posted by Gregory|
11/09/2003 09:58:00 PM
I'm on a deal that is ramping up and will be in meetings pretty much around the clock. Unfortunately, the hotel where I'm at doesn't have Internet access in the rooms and the business center closes at the (astonishingly early!) hour of 7 PM. So, while I do hope to pursue intermittent blogging by somehow getting through these various hurdles, don't expect the typical output from B.D. through the week. Apologies!
posted by Gregory|
11/07/2003 03:24:00 PM
Check out this somewhat critical WaPo analysis. I hope to have more on this soon.
UPDATE: I'm a little late to the party (wait, the party's bigger than I realized!), but wanted to put down a few comments on Bush's recent speech at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Like much of the blogosphere judging from the above links--I found the speech to be highly impressive and inspiring. You can't help but be inspired by the hugely bold and ambitious task that George Bush outlined in the speech.
Despite that, however, I'm going to focus on some of the problems I had with the speech that I haven't seen commented on in the blogosphere.
I've got three main beefs with the speech. One, per the WaPo article linked above, the noble rhetoric isn't always matched by our policy. Two, the Arab world is hugely skeptical of the President's message which will, in turn, hamper our efforts to pursue the democratization project in that region. And three, I've seen no thinking about what occurs if democratic elections, should they be held in certain countries in the region, lead to results that are contrary to the U.S. national interest.
For instance, what if extremist Islamist movements were to gain power through the ballot box? The so-called "one man, one vote, one time" issue.
Relatedly, this begs a deeper question that American commentators rarely confront--is democratization in the Middle East definitively in the U.S. national interest?
Why the "Democratic Exception"?
Let me start with the third problem I've got with the speech first. Richard Haass has spoken of a "democratic exception" that has characterized our Middle East policy over the past few decades. Put simply, while the democratization agenda typically was a major part of our diplomatic agenda in regions like Europe, Asia and Latin America--we tended to not pursue said agenda with as much alacrity in the Middle East.
Why, one wonders? Could it be that we have seen autocrats like the late Hafez Asad or Hosni Mubarak as bulwarks against the spread of Iranian style theocratic fervor in the region?
Or was the "democracy exception" partly in place because of the perennial (and often overstated) concerns about an Arab street coming to boil during major regional crises or periods of high tension with Israel?
Perhaps some U.S. policymakers prefer established leaders who can control, almost like a spigot, the anti-Israeli or anti-American vitriol that might emanate from the Arab masses?
What's my point? I'm saying we need to really question why this "democratic exception" has been a pretty pervasive part of our Middle East policymaking landscape for a good while now more thoroughly than we have to date. We have to be honest with ourselves about it and think about it comprehensively.
Relatedely, of course, we need to analyze what the neo-conservative vision of large scale attempted exportation of democracy would accomplish in terms of the specific furtherance of the American national interest in the region.
We need to be cautious to not be overly enraputured by the clarion call of democratization. Of course, it's a hugely important and noble goal. I mean, how can you disagree with sentiments that Bush enunciated like the following?
"There are, however, essential principles common to every successful society, in every culture. Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military -- so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite. Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impartial rule of law, instead of selecting applying -- selectively applying the law to punish political opponents. Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions -- for political parties and labor unions and independent newspapers and broadcast media. Successful societies guarantee religious liberty -- the right to serve and honor God without fear of persecution. Successful societies privatize their economies, and secure the rights of property. They prohibit and punish official corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people. They recognize the rights of women. And instead of directing hatred and resentment against others, successful societies appeal to the hopes of their own people."
Still, we have to be careful not to get too carried away by a neo-Wilsonian fervor that has observers (ultimately hyperbolically and incorrectly) like historian Eric Hobsbawm comparing today's America to societies marked by too much revolutionary fervor in the past.
I think such claims are typically wildly exagerrated, as I've blogged about before.
And yet. We need to ask some tough questions--focusing on American objectives.
Put differently, is fostering increased democracy in the Middle East always in our national interest?
If Turkey were fully run (rather than just highly influenced) by its military leaders we would have definitely had a northern front during the major combat phase in Iraq. No nettlesome parliamentary debates would have held up the deployment of U.S. troops from Turkey.
How would a fully democratic Egypt act vis-a-vis Israel? Would the Camp David accords survive the exercise of the free will of the Egyptian people? Would the chances of a military conflict with Israel be increased--particularly during periods of robust IDF activity in the Occupied Territories that lead to rage in the streets of Cairo?
Would some states perhaps vote in, per free and fair elections, Islamist movements that going forward would not allow future voting in the relevant polity? I happen to think such extremist Islamic movements are less pervasive than many commentators relay--but prior events in Algeria are worth or thought or two on that score.
Beyond all this, many countries in the Middle East don't want democracy forced down their throats by the U.S.--even the intellectual classes that hunger for increased democratization have deep misgivings on this score.
I'm not saying that the President's vision is fatally flawed because of any of the above. But I am wondering if enough people in the Administration have given such factors protracted and judicious thought.
I'm not going to blog extensively about the first and second reasons I have some reservations about the speech here today given time constraints (the 'double standards' issue and the massive suspicion of our motivations in the Middle East).
But do go read the WaPo article linked above. Think about Dubya's relations with an authoritarian Musharraf or (post-Khodorkovsky) Putin.
Doesn't it appear, when a former leader is more firmly behind our goals re: the war on terror, that we will provide quite a bit of leeway regarding their democratic bona fides?
I'm not saying that such a bias is necessarily wrong. We need to be realists in terms of pursuing our national interests in what are, after all, extremely complex regions.
But such close bilateral relationships with leaders that possess strong authoritarian stripes do force us to question the extent of our devotion to the democratization project, don't they?
Put simply, we need to strive to be more consistent in our democracy exportation goals--while being careful to not appear overly messianic in our pursuit of democratization.
Let us at least proceed with a modicum of caution that, for instance, the rapid exportation of democracy might not always represent the panacea we seem to typically believe it to be.
In closing, however, let me say again that I found the President's speech moving and impressive.
Take this line:
"We've witnessed, in little over a generation, the swiftest advance of freedom in the 2,500 year story of democracy. Historians in the future will offer their own explanations for why this happened. Yet we already know some of the reasons they will cite. It is no accident that the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world's most influential nation was itself a democracy." [emphasis added]
Euro-sophisticates will scoff that such rhetoric represents a crude vein of American exceptionalism. But there is undeniably much truth to Bush's statement.
What the U.S. accomplished in fighting back Hitlerism and Stalinism was hugely important in creating conditions of greater freedom for literally billions of people. Who can seriously deny this intelligently and honestly today?
We might be able to pull off such a feat in the Middle East too. But it will be a highly complex, generational project.
And we need to not just make passing mention of countries like Zimbabwe, Cuba and Myanmar in a Presidential speech--even one centered on the Middle East-dealing with the theme of democratization.
It looks too much like a throw away line to make the Arab (and Persian) world feel that we are also serious about spreading democracy in countries where our interests might not be as vital.
Unless we back up such rhetoric with action--there will be an even higher degree of suspicion regarding our motives that will perhaps contribute to helping scuttle our goals of democratizing the Middle East.
Put differently, Arabs will skeptically look at the history of the American "democratic exception" in the region, while thinking about our vital interests regarding Persian Gulf security, access to oil, Israel, controlling/quashing terror movements, and wonder whose interests we are really pursuing.
And, of course, before we pursue Bush's grand vision in earnest--we need to get Iraq in order. Needless to say, that's no mean task right there. Let's maybe concentrate on that and see where we stand in a year or so before getting too excited about meta-democratization projects through entire regions.
posted by Gregory|
11/07/2003 12:15:00 PM
How bad can the primitive anti-Yank spoutings over at the Beeb be?
Go read this.
Seems our intrepid correspondent stumbled upon some U.S. forces "kidding" around:
"There I was," says the young national guardsman, sitting round a table with his colleagues, "knee deep in discarded grenade pins, dead Iraqis all around me, in my left hand an empty 45 still smoking at the barrel."
"You ask: 'Was I scared?' Goddamn right I was scared - scared there weren't any more Iraqis left to kill!" [my emphasis]
And I'm supposed to pay for this crapola?
Oh, the concluding graf:
"It is yet another illustration of the unbridgeable divide between the residents of Baghdad and the men who came to liberate them." [emphasis added]
Gee, well let's all pack up and go home, shall we?
You've Entered A Spin Zone--Proceed with Caution
posted by Gregory|
11/07/2003 11:00:00 AM
The Times really wants to keep pumping up this non-story doesn't it?
An "Administration response" piece (an embarrasingly thin article--because the non-story elicited so very little attention among Administation players--unless desperately hounded by correspondents' queries).
A lead masthead (entitled, you guessed it, "Rush to War, Revisited").
The masthead fairly drips with contempt for the Bushies:
"By March, Washington's military and political preparations for war were complete. The Bush administration was then showing little patience for diplomacy or anything else that might delay what it envisioned as a swift and easy military triumph, with jubilant Iraqis cheering American troops, a model Middle Eastern democracy rising in Baghdad, reconstruction paid for by Iraqi oil revenue and no lengthy military occupation."
It's not just MaDo who is "accelerating such memes".
Seemingly the entire editorial page shares her views and, indeed, similarly adopts her deceptions. Small wonder she's never reeled in.
But back to the Perle as peace mediator non-story story.
Post NYT-hype, our friends elsewhere are picking it up and it is quickly metamorphosizing into a heartwrenching tale of a historic missed opportunity.
A peace-loving Saddam, after all, was offering up to the Americans an almost innumerable number of concessions (advantageous petrol contacts too, cuz that's what we really wanted, bien sur!) only to be crudely rebuffed by the bloodthirsty hyperpuissance.
As I said, you've entered the W. 43rd St--Auntie Beeb--Liberation-on-the-Seine spin zone. Proceed with caution--and disregard much of what you're reading...
UPDATE: Sure, I could don a leftist cap and scrutinize the WSJ, Weekly Standard, and so on to play 'gotcha' from another political perspective--critics sometimes write in.
But none of those outlets pretend to be the neutral and oh-so judicious purveyors of the news. None proclaim themselves the "newspaper of record."
Listen, I think the NYT is the greatest paper in the world, all told. Thus the scrutiny and attention. They can (and must) do better.
That doesn't mean they need to steer to the right on the political spectrum--but it does means getting the news right.
This means, speaking generally, a couple things. One, they need to get their facts straight. That's what gets many of us all up in arms with so many of MaDo's columns.
And relatedly, they have to be careful how they position/play stories even where they may be factually correct.
For instance, a wise editor would realize that a couple hours of Richard Perle sitting down with a minor Lebanese-American businessman to ruminate about a (frankly risible) alleged back channel to Saddam doesn't warrant the copy, masthead, and general attention the Times has given it.
So why does Bill Keller play the story up?
Well, you can't help thinking there's an agenda at work there. And it appears a pretty simple one.
It's playing up the theme that Bush a) rushed us into a war and b) it's a war that is now becoming a Vietnam-style quagmire. They will, of course, be shifting more to "b" as the months go along.
There is much worrisome news emanating from Iraq--to be sure. But we need to continue to monitor the hyperbole, the spin, and, most important, the factual errors going forward where such bad news is purposefully co-opted by the Times. There will doubtless be many.
But note: It's a labor of love, folks. Bill Keller should thank us righty bloggers!
News of the Weird
posted by Gregory|
11/06/2003 05:48:00 PM
Saudi Arabia fears a "sand shortage." Export clamp-downs are imminent.
Oh, and the Beeb is spotting some budding democratic dissent over on the Arabian peninsula.
Most Beeb readers, however, probably would want such Saudis to remain more compliant--at least judging from many of these comments.
European Views of Israel
posted by Gregory|
11/06/2003 05:25:00 PM
Remember the recent poll that had Europeans ranking Israel as the nation-state that represented the greatest threat to world peace? Here's some reaction from the Arab world and Israel.
Note too that an Israeli official notes that the poll occurred during a period when Israel was blowing up smuggling tunnels (and many dwellings) in Rafah, had attacked a target on Syrian territory, and was rumored to be planning an Iranian Osirak.
Most interesting, however. It's being reported that the higher the educational background of the poll taker--the greater the percentage judging Israel the greatest danger to world peace.
posted by Gregory|
11/06/2003 04:58:00 PM
It's not just Sharon who doesn't like it.
Cronyism in Iraq?
posted by Gregory|
11/06/2003 04:56:00 PM
Don't believe the Halliburton et al. hype.
The Prince of Darkness Talking Peace in Knightsbridge!
posted by Gregory|
11/06/2003 11:13:00 AM
The NYT has a piece that has a hyped-up, Dowdian "International Man of Mystery" Richard Perle meeting a Lebanese-American businessman in Knightsbridge (a Mr. Imad Hage).
The agenda? Allegedly exploring the potential for an 11th hour deal with Saddam that would allow the Anglo-American armada arrayed on the Kuwait border to stand down.
After all, Saddam wanted to make a deal!
Call it the NYT antidote to the WaPo story of a few days back detailing the Franco-Russian role in perhaps making war in Iraq more likely.
Over chez the de Villepin fan club, of course, it's the coarse, war-mongering unilateralist Bushies that are to blame for the rush to war:
"No meetings took place, and the invasion began on March 20. Mr. Hage wonders what might have happened if the Americans had pursued the back channel to Baghdad.
"At least they could have talked to them," he said." [emphasis added]
With all due respect to Mr. Hage--the Iraqis could have chosen much more plausible intermediaries if they were seriously pursuing an 11th hour settlement.
Think I'm being unfair to our spur of the moment shuttle diplomatist?
Check out this humorous snippet:
"A week later, Mr. Hage said, he agreed to hold further meetings in Baghdad. When he arrived, he was driven to a large, well-guarded compound, where he was met by a gray-haired man in a military uniform. It was Tahir Jalil Habbush, the director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, who is No. 16 on the United States list of most wanted Iraqi leaders. Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush asked him if it was true that he knew Mr. Perle. "Have you met him?"
Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush began to vent his frustration over what the Americans really wanted. He said that to demonstrate the Iraqis' willingness to help fight terrorism, Mr. Habbush offered to hand over Abdul Rahman Yasin, who has been indicted in United States in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Mr. Yasin fled to Iraq after the bombing, and the United States put up a $25 million reward for his capture.
Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush offered to turn him over to Mr. Hage, but Mr. Hage said he would pass on the message that Mr. Yasin was available.
Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush also insisted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and added, "Let your friends send in people and we will open everything to them." [emphasis added]
This rings like an episode out of the Keystone Kops.
The risible query, "have you met [Richard Perle]?", from the Iraqi intelligence operative to Mr. Hage--as if to establish his bona fides in terms of access to the Straussian ruling class calling the shots in the Beltway.
The, hey, take one of the '93 WTC bombers home with you (btw, does this mean that the NYT does believe that Saddam had ties to international terror?)--he won't bite on the flight home!
Folks, all this is simply not serious.
As Perle says (the NYT spins it so that Perle is now "playing down" the importance of Mr. Hage as a serious channel to extract concessions from Saddam--but Perle actually said he was "dubious" about the whole affair):
"He said he found it difficult to believe that Mr. Hussein would make serious proposals through such a channel. "There were so many other ways to communicate," he said. "There were any number of governments involved in the end game, the Russians, French, Saudis."
"(I)nvolved in the end game"? France?
Say it ain't so. And in what fashion?
Developing, as they say.
Full Disclosure: In a previous incarnation, I worked for Richard Perle [ed. note: Do I have to say this each time I blog something about Perle? Think this will be the last].
UPDATE: Here's how a serious newspaper should have handled this story-- soberly and calmly--sans hype. (hat tip: Volokh)
Is Tina Brown sexing up NYT stories on the sly?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Check out the Beeb spin--there was a full blown Iraqi "package of concessions" that was rebuffed by Washington.
posted by Gregory|
11/05/2003 03:51:00 PM
Boy, it's a bona fide 'Namapalooza over at the NYT today.
You've got LBJ-Dubya analogies.
You've got George McGovern weighing in on the presidential race (and guess what, he sees parallels btwn the '04 race and the '72 race--and sees "echoes" of his own candidacy in Dean's--let's hope he's right!)
You've got groovy pics:
A dejected George Bush (um, I mean LBJ)
A cheery, sprightly 'go get 'em Howard!' George McGovern:
I mean, even the Turkish Ambassador is asked about whether Iraq is the new Vietnam.
Vietnam vets write in to beat up Bill Safire.
We're even talking about Agent Orange defoliant.
And that's just one day--are the ghosts of Howell really stalking W. 43rd St. so soon after his inglorious demise?
Marshall Plan Watch
posted by Gregory|
11/05/2003 03:26:00 PM
Here's a mini-Marshall plan anthology for your reading pleasure.
We Get Mail
posted by Gregory|
11/05/2003 01:52:00 PM
No, I'm not being sued by the Quai D'Orsay.
Good news, rather.
"By general acclamation amongst the anarchic Samizdata Team, your site 'Belgravia Dispatch' has received the dubious honour of a permanent link on the Samizdata.net weblog (Samizdata)
The Samizdata Team
Thrilling stuff this! Thanks guys.
Oh, if you're a blogger who reads my blog pretty regularly (hell, even sporadically) and haven't blog-rolled me, well, what's holding you up?
So here's hoping for a link orgy--and hoping you don't view me as a link slut.
(Yes, I know my blogroll is embarassingly thin. Forgive me and boldly throw reciprocity to the winds!)
France Denies Tariq Aziz Disclosures, But How Convincingly?
posted by Gregory|
11/05/2003 09:47:00 AM
A typical English language treatment of the denial here.
A French language AFP story is below:
HEADLINE: Paris reaffirme qu'"il n'y a pas eu" d'emissaire en Irak avant la guerre (Translation: "France reaffirms that 'there was not' an emissary in Iraq before the war")
DATELINE: PARIS, 4 nov
BODY: La France n'a depeche aucun emissaire aupres de l'ancien president irakien Saddam Hussein avant le declenchement du conflit pour lui apporter "quelque assurance que ce soit", a reaffirme mardi le porte-parole du Quai d'Orsay.
"Il n'y a pas eu d'emissaire francais mandate pour se rendre en Irak (afin de) rencontrer Saddam Hussein et lui apporter quelque assurance que ce soit", a declare le porte-parole du ministere des Affaires etrangeres, Herve Ladsous, lors d'un point de presse. "Il n'y en a pas eu", a-t-il repete.
Le Washington Post, citant des responsables americains informes des interrogatoires de l'ex-vice-Premier ministre irakien Tarek Aziz, a ecrit lundi que des intermediaires francais et russes avaient "assure de maniere repetee a (Saddam) Hussein fin 2002 et au debut de cette annee qu'ils bloqueraient une guerre menee par les Etats-Unis a travers des reports et des vetos au Conseil de securite de l'ONU".
Ces "insinuations" sont "denuees de tout fondement", a affirme M. Ladsous. "Des rumeurs avaient deja circule a l'epoque, fin 2002 debut 2003, a-t-il rappele. Nous avions a chaque fois systematiquement et fermement dementi toutes ces rumeurs".
"Durant toute cette periode, la France n'a pas cesse d'appeler fermement les autorites irakiennes a s'acquitter de leurs obligations internationales telles qu'elles decoulaient de la resolution 1441 (du Conseil de securite de l'Onu), a poursuivi le porte-parole, car c'etait le seul moyen de denouer pacifiquement la crise".
The key language is bolded. The headline is a bit deceptive. While it is a direct quote from the French spokesman, and sounds like a blanket denial, flatly stating: "there was not" an emissary before the war--it should be noted that this statement is in the context (and comes directly after) a sentence where the spokesman said:
"There was no French emissary commissioned to go to Iraq to meet Saddam Hussein carrying any kind of assurances." [my emphasis]
I've seen stronger denials. Notice some of the potential loopholes in the "denial."
For instance, the French spokesman said that no intermediary sent by France was carrying "any kind of assurances."
Depends what the meaning of "assurances" is, huh?
Maybe there were emissaries--but they weren't carrying "assurances"--just, what were viewed, somewhat expansively, as mere sentiments of fellow-feeling and empathy instead.
Note also that the spokesman says that no French emissary was specifically mandated to go to Iraq to meet with Saddam.
Well, maybe the intermediary was specifically commissioned to meet with lower level Baathist leaders but then, in 'impromptu' fashion, had an audience or two with Saddam.
Am I parsing too much? Perhaps.
But I'd be happier if the French spokesman had said something like:
"These rumors are outrageous and are the product of complete and outright fabrications by Tariq Aziz. There were never, in the entire period leading up the war at least from the passage of UNSC Resolution 1441 on, any French emissaries that went to Iraq--covertly or otherwise--to meet with individuals in the Iraqi leadership to discuss any of the matters alleged by Tariq Aziz to have been under discussion.
Let me be even more specific for the avoidance of all doubt. Let me stress today that no advice, by any French government official or individual acting at the behest of the French government, was provided to anyone in the Iraqi leadership regarding gaming the prospects for U.S. military action in Iraq or the manner by which such military action might be pursued.
We take these charges very seriously as they involve our good ally America. I hope my statement today finally puts this grossly irresponsible rumor-mongering to bed."
Or something like that.
Another reason I'd like to see stronger denials?
Because I'm reminded of blasts from the past per the below (detailed in a February 13th 2003 L'Express article by Dominique Lagarde and Alain Louyot that I paraphrase below retaining the complete accuracy of the original text).
On January 15th, 1991--the French Embassy in Baghdad (the last Western embassy still open for business) was given the order to evacuate. The Iraqis were still wishing for an 11th hour visit from Roland Dumas, a Concorde was at the ready in Paris, but President Mitterand finally decided not to dispatch his FM as he calculated that war was inevitable.
See these last minute Baghdad gambits are something of a rich Quai D'Orsay tradtion.
And this was when Mitterand was President.
Chirac, let us recall, is the man who approvingly declared, about that so noble Baathist brand of socialism, in a visit to Baghdad in December of 1974:
"Nationalism in the best sense of the word and socialism as a way to mobilize the energies and organize the society of tomorrow are sentiments very close to the heart of the French."
More of Le Figaro article paraphrased below:
On September 5, 1975, Saddam returned the favor and decamped to Paris. Chirac spoke of his "friendship" and "affection" for Saddam. After visiting nuclear installations in Cadarache, both leaders spent the weekend at L'Oustaou de Baumaniere (lovely, isn't it?), an auberge where Chirac had welcomed such leaders as Deng Xiaoping.
Back in Paris, it was on to a gala dinner at Versailles. Quite grand!
Ostensibly over dinner toasts amidst the palatial grandeur--Chirac averred that Iraq is pursuing a "coherent nuclear program" and France will "associate itself with the effort."
Just that week, and doubtless noted somewhere in the Quai D'Orsay, Saddam had given an interview in the Lebanese paper Al Ousbou' Al Arabi (The Arab Week) where he said that cooperation with France was the "first step towards the production of an Arab atomic weapon".
As I've said, lots of previous history here folks. Tout est possible!
Troop Deployment Levels
posted by Gregory|
11/04/2003 08:21:00 AM
As we've been arguing for quite a while over here at B.D.--more troops are likely needed in the Iraqi theater. Don't miss this succinct piece making the case in today's NYT.
And like Fareed Zakaria, I agree there are no quick shortcuts out of Iraq (see my October 30th post on this topic). Put differently: steady Iraqification is likely smart strategy in the long run (the Iraqis need to ultimately, of course, run their own show)--but can't occur overly precipitously.
The dangers of Baathist guerrillas overunning poorly trained Iraqi forces, or not having properly vetted former Iraqi soldiers re: their real allegiances, or an outright civil war--all these scenarios become bigger risks if Iraqification is pursued, as I'm concerned it may be, too quickly.
posted by Gregory|
11/04/2003 12:03:00 AM
Fresh from a suckup in the NYRB--Krugman dons his book reviewer hat there.
Most offensive graf:
"Religion is also part of the story: in effect, the religious right—a majority of whose adherents are very much losers in the new economic order—seems to have made a deal to support low taxes for the rich and weak regulation in return for a more Bible-friendly government. And 9/11 was, of course, the best gift the right could have wished for—a perfect occasion to shift politics to a permanent war footing, in which criticism of our leaders could be shouted down as unpatriotic." [emphasis added]
Charming, huh? 9/11 as gift...
Oh, and who brokered the low taxes/weak-regulation-in-return-for-tearing-down-the-church/state-divide "deal"?
Jerry Falwell in deep huddle w/ Dubya? Were Larry Lindsey and Paul O'Neill in on the backroom dealings before they were sacked?
UPDATE: Appears I may be one of the "Know-Nothings" led by "wannabe Ayatollah" Andy Sullivan.
"Lulled by a period of stability which had seemed permanent," he writes, borrowing from, of all people, Henry Kissinger on Metternich, "they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertion of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework." Not since Anthony Lewis took up the cudgel of the antiwar movement against the Nixon Administration has a liberal pundit used such blunt language to expose the collective maliciousness and mendacity of official Washington, and it hardly comes as a surprise that those who inhabit that world don't like it."
Do people like Alterman really buy this claptrap?
And, like me, are you sick of having the Krugman epiphany moment trotted out (when, in a moment of deep-think, Krugman espied Bush as a Metternichian revolutionary smashing the "existing framework", whatever that means)?
This is junior high stuff folks. Or the product of a bad acid trip. It's frankly risible.
I mean what, specifically, is the dastardly Bush 43 "revolutionary power" so irrevocably shattering that existed during the cheery Clinton polity (and don't tell me the Achesonian world order--my BS detector will start booming loudly)?
The Left's credibility plummets when it descends into such hysterical commentary.
Another example. See this hyperbolic "Stop the Madness" John Kerry ad.
Does John Kerry believe the great bovine masses are this gullible and easily scared (and not by his hair)?
I guess he does. Otherwise why run such an ad?
French Perfidy Watch
posted by Gregory|
11/03/2003 09:35:00 AM
Frankly, as the allegations are so serious, it seems almost trite to call this post "French Perfidy Watch"--language which has become, pretty much, slightly jestful code for Dominique de Villepin gallivanting about Cameroon, Guinea, Angola and the like to scuttle UNSC resolutions.
This important Steve Coll WaPo piece contains much more serious allegations of possible French treachery than all that whirlwind travel through Africa and related Turtle Bay machinations.
The piece is a must read, not only because of potentially damning information about secret French contacts with Iraq before the war, but also because it contains further information about Saddam's purposeful intent to run afoul of Resolution 1441.
But one thing at a time.
Here are the key grafs re France:
"Saddam Hussein refused to order a counterattack against U.S. troops when war erupted in March because he misjudged the initial ground thrust as a ruse and had been convinced earlier by Russian and French contacts that he could avoid or survive a land invasion, former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz has told interrogators, according to U.S. officials."
"Aziz's extensive interrogations -- eased by a U.S. decision to quietly remove his family from Iraq to safe exile in a country that American officials would not name -- paint Hussein on the eve of war as a distracted, distrustful despot who was confused, among other things, by his meetings with Russian and French intermediaries. Aziz said Hussein emerged from these diplomatic sessions -- some secret at the time -- convinced that he might yet avoid a war that would end his regime, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
Aziz has told interrogators that French and Russian intermediaries repeatedly assured Hussein during late 2002 and early this year that they would block a U.S.-led war through delays and vetoes at the U.N. Security Council. Later, according to Aziz, Hussein concluded after private talks with French and Russian contacts that the United States would probably wage a long air war first, as it had done in previous conflicts. By hunkering down and putting up a stiff defense, he might buy enough time to win a cease-fire brokered by Paris and Moscow.
Aziz's account, while provocative, has not been corroborated by other sources, said U.S. officials involved in the interrogations. They said they were aware that Aziz might be trying to pander to his American captors' anger at French and Russian conduct before the war.
The public record of French and Russian back-channel contacts with Hussein on the war's eve is thin and ambiguous. Former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov, long close to Hussein, made an announced visit to Baghdad in February and a secret trip just days before the war's opening on March 20. A few weeks later, after Baghdad's fall, Primakov held a news conference to explain that, at his clandestine last-ditch meeting, he had urged Hussein to resign...
The extent and character of French contacts with Hussein before the war is even less clear. Several media outlets reported early this year that France had opened a private channel to Hussein, but the French Foreign Ministry denied these reports, insisting that its diplomats had made plain to Hussein that he should stand down." [emphasis added]
Coll is quite cautious here. We are told that the extent of French contacts, if any, is quite murky.
But there are a few reasons why I think that this story may have real legs.
One, I don't think Tariq Aziz is naive enough to believe that he would be treated materially better by his captors by "sexing up" his disclosures by creating a fictitious story about those perfidious Frenchies.
We're all adults here--and the other information Aziz provided on Saddam's contravention of the 150-km range limit on missiles is pretty damning on its own.
Second, the story just rings true. Saddam has often proved to be ruthlessly smart in terms of quashing domestic opponents--but a strategic blunderer on the international scene (see his military misadventures in Iran, Kuwait).
You can just see him completely misjudging Bush as another feckless Clinton-type-thus thinking Dubya would almost exclusively rely on an air campaign that, per Paris, Saddam might wait out.
Then, of course, Dominique would enter the fray and 'heroically' broach a cease-fire from those brutish hotheads in Baghdad and Washington. Peace in our time or such.
Third, the French (at least since de Gaulle but likely going back to nefarious Sykes-Picot days) have always deluded themselves that they possess a special 'Araby' policy.
Put simply, they think they get the Arabs--while the hapless Anglo-Saxons don't. It's really a carry-on from the rosy days when France administered Damascene and Allepin precincts--it was all jolly good fun and, bien sur, allowed the French to gain special apercus into what makes the Levant-zone tick.
These historically derived pretenses, combined with the folie de grandeur that has so often characterized de Villepin's stewardship of the Quai D'Orsay, make it possible (likely?) that French intermediaries would have opened up private channels to Saddam early last year (or in the Fall of '02) and helped delude Saddam that he wouldn't be facing an imminent American land invasion.
Fourth, and important, the French have made something of a speciality of this kind of thing before ("special" channels to Tariq, Saddam and gang).
From a 1998 WaPo piece by Barton Gellman and Dana Priest (via a Lexis search, article dated March 1, 1998):
"As the Clinton administration saw it, Saddam Hussein was intent on portraying a Washington-Baghdad confrontation, and the president's advisers were just as intent on casting themselves as speaking for a united "world community."
They therefore continued a seven-year policy of refusing direct diplomatic contact with the Baghdad government. That left the diplomatic field to Russia and France, each of which dispatched a deputy foreign minister to negotiate with Saddam Hussein and his wily, English-speaking deputy premier, Tariq Aziz.
France had known for some time that Iraq was most concerned to protect eight "presidential sites," and the French diplomacy aimed to fashion special rules for inspections there.
U.S. intelligence assessed that Iraq is hiding several dozen Al Hussein missiles, a few of the longer range Al Abbas missiles, and substantial stocks of anthrax, botulinum, and nerve agents such as VX. But the illegal weapons, U.S. analysts believe, are not actually in the presidential sites. The Clinton administration and UNSCOM wanted to ensure primarily that the eight sites could not become sanctuaries for contraband shifted in a "shell game" from other hiding places.
By the first week of February, France perceived what one official called an "infernal machine" -- the threat Paris supported was about to become the war it did not want. To avert the launch, Paris promoted a trip to Baghdad by Kofi Annan to hammer out a compromise on the eight special sites." [emphasis added]
There is no smoking gun here. But there sure is a lot of smoke.
Again, it's worth stressing, why would Aziz make this up from whole cloth?
And, it begs the question, is this the behaviour of an "ally"? If, on the cusp of a conflict, where the U.S. has amassed some 200,000 troops on the Iraqi border, perhaps even making a strategic blunderer like Saddam think twice about continuing to stonewall the international community--if at that sensitive stage French contacts work to make Saddam feel he is not really facing a full-blown American invasion--well, what's the result?
For one, it makes it less likely that Saddam will stand down.
And therefore more likely that U.S. troops will have to fight (and die) in a war.
I wouldn't expect such considerations to give a Yevgeny Primakov pause--but I would have expected it to give a nominal ally a reason to abstain from such diplomatic foul play--or at least cause a little crise de conscience style navel-gazing about back-stabbing a friend that had acted as guarantor of Western Europe's stability through the Cold War and saved the French from the Hitlerian project.
Well, as I said, especially if this story gets a lot of play--expect fervent Gallic denials, denunciations of the U.S jingoistic yellow press, and damage control from the French Embassy in Washington.
The story is still very much developing. But it makes me, at least potentially, very angry.
And reinforces what a poor prognosticator I was when (what seems to be a long, long time ago) I started this blog (with more faith in Parisian diplomacy).
More on the French "Araby" policy via Amir Taheri.
Thanks to reader TM for the link. TM, based in Belgium, also writes:
"I'm not sure, however, that anger is not a counterproductive response, at least if it's not carefully expressed. I live in Belgium and can see something has gone seriously wrong in continental Europe, but that all the French-bashing drowns out those voices which are making serious points and engaging in constructive criticism. Indeed, the same thing is happening here, with the reasonable European voices also being drowned out (I mean Bruckner, Glucksmann, BHL, Kouchner, and those guys)."
Fair point. Perhaps alluding to anger wasn't necessarily how I should have ended my post.
That said, however, and if the allegations detailed above are true, I don't see how one can avoid being mightily steamed by the actions of the French government.
ANOTHER UPDATE: How credible is the French denial regarding all the above?
MaDo Distortions Department (Continued)
posted by Gregory|
11/02/2003 11:42:00 AM
Another offensively inaccurate piece from MaDo today. Leave aside the gratuitous insult about Sports Illustrated being the on-board read on Air Force I rather than TNR.
Leave aside how Dowd depicts Bush in a harsher ethical light than the Jayson Blairs, Stephen Glass' and Janet Cooke's of the world.
That's all pretty predictable fare coming from Maureen Dowd.
But check out this factually inaccurate (surprise!) commentary:
"Now we're in the postwar war, and President Bush is still manipulating reality. He wants to obscure the intensity and nature of the opposition, choosing to lump anyone who resists the American occupation in the category of terrorist." [emphasis added]
This bothered me for a couple reasons.
For one, as I'll detail below, it's flat out false.
For another, I myself had criticized Bush in the past for having a tendency to describe too much of the resistance in Iraq as terrorist in nature (via a piece I had up contra Flypaper).
But here's the point. Bush, for a good while now--including back during his September speech to the United Nations--has increasingly made reference, not only to terrorists opposing the U.S. in Iraq, but also regime "holdouts."
Put differently, he's been more frank about the somewhat variegated nature of the opposition in Iraq recently.
So my concerns at least, as someone who has followed the issue pretty closely, have been allayed somewhat recently.
But then MaDo comes in and ignores all the evidence to the contrary to facilitate her slanted, anti-Bush op-ed writing process.
I mean, take a look at what Bush has actually said over the past months.
For instance, check out the reference to "Saddam holdouts" in this speech.
And in a key national address, Bush said as follows:
"Some of the attackers are members of the old Saddam regime, who fled the battlefield and now fight in the shadows. Some of the attackers are foreign terrorists, who have come to Iraq to pursue their war on America and other free nations. We cannot be certain to what extent these groups work together. We do know they have a common goal -- reclaiming Iraq for tyranny." [emphasis added]
Put simply, Bush has been careful to say that resistance in Iraq is stemming from both terrorists and Saddam loyalists/holdouts (with very few exceptions, where he doesn't make such a distinction, such as this one).
Most recently, Bush made the distinction just yesterday in his weekly radio address (see graf 4).
Veteran journalists like Mike Isikoff, in an article critical of Bush suggesting that Saddam is organizing some of the attacks, writes:
"THE OFFICIAL BUSH administration position is that the attacks on coalition forces inside Iraq are the work of isolated gangs of Saddam loyalists and Baathist die-hards who, in some instances, have teamed up with an assortment of “foreign fighters,” Islamic radicals and even common criminals for individual strikes on U.S. troops. But an alternative view is gaining acceptance within the U.S. intelligence community about the origins of the campaign. Scraps of evidence-most not publicly acknowledged by the administration—suggest that Saddam and some of his top Baath Party lieutenants began detailed logistical planning and purchasing for possible guerilla fighting in the months before the war, officials say." [emphasis added]
Leave aside any role Saddam may have in the increasingly sophisticated (and deadly) attacks.
The point here is that, if Mike Isikoff can see that the "official Bush administration position" (re: the source of the continuing attacks in Iraq) is that said attacks stem from a mixture of Saddam holdouts, Baathist die-hards, criminals and terrorists--why can't Dowd see it?
Perhaps, one might conclude, because she purposefully chooses not to?
Because acknowledging the Administration's more complex description of the nature of the Iraqi resistance might not be convenient vis-a-vis her thesis that Bush "lumps" all those opposing the U.S. occupation in Iraq as terrorists?
So, just like that, she chooses to simply ignore all the speeches and Administration statements to the contrary.
Listen, like Camille Paglia, I don't think the blogosphere should simply be relegated to the preserve of "political or media junkies preoccupied with pedestrian minutiae and a sophomoric 'gotcha' mentality."
Yeah, like Paglia says, I agree that such monomaniacal focus can get a bit "depressing and claustrophobic."
The problem is, however, Dowd's not writing in an obscure regional paper but rather splashing her (factually incorrect) musings in the opinion pages of the Sunday New York Times--surely the most influential single page of commentary in the entire spectrum of American print media.
Her misrepresentations therefore have a significant impact on perceptions of the honesty of the President, the credibility of the Administration's foreign policy worldview, and more.
So I'll risk coming off as a sophomoric gotcha type--as I think the stakes are well worth it. If the pattern of her seemingly willfull carelessness continues to be exposed here in the blogosphere, perhaps we might someday get results in terms of better monitoring of MaDo over at W. 43rd St.
I wouldn't ever have held my breath for Howell Raines to reel her in. But perhaps Bill Keller will take it more seriously.
The factually incorrect (and perhaps purposeful) misrepresentations are just coming too often.
UPDATE: A reader writes in:
"Why so much brain power wasted on this insignificant woman's blatherings? I think a lot of you men have a secret crush on her."
Flagler Beach FL
Well at least she doesn't have that intimidatingly large Friedmanian moustache.
Oh, and last I heard, no one is stalking her....
ANOTHER UPDATE: Check out my good friend Desmond Butler's excellent report on terrorists/foreign jihadis coming to Iraq from Europe (and no, I don't think his article contravenes my prior analyses contra the flypaper thesis--but it does give Dubya's references to terrorists more credence).
posted by Gregory|
10/31/2003 04:24:00 PM
Probably the right call--but the risks of resistance spreading to Shi'a areas will be somewhat increased.
Wolfy Pressures Sharon!
posted by Gregory|
10/31/2003 02:19:00 PM
But what will Richard Perle and Doug Feith think?
More here (including, on a somewhat related matter, details of Blair's support of the GVA plan).
Oh, and here's some wise counsel from Moshe Yaalon.
Watch Sharon looking more 'road-map-y' over the coming days. Put differently, he'll be signaling, I'm a man with a plan too! But the roadmap hasn't gone anywhere for so very long. Thus all the new plans bubbling about.
The pressure is building on Sharon's government. The comatose state the Israeli left has been in for at least three years is lifting.
People are increasingly starting to smell out other options. Sharon's avuncular image--as the hawkish best shot to maximize security--is getting old and ringing increasingly false. Developing.
posted by Gregory|
10/31/2003 12:44:00 PM
UPDATE: My responses in bold.
Reader BM from Tel Aviv writes in (his comments italicized, portions of my original post that he is reacting to in normal font):
I've been for the most part enjoying your blog since I "discovered" it several months back, mostly for its intelligence and discernment. For the most part.
And here's the complaint! As it seems that intelligence and discernment, in spite of one's best and most earnest efforts, seem to entirely disappear when discussion turns to the Israel- Palestinian issue. Alas, you are not alone.
1. "Someone has to move the process ahead despite Arafat's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't."
This is quite a vague suggestion. What exactly do you propose? American deployment? Internationalization? How does one push a leader to the sidelines when that leader controls the apparatus of the regime? You are, it seems to me, demanding that Bush induce regime change (while leaving Arafat around, which means, practically, in power), and seem to feel that this is not only feasible but something that has not hiterto been attempted (or if attempted, not done in the right way). Had you discussed the pros and cons of getting rid of Arafat, you might have been at least offering a concrete proposal, but ignoring Arafat in Palestine is akin to ignoring Saddam in Iraq.
So how would the following have sounded in January 2003?:
"Someone has to move the Iraqi process ahead despite Saddam's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't."
What does removing (or sidestepping) Arafat mean for the Palestinians? And was Arafat "sidestepped" between Bush's June 2002 speech and today? Once again, you are not taking into account that Arafat controls the apparatus and sets and implements Palestinian "policy."
So while I would agree that the situation is very frustrating (and I could suggest to you why this is so), I would suggest that you be more specific and rely less on innuendo.
I've already admitted that Arafat presents a very tricky Catch-22 situation. On the one hand--he's epitomizes the quip that the "Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity." He appears increasingly irrational and incapable of any intelligent decision-making--quite apart from his degree of involvement in any attacks on Israeli civilians (as opposed to IDF forces in the Occupied Territories).
Would we be better off if he were gone? Of course, particularly if a leader with credibility among the Palestinians was there to replace him. The problem is, we can't willy-nilly, pick and choose what leaders should be in power and which shouldn't. Which merit "regime change" and which don't. Thus America's attempts to marginalize Arafat--rather than egg on the Israelis to outright get rid of him.
And yes, Saddam was a different case. We had a legal right to act per Resolution 1441--unlike the situation with the Palestinian leader in Ramallah where such a legal justification to unseat him doesn't similarly exist.
Worth keeping in mind too, as even senior Israeli leaders like Moshe Yaalon have pointed out, Sharon didn't make life particularly easy for Abu Mazen. To help marginalize Arafat--we should have put more pressure on Sharon as well, particularly in the early stages Abu Mazen's PMship, to make some additional concessions so that the Palestinian street saw results that improved their daily lives.
That would have empowered Abu Mazen a bit and put him in a more viable posture vis-a-vis Arafat. And that's part of the reason I criticize Bush. There wasn't significant follow through post the Aqaba summit to bolster Abu Mazen's position.
2. "I say this is dumb policy. I'd take Yossi Beilin's fervent peace processing efforts over this paralysis any day of the week--especially as the Palis gave up right of return in the Geneva arrangements."
Yes, one becomes desperate and despondent; and fervently seeks whatever flicker of light there might potentially be at the end of a long dark tunel (or imagines one may see it). However:
a) What is the difference between Geneva in October 2003 and Taba in January-February 2001?
There are two main differences. First, and unlike at Taba, the so called "right of return" issue was settled. At Taba, both sides read into the old UNGAR 194 per their respective biases with the Israelis stressing the Palestinians "wishing" to return (per the actual text) to Israel proper (1948 borders) with the Palestinians speaking (per subsequent resolutions) of an inalienable right of return. That critical issue had been left unresolved at Taba.
Another critical difference? At Taba sensitive issues related to the status of the Temple Mount were handled more by stressing temporary arrangements rather than reaching final understandings as per Geneva. The Palestinians, per Geneva, actually have sovereignty over the Muslim Holy sites in Jerusalem--albeit with an international presence. Here's the key language that goes beyond Taba.
b) Are you absolutely certain that the Palestinian interlocuters really gave up the right of return (i.e., based on what?)? And if so, what power do they have to implement this politically in Palestine.
Here's the text of the Geneva Accord. The key section on right of return is Article 7. Within that section is an "End of Claims" subsection 7 that reads as follows: "End of Claims: This agreement provides for the permanent and complete resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. No claims may be raised except for those related to the implementation of this agreement." (See also subsection 2 in this section).
This is a highly controversial point. So let's take a slightly closer look.
From the Geneva Accord:
4. Choice of Permanent Place of Residence (PPR)
The solution to the PPR aspect of the refugee problem shall entail an act of informed choice on the part of the refugee to be exercised in accordance with the options and modalities set forth in this agreement. PPR options from which the refugees may choose shall be as follows;
(a) The state of Palestine, in accordance with clause a below.
(b) Areas in Israel being transferred to Palestine in the land swap, following assumption of Palestinian sovereignty, in accordance with clause a below.
(c) Third Countries, in accordance with clause b below.
(d) The state of Israel, in accordance with clause c below.
(e) Present Host countries, in accordance with clause d below.
i. PPR options i and ii shall be the right of all Palestinian refugees and shall be in accordance with the laws of the State of Palestine.
ii. Option iii shall be at the sovereign discretion of third countries and shall be in accordance with numbers that each third country will submit to the International Commission. These numbers shall represent the total number of Palestinian refugees that each third country shall accept.
iii. Option iv shall be at the sovereign discretion of Israel and will be in accordance with a number that Israel will submit to the International Commission. This number shall represent the total number of Palestinian refugees that Israel shall accept. As a basis, Israel will consider the average of the total numbers submitted by the different third countries to the International Commission.
iv. Option v shall be in accordance with the sovereign discretion of present host countries. Where exercised this shall be in the context of prompt and extensive development and rehabilitation programs for the refugee communities.
Note that the specific amount of Palestinian refugees that would theoretically be allowed into '48 Israel is at Israel's sovereign discretion. Yes, a "basis" to get to a number is the average of third country permanent resettlements. But a) that number will likely be pretty token and b) it's merely a "basis" and thus non-binding regardless.
What power do they have to implement this politically in Palestine?
None, of course, right now. But should such an agreement be consummated, the entire international community would have to act as guarantor of the arrangement. Palestinians pursuing irredentist claims re: '48 borders would be heavily marginalized and not gain much support except from radical Islamist circles.
c) But isn't the larger question, the crucial question, one of credibility? We all want to believe, to hope (let's assume). After all, we are all honorable men....But what basis is there to believe anything that emanates from the Palestinian leadership (even those elements of the leadership that are supposedly furthest away from leading)?
And if the response to that question (assuming that I'll not be labeled a racist) is that "in spite of justified doubts one must forge ahead (after all what alternative ist there? etc.)," then can't one rejoin that one is witnessing Oslo a second time, or for that matter acting out Munich redux?
To close, one's opinions reflect one's hopes and perceptions to be sure; but why in this case do normally intelligent people cast all caution to the tendentious winds in the name of hope?
I'm not casting all caution to the wind. I'm saying that Yossi Beilin and his Palestinian interlocuters came up with a quite ingenious potential settlement. Put simply, they pushed beyond Taba without moving purely into the realm of fantasy. I really believe that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians who took the time to read this agreement--should the current atmosphere not be as poisonous today--would likely be in a position to support the document.
It's not some absurd, fantastical document. It's grounded in an entire historical background of negotiations going from Madrid to Oslo to Camp David II to Taba. That's why Sharon was so pissed about it. If it was purely fantasy-land he could have more easily ignored it and it wouldn't have gotten under his skin so much.
Some pretty good points made here. So I'll be blogging a response today or tomorrow.
Khodorkovsky, Putin, Yukos
posted by Gregory|
10/31/2003 11:22:00 AM
I haven't blogged all the going-ons re: this matter. But a trusty B.D. Moscow correspondent thinks it's a bigger deal that I initially (and still) do.
So, while his report may be a tad hyperbolic, it's well worth a read:
Historian Richard Pipes relayed to me a conversation with former "kamizakee" Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar in the early nineties whom he asked: "don't you see the massive degree of theft going on in your country, why don't you do something?" According to Dr. Pipes, Gaidar bluntly responded "because that would prompt a counter-revolution and blow away what freedom we have managed to gain and are working to further build." The arrest of Russia's richest man on Saturday and subsequent resignation of Kremlin chief-of-staff Alexander Voloshin, officially accepted yesterday, evidence the fact this very counter-revolution is under way. It is not, as pro-Kremlin spinners will, and most likely have, attempted to communicate to policy-makers in the West, a Russian version of "Operation Clean Hands." Rather, it is a calculated power-grab by the very people the Cold War was fought to remove from political leadership in Russia. The country is moving--if not uncontrollably--quickly backwards.
The Washington establishment spent a good deal of time speculating about "who is Mr. Putin" following is accession to Russia’s presidency in late 1999. The United States is not uniquely to blame--it was on German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's good word that President Bush set forth on a positive relationship with his Russian counterpart. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was also an earlier advocate of Putin's bona fides. Putin is reportedly fond of relaying a conversation he had with Henry Kissinger in New York when, according to his telling, the two agreed that there is nothing wrong with intelligence men leading countries--look, after all at Bush the Elder. In Russia's case, though, it's not just a former intelligence man at the helm: following recent events, it is now painfully clear that the intelligence services are running the country, from the top down. Voloshin's departure from the Kremlin signals a victory of sorts for the "silovoki." The last voices of reason in this country are the liberal politicians we support, however, a clearly corrupt (witness Chechnya last month) electoral machine is working to further marginalize them in early December. The figurative crumbs we're being thrown in response (yesterday's decision by the Constitutional Court that journalists might actually be able to report on politics under certain circumstances), cannot obscure the unpleasant truth about what is happening in Russia. Democratic processes here are profoundly compromised and the situation is getting worse.
Time to Do Something
Last July, when this particular series of events began rolling into motion, I wrote--on the urging of another deputy--an appropriately shrill but perhaps underscored piece in a weekly report about the ramifications of what is going on in the Russian political establishment. Prompting what may have been an insufficient gesture on my part, a wide-eyed deputy asked me, incredulously, how Washington could sit by and allow this to happen. The Russians now understands that this is precisely what we have done and no longer look for much help from the West. During a live interview on NTV earlier this week, Javier Solana said current events amount to "an internal Russian matter," following this, though, by stating his personal concern (which was not translated.) In a full-page add in yesterday's Kommersant, self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky wrote, among other things, that Russia's opposition needs to stop looking to the West for help and start relying on themselves.
Perhaps Berezovsky was correct in some aspects of what he said. A unification of forces who stand for market-reforms, freedom and open communication with the outside world is very much in order. If, like Berezovsky himself or, as the General Prosecutor and FSB are doing their damndest to demonstrate, now Khodorkovsky, the advocates of these principals are not the most attractive people in the world, that is at best a side note. We are not unfamiliar with scoundrels playing virtuous tunes or appealing to higher values in the hopes of winning our sympathy--Americans are uniquely succeptible to such overtures because we actually believe in the principles. In the current case, however, Russia's oligarchs, for all their dirty laundry, are telling us something important:
Cognizant of what little we can do in this situation, at the very least I would urge you to neither accept nor implicitly legitimize the Kremlin spin on this matter. This is not an isolated business matter, as some Russia-boosters successfully persuaded the markets at the beginning of this week, pre-empting a financial freefall. It is not just about re-distribution of the world's fifth-largest oil company (a controlling stake in which was frozen late yesterday). It is certainly not about Putin fighting corruption. Rather, it is history moving in the wrong direction.
UPDATE: More very serious concern.
A Neo-Con in London
posted by Gregory|
10/31/2003 10:46:00 AM
So I went to hear John Bolton speak last night here in London. The talk was hosted by a British think-tank shop called the Bruges Group.
In the audience you had MPs, former British ambassadors, Boris Berezovsky, some expat Americans like myself. Bolton was to speak on the new world order after Iraq.
Instead, however, Bolton (who is commonly described as the neo-con 'spy' in dovish Powell's State Department) gave a hard-hitting speech that mostly centered on counter-proliferation efforts, various countries WMD capabilities, and the like.
I say "instead". Why?
Well, you might have thought the speech would be more expansive thematically given the theme of a new world order post-Iraq. But I suspect, for Bolton, the new world order after Iraq is much like the new world order after 9/11. It's all about the WMD.
His list of rogue states was impressively long. Of course, NoKo and Iran. But Syria, Libya, Cuba as well (and perhaps others but memory fails me--there were so many!)
He comes off as deeply expert on matters arms control, missile defense (a topic which clearly excites him and came up in the Q&A) and the WMD programs of various "states of concern".
Where Bolton didn't come off as expert was under questioning from some, like a retired British Ambassador to the Middle East, about issues like the potential perils of democratization in the Middle East.
What, the questioner asked, if free elections install Islamist regimes in power? The one man, one vote, one time issue. A theological party comes into power and bans, going forward, free and fair elections.
This scenario is likely hyped a bit among the crusty Whitehall old guard chuckling about the clumsy neocon Yanks (there were quite a few of those types in the audience)--but Bolton's response didn't give confidence that he had given such 'deeper' issues much thought.
He glossed over the current state of play in Iraq so I asked him about that. I prefaced my Q by relaying that guys like John McCain, Bill Kristol and his fellow AEI'er Tom Donnelly (Bolton used to be affiliated with that think-tank) were calling for more troops in Iraq.
What did Bolton think? Was he comfortable with the Iraqification strategy? The number of boots on the ground?
Oh, and Bolton painted Syria in pretty poor colors--though stated Damascus had been more amenable to Washington's demands lately. But I pushed him on the porousness (or lack of porousness) of that border. He conceded that the real foul play from Syria occurred during the "major combat operations" stage and they had cooled it recently.
On the troops issue--he passed the buck--like Rummy and Dubya--leaving such ruminations to the commanders on the ground. But he stressed that he felt that passing more responsibility over to the Iraqis, as quickly as possible, was good for us and good for them.
He didn't pause to query whether we might be training them in too hasty a manner and that, consequently, they wouldn't be ready for prime time given the sophisticated insurgency campaign we are facing.
All in all, I was impressed by Bolton. His command of counter-proliferation issues is truly impressive. I'm glad folks like him are keeping an eagle eye on WMD issues from Beltway vantage points.
But I would have liked to have seen more of a facility with historical undercurrents in complex regions like the Middle East, more thought given to ethnic and secretarian subtleties/issues, and, overall, a slightly less myopic view of the post 9/11 scene.
WMD proliferation is a hugely important issue--perhaps the defining threat of the post 9/11 era. But we have to put the issue in context and pursue more sophisticated strategies that take into account the individual factors driving each states' weapons programs.
To often, I fear, a guy like John Bolton will come at the issue solely from the prism of diktat-like clarion calls to disarm, disarm, disarm--without a deeper sense of regional dynamics or how best to apply the pressure points vis-a-vis the relevant government.
posted by Gregory|
10/31/2003 10:15:00 AM
B.D. has occasionally issued polite criticisms in the direction of Condi Rice.
But boy does she get it per this article. And, doesn't she sound, you know, quite Vice-Presidential? Like she'd be a significant political asset in the campaign, even?
"It is now undeniable that the terrorists declared war on America and on the civilized world many years before Sept. 11, 2001," she said in remarks delivered to the legal center at the Waldorf-Astoria. "The attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988, the World Trade Center in 1993, the attacks on American installations in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000: These and other atrocities were part of a sustained, systematic campaign to spread devastation and chaos. Yet until Sept. 11, the terrorists faced no sustained, systematic and global response."
Bush Reelection Prospects Watch
posted by Gregory|
10/30/2003 02:52:00 PM
How will Paul Krugman spin this?
Doubtless that the rapid growth is on the back of perilous and spiraling deficit spending etc etc.
Noam Chomsky, hanging in Havana, provides a preview of this theme and--as a bonus--additional offensive musings.
UPDATE: As if on cue here is Paul Krugman writing today.
"To put it more bluntly: it would be quite a trick to run the biggest budget deficit in the history of the planet, and still end a presidential term with fewer jobs than when you started. And despite yesterday's good news, that's a trick President Bush still seems likely to pull off."
Turkish Troop Deployment Watch
posted by Gregory|
10/30/2003 02:48:00 PM
What was always a bad idea continues to dissipate as a viable policy option. In blog-land, you read about it here first!
The Perils of Iraqification
posted by Gregory|
10/30/2003 11:39:00 AM
I've been getting a bit worried that, given mounting casualties and attacks in Iraq, some in the Bush Administration are tempted to "Iraqify" the security effort--perhaps with the goal of getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible.
A version of this view has Bush wanting to avoid any post-March '04 U.S. fatalities as the election approaches. The problem with this, of course, is that the forces may be too hastily trained.
And if they are not yet ready for prime time they will likely be out-fought by Baathist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen, assorted jihadis and criminal elements.
But I'm not buying all the 'cut and run' speculation at this stage. Jim Hoagland, who has excellent Washington sources, writes today that:
"Bush was adamant that he will see through the challenge in Iraq. In private he is even more insistent, I am told, about not declaring a false victory and running out, as some prominent Democrats predict he will do. Bush aides say that is neither in his nature nor in his political interest."
Perhaps needless to say, but if this White House does cynically change course and leave Iraq--before having made a protracted and serious effort to leave a viable democratic polity behind--George Bush will have at least one fewer vote than he got in '00 courtesy of a B.D. defection.
And doubtless many others feel the same.
Anyway, as I said, I don't think that is going to happen. I really trust Bush is wedded to making a serious go of the Iraq effort.
But I'm worried he might go about it the wrong way going forward, partly because of the manner by which the renewed emphasis on Iraqification appears linked to potential troop reductions (or at least not troop increases).
Don't get me wrong. I think we should Iraqify--partly, per the plan, so as to free up more of our troops tied up with force protection duties, border monitoring, routine security. These troops are then free to concentrate on going after the bad guys.
But even with Iraqification freeing up more of our G.I.s to hunt down the resistance and terrorists--I still fear it will prove too little, too late.
So what to do? I'm with the McCain-Bill Kristol crowd at this stage.
McCain: “We need more troops,” said McCain. “We need more special forces. We need more marines. We need more intelligence capabilities.”
By the way, I suspect Bush too has some concerns about whether we have enough forces on the ground. Otherwise why would he be "constantly" asking Rummy about it (see bottom of linked post)?
Maybe it's time for key opinion leaders in the Beltway (McCain, Hagel, Kristol, Donnelly etc) to ramp up the pressure and make the argument more loudly and forcefully. The stakes certainly warrant it.
The Mix of Forces
As Donnelly points out in his piece, counter-insurgency campaigns are manpower intensive. Another reason to assure appropriate force levels in the theater.
In this vein, as mentioned above, McCain is wise to call for more troops, more marines, more special forces, more intelligence-gathering capability.
But what about constabulatory forces?
Once an area has been secured--are we really going to feel good about passing off the security maintenance duties solely to a hastily trained Iraqi police force?
Yes, they will have more cultural sensitivity and, of course, facility with the locals. But will they be able to keep a secured area secure?
This is where having sophisticated constabulatory forces available comes into play. This is where, just maybe, once we've secured key areas, countries like Germany could make a real contribution.
Not only by helping to train professional Iraqi military police cadres--but also, perhaps under a NATO umbrella--by having a presence on the ground to monitor the security maintenance implementation better.
Yeah, I know this sounds like an Afghanistan redux. And the Germans might balk. As far as I know, Schroder has merely offered to train Iraqi security forces and never specified whether he'd even do the training (let along joint patrols and the like) in Iraq proper.
Worth noting too, of course, that large swaths of Afghanistan are increasingly becoming unsafe again as the Taliban, neo-Talibs and al-Qaeda remnants regroup. Which argues for having more manpower there too. Clearly, we can't do all this alone.
The Larger Picture
Forget all the debates about multilateralism versus unilateralism. The charges of stubborn unilateralism lobbed at the Bushies were always of the nature of a straw man erected by opponents of the administration.
After 9/11, we are all multilateralists. We might have implemented diplomatic efforts at gaining multilateral cooperation better--but Bush, as much as his critics like to claim, never told the world to go f**k off. There was too much diplomatic effort exerted at the U.N., for one, that renders such claims of brutish unilateralism highly disingenuous.
He and his advisors realize that the challenges are too massive, even for the behemoth-like hyperpuissance, to be handled alone.
Financial detective work to track terrorist finances, intelligence sharing on terror groups and rogue states, troop deployment requirements--we require assistance on all these fronts.
As Chuck Hagel puts it in folksy Nebraska terms, "we need friends." But let's structure that cooperation and friendship intelligently. So a suggestion.
It's increasingly clear that the NATO community will be facing threats emanating from the "next door" region of the Middle East going forward. Might it not make sense to develop multinational constabulatory NATO brigades that are ready and able to both train third country military police and assist such cadres, on the ground, with stabilization duties in "peace-making" environments?
Above and beyond the Nato Response Force that was recently formed?
posted by Gregory|
10/29/2003 01:54:00 PM
I'm starting to like Clark less and less. Oh, and Jamie Rubin has joined his team as senior foreign policy advisor.
More on Clark via Sully.
Syria Border Watch
posted by Gregory|
10/29/2003 11:27:00 AM
It appears that it's not quite as porous as you might have been led to think:
"Commanders from the 101st Airborne repeated this week that neither the aircraft nor human intelligence sources show significant infiltration from Syria. Foreign fighters could still be reaching Baghdad from Syria, Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait by passing through border posts with valid or forged travel documents, but concerns about illegal infiltration along the Syrian border appear unfounded, the officers said.
"If somebody is saying the Ho Chi Minh Trail runs through my area of operations, I'm going to tell them they're wrong," said Lt. Col. Joseph Buche, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne's 3rd Battalion, referring to the infiltration route through Laos used by North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War."
Arab Solidarity Watch
posted by Gregory|
10/29/2003 10:38:00 AM
Multiple suicide bombings in an Arab capital. Dozens killed, hundreds wounded. The vast majority of the fatalities Iraqi Arabs. Indeed, Iraqi nationals serving in nascent post-Saddam police forces mostly the intended targets.
So I thought I'd do a quick Lexis-Nexis search date segmented for the past four days.
Search terms: Hosni Mubarak, Bashar Assad, Crown Prince Abdullah, King Abdullah.
Would leaders of the key Arab states have anything negative to say about the spate of bombings? Would they condemn the brutality that felled so many of their fellow Arabs? The scourge of suicide bombing coming home, so to speak?
No. Not a whimper of condemnation from Hosni Mubarak (he tepidly wished for "Iraq's stability" in a meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister), Crown Prince Abdullah (who told a cabinet session that "he hoped Muslim countries and peoples would seize on the holy month of Ramadan to end all kinds of disunity and disputes"), King Abdullah (nada), or Bashar Assad (no surprise there).
Now, it might be that English language journalists simply haven't written up the strident condemnations issued by these key Arab leaders as word of the horrific bombings raced around the globe. Perhaps the Arab language press is full of such denunciations of Arab killing Arab.
Or maybe not.
Sadly (and pretty predictably), the reaction has been mostly of this nature.
Talk about morally bankrupt leadership. Leaders have to lead--not just bow to the prejudices and fears of their people. Sure, Washington has made some missteps in its Middle East policy and our reputation is at somewhat of a nadir in the Arab/Islamic world.
But does that mean that long term allies like Crown Prince Abdullah, King Abdullah and Hosni Mubarak can't even bring themselves to condemn the horrific suicide bombings of earlier this week?
Not on Washington's behalf, mind you. Listen, the U.S. isn't asking varied potentates to sycophantize and kowtow to America by always condemning whatever happens in the region that we deem worthy of condemnation.
But surely when Arab blood is spilled in such large number--Arab leaders might step up to the plate to condemn these vicious tactics?
Nope. Rather a quite deafening silence or broad banalities uttered about Ramadan bonhomie.
Guess the resurrection of any great pan-Arabist projects isn't looming just over the horizon, huh?
The Mother of all Rogues
posted by Gregory|
10/29/2003 01:14:00 AM
Over at Le Monde Diplomatique, it's not nuclear proliferation in NoKo or Iran that's of significant concern.
Rather, it's the U.S. nuclear capability that's the real concern.
No, seriously. (subscription required).
Dominique de Villain (I mean, de Villepin) is doubtless in the bowels of the Quai D'Orsay plotting a containment strategy now that Iran is all, um, tidied up.
Krugman Suck Up Watch
posted by Gregory|
10/29/2003 12:40:00 AM
There's something of a love-in over at the NYRB with Russell Baker discoursing on Paul Krugman's greatness (or something like that).
I feel a tad nauseous after reading it, to be frank. And no, it's not the snifter of Lagavulin that's to blame....
"Before anyone could say "narcolepsy," politics intruded, and it quickly became obvious that Krugman was incapable of being either boring or genteel, but was highly gifted at writing political journalism. Starting in January of the election year 2000, he rapidly acquired a large, adoring readership which treasured his column as an antidote for the curiously polite treatment President Bush was receiving from most of the mainstream media."
You can't make this stuff up.
Dubya's Press Conference
posted by Gregory|
10/28/2003 10:06:00 PM
Read it here. Some parts were strong, some less so.
Some key snippets (italicized) with observations below the relevant text in normal font.
Defining Imminency Down
Check out this interesting exchange.
Your package of reconstruction aid, sir, that the Congress, as you point out, is considering, that's an emergency package, meaning it's not budgeted for. Put another way, that means the American taxpayer and future generations of American taxpayers are saddled with that.
Why should they be saddled with that? I know you don't want the Iraqis to be saddled with large amounts of debt, but why should future generations of Americans have that?
BUSH: First of all, it's a one-time expenditure, as you know.
And secondly, because a peaceful and free Iraq is essential to the future security of America.
First step was to remove Saddam Hussein because he was a threat -- a gathering threat, as I think I put it. [my emphasis]
Dubya's been reading Sully (see "The Real Issue")--or his advisors have.
Later in the press conference:
Q: Sir, David Kay's interim report cited substantial evidence of a secretive weapons program, but the absence of any substantial stores of chemical or biological weapons there have caused some people even who supported the war to feel somehow betrayed.
Can you explain to those Americans, sir, whether you are surprised those weapons haven't turned up, why they haven't turned up and whether you feel that your administration's credibility has been affected in any way by that?
BUSH: David Kay's report said that Saddam Hussein was in material breach of 1441, which would have been casus belli. In other words, he had a weapons program, he's disguised the weapons program, he had ambitions. And I felt the report was a very interesting first report, because he's still looking to find the truth.
The American people know that Saddam Hussein was a gathering danger, as I said. And he was a gathering danger, and the world is safer as a result for us removing him from power. Us being more than the United States, Britain and other countries who are willing to participate -- Poland, Australia -- all willing to join up to remove this danger.
And the intelligence that said he had a weapon system was intelligence that had been used by a multinational agency, the U.N., to pass resolutions.
It's been used by my predecessor to conduct bombing raids. It was intelligence gathered from a variety of sources that clearly said Saddam Hussein was a threat. And given the attacks of September the 11th, it was -- you know, we needed to enforce U.N. resolution for the security of the world, and we did. We took action based upon good, solid intelligence. It was the right thing to do to make America more secure and the world more peaceful.
And David Kay continues to ferret out the truth. Saddam Hussein is a man who hid programs and weapons for years. He was a master at hiding things. And so, David Kay will continue his search.
But one of the things that he first found was that there was clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, material breach they call it in the diplomatic circles. Causes belie (ph), it means that would have been a cause for war. In other words, he said it's dangerous.
And we were right to enforce U.N. resolutions as well. It's important for the U.N. to be a credible organization. You're not credible if you issue resolutions and then nothing happens. Credibility comes when you say something is going to happen and then it does happen.
And in order to keep the peace, it's important for there to be credibility in this world, credibility on the side of freedom and hope."
You know, I've said it before, but it's worth saying again. Dubya's right. Saddam, by not disclosing the existence of the weapons programs that Kay has uncovered, was in breach of 1441.
Casus belli right there. Sure, in the heated advent to war, there may have been some (very) unfortunate hyping of intelligence by some Administration figures (though nothing I've seen, to date, by the President, proves anything beyond very aggressive readings of imperfect intelligence--as compared with purposeful deception).
Would I be happier if we had stumbled upon large stockpiles of anthrax, sarin and botulinum toxin back in April? You bet.
But post 9/11, the burden of proof must lie on states running afoul of U.N. resolutions (particularly when led by leaders who have used WMD before) to persuasively show compliance with valid demands of the international community with respect to their weapons programs and stockpiles.
The Middle East Peace Process
QUESTION: Mr. President, your policies on the Middle East seem so far to have produced pretty meager results, as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians...
BUSH: Major or meager?
QUESTION: ... as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians continues. And as you heard last week from Muslim leaders in Indonesia, your policies are seen as biased toward Israel and I'd like to ask you about that.
The government of Israel continues to build settlements in occupied territories and it continues to build the security fence which Palestinians see as stealing their land.
You've criticized these moves mildly a couple of times, but you've never taken any concrete action to back up your words on that. Will you?
BUSH: My policy in the Middle East is pretty clear. We are for a two-state solution. We want there to be a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.
Now, in order to achieve a two-state solution there needs to be a focused effort by all concerned parties to fight off terror. There are terrorists in the Middle East willing to kill to make sure that a Palestinian state doesn't emerge. It's essential that there be a focused effort to fight off terror.
Abu Mazen came here to the White House. You were here. You witnessed the press conference. He pledged a focused and concerted effort to fight terror so that we could have a Palestinian state emerge. And he asked for help, which we were willing to provide.
Unfortunately, he is no longer in power. He was eased out of power. And I do not see the same commitment to fight terror from the old guard.
And, therefore, it's going to be very hard to move a peace process forward until there's a focused effort by all parties to assume their responsibilities.
You asked about the fence. I have said the fence is a problem to the extent that the fence is an opportunity to make it difficult for a Palestinian state to emerge. There is a difference between security and land acquisition, and we have made our views clear on that issue.
I have also spoken to Prime Minister Sharon in the past about settlement activities. And the reason why that we have expressed concern about settlement activities is because we want the conditions for a Palestinian state on the ground to be positive; that when the Palestinians finally get people that are willing to fight off terror, the ground must be right so that a state can emerge -- a peaceful state.
This administration is prepared to help the Palestinians develop an economy. We're prepared to help the long-suffering Palestinian people.
But the long-suffering Palestinian people need leadership that is willing to do what is necessary to enable a Palestinian state to come forth.
Was Bush joking when he prodded the questioner about whether results of Middle East peace processing efforts were meager or major? Sadly, I think he was seriously asking--though I didn't see the conference on video and am solely relying on the text.
Regardless, the bolded portion pretty much says it all. The peace process is moribund and in tatters. And it will likely remain so for quite a spell.
We are in the strange position that Arafat's presence all but means Bush has decided to hit the pause button on the peace process. At the same time, we are against the Israelis killing or expelling him--as the consequences would be dire (as senior IDF folks are aware too--another reason Sharon has held his fire).
Catch-22 in the Holy Land, you might say.
Someone has to move the process ahead despite Arafat's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't.
I say this is dumb policy. I'd take Yossi Beilin's fervent peace processing efforts over this paralysis any day of the week--especially as the Palis gave up right of return in the Geneva arrangements.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
You recently put Condoleezza Rice, your national security adviser, in charge of the management of the administration's Iraq policy. What has effectively changed since she's been in charge?
And a second question: Can you promise a year from now that you will have reduced the number of troops in Iraq?
BUSH: The second question is a trick question, so I won't answer it.
The first question was Condoleezza Rice. Her job is to coordinate inter-agency. She's doing a fine job of coordinating inter-agency. She's doing what her -- I mean, the role of the national security adviser is to not only provide good advice to the president, which she does on a regular basis -- I value her judgment and her intelligence -- but her job is also to deal inter-agency and to help unstick things that may get stuck. That's the best way to put it. She's an unsticker... [emphasis added]
... and -- is she listening? OK, well, she's doing a fine job."
An unsticker? No folks, she's got to be a proactive broker--like I've argued before.
A few points here. The use of the term unsticker is quite revealing. For one, it presupposes such frequent "stickiness."
Put differently, it means that in this Admin, it's pretty much simply assumed Rummy/Powell will go to the mat each time (with Armitage sparring in the background with Wolfy, Feith and Co.) and produce a morass of conflicting policies. And then Condi comes in and simply unsticks the mess, ie. the attendant inertia/policy paralysis.
Nah. That's not an effective M.O.
Again, think Brent Scrowcroft. We need an active broker with the gravitas, skill and intellect to bash Beltway barons like Powell and Rummy (and deal with a very, very powerful Veep with his own mini-NSC) into line when the national interest demands innovative bridging proposals (or other out of the box thinking) emanating from the NSC--when the other principals can't get their ducks in line.
Condi Rice, with all due respect, hasn't played this role to date.
Troops Levels in Iraq
Q:....And, in addition, are you considering the possibility of possibly adding more U.S. troops to the forces already on the ground there to help restore order?
BUSH: That's a decision by John Abizaid. General Abizaid makes the decision as to whether or not he needs more troops.
I constantly ask the secretary of defense, as well as when I was visiting with General Abizaid, "Does he have what it takes to do his mission?" He told me he does. [emphasis added]
Why is Dubya "constantly" asking Rummy if we have another troops? Maybe because he, just might, instinctually feel we don't have enough? He might be on to something...