohesion, but we don't worry about the effect of anti-war Muslims in the ranks?

Saturday, March 22, 2003

The US is helping the Iraqi people win their independence from a despotic, corrupt leader - in some ways, a role similar to that filled by the French during the American Revolution. Does this mean we're more true to the French idealism than the French themselves are today?

Friday, March 21, 2003

There are those, (such as, I believe, Jonah Goldberg?) who claim the anti-war groups are that way because of their inability and/or unwillingness to make moral distinctions between right and wrong, between good and evil - that lacking this ability to distinguish, they can't very well call for the use of force.

While I don't disagree with that, I'd like to add to the discussion by pointing out the moral superiority most anti-war folks feel towards the rest of us. They feel this way for a lot of reasons - we don't go to the right movies, read the right books, work in the proper professions - but it's primarily because they believe they are part of an enlightened, elitist social class where violence and force are not used to resolve differences. This view is found in (old) Europe, the UN, college faculties across America, and, as Peggy Noonan wrote not too long ago, in the Democratic Party. To these groups, those of us who still believe in the use of force haven't fully developed - we're not viewed as being stupid, we're simply viewed as being more simple.

Thinking this way, it's impossible for them to support this war, or any war. For them to do so, they would have to acknowledge that, depending on the circumstances, there is a place for using force. Unfortunately, that would put them in the position of being, as the joke goes, we would have determined what the lady is and we're down to discussing the price. Supporting the use of force, at any time, would knock them off their morally superior pedestal and into the crowd - a crowd they really, really, really, don't respect.

For it's also impossible for them to respect those who do believe in the use of force. Not being their moral equals (refer again to Peggy Noonan's writings), we are not worthy of their respect, and their condencesation shows. How else to account for those who equate Bush with Hitler? To the anti-war folks, Bush and Hitler are just two men who believe(d) in the use of force. With there being no acceptable reasons for using force, they see no need to make distinctions between the force used to subrogate Iraq and the force used to liberate Iraq. To the anti-war folks, it's all the same, and we're all the same. It's sad, but they really can't tell the difference.

I know I'm getting ahead of myself here, but let's start thinking about the rebuilding of Iraq...

While some say the EU will not participate in the rebuilding, many others and here claim that the US has to involve other countries, and specifically the UN, in the rebuilding. Just today, Chirac was claiming that the UN must be involved.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's our (and Blair's ) party - we'll get to decide who to invite and under what terms.

I can think of many reasons why we wouldn't want French, German, Chinese and Russian participation - their involvement might actually make the job more difficult.

Sure, they can offer money. But the coalition of the willing has deep enough pockets so that we don't need their stinkin' money. And let's not forget that Iraq has enough oil resources of its own to fund its own rebuilding efforts.

Let's also not forget that these countries did their best to keep the liberation of Iraq from taking place - and that the Iraqi people will be fully aware of this. Not only that, these countries were Hussein's biggest trading partners and supplied many of the tools with which Hussein kept himself in power and used to terrorize the Iraqi people. The French and Germans will have absolutely no moral standing whatsoever with the Iraqi people. It's ludicrous (and consistent with their past behavior and their ego) that the French think otherwise.

They also will likely get in the way of what needs to be done. It's important that we produce the WMDs that so many anti-war protesters claimed didn't exist. Involving the Germans and French in this search is like asking Willie Sutton to help search for the bank robbery suspect. We need to publicize to the rest of the world the true nature of Hussein's regime. France and Germany have no interest in helping with this. We need to ensure that Iraq's people get a fresh start, one unbound by the contracts negotiated with Hussein, without the debts he incurred. We can't trust the French and Germans to deal fairly with the Iraqi people.

Finally, participating in the rebuilding of Iraq should be seen as an honor, one bestowed on those countries who are to be recognized for their contributions. Rebuilding Iraq is not the equivalent of little girl's soccer, where everybody gets a trophy for just showing up.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Martin Sheen complains about a possible backlash targeting him because of his antiwar views. Why doesn't he lend support to stopping Hollywood's actual poor treatment of conservatives?

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Good luck guys, and gals. We're hoping for your safe return from a job well done.

I've had it with the tractor guy - take him out already, please!

How many police officers have been detailed to deal with this guy and the effects of his sitting in the Reflecting Pool for the past three days? How many other (scarce) resources are being used up? With the threat level raised to orange, wouldn't these officers and resources be better used elsewhere? Perhaps on security details protecting government buildings and mass transit, contributing to other anti-terrorism efforts, or at the very least on patrol duty in residential neighborhoods?

The way I see it, this guy is a threat to the public, and his actions are putting innocent lives at risk. The police need to get over their reluctance to use force and remove him from the scene. If they can do so in a non-lethal way, fine. If not, I'm not going to lose sleep over it. And the people elsewhere in the city whose lives would likely be saved will be able to sleep, period....

UPDATE: It's over, the guy gave up.

Just finished the Newsweek articles (the link is too just one of them) that basically pins the blame on America, and President Bush specifically, for all that is wrong with the world.

The French don't support our attacking Iraq, it's Bush's fault. The UN Security Council members are upset, it's our fault. And so on and so on, it's all our fault. Why? We're too strong, too arrogant, too whatever; it doesn't really matter, (all together now) it's just all fault.

A few questions:

First, is Newsweek channeling Tom Daschle? He also seems to feel that everything is our fault.

Second, why is it our fault? It's the height of chutzpah for these other countries to take positions that run (we feel) counter to our interests and then complain that it is our fault that they do so. A German government official likens Bush to Hitler, Rumsfeld takes a shot in return, and we're the ones exhibiting the bad behavior? A Mexican government official takes a shot at our strategy for ridding the world of Hussein and his WMDs, we mention to his superior that we don't appreciate such comments from a supposed ally, and we are accused of running roughshod over this very same supposed ally. Bush doesn't support the ICC, because it doesn't provide sufficient protections for American citizens and Newsweek faults Bush. Sorry, I just don't see it that way.

Why is Newsweek (and Daschle) so focused on process and not the end result and is either of them living in reality? Our troops will be moving very soon to start the process of disarming Hussein. Do they think Hussein would have gone peaceful, if only we had French military support? I doubt it, especially if it were the French troops who got their butts kicked out of the Ivory Coast. We're not part of the ICC - I haven't heard any great arguments why we should be in. We told off the Mexican Foreign Minister - maybe next time they'll think twice before spouting off comments that are detrimental to our efforts. As an aside, Newsweek blasts Rumsfeld for his comments and thinks foreign criticism is warranted - yet, the US apparently isn't able to react in the same way to comments made by foreign officials.

And, finally, why should we care? As my mother told me many times, "Life's too short to worry about other people having their noses out of joint. Do what you think is right, and let everybody deal with it". I'm not losing any sleep over whether the French think the US isn't showing them enough respect. I've got enough real problems to lose sleep over....

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Will Saletan still thinks there's a 1% chance of war not breaking out. Since Hussein has turned down exile, you think this would preclude the odds from being anything other than 100%.

Maybe Saletan thinks there's a 1% chance that Hussein will change his mind and leave Iraq. Maybe his calculus is based on a combination of a one-half of 1% chance of that happening, together with a similar likelihood of Hussein (and his sons) being shot by disgruntled Iraqi soldiers. If that's not how he gets his 1%, then perhaps he's thinking that there is a one-quarter of 1% chance each of (1) Hussein choosing exile, (2) Hussein being shot, (3) Bush, Cheney and Denny Hastert all dying, and within the next 28 hours, and Robert Byrd taking over the Presidency (this only works if I have my succession chart right), and (4) the crisis in Korea erupting in a way, again within the next 28 hours, that requires Bush to immediately move all the troops out of the Middle East.

Like it or not, this has been in the cards for a long time coming - it's silly to think there's been any other outcome.....

So, Hussein has turned down Bush's offer....

From what I remember from contract law, once an offer has been rejected, that offer is no longer on the table and any later attempted acceptance is non-binding on the offering party. In any event, can anyone see Hussein, sometime in the next day and a half, announcing that he has changed his mind, that he is willing to go into exile? I can't.

Therefore, Bush should order the attack now.... deny them their last 31 hours of preparation, before they can blow up the oil fields, before they can launch chemical attacks at our staging areas.

But, he won't.... and I'll pray that we don't learn later that waiting another couple of days was the very, very, very wrong choice.

I've previously posted that I saw nothing less than a 100% chance that Bush would commit the troops, that it wasn't a question of if, just a matter of when. Now, for me the question is whether Bush has the staying power to outlast the inevitable snags, glitches, snafus and the like that will quite possibly arise during the conflict. No matter what happens, whether it is a high number of Iraqi civilians getting killed, high US battle casualties, Hussein's use of chemical or biological weapons, or Hussein's attacking of neighboring countries, it's important that Bush not waver in his determination to rid the region of Hussein.

According to Jim Robbins at National Review Online, Hussein's battle and survival plan may indeed rely on Bush blinking. The French, Russians, the anti-war (anti-American) protesters, the Arab 'street', the Democrats at home, and perhaps even Colin Powell - they're all waiting for such an occasion to start pushing Bush to 'negotiate' an end to the fighting.

We all should remember the last few times an American President packed up too soon: Carter at Desert One, Reagan in Beirut, Clinton in Somalia - in all cases, they chose the politically expedient route, and, in all cases, a choice had profound negative repercussions for the US.

Let's hope Bush can once again outlast his critics.....

Monday, March 17, 2003

So Daschle thinks we failed

How can this be?

Maybe Daschle is confusing process with results, mistakenly thinking our goal at the UN was simply to get the 15 countries of the UN Security Council together, and that doing so would be a victory for 'diplomacy' - regardless if the cost of obtaining such support was leaving Hussein in power.

On the other hand, perhaps Daschle agrees with getting rid of Hussein. It's hard to tell; as first he votes to give Bush the authority to do just that, then turns around and criticizes Bush for acting on the very authority Congress gave him. So, maybe Daschle is thinking that, if only Bush had introduced a resolution calling on Hussein to disarm or face serious consequences, and gotten all 15 countries to support this resolution, then Hussein would have disarmed. Well, there was such a resolution, and Hussein failed to comply with its terms. Didn't Hussein fail to back down in 1991, when there was significant international support for the Bush I - led coalition? Yet, Tom thinks this time was going to be different?

Or is that Daschle feels Bush should have been able to put pressure on the other members of the Security Council in order to get unanimous explicit support for military action. But, this presumes that the other 14 countries have the same values, perspective and resolve as we (and our allies) do. Maybe, but when's the last time you ever heard of the US and Cameroon, or Guinea for that matter, being mentioned in the same breath? These other countries, France included, are NOT the US - they do see things differently than we do. And, given this, what in the world does Daschle think Bush should have done in order to get these countries on board? Threatened them? Bought them off?

And, why does Daschle think we are the ones who failed? To paraphrase the old joke, you look up the word failure in the dictionary and the definition simply reads, 'see France'. Bush decided he was going to disarm Hussein, with or without the support of the UN - he's going to do just that - so he's the failure. The French goal, on the other hand, was to keep the US from attacking - an attack that is going to take place in a bit over 45 hours from posting. So, if any country gets called a failure, why shouldn't it be the French? After all, they certainly have the track record - militarily, economically, and now, diplomatically.

The more I hear from Daschle the more I'm reminded that he is just someone who has lost the battle and doesn't like it. He presided over the loss of the Senate, has watched his Presidential aspirations go up in smoke, is facing a potentially strong challenge in 2004, and, with 7+ Democratic candidates for President, is just desperate to keep his name in the papers. A relative once commented that Daschle was so much smarter than his Republican counterpart at the time (think initials TL). I now realize that he never said Daschle was smart in an absolute sense. Gee Tom, do you think the roughly 70% of Americans who back military action think we've failed?

Andrew Sullivan doesn't go far enough with his condemnation of Ted Rall's latest rant.

In writing about the Vietnam War, Rall writes "...(l)osing to Third Worlders in PJs led Americans to decades of relative humility, self-examination ....". Keep in mind that, for the most part, countries lose wars when they suffer casualties that exceed their willingness to absorb those casualties on behalf of whatever cause they are fighting for. Amazingly, he is celebrating the loss of American lives in Vietnam. I'm not sure that even Jane Fonda went that far.

As for a war against Iraq, he writes "(t)he thing is, we don't really have to win". Well, Ted, the only way we don't win is if lots of American soldiers die. Are you actually rooting for that? Have you picked out the names yourself, out of the 300,000 American troops stationed in the area? I can't imagine any of these soldiers having enlisted thinking that "I might die in combat - whether it's saving American lives or teaching America humility, it doesn't matter to me".

At the end of your column, Rall writes that ".I want our troops to return home safely. I want them to live". Well, which is it Ted - do you want them to live or do you want us to lose?

Let's hear it for the French, for they have really shown us.....

They got Hussein three extra months of rule. They've denied the US the cover of UN Security Council approval - ouch, that hurts. They have firmly established themselves as the leader of the anti-US club - unfortunately for them, however, it's a club not many countries are lined up to join.

Of course, there are those, Glenn Reynolds among them, who think that France isn't looking to good right now - how silly of them....

Does anybody think that Hussein is willing to leave Iraq, but needs/wants Bush to let him know the time is right? Can anybody explain to me the logic behind this?

I believe the only thing that will convince Hussein that Bush is serious is for the troops to actually move.

So we've decided to not seek another UN vote..... to which all I can say is it's about time and 'thanks a lot, Tony!'....

Look at where we were last fall. The UN Security Council had unanimously approved 1441. Bush was being praised for his diplomatic and tactical efforts, for his dealings both with Congress and the UN. His ratings were high. Nobody really thought the Hussein would disarm. It would take a few weeks, at the most, to show this. There was no provision in Resolution 1441 that called for another vote for authorizing force - everybody knew what was meant by 'serious consequences'. The anti-war groups had yet to get mobilized. Dissent in Congress was muted, with the Democrats licking their wounds from the fall elections. Bush would order the troops to move.

Instead, Blair, just not able to free himself from the Labor Party bias for knee-jerk opposition to policies supported by conservative American Presidents, decides to offer up and push for yet another resolution. Bush decides to go along, rather than isolate his friend. To give plausible denial to the claim that war was a foregone conclusion, troop movements to the region are staggered and do not take place as fast as possible - is there any other explanation for why it took until just last week for the Navy to redeploy ships out of the Mediterranean? Were they needed there to threaten the south of France? For the same reason, other issues, such as basing troops in Turkey, were allowed to drag out. The anti-war groups got their (relative) acts together, the critics in Congress found their voices. France, Germany and Russia, but primarily France, took this delay as an opportunity to pursue their twisted goals. Other countries on the Security Council started holding out their hands, seeking bribes, oops, I mean 'support'. American support for Bush, and his policies, have dropped. The weather in the region got worse. Hussein has had a couple of extra months to prepare his defenses and, possibly, to disperse his WMDs for usage against US/UK troops and neighboring countries.

And, now Bush and Blair have apparently decided to say 'never mind' to the need for a second resolution.....

As a result, they're worse off - politically and militarily - than if they had never pursued the effort of getting a second resolution. Their gains? Hard to say. Having France look bad - priceless, but not worth the fuss and the problems. After all, France didn't really look that good to a lot of us in the first place Rod Dreher's views notwithstanding.

It looks like the Bush White House forgot that, in the final analysis, what mattered was (1) how long and costly was the war, and (2) were we able to show, after the fighting had stopped, that Hussein did in fact have the weapons we accused him of having. If the fighting were quick and relatively casualty free and we produced the evidence, then it wouldn't matter if we had gotten UN approval. And, heavens forbid, things go bad, having UN approval wouldn't be enough to save the Bush presidency.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

I don't want to hear Bush telling us we're going to war, as Josh Chafetz thinks will happen....

I want to hear him tell us that we are at war.

I don't want, nor do I need, to have advance warning of a US/UK attack. Not that it wouldn't be cool having someone in the White House Situation Room letting me know that our troops and planes are on the move, it's that I don't want anyone on the other side knowing in advance that their time has run out.

No advance word means no time for the Iraqis to get into their bunkers, launch missiles at our troops or a neigboring country, blow up the oil fields, or flood the lowlands. Admittedly, my lack of military experience is vast - nonetheless, I don't can't imagine War College teaching our generals to announce their plans in advance. Roosevelt never announced the particulars of the D-day landings - a good thing for our troops, as it turned out, as Hitler refused to recognize the attack for what it was, even after the attack had taken place! No advance word also means no time for Hussein to play last minute games. Any such 11th hour concessions would be offered up only to cause doubt among our allies, thus preventing or further delaying the attack.

Look, we know we're attacking. The Iraqis may or may not know, they certainly don't know the timing. To the extent that they're in the dark, let's keep them that way. Having Bush make a prime time announcement just isn't worth the possible negative consequences of doing so.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

While support for a war against Iraq remains strong, confidence in the Bush Administration's handling of the conflict has weakened, according to a new Newsweek poll.

There's actually more support for attacking Iraq than there is for Bush's handling of the matter.

When the Bush White House reads these poll results, what conclusion will they reach? And what response will they have?

I'm afraid they will think they need to spend more time 'going the extra mile' (as Fleischer puts it) at the UN.

I, on the other hand, think that the time they've spent screwing around at the UN (my terminology) is the reason for the poor results. And the more time they spend at the UN, or the Azores, for that matter, the worse Bush's numbers are going to look.

What should Bush do? He should act in a way that reminds us of why he got the high numbers in the first place. He was confident, sure of where he was going and how he was going to get (us) there. Has anyone seen this Bush in the last few weeks and months? Instead of seeing confidence and a clearly stated goal (no articulation jokes, please), we've seen him going hat in hand, begging for help. Someone ought to tell him this isn't the version of 'a humble approach to foreign policy' that we were looking for.

Friday, March 14, 2003

We wait....and wait....and wait....Now, it's a summit this weekend, followed by who knows what....

One of the interesting things about living in Washington is watching political outsiders come to town, especially conservative Republicans. We'd watch how long it would take before they would abandon their principles in a (futile) attempt to curry favor with the political (liberal) establishment, in particular the NYT, WaPo, Time and Newsweek editorial boards. Perhaps it was understandable - not many people have the strength to outlast the negative onslaught, to not be bothered by the wave of critical article after critical article. Nonetheless, it was always sad to see this happen. What was worse was that even if this officeholder received occasional praise for a particular position they took that ran counter to the idealogue label (the 'positive' article usually took the form of how they had 'matured while in office'), this positive attention was only fleeting; being conservative Republicans meant that they would never be actually liked, the Washington Post would never, I repeat never, endorse them in the next election.

I looked for Bush to be a President who, to paraphrase the old saying, "would say what what he'll do and he'll do what he says". I always liked knowing that he felt himself an American first, none of that phony 'we are the world'. His reason for being in the Oval Office to defend America interests. Unlike Clinton, Bush wasn't concerned about what the Europeans thought of him - no need to join in with the Kyoto accords or with the ICC. It was nice having a President who was putting our interests first. What a rush it was to hear him say that America didn't need permission to defend America. He focused on the end result, not the process of getting somewhere, not of substituting process for results.

Sad to say, I'm now starting to wonder. 'Days and weeks, not months...' have indeed stretched into months. The guardian of America's interests is now acting in ways that seem to protect the interests of British politicians more than that of American citizens. He's concerned about Blair's political survival. Does Bush think that Blair, as the head of the Labor Party, cares about Bush's political future, that Blair is going to suppport him in 2004? Bush is worried about what the French will do - will they veto, will they merely abstain? For God's sake, who cares, why worry about the French or the Germans? They'll never like him. If all of this over the last few weeks and months is not about seeking permission, then I don't know what seeking permission is. Ari Fleischer says Bush is determined to 'go the last mile in diplomacy' - if this isn't all about process, then I don't know what is.

Many people have written that Bush II is determined not to repeat the sins of Bush I. Conventional wisdom has it that Bush I lost the base when he dropped his opposition to tax hikes. I disagree. I think Bush I lost when the base concluded that Bush I had gone over to the other side, and was acting like one of 'them'. Can Bush II be doing the same thing now?

Thursday, March 13, 2003

First, my thanks to David Adesnik for his nice plug.

As for his comments that I'm a bit harsh on Blair, I was trying to make the point (realizing and accepting that my writing is not as polished as others with more experience in this weblog business) that Blair, having chosen to run for Parliament as a member of the Labor Party, is stuck with them when they revert to form - in this case, acting in ways that are anti-American, and specifically anti-Bush. Yes, Blair is to be given credit for his reshaping of the Labor Party - much as Clinton received credit for his work with the Democrats. But, the Labor Party isn't the biggest fan of America(ns), and never will be, and Blair runs a big risk anytime he strays too far from the reservation.

I'm reading that Bush is considering a delay in calling for a vote at the UN....

Considering that any military action is going to wait until this vote takes place, he's pushing back the onset of hostilities, which leads me to ask the question: Is Bush's continuing dance with the UN going to lead to more friendly casualties, US military in particular?

Now, I wasn't in the military (a AF brat is as far as I got) nor do I play one on TV. But, my reading the opinions of those with the appropriate credentials and experience suggests that the these continuing delays will lead to the following:

Worsening weather, which supposedly will make it harder for our troops to do their job. Harder, when used in this context is a euphemism for more casualties.

More time for Hussein to prepare his defenses, even to launch pre-emptive attacks , neither of which is going to make things easier for our troops.

Giving Hussein the incentive to go 'nuclear' (not in the literal sense, just the rhetorical). Bush, despite what he said about going it alone, obviously is VERY CONCERNED about getting world approval - in large part, I believe, because he feels it helps him domestically. Suppose Bush gets his (or is it Powell's?) precious nine votes? France, Germany, Syria and Russia will be just a single vote away from rescinding Security Council support for this war. Is it too far-fetched that Hussein would take actions with the intent of driving one of the tottering yes votes back into the no camp? What would do such a thing? Perhaps attacks on neighboring countries. And, it wouldn't necessarily be, or be limited to, Israel. Attacks on Saudi or Kuwaiti oilfields might do the trick.

Stiffening the domestic anti-war (Democrat) resolve. These delays have only emboldened Bush's critics and have given the anti-war crowd that much more time to get their act together. Hussein may very well figure that he can drive away Bush's domestic support with his version of the Tet Offensive. Is there any likelihood that this offensive wouldn't be intended to do anything but kill as many Americans as possible?

On the other hand, I can't think of any way that these delays will contribute to fewer casualties. Sure, we didn't have all of the troops there, for example, six months ago. But, did we have enough to at least get the job started? Remember, Hussein has had six months of preparing his defenses. Is the battle plan any better than it was six months ago? Are our troops any better trained now? It's not as if the Army hasn't ever practiced on sand before.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

And, yet the dance continues...and continues....

I totally agree with Steven Den Beste about the ridiculousness of the proposals circulating in the Security Council. Not a single one of these 'new' proposals gets us to a point where we are not already. Hussein's been given a deadline and failed to meet the conditions, what is there about yet another deadline or certain conditions in a new resolution that will lead to a single wavering country making up or changing its mind and getting on board? It just isn't going to happen. Nor are these proposals aimed at doing that. Every single one represents nothing more than the continued maneuvering on the part of countries who wouldn't vote yes for the use of force if their own capitals were exposed to Iraqi anthrax. They are desperately focused on putting off the day of a vote, assuming (correctly, I believe) that America won't act without such a vote.

Bush has only himself to blame for this. Last week in his press conference, he said he would get a vote. Not a resolution, just a vote. So, now the focus at the UN is to prevent this vote from taking place. Bush has got to step up and give the UN a deadline.

As for Blair, what's happening to him is too bad. He has been a good ally. He also has himself to blame: nobody forced him to rely on the British left for a political base. But, he did, and now he has to live with the results.

For Bush to refrain from using force without Blair being on board means needing the support of the British left. This is as likely to happen as the French giving us their support; the British left probably thinks more highly of the French than they do us. Bush has properly rejected the idea that we need French approval. He needs to state clearly that we don't need the support of the British left either (I thought it a good move on Rumsfeld's part yesterday, I was disheartened to see him backpeddle today). Failure to do so means giving support to those who argue that we need the support of the fill-in-the-blank country or institution, whether it be the French, the Germans, the UN Security Council or the British leftists. Paraphrasing Bush and an old movie, having determined that Iraq poses a threat to the security of the US, I'd say "Support? We don't need no stinking support!".

The goal has to be the removal of Hussein and the elimination of his WMD. Focusing on anything else, such as world opinion, not only isn't necessary for our military to achieve this goal, it's actually making our job harder. It's also mistaking a means (support) for the end (removal of Hussein). And, watching this whole dance play out makes me wonder whether Bush has got his act together....Of course, as I've alluded to in earlier posts, maybe we're just not giving the guy enough credit.....

UPDATE: James Tarantoseems to agree with my assessment of Rumsfeld's comments.

Following on a previous posting....

Risk also has to considered when deciding on a course of conduct. For example, if we were certain that a chemical attack on the US was going to take place and the result would be 10,000 American deaths, then we can make our decisions about what we're willing to do in order to prevent those deaths from taking place. But since we're dealing in hypotheticals and probabilities we need to factor this uncertainty into our consideration of what actions are appropriate.

An example from an earlier posting advanced the argument that "...to avoid a chemical Sept 11th, where 10,000 Americans might die, up to 125,000 Iraqis might die" presumes that (1) a chemical attack was going to take place, (2) there would be 10,000 US deaths and (3) preventing such an attack would cost the lives of 125,000 Iraqi civilians. But, without trying to get lost in the math, it would seem that if there were only a 10% chance of this attack taking place, then preventing this attack would justify actions that resulted in the loss of life of less than 12,500 Iraqi civilians.

Which leads me to a reassessment of my views of Clinton's actions in Kosovo. I didn't like it at the time, partly of my dislike for the man, but mostly because I thought he had done a lousy job of showing why he was putting American forces at risk (exactly the argument that many use against Bush today). I believe the sole role of the American military is to protect American lives - sorry, but I'm not willing to have American soldiers die in order to protect strangers halfway across the world. In Kosovo, I saw no threat to American civilians, as I believe there is with Iraq, so I couldn't see risking putting the American military at risk. But, as it turns out, Clinton wasn't doing that as the military tactics that were used kept (for the most part) Americans out of harm's way (ground troops not used and aircraft flying out of range of ground fire). So, by lowering the risk to Americans in combat, Clinton was able to justify supporting people in an area in which American civilians were not at risk. Clever.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

So the US has flatly rejected a 45 day delay. Does this mean that a 30 day delay would be OK? If 30 days is OK, then why not 35? And, if 35 is OK, why not 60? This all reminds me of the joke with the punch line "...lady, we've determined what you are. We're just discussing the price".

What are we waiting for? Tod Lindberg points out that all that can be said has been said. I agree. So what is there that the supposedly wavering countries are waiting to see, to hear, to think about? If one haven't seen enough yet to buy into the concept, then one never will. Isn't it clear that the motivation behind the arguments for delay is not to get to a point where all vote yes, but to continually put off the day nations have to stand up and be counted, in the hope that day never comes? We're idiots if we think otherwise.

Let's get on with it. Have the vote now. Let everybody show their cards....

Something that seems to be a part of many conversations, but rarely explicitly so, is the question: How many Americans should die in order to achieve the fill in the blank goal? A parallel is the question: What is the value of an American life as compared to the value of a non-American life.

It's part of discussions about the movie Tears of the Sun - how many Americans should die in order to prevent death elsewhere in the world, about discussions of the potential collateral damagefrom an attack on Iraq - how many Americans should die in order to prevent death to non-arms bearing Iraqis. It even seems to be part of Bush's rationale for attacking Iraq - we're willing to cause X number of Iraqi deaths in order to prevent Y number of American deaths in a future terrorist attack.

Now, I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that most Americans feel that American lives are more valuable than those who live in other countries, and that citizens of some countries rate higher than others. I know there are those who feel all innocent life is equally valuable. But if the innocent life at risk was that of their wife, husband or child, would they feel the same way? Remember the movie Air Force One? Harrison Ford plays the US President who refuses to negotiate with terrorists - until it is his child that is held by the terrorists.

It seems logical that we would extend this feeling to that of Americans as a whole. We're family, albeit a very extended, sometimes fractious, family. I'm sure much has been written about this elsewhere, so I doubt I have anything further to add on this point.

While we feel this way, we nonetheless don't feel comfortable expressing these thoughts openly. I'm not sure why. It just doesn't seem right to do so. But is not discussing this a bit like not discussing the nutty aunt, the alcoholic brother-in-law, or the raging lunatic in the office next to you? Polite society may pretend they don't exist, but everybody knows they are there, and we all know that polite society is just deluding itself.

There's also the issue of how exactly to put values on the different factors. For me, to paraphrase the commercial, to save my kids, priceless. For others, who knows? Perhaps some Nobel-winning economist or philosopher may have already written extensively on this and come up with some very well-thought out values. Absent that, and SOLELY for the sake of discussion, let's use the following values (which may change upon further reflection):

US citizen: 50 points

US military: 47.5 points

Citizen of a 'Friend of the US' country (England, Spain, Israel, for example): 25 points

Citizen of a 'Not acting like a friend, yet not totally hostile' country : (Germany and France, for example, and for the time being): 20 points

Citizen of a country that we just don't have a lot of experience with: 8 points

US Human shields: 5 points

Non US citizen human shield: 0 points (sorry, I just don't care)

Innocent (non-arms bearing) citizen of a hostile country: 4 points

Those wishing for the US to 'get its butt kicked' (Tom Robbins, Chrissie Hynde): 1/2 point each

You can see I've decided to distinguish between US soldiers, who did all volunteer, and regular US citizens - although, there's something in my head that says that our soldiers, who have volunteered to risk their lives to protect mine, should instead receive bonus points.

Using this formula (use your own values, if you would like), battle strategists might employ an approach that would lead to the deaths of 12 Iraqis in order to save the life of 1 US soldier. Or, a field commander, in order to save the lives of 2 US tank crews (crew of 4 per tank, right?), a total of 380 points, might order an attack on an anti-tank battery that was located near the site of an apartment building surrounded by human shields that could cause the death of up to 10 shields (50 points) and 83 Iraqi citizens (332 points).

Using the above formula would argue that it's worth slightly more than 1 American combat death to save the live of 1 American citizen - seems about right. To avoid another Sept 11th, where there were over 3,000 deaths (assuming all were Americans), it would be appropriate to cause the deaths of over 37,000 Iraqis. To avoid a chemical Sept 11th, where 10,000 Americans might die, up to 125,000 Iraqis might die.

I know that I'm going with a very simple version of the model. I'm not factoring in calculations of the wounded, property damage (1 US aircraft is equal to how many Iraqi apartment units?), distinctions between kids and adults (do kids get a 10%, 20% boost?), distinctions between pro- and anti-American residents of other countries, and so on.

Looking back at Tears of the Sun, there were 7 American soldiers, a total of 332 1/2 points at risk. They had to choose between safely getting out of the country by themselves or staying and trying to save the villagers. Using the above values, they would need to save the lives of more than 42 refugees. I don't recall the actual number of villagers, but 42 seems to be around the right number referenced in the movie. Of course, since some of the villagers were able to participate in their own defense, bonus points are to be awarded. Based on the formula, it looks like the US team made the right choice.

(UPDATE) The more I think of this, the colder it seems. A friend described it as the 'playing God' board game. Yet, while putting people in categories along with a point scale does seem cold, is it really that much different from what people in policy making positions do all the time, even if only subconsciously?

(UPDATE II) After writing this, it occured to me that many people in this country would put a much lower value on the lives of Americans, whether military or not, and a much higher value on the lives of people elsewhere in the world, perhaps even to the point at which an Iraqi life was valued higher than that of an American, either civilian or soldier. Is this the point at which charges of anti-Americanism are justified?

Monday, March 10, 2003

The UN dance continues...and continues...and continues....

Slate, among others, seem to be covering this from the wrong angle. Forget about the lofty issues that these commentators are focusing on. The decision on whether or not to support the US will come down to a simple question: who's got the better offer on the table?

It's now a given that the US will attack Iraq, with or without a new UN resolution. For the members of the Security Council, the question is whether they feel their interests lie with supporting the US action and/or supporting the US (not necessarily the same thing as supporting US action), or whether they feel their interests are better served by supporting those who would deny the US the benefit of UN authorization.

Looking at some of the reasons for taking one side or another.

Support the US (positives)
Relief from threat of terrorist activity: not likely, only because Guinea, for example, isn't high on the list of potential targets to begin with.
Gratitude from the US: Priceless. America, unlike some other countries being discussed on the news pages, seems to remember its obligations, its need to repay support back at a later date.

Support the US (negatives):
Fear of terrorist reprisal: Unlikely, as I can't see Al Queda diverting a team to, again for example, Cameroon in order to show the world what happens to little countries who support the US. Terrorist groups are going to keep their efforts focused on harming the Great Satan and not look to extend the fight to the Lesser Satans.
Enmity of non-US supporting countries: a possibility, as this would be a great way for France, who really can't take the US on in a trade war, could instead strike out against Mexico.

Support the French (positives)
Gratitude of non-US supporting countries: Sure, France will be grateful. But, what do they have to offer?
Increased feelings of independence: From the US, perhaps, and that assumes this is a good thing. But, wouldn't this just be trading fear of being trampled on by the US for feelings of being under the thumb of France? Perhaps, since there is far more anti-US feelings in the world than there are anti-France feelings, this might be a nice play to placate domestic opinion. But this will work only for those who can afford to suffer the consequences of supporting the French (see below).

Support the French (negatives)
Having the US mad: Not a good thing, can't see any benefit from this. A country would be betting on the benefits that would accrue from supporting the French would offset having the US upset. And, given how little France really has to offer, I don't this being viewed as a positive. Maybe this would be of appeal to those countries who get very little from the US and aren't hoping to get more later....and those countries would be????
Being ignored by the US: For those countries for whom the US can't even bother getting upset over, this would mean a lack of concern in Congress, the IMF, World Bank, etc.

I would venture that for those countries that will end up siding with the US that they announce their support as soon as possible. There's much to be gained from signing on early. Admittedly, there's also much to be gained from being the clincher, but countries wanting to play this angle run the risk of not getting there in time and have some other country grab that spot. Of course, they then run the risk of being belittled by Kerry. Of course, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Countries aligning with Bush are going to be betting on Bush being around for another term, so having Kerry demean you falls into the 'who cares?' category.....

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Continuing a series of thoughts that long precede this blog....

PATHETIC GOP P/R - Part trois...

It seems not so long ago that the Democrats, having control of Congress, were daring the Republicans to launch a filibuster against whatever issue the Republicans were arguing against and lacking the votes on the floor of the Senate. The Democrats were positive that the Republicans would cave, rather than be held responsible for the delay in discussing other pressing business - and, time after time, the Democrats were proven correct.

So, why now, with the shoes on the other feet, are the Republicans incapable of forcing the issue with the Estrada nomination? The Democrats are filibustering and the Republicans let them get away with it? Why doesn't the GOP pull out the press releases of a few years back and throw Daschle's and Kennedy's words (if not specifically these two, then whoever it was back then criticizing the Republican attempts to filibuster) back at them? Why does the GOP let the Democrats constantly suceed in defining the issue?

With tactics this bad, I wonder just how it is that the Republicans manage to keep people voting for them?

Friday, March 07, 2003

The French dance at the UN continues....

The CW once had it that France would come along in the end, for fear that not doing so would make irrelevant the UN Security Council, and with it, France itself. Looking back, this line of thinking presumed that France was interested in being taken seriously by the US. Given what is going on in the UN, this view can no longer be taken seriously. As a number of pundits have pointed out, France is looking to be the champion of the 'everybody but the US' club.

This reminds me of school, all those very many years ago. There were always some kids who weren't 'cool', whatever the reason - maybe it was their lack of physical ability, their lack of looks, their unwillingness to put out, their lack of easy access to drugs. And, periodically, some of these kids - it was often the kids others would call nerds, geeks and prudes - would seek to rally each other and start their own group as a counter clique to that of the cool kids. Yet, this attempt always failed, and always for the same reasons: first, this clique didn't really stand for anything other than as a self-appointed counter to the cool clique, which people pretty much realized wasn't a good enough reason for a clique to exist. Most importantly, associating with this group meant acknowledging, and making permanent, your own lack of coolness. Not that everybody was cool, or even had the potential of every attaining coolness. It was simply that most kids harbored dreams of becoming cool, of getting invited to the cool party, and joining this counter group was announcing to the rest of the school that you felt you had no chance of joining the cool clique and that you had given up on those dreams - forever.

As for how this relates to the current dance, France seems to believes that there are some number of countries in the world who want to join this anti-US club and the French are putting themselves up at the head of this club. The flaw in this thinking is that most countries would rather be with the US - its trade, its protection, its culture - than with the French. These countries really don't want to publicly and permanently tag themselves as 'losers' by giving up on those hopes. Even if these countries don't agree totally with the US position on Iraq, they're not going to go and shoot their aspirations in the foot by jumping on what will be the French non-bandwagon.

So, France is out there doing what it can to establish itself as leader of the counter-clique to the US. I'm afraid that they will be unpleasantly surprised by the lack of interest other countries will have in joining. It's all so unnecessary - the French actually were invited (I don't know why, but that's a different matter, altogether) to join the club, but just decided not to. So, the **** with them.

The only way France and Germany are going to vote yes on a new UN resolution is if this new resolution preserves their ability to call for yet another vote on yet another future resolution. There's just no way that either country will vote yes on what will be viewed as the last resolution.

My reasoning is straightforward: having invested so much in their opposition to Bush's plans, and having stoked their respective population's emotions in this direction, it would be political suicide for the leadership of either country to now be seen as doing anything less than expressing maximum opposition. For Germany, it's a no vote - abstaining isn't enough. For France, it's a veto - no abstaining, no mere vote no. Pissing off Bush is one thing, they figure Bush will get over it. Pissing off their own constituents is another matter altogether.

Now, there are supposedly two forms of potential resolution floating around. One, originally offered up by the Canadians and now adopted by the British calls for yet another deadline to be set, with some implied threat of action should the conditions not be met by the stated deadline (consider this resolution 1441, part deux). The other version, as described by Bush tonight, calls for a straight yes or no vote on whether Hussein has in fact disarmed.

If Bush's version is presented, then France would issue their veto and Germany would vote no. Voting yes would be seen as authorizing/agreeing to American military action. If, however, the British version were to be presented, I see another unanimous vote. And, then in the days leading up to this new deadline, I see both France and Germany insisting that there be another vote - at which, unless Resolution 1441, part trois, were to be introduced, France and Germany will veto and vote no, respectively.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

I don't buy the idea that Bush has bungled the negotiations over Iraq as Fineman, among others, are suggesting.

Their premise relies on the assumption that Bush wanted German, French, Russian, Chinese and even Turkish support - at least enough to offer more than token gestures (a few billion here or there, a few weeks delay, and so on) in order to obtain this support. If this were true, then, not having gotten this support (as of posting), I might agree with them.

But, as I mentioned in an earlier posting, suppose we're not giving Bush enough credit? Maybe, while Fineman and the rest of the chattering class have devoted gigabites upon gigabytes of copy about what Bush has to do in order to get the French and others on board, Bush was intending to go it alone all along? Doubtful? Think of the benefits: no arguing about targets between allies, as with Yugoslavia. No having to maintain support in multiple countries with fickle public opinion and corrupt, conniving leadership. Having successfully defeated Iraq, pretty much on our own (no offense to England), we wouldn't neither need nor desire to solicit help in future conflicts, wherever these future conflicts might be. And, having found (in all likelihood) after hostilities have concluded, evidence of Saddam's WMD programs, there will be no need to solicit the opinion of those who were proven so obviously wrong this time around: the French, Germans, and Congressional Democrats.

No, I think Fineman has it exactly backwards. It's the French, etc., who have egg on their face. All of the blustering, and all of their posturing, and all of their marches, and they couldn't deter the moronic Texas cowboy from his appointed tasks.

UPDATE: I forgot to include Powell in the group of bunglers. I can see Bush looking at Powell and asking "We've spent the last four months wasting our time doing what with the UN? This war could have been over by now!".

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

I wonder how anybody can think there's a chance that we won't be fighting in Iraq - in particular, I'm thinking about Slate's Saddameter. What accounts for Saletan's view that there is a 3-5% (varies from day to day) chance of the US not going to war?

Some people say that the actions in the UN could force Bush to back down. But Bush has said he's willing to act without UN approval. With Powell on board, there's nobody left in the administration insisting on 'international' support for an attack (yes, I know that we have 'international support', I'm just mocking those who believe we need the French, Germans, Russians and Chinese in order to be truly 'international').

Others have predicted that Hussein, realizing that invasion was imminent, will actually produce the prohibited weapons and start the destruction process. But Bush has said that he fully expects Hussein to offer up some sacrifice at the 11th hour, in the hopes of averting an attack. With Bush having called Hussein a liar, I don't think there's anything that Hussein could do, in the short time frame that remains before an attack order is given, that would or could cause Bush to back away from his position. No matter what Hussein says or does, Bush will declare it insufficient - witness the back and forth over the missiles - and continue with the attack (UPDATE: as this CNN article confirms).

Maybe Hussein would go in the other direction and announce that he indeed had these weapons and intended to use them against US forces in the area as well as against US and Allied targets elsewhere in the world. But, who thinks that Bush would back down? I believe it would only add to his resolve, to his determination to separate Hussein from his weapons. It certainly would change the military approach, maybe delay it some time until the revised plans were in place, but derail them? Never.

Perhaps there are those who feel that some outside event could cause Bush to redirect his energies away from Iraq. It's possible, although I can't imagine what that could be - North Korea's antics aren't doing it, I don't see another major terrorist attack on the US doing it either. Since I can't imagine what that might be, I certainly can't set the odds of that (unknown) event happening.

Let's look at it from the perspective of what's driving Bush. He believes Hussein to be an imminent threat to our security and to the security of our allies elsewhere in the world. This is a heartfeld belief, not one that is easily changed. Bush is far more likely to consider others shortsided than to think that he was the one with the mixed up view. Bush has criticized Clinton's use of the speak loudly, carry a small stick approach. Bush ran as the anti-Clinton, so he isn't about to do anything that would be viewed as similar. He's sent 300,000 troops to the area. His advisors are all pretty much in favor of an attack - the disagreements seem to be over tactics, not objectives. And, Bush (and Rove) have to be aware that, were he to back down now, no matter how he prettied it up, he would be kissing away any chance of re-election. His supporters, backing an attack with poll numbers over 85%, would view his actions as a betrayal that worse than that of Bush I when he renounced his no tax pledge.

Sure seems like the only percentage of us not going to war is zero.

Maybe Hussein's death or exile could cause the 'attack' to be halted. Even if this were to happen, I still think we'd see US military forces in Iraq. We'd call it a forcible occupation, or something like that, rather than an invasion - but the results would be the same. We'd be in Iraq until we were sure that the WMDs were in fact destroyed and that Hussein wasn't being replaced by someone just as evil.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

I hear a lot that America needs international support for its upcoming attack on Iraq, that to proceed without such support will jeopardize so much else - the successful rebuilding of Iraq, dealing with terrorism, countering the threat from North Korea, and so on.

Isn't it obvious that countries will decide on a case-by-case basis what their policy will be? Germany will decide on whether to continue to cooperate in the war against terror only if it decides it is in Germany's interests to do so - regardless of whether we invaded Iraq. France will decide on whether to support rebuilding efforts based on its assessment of whether it is in France's interests to do so, again regardless of how much they opposed our attack. South Korea will decide whether to support our policy of North Korean isolation, sanction and containment only if it decides that doing so is in South Korea's best interests. And so on and so on. And, in every case, the decision will be untainted by a discussion of whether they 'owe' America their support for our actions in the past. Not will the decision be based on whether America has 'lost' its support because of our supposed unilateral actions against Iraq. Likewise, the US and the British, as the winners on the battlefield, will decide who to invite to the rebuilding party based on our assessment as to whether we felt there would be a benefit to having that country participate. If a country was judged to be bringing enough to the table, we'd give them a seat - regardless of whether they had supported the attack or whether, like France, they had actively sought to prevent the attack.

This is because countries don't carry balance sheets listing the net sum of favors provided by other countries offset against favors provided to those other countries. France's assessment of its national interests doesn't take into account that Americans helped in WWII any more than the our assessment of our national interest takes into account the French having helped us against the British during the American Revolution. Decisions are made by looking forwards, not backwards. For looking backwards allows sentimentality to creep into the equation and no country feels that they can afford to do that.

It's funny how this, for the most part, doesn't occur on an individual basis. Time after time, day after day, people do things for other people based on their historical relationship, whether a good relationship or not, and not just on a 'looking ahead, what's in it for me basis?'. Yet, this behavior doesn't seem to carry over to our governments as a whole. I wonder why?