February 23, 2006


Kablooey is not a word you're likely to find in any of the mainstream media, certainly not associated with the destruction of (yet another) 'holy shrine' in Iraq. And my deliberate choice of that word shows how subtle is our understanding of each other as Americans and how difficult it must be to actually understand such subtleties in Iraq.

I am not under any false illusions, as I believe the Left and Pacifists are, concerning our ability to understand Iraqi passions. We can never really know exactly how holy that Mosque might have been or to whom it would actually be holy. It could be holy like Graceland. It could be holy like the Statue of Liberty. It could be holy like Crater Lake. It could be holy like Wrigley Field. Depending upon which Americans you talk to under what circumstances, the loss of any of those places in America might be cause for War or yawns. As we speak, there are men burning down churches in the American South, and we've been through this before. Nobody could ever say that it would be appropriate to judge America based upon the angry reactions some foreign journalist captured of those people closest to the tragedy. Of course that's all we've got, and in relation to Iraq, it's probably the best we are ever going to get.

This is bringing me to some interesting preliminary conclusions about the nature of war, and I think everyone is finding this war to be less satisfying than anyone may have imagined. Perhaps we are wrong to think of war in Rumsfeld's 'advanced technological' terms. Maybe war is best done as war.

What hasn't happened in Iraq is that the Iraqi people have not sued for peace. So when I think about the insurgency in Iraq and the inability for anyone to stop it there is a simple reason for this that was not the case in WW2. The nation has not been pacified. Understand that I am talking pacified in the harshest terms, ie we have destroyed their ability to carry out any war. I believe this is what we did to Germany and to Japan. We crippled them so badly and killed so many of their men outright that we left them nations of devastated women, fatherless children and wandering dogs. They begged us to stop. All they wanted was an end to the slaughter and the chance for a normal life. But we have attempted in Iraq to decapitate a despot without making war on the nation and society. It is what we have done. We have left so many Iraqi men standing that they retain the energy, capacity and desire to continue the destruction. Enough so that the question of Civil War is viable, enough so that other holy shrines are vulnerable, enough so that we ask the question seriously, 'Do Iraqis truly want peace?'.

The same total pacification hasn't happened in Palestine. As ugly as the Israelis may have been to the Palestinians, they have left enough of them standing to fight back for 30 years. Nobody sues for peace. Small weak nations, subnations, radical anarchists, and all manner of irregulars, looneys and splinter cells have somehow merited standing as combattants in War. They aren't, and we aren't really making war on them. We're battling them with slaps. We have entered an era in which the sound of war is 'Kablooey'.

Somehow, this New Agey combat has our respect and admiration. It certainly makes sense to a global capitalist neocon such as myself. Let's not devastate Iraq, I'd say. Let's get rid of the problem militarily. But there is perhaps finally only one thing militaries are good for and that is Total War. Beat them down until they sue for peace. And perhaps this Gulf War One and Gulf War Two are the proof, especially if there are enough men in Iraq to be humilitated but not broken, and that sustains an Iraqi Civil War.

I give GWBush all the credit. He has rightfully decided to use the military instead of the CIA to destroy the enemy. The enemy was clear - it was Saddam. And he rightly decided to stand in front of the world and say, we're going to do this, ready or not. And he rightly gave everyone a chance to get in on the action. But perhaps what Old Europe knew that we neocons didn't know was that nothing less than total destruction would lead to total peace.

The world over, foolish and superstitious muslims believe that they are in a position to challenge the might of the US and the West. They should not make that mistake believing that American neocons will play the footsie of surgical war with the next rogue state that crosses our path. We have taken the battle to the enemy and we have attempted, bravely and morally to give people in the land of the enemy a shortcut to democracy and Western partnership. But if Iraq falls into civil war, no matter what the reasons, and we walk away with a black eye for trying, there will be no moderation next time. The old conservative line about 'nation building' will have won the day, and the Wilsonian dream will be considered the exception rather than the rule.

So let us hope that the DoD retains some anti-neocon skepticism and keeps those nuclear sub contracts open. Because if the dreams of neocons go kablooey in Iraq, the next foe of Uncle Sam will not be met with the Rumsfeld Doctrine, but with the Powell Doctrine.

Posted by mbowen at 05:01 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Obligatory Seriousness on Dubai Ports

I'm with the President on this one, and I think this among a number of issues demonstrates the difference between himself, the party, various conservative ideologues and the hoi polloi of the Right. So let me say it straight out, all of the objections to the sale of P&O to Dubai Ports is reactionary bigotry hiding behind a mask of security consciousness.

Now I will grant that the idea of selling a publically traded British firm to an Arab government controlled entity would raise some eyebrows among us capitalists. But then again, who else is going to buy it? This is, in the end, global enterprise but not of the sort which should be more alarming such as the Russian Federation's nationalization of Yukos Oil. So far, I've heard no outcry from the Brits or any suggestion that this was anything other than a voluntary transaction. Then again, I wouldn't look very far considering the shaky footing upon which I think the detractors are standing.

If Homeland Security doesn't have the final word on the rules and regs surrounding the operations of the US ports involved in this transaction, whose fault is that? Are we to assume that there is some magic an Arab port manager can get away with that somebody else cannot? And pray tell me how the UAE is going to get 22,000 employees to change what they've been doing and become operationally dangerous to the USA? There aren't radical islamists working the docks in New Orleans, unless something radical has changed in the Longshoreman's business that we've been unaware of.

Unawareness is clearly the call sign for all the noise surrounding this deal. How exactly is it that Senators from South Dakota figure in to this calculus? Since when has South Dakota had expertise in ports? They're about as landlocked a state as ever existed in the lower 48.

You want an All American company to run the ports? Yeah right. We don't care. Number one is Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. Number Two is Singapore's PSA International. Number three is now DP World, post-acquisition. You can't even find out who rounds out the dozen. Go ahead. Try and find out - you've got as much internet as I do. We don't care about that maritime economy, just like we don't make the shortwave radios.

This political bigotry is a lousy way to show interest.

Posted by mbowen at 07:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

Krauthammer Nails It

As you may have surmised from the tone and content of my recent comics, I think the entire reign of chaos surrounding the satirizing of Muhammad is ripe for comedy. Nothing quite mocks a moralist like a satire of his revulsion to satire. But into such chaotic times the voice of moderation is too worth of mocking, and nobody nails it like Charles Krauthammer in today's editorial.

A true Muslim moderate is one who protests desecrations of all faiths. Those who don't are not moderates but hypocrites, opportunists and agents for the rioters, merely using different means to advance the same goal: to impose upon the West, with its traditions of freedom of speech, a set of taboos that is exclusive to the Islamic faith. These are not defenders of religion but Muslim supremacists trying to force their dictates upon the liberal West.

And these "moderates" are aided and abetted by Western "moderates" who publish pictures of the Virgin Mary covered with elephant dung and celebrate the "Piss Christ" (a crucifix sitting in a jar of urine) as art deserving public subsidy, but who are seized with a sudden religious sensitivity when the subject is Muhammad.

I have no particular soft spot in my heart for the eternal smirk. The fact that Charlie Hebdo has managed to get itself sued a dozen times by Christians is a strange distinction indeed. Freedom of speech is different from freedom of spite or freedom of spit. Nobody likes a wiseguy. So agents provocateur are not blameless. Nobody in their right mind loves an equal opportunity offender. But it does seem that the rowdy minions are going out of their way to be outraged. You've got to be really looking for trouble to find it in Denmark.

I'm all for the conflict. Let's get it out there. If there are people who are willing to die over matters as pathetic as this, I think we're well rid of them. I mean we suffer through Ted Rall without coming apart. Days like this, I wish I was king of a small island nation whose primary business was that of an international prison colony. Business would be brisk, and I would oblige those civilized nations.. You know, maybe I'm a little carried away here. I'll stick to ribaldry in comic form.

Posted by mbowen at 09:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 29, 2006

On Hamas & Democracy

When you're a crusty old man, everything that comes over the airwaves is obvious. Nobody on the planet possesses enough time and talent to broadcast anything significantly substantial enough to alter any perspectives. Even with 500 channels, it's still an idiot box, IF you are well-read.

Part of the problem with this being a political blog is that most of the news I get never comes with enough detail to be a genuine surprise or learning experience for me. So I set down to write on a daily basis and it all seems like it should go into 'Obligatory Seriousness'. However the victory of Hamas in Palestine in the wake of the death of Arafat and the end of Sharon is one of those counter-intuitive blessings that I love.

I think that it is an extraordinarily great thing that Hamas has got to step up and govern. In the same way, I am pleased with what's going on in Iran. In both cases, the suppressed heinous desires of a mealy-mouthed people is coming to the fore. I suspect that within a year we will see full-blown cowardice on a scale that will shake the world out of its daydreaming. The assumptions about the motivations of the masses can be twisted and turned and second-guessed from here until the sacred cows come home. But there's nothing quite like calling the cards on the table of democracy. Here is where it finally shows up.

Very much like the war in Iraq, the opportunity for all of the crackpots, jacklegs, nutcases, suicidal rebels and other self-destructive mental cases has been made plain. Iraq became the place where all of your idiot dreams of killing American soldiers were made manifest; and where every maladjusted and misinformed conspiracy theorist in the First World had an opportunity to see exactly how significant was their Baby Bin Laden Theory. We destroyed all of the militant midget mullahs and their meatheaded mercenaries. The great armies of the Caliphate have been reduced to street gangs.

And so it will be with Hamas. They are not going to change direction. They are the investors in and inventors of the suicide bomb attack on civilians. They have had years to consider their strategies and tactics and now they have deftly and soundly defeated their political opponents. It says quite a bit that those Palestinians most invested in moderation are corrupted beyond repair, and those most single-mindedly focused on disciplined change and reform are hell-bent on the destruction of their neighbors. There is no change to be had. The will of the people has been made manifest, what lies ahead is the inevitable.

The inevitable will be an even more ragtage ethnic Palestinian minority subsumed into a single dominant Israel. The dreams of Palestinian nationalism are about to come crashing down and their inevitable dependence will be made crystal clear. All we need do now is sit back and watch the tortured dreams of the manic and the single-minded madness work its magic. There can be and there will be no Palestinian nation so long as the fundamental expression of its political will is to blame its problems on Israel. And our Secretary of State should withdraw every penny of aid until the new Palestinian government demonstrates its ability and willingness to disband the Hamas Militia. Of course Hamas will not disarm, and its soldiers will not confine themselves to quarters. This is a 'nation' whose fundamental contribution to the region is destructive suicide. We should expect nothing less.

Posted by mbowen at 05:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 14, 2005

I Was Tortured in a Secret Prison

Listening to NPR the other morning almost sounded like an exercise in conspiracy theories.

Europeans are now on a hunt for CIA secrets. And while Condi has come forward to say without equivocation that we don't torture and nobody can prove that we do, it looks like the burden of proof is on the accusers. Good luck. The CIA may be a lot of things, but I'd imagine if it has one particular strength it would be in the matter of safe houses. If there was a secret prison in my neighborhood, I'd put it in the hoity-toity gated community. Easy.

In listening to this dialog it occurs to me how much good faith matters in international relations. If George W. Bush had some measure of international grace and style, rather than just his homefolks born-again swagger, those mincing Euros would be a shade less arrogant. Nobody's wining and dining them, just the facts ma'am. But facts aren't quite enough to run a foreign policy on. International relations need spirit, and our spirit is rather poor at the moment.

It has become obvious over the past few weeks that people are available to squawk about absolutely anything an uppity person can get into a microphone. If there are people who can believe that an innocent man was executed in California, certainly there are millions more who can believe that the CIA is doing secret things behind everyone's back, including torture. Yeah I bet they are torturing people. But you can bet that nobody is ever going to get out of a safe-house alive to tell the tale.

If torture is a fate worse than death, from now on, only American torturers will bear the scars.

Posted by mbowen at 08:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 30, 2005

Eight Pillars

There’s always a temptation, in the middle of a long struggle, to seek the quiet life, to escape the
duties and problems of the world, and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of
murder. This would be a pleasant world, but it’s not the world we live in. The enemy is never tired,
never sated, never content with yesterday’s brutality. This enemy considers every retreat of the
civilized world as an invitation to greater violence. In Iraq, there is no peace without victory. We will
keep our nerve, and we will win that victory.”

-President George W. Bush, October 6, 2005

I've read the executive summary and some of the details for the president's release of the National Security Council's strategic definition of Victory in Iraq. It is remarkably free of gobbledygook. More comments as I read.
Download file

Posted by mbowen at 06:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

Who's In Your Network?

A brief bit of theory to preface a bit of news: It's not what you know, it's how you're networked (or not). I know that if i wanted a date in Brazil, I'd look first to the people I'm networked with at Orkut. I know that if I wanted to get in touch with marketing people, I'd look first to the people I'm networked with at LinkedIn. If I needed another body in a double date to a punk rock concert, I'd check out my niece's spot at MySpace. You just can't meet people in bars like they do in the movies. Clues are all online. I feel sorry for the clueless.

So I'm fortunate to have more than 1000 pageviews a day here at Cobb, but even more fortunate that I get unsolicited email some of which is not spam. So today a thoughtful individual sent me an article about some heads in Africa that I ought to pay attention to. I published 'Africans Whom Westerners Should Heed' over at the Brotherhood site. And believe me, when I get my national game in order, I'm not even going to forget the international.

As a computer scientist, it has taken me some time to learn things that I imagine my peers in the Arts & Letters have learned some time ago. It hasn't been easy work making sense of social networks - we in the computer industry have built ours from scratch. If I were an attorney, I would have known 30 years ago, even before college that in Los Angeles, the place to be was O'Melveny & Myers. I knew a kid with the right last name. But in the new world of distributed communications, aggregations of power move much quicker than law firm addresses. Not everybody is playing in that world and it is not yet invested with all the power it will acquire. It's growing. But this is how I get in touch, circles of trust, networks of interest, peer groups in public and private online communities. It allows me to be in many places at once, and for those who can master the paradigm, it's a very enabling tool indeed.

Such networks will never fully replace, but they will facilitate and augment meeting people face to face. Oh what a world, what a world!

Posted by mbowen at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 07, 2005

The Burning Bus

I'm doing some oddball things these days, having been temporarily overcome by absurdity. This evening, I watched about 10 minutes of Fox News, longer than ever outside of coverage of the Tsunami. Is it just me or does Bill O'Reilly wear entirely too much makeup? Anyway, it's something I never noticed before because I never watched.

so I'm watching O'Reilly banter with John McCain, knowing as I do some rightwinger's propensity to twist him for thinking for himself. And there's a bunch of "but he's a patriot" silliness. Pat Tillman was a hero and a patriot. I agree with you 80%, Senator, you're a patriot. Whatever. But just after the turn of the hour, the top pictures come on over the mess in Paris.

The montage was completely underwhelming. The caption, 'the rioting turns deadly'. What kind of class struggle is this? It takes eleven days for anyone to get killed here? What do the television journalists, who always go for the blood, have as their top picture? A burning bus. Jeez Louise. How pathetic.

I have in mind the story of the difference between Americans and South Americans. In America, if you're a passenger with your best friend who is speeding and he gets busted, you say, yeah he was speeding. In South America, you defend your friend against the cop. Basically in some other cultures, people believes consensus can defy objectivity. We tend to be more reality-based. "Dude, he was going 75 and everybody knows it", is what we'd say. We are resolved to resolution, others think consensus can suspend reality.

It must be that suspension of reality that's going on in the minds of the French government. It's a riot. It might not be a deadly riot, but it's a riot - the biggest they've had since May of 68. But perhaps they believe some consensus that it's something else might prevail. No such occurance could get by here in America. We count bodies and injuries and millions of dollars of damage, and we demand that something be done to restore order, NOW. Picture Ray Nagin screaming. Americans demand action. Cause, Effect. Action, Reaction.

But I imagine that so long as it's just cars that getting burned, the French feel they can dither. For this they will pay. That is, if the rioters are simply anarchic. At some point, perhaps when it becomes more deadly and makes the US headlines for 'objective' reasons, as opposed to merely Fox News, then we'll drink in some more prose and pass more judgement. But I predict that all anybody has to say is 'jihad'. Are we heading towards 1968 again? It feels like it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Ronnie Talk to Russia Before It's Too Late

You remember that Prince song. What about the line where Reagan says "We begin bombing in five minutes"? Why didn't the world end?

It still continues to amaze me that people consider Iraq to be such a huge thing, although I will certainly admit that it's more interesting than Central America. Iraq is not that huge. I said so 11 months ago.

Was Ronald Reagan a pacifist and a diplomat as compared to George W. Bush, or is squawking about Iraq just par for the alarmist course?

Posted by mbowen at 06:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 07, 2005

The Three Rs

Doc says it was probably some distraught French Algerian who set off the bombs in London. A combination of losing the Olympics and losing one's sense of dignity combines into the radical insanity of a mad bomber. There's a sordid joke in there somewhere, but I've come to expect that from my brother the cop, and I definitely have that sense of humor. In the end, however, this is just the thing to shush up all the fingerpointing over the Downing Street Memo. It won't however, because there are too many people who see this kind of terrorist murder as the exact same thing as British and American 'warmongering'. More's the pity.

If the occasion of this attack was not just coincidental with the opening of the G8 Summit, I think it is appropriate to suggest that some European balls are in order. That is to say since everyone seems to be concerned that we are not doing enough for Africa, perhaps they should simply decide which African country to help. In this, if they have the courage of their convictions, they out to take a cue from George W. Bush. That is to say they should prioritize their three Rs, their resources, their rationale and their resolve. Pick a country and do what you ought.

The very idea that forgiving all of Africa's debt is going to solve the host of problems those many different nations face is as absurd as the radical conviction that continually cries that Western 'underfunding' is the sole cause of African misery. The ocean of African pain cannot be boiled. You simply have to drain one swamp at a time. GWBush for better or worse had the conviction to decide where to pick his battles and decided to go after Iraq. There is no question that America will be held accountable for the success or failure of Iraq from here on out.

But who among the do-gooders on the Africa question is willing to put up their nation's reputation with such determination as their rhetoric suggests? Or is this just a payoff? I think that the EU's unwillingness to call what's going on in Sudan a genocide and put their boots on that ground demonstrates why the EU is a bad idea. There is no coalition there, it's the EU starring Great Britain, Germany, France and Belgium. In other words, it is what it always was, Western Europe.

The G8 is not an organizing body for world peace. There is no such thing. There are simply nations with leaders who are willing to step up, and there are those others who merely who pontificate and bribe.

I say today there is a new transatlantic alliance between these two great English speaking nations. We are bonded in spirit and courage. While others stand aside and allow tragedy after tragedy transpire irresponsibly, we have taken the unpopular but necessary actions. Maybe that means we in America have to take a pass on Sudan and Liberia (My pick would be Liberia, for sure). But which wealthy powerful nation has stepped forward in the past five years?

Let me take a quick moment to link to Wretchard at the Belmont Club in order to underscore that I don't expect squat from the UN.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the United States this week to consider sending troops to Haiti to support a U.N. peacekeeping mission beset by mounting armed challenges to its authority, according to senior U.N. officials. ... He expressed hope that the United States would participate in a planned U.N. rapid reaction force, authorized by the Security Council earlier this month, that would have the firepower to intimidate armed gangs threatening the country's fragile political transition. Officials said that similar requests are being considered for other countries, including Canada and France. "We want scarier troops," one senior U.N. official said.

We already know that the UN closed down their mission in Baghdad when they were attacked. Cowards.

Is there a quote somewhere? Hmm. I'll make one up. "Cowardice is the natural disposition of those who lack resources, rationale and resolve. It is foolish to expect more from them, no matter how loudly they talk."

Posted by mbowen at 11:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 02, 2005

Reforming The UN #2: Least Favored Nation

I'm going to jump on the back of Dean Esmays raging rhino of common sense, emboldened as he and I have become because of Rummel. And since I still have some strivings of Empire, I'll consider the possibility of turning some of that authority to the new UN. So this is my opportunity to add Reform #2 - Least Favored Nation.

I mentioned this idea a couple years ago:

I propose that every 7 years, the United Nations and anybody else who cares about the state of the planet, elect a least favored nation. Halfway into the cycle, the international community wallops the dictator chosen last go round, or celebrates the triumph of reform. Just like the Olympics. The problem is dictatorships, this should be obvious.

I'm clearly not the first person to suggest that dictators can be ranked. Nor does it take any great intelligence to know one when you see one. The trick is how do you get the world to sidle alongside so one isn't percieved as unilateral. Easy. Schedule the hostilies 7 years in advance. Most dictators hang around too long, and they don't listen up. Chances are when they are elected by the International Dictator's Tribunal, if they are ruthless enough, they'll still be around when the world's patience is officially scheduled to end.

This is a kind of internationalism I can get behind. It would be a gold rush of opportunism to be sure, but what an extraordinary movement. As often as folks badger the G8 for not ending world poverty or AIDS all at once, why not simply end dictatorships one nation at a time? Is there a country that could withstand the onslaught of the United Democratic Nations' Security Forces?

Posted by mbowen at 03:48 AM | TrackBack

June 30, 2005

A Must Read on War & Peace

Every once in a while there's an extraordinary essay that goes a good deal to help me contextualize many of the debates that fly back and forth among the chatting classes. This one by RJ Rummel is one that I'll certainly use in the future.

How could it be missed that democracies do not make war on each other and are generally more peaceful? For one there has been an unfortunate tendency to focus on the many wars of a few democracies while ignoring the many wars of many nondemocracies. Moreover, to the disadvantage of democracies, there is an inclination to treat all wars equally, such that the American invasion of Grenada, the Falklands War, and World War II, are each counted as one war.

Still, how could it be missed that democracies do not make war on each other? The problem is that many who write and speak about these issues do not ordinarily think dyadically. They think of nations as developed or undeveloped, strong or weak, democratic or undemocratic, large or small, belligerent or not. That is, they think monadically.

Since Rummel is in something of a discussion with Dean Esmay, part of the question at hand is refinement of the definition of 'classic liberalism' as expressed through Enlightenment thought and the specifics of:

Kant, de Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill, among others, it became an article of classical liberal faith in the 18th and 19th centuries that:

Government on the old system," as Paine wrote, "is an assumption of power, for the aggrandizement of itself; on the new [republican form of government as just established in the United States], a delegation of power for the common benefit of society. The former supports itself by keeping up a system of war; the latter promotes a system of peace, as the true means of enriching a nation.

Good stuff. I am particularly piqued by his context of nationalism which fits very nicely with my globalist perspective. I've relied on the notion of global economic grids that lock us into cooperation, but the neoconservative in me is very encouraged by the argument presented that democracies tend not to war against each other, not only because the republican limit on tyranny but because of shared values of democracy itself.

It is in this context that the 'clash of civilizations' may very well be best expressed, although I'm not so convinced as others that China aims to be or eventually will be an implacable foe. In fact, it is Putin that worries me a bit more, and I am really loathe to 'go there' with regard to Iran, not least because I like the overtures that Mohammad Khatami made when he assumed power. On the other hand, he's out as is Rafsanjani. That's a head scratcher.

However it is clear to me that Rummel is onto something. I'm sure others will make the retrospective case and apply future cautions to foreign policy wonks that our neoconservative and imperial ambitions be restricted to those undemocratic regimes regardless of the WMDs they may or may not possess. I'm with them though I would certainly not make the mistake of the monadists.

So this gives me another reason the put the DPRK coordinates into the cruise missles before I consider other coordinates on the axis of evil. It also makes me sweat just a little less about the prospects for the EU (starring France).

Posted by mbowen at 01:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

A Brazilian Perspective

My brother Doc is spending a month in Brazil on vacation. As you might imagine, he's loving it.
"Oh and I am a black American. I could become an American-African, but frankly Africa sucks, I´ll give you a first hand account soon, and Brazil suits me better. To wit Brazil is Europe without snobbery, Africa without famine and America w/out political correctness and racial balkanization. You´ve never seen so much mixed-race public necking in your life!"

Posted by mbowen at 06:10 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 12, 2005

Cobb v Schneider

In a rare moment, I entangle myself on someone else's blog. In giving advice to someone believed to be a fifth grader, I whacked a manifesto by Dan Schneider reference by Drezner. Of course, I had to use fifth grade English. Schneider whacks back, so I'm bringing it over here for grown folks.

Pt1- I state 'However, not many wars can claim to be relatively clear cut as those two.' What do you not understand about the qualifier 'relatively'?

I think that a moderately proficient historian can come up with as many complications on American involvement in WW2 as you give for Iraq. In fact a cursory view would suggest that the same ones could be employed. I simply think you picked a very poor premise, and I like Hitchens and symbolic logic wonks are particularly attuned to the fact that a false premise taken as axiomatically true can logically support any conclusion one wishes.

Pt 2- I actually grant the Pres the best of motives, and defend the First Lady, if you actually read the piece. Even granting he's simply wrong, the war was and is unsupportable- as I show by vetting the Joint Resolution. In fact, to show how off-center you are, as are Leftists, when I've tried to send or link the piece to political/anti-war websites many refused to allow it because I wd not declare myself a Liberal and/or they did not like that I did not solely blame Bush for the war, but also the cowardly, anomic Left. And it's worth noting that I differentiate between Cons & the Right & The Left & Liberals, because I quote from a flaming Reaganaut who is against the war, as are all true conservatives. You can call yourself a con and be for the war, but that ain't gonna make you one. Both extremes are noxious, but the Right's worse cuz they're the powerholders who've consigned so many to needless deaths.

Define 'needless'.

I think that the reasons for and against the war stand or fail on their own logic, and I am one of those who detests the idea of reverse-engineering ideology from one's affinity or aversion to the prosecution of this war. In this, I am saying that geopolitics are different from domestic politics and I don't buy that one's position on the war should put one into a proper square back at home. Nobody on the Left suggested we shouldn't war because somebody might get tortured, but suddenly it became derigeur to cite Abu Ghraib's inevitability once news broke. That's not Left, that's reactionary. It's one of the reasons I bring up Hitchens whose position on an American imperial imperative stumps most folks.

Pt3- the piece is subtitled as an Attack, but even so it is open about it and states '6)I hope this essay can become a template to help argue the Anti-War cause against the incessant Orwellian revisionism and lies that are fundaments needed to propagate war, regardless of whether your opposition is based in conservative or liberal politics, or mere pragmatism and a rejection of deceit and delusion, as mine is. I offer specific talking points, often apolitical, and provide sloganeering hooks to win converts.' I am up front about my aim, far more than you are in this post when you claim, 'I strongly believe that the author believes that anyone who disagrees with his position is evil, stupid or both.'

I find it very difficult to believe that anyone who has read the PNAC manifesto and understood neoconservative sway over GWBush's foreign policy would suggest that the ulterior geopolitics involved were not transparent. That is to say that anyone who took seriously the neologism of 'WMD' as proximate cause for the engagement is either starkly fresh to America's long-term interests in the region or precisely the type of political naif for whom rhetoric is dumbed down. In other words, I dismiss as naive everything that suggests deception, dishonesty or Orwellian revisionism and lies were part of a conspiracy of post-hoc rationale. A final confrontation with Saddam Huessein was inevitable. I like Scott Ritter's take. (http://www.mdcbowen.org/cobb/archives/001651.html)

I think your article does a whole lot of piling-on and engages in a surfeit of short paragraphs which don't stand on their own, but when taken together appear to be a mountain of logic. I must confess not to have the patience to check each of your boulders for soundness although I have certain piled together mountains of my own over time. But I think you wanted to bury us all at once and/or force us to deal with the mass of rubble. Sorry, not all of us need to be attacked.

As time allows, we can actually whack at the boulders over here. It's always good practice to talk about the subject when it appears. But let's really get into the White Man's Burden thing, shall we?

Posted by mbowen at 01:01 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

If I Ruled The World

Somebody asked me what I'd do if I could reshape the US. I have a bunch of clunky answers.

I think the first thing I would do is something akin to the Napoleonic Code, which is look at law from the bottom up and simplify it all. In the same way that republicans are seeking to flatten the tax code, I would simplify the legal code.

I would open the borders completely, and would go about finding a way to compete in global manufacturing. I would legalize marijuana just to get liberals on my side, and I would tax the hell out of it.

I would replace the History curriculum in public schools and replace it with Constituional studies. I would have high school graduates knowing pretty much everything they need to handle small claims torts.

I would abolish standardized testing, and have English composition requirements for all legal immigrants. I would certify public schools the same way we certify restaurants in California, have a great big letter grade on the front window.

I would establish an extraordinary set of open pricing requirements for all businesses over a certain size, a la Walmart. I would basically take SarbOx to the next level with regard to openness. I would make looking up P&L and Balance Sheet data on every publically traded company as easy as looking up their stock price.

I would push forward to close all Indian reservations and basically change those arrangements for a kind of internal third world zoning.

I would make Imperialism real. Nation building means American expatriates get free land in target nations with the first choice going to military families.

I would crack down on the pharmaceutical industry and set fixed finacial limites on torts for medical malpractice to something like 3x the cost of the procedure. At the same time I would reclassify a large set of elective and experimental procedures as 'play at your own risk'. I would legalize euthanasia and fund hospices.

I would establish a President's Council on Religion and hold regular confabs. I would establish a national monument somewhere in the open West and initiate an American Pilgramage in the spirit of The Long Now.

I would split the Pentagon into the Defense Department and the War Department. I would establish a new International forum to replace the UN under the military auspices of the current permanent Security Council and I would launch a set of joint operations agains narco-nations.

I would launch a huge set of initiatives aimed at bringing Mexicans, Canadians and Americans together.

I would deregulate broadcast media, and tax them to fund a largely expanded C-Span. I would open up several new broadcast frequencies for public use.

I would drill for oil in Alaska, and I would marketize pollution credits in line with my SuperSarbOx.

I would drastically reduce income tax and drastically increase consumption tax and drastically reduce capital gains taxes.

I would push for national housing standards for construction regulations and zoning which make sprawl more difficult, integrates low income housing, and make.

I would make a minimum land area of 100 square miles for any federally 'protected lands'. I would create large incentives for new construction in economically depressed areas if they fit the new standards for the Internal Third & Second Worlds.

My aim would be to simplify American life and increase individual capacity. I would make living in America cheaper. I would encourage immigration and all manner of things that bring us closer to the rest of the world and the rest of the world closer to us. I would create in the US the most sound infrastructure possible and make us all experts at understanding and replicating it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:12 AM | TrackBack

February 03, 2005

The UN Mandate

I can't believe my ears. I heard people today defending the UN inspectors and privileging their process over that of the US military.

I don't see how anybody could say that given the spineless mandate of UN peacekeepers. This is the UN that is careful not to call what's going on in Darfur 'genocide'. I actually believe they have a point, but that's not the issue. The issue is what a UN mandate actually mandates, and I am gradually being convinced that it means nothing.

When I awoke from my bourgie American haze to the gutbucket reality of geopolitics late in the 80s, one of the situations that got me to wake up was that of the wars for Namibia. In little more than an afternoon at some rally, I was alerted to the fact of Namibia's wealth in uranium, and the proxy wars being fought in and around that country. Suddenly Namibia was on my map. And when I looked at any political map, I found that South Africa had a claim on Walvis Bay, the port city of Namibia that facilitated the global trade in uranium. The UN began trying to act on this matter in 1978, and the territory wasn't settled until 1994.

Am I under the influcence of the film 'Hotel Rwanda'? Yes. Do I think that the closing of the UN Mission in Iraq was cowardly? Yes. I believe that anyone who is not afraid to shoot at UN Peacekeepers is capable of defeating their efforts and rendering all UN proclamations to the effectiveness level of prayer.

Oil for Food scandal aside, it is becoming clear to me that the UN bureacracy is not actually effective. NGOs do a better job. What exactly do the world trust the UN to accomplish? I'm not exactly sure, but it has proven itself to be a poor arbiter.

Posted by mbowen at 12:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 01, 2005

Iraq Review

This is an opportunistic time to review my thinking on Iraq, which hasn't changed a great deal since the last time I weighed in on the matter last year.

The >60% voter turnout in Iraq really speaks for itself, and I think that it's about time that people who have been stretching the boundaries of logic and common sense trying to find ulterior motives in the President's intentions ought to admit that they are full of crap. That, not surprisingly, includes a great many Iraqis themselves. But most especially, I'd like to send a boot to the head of those critics who made such a fuss about the meaning of the word 'sovereignty'. Remember that? Still skeptical?

I think that Friedman is dead on target about the Shi'a on stage. They are going to be conciliatory and recognizing the significance of their new legitimacy, they are going to be gracious while the world watches. Importantly, Iranian mullahs should be shaking in their boots. Their ability to suggest that their form of revolution is the only legitimate path toward islamic empowerment has just been savaged by the reality on the ground in Iraq.

For the first time since the LA Riots, I listened to Dan Rather drone on for more than 3 minutes straight and I'm not quite mortified but rather sorry for the old sap. He veers onto a tangent about poor roads, spotty electricity service and no garbage collection. It actually makes sense. So when asked, aside from security, what's holding back these bread and butter issues, he talks about shiite vs sunni and 'slipping into civil war'. Is it me or did he completely elide the question? Here everyone and their mama has been mumbling about Shiite vs Sunni, and then he asserts that the real issues are infrstructural, then when asked about progress on infrastructure he starts in about how the insurgents aren't going anywhere so many more Iraqi police and guardsmen have to be trained.

I'm not as convinced as some that the next government will have great difficulty mustering an army to give rebels the boot. The thing that convinces me that Iraqi nationalism isn't dead are my memories over the design of the new Iraqi flag. There are already reports that the Iraqis are starting to hand over more intel on their fascist bretheren.

Meanwhile not many I've head in the American press are willing to admit that there are secular forces in the Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni slates who will assert themselves. And as soon as the General Assembly begins their constitutional deliberations, these factions are going to have to be identified as well as their positions. No longer will the media have an out to suggest that the three 'groups' are going to rip each other to shreds or 'slip into civil war'. There will be real horsetrading politics going on. I predict that the anti-Bush spinners will focus purely on Iraqi foreign policy and [dis]regard for the US, and basing rights.

Let us recall a bit of the litany. Two days after Christmas, the international press was calling for Rumsfeld's head. It didn't happen. In November, we went hunting for 3,000 rebels in Falluja. We routed them. This past weekend more than twice that many Sunnis voted in the election, Sunnis from Falluja. The end of October saw the end of the Madhi Army. You don't hear anything about al Sadr any longer do you? Also back in those days, Kerry thought he could destroy the administration for missing 380 tons of high explosives out of 406,000 tons already accounted for. Back in the beginning of October, the whiners were sure that a single election wouldn't work and that the country was inevitably headed towards partition.

What would be a good thing to see right about now is some update on the Bremer Report. We haven't really heard anything about the infrastructure in Iraq. We know that 50+ people were murdered over the election weekend and that was a rather high number. That so many Iraqis did their duty and voted begs the unasked question about what they've been doing all these other days when the terrorist bombers are not so busy.

GWBush is still a mediocre president. Going to Iraq is still a good idea. American troops are still crushing militias in rebellion. Al Zarqawi will be the next idiot to get his due. Now back to your regularly scheduled pissing and moaning.

Posted by mbowen at 10:55 PM | TrackBack

January 25, 2005

Iranian Invasion

Hersch has got us all in an uproar again. Good job for a journalist. God bless him. This time his news is twofold. One, Rumsfeld is into black ops. Two, target number one is Iran.

The structural change of putting espionage under the aegis of the Pentagon under the rhetoric of 'preparing the battlefield', is a stroke of administrative genius. It's still difficult to say if it's wise, given capabilities. Nevertheless from the gut reaction of this neocon, I think it's better than the alternative, which is CIA subversion.

There are several huge risks here. The first is that unless we are literally softening up targets, it's difficult to see how legit this forward action is if there is no declared war. I'm saying that the handoff from the There are several huge risks here. The first is that unless we are literally softening up targets, it's difficult to see how legit this forward action is if there is no declared war. I'm saying that the handoff from the State Department is not clear. Today, Americans have a general feeling that yeah Iran is in the Axis of Evil, but we don't know how much of a diplomatic threshold they are crossing or have crossed.

I understand the Pentagon's desire to get its own spies into the field. After all, who suffers in the eventual open war if the pre-conflict intel was bogus? The Armed Forces, not the CIA. But when is the status for a potential rogue state moved up to hostility?

On second thought, I just heard something that puts the kibosh on all this. All the Iranians have to do is send troops into Iraq. Game over.

Posted by mbowen at 12:53 PM | TrackBack

January 14, 2005

Naked Pyramid Blowback

Here's an extensive quote from today's NYT.

Specialist Graner, he said, was taking the fall for higher-up officers who he said knew the harsh treatment was routine - so routine that Specialist Graner felt no concern about leaving more than 1,000 photographs on a computer accessible to others.

"They were taking pictures of what they did at work all day," he said of Specialist Graner and his friends. "The crime is that somebody leaked the photographs. It got out to the public and it embarrassed the United States government. And that's a shame. I wish it hadn't happened.

"The tragedy here is that because of this embarrassment, now those pictures are orphans, and the United States government and the chain of command and the M.I.'s say, 'We didn't know about that,' " he said, referring to military Intelligence. "You know that was a lie.


Somewhere in this blog, I thought I had posted the name of the higher level cat whom I thought should have been the sacrificial lamb in this matter. It's not clear that he's not going to get his, but again, I tend to believe that this is a show trial.

In one very important way, it shows that we have the rule of law and that we bring people to justice. The system works. But in another way it demonstrates the unwillingess of Americans to deal realistically with the implications of war. I am hopeful that it closes a chapter, but I suspect that somebody a bit higher up the food chain may still get appropriately whacked. Rumsfeld is not and never was the proper target, no matter what the 14 some-odd reports said.

What I regret at this time is that I think the credibility of other Western countries is not appropriately taken into consideration. There ought to be some understanding between the roles and capacities of Western powers that give a fairly clear picture and perspective on this matter which is not soley political posturing. And I think that our government officials are not in a position to speak out properly. This is the fault of the single-mindedness and groupthink of the White House and the highly ideological nature of the Neocon influence. I'm not losing sleep over it, but I think we're losing some sense of what criticisms of America are legitimate. The simple fact is this kind of thing happens in the world all of the time and it is not nearly as horrific as it has been made out to be.

We're not the bluehats. Get it straight.

Posted by mbowen at 03:46 PM | TrackBack

January 10, 2005

Sounds Like War

At various places in the blogosphere, folks are airing frustrations and bad news. Now the question of death squads has arisen. This from P6:

NEGROPONTE'S NEFARIOUS NEGLIGENCE: John Negroponte, the current U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad, is no stranger to death squads. In the 1980s, Negroponte served as the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras. At the time, he was "cozy" with the chief of the Honduran national police force, Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who also ran the infamous Battalion 316 death squad. Battalion 316 "kidnapped, tortured and murdered more than 100 people between 1981 and 1984." According to Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, "Negroponte publicly adopted a see-no-evil attitude to this army death squad."

Entitled 'Losing in Iraq' Umansky shows what the rebel side is doing:

...the war [in Iraq] has degenerated to the extent that the construction sites have become nothing more than symbols of the despised American presence. For the resistance they also serve as convenient collection points for identifiable collaborators—usually laborers—who can easily be hunted down and killed as a lesson for others. There is a lot of that sort of teaching going on these days. At just one sewage project in Baghdad, for example, as many as thirty Iraqi workers were shot in only three months late last year. It is an unusual record only because someone kept count. The assassination campaign is systematic. It is decimating American projects throughout central Iraq, and has taken a particularly heavy toll among Green Zone workers. So pervasive is the threat that Iraqis still working with the occupation do not dare speak English on the phone, even at home in front of only their children, lest word leak out. When I call the Iraqis who work for me, a driver and a guard, my first question is whether they can talk. As often as not they answer by hanging up.

There are always more than two sides to a country's situation, and I find it difficult to believe that Iraqis have satisfied themselves that all manner of law and order in their country are tainted beyond redemption with the stink of American support. So putting aside the question of death squads for a moment, there is ultimately the question of how many martyrs the rebellion can afford. Let us assume for the sake of argument that it will continue to be 500 a month indefinitely - this is something that can and will be sustained. The rest of the nation must function at some level, and if it is merely anti-American rhetoric that will satisfy rebels and unite the country then surely there will be enough of that to go around. Whether or not it satisfies war critics is a separate issue, but that is immaterial to the progress of the war on the ground. There is more than rhetoric going on here, and no matter what your criticism, the war isn't lost until Americans sue for peace.

In the meantime, I'm not sure by what measure our sponsorship of death squads is considered a loss. If we are to kill 100 collaborators over the course of several years, as is suggested by P6, then what real difference does that make? It's fighting fire with fire at the matchstick and aerosol can level, a geopolitical negligbility. And yet it could be the right little bit that keeps the rebels understanding that their impugnity has costs.

If I sound an extra bit hawkish today, it is because I have just returned from seeing 'Hotel Rwanda', and for what it's worth, I have had about my fill of irregulars and militias. Yet as much as I'd prefer regular army to smash rebellion, I understand that you can't always work that way, and again, for the sake of 'democracy' I am having my doubts that Iraqis and their anti-war American butt buddies are worth it.

I continue to admire our lack of a scorched earth policy, and the tenderness with which we have conducted our investigations into monster work at Abu Ghraib. But I cannot abide the perception that there are certain wars we cannot fight or certain fights we cannot win, it only invites opportunists and forces us to 'make examples' the next time. We should be meeting the assassinations of the rebels with commensurate craftiness, nothing much more and nothing much less. If it's going to be death squads, then sobeit.

In the mid term, the third side will emerge, which is that side of the duly elected government of national unity. Whether or not anyone cares or likes how it came to be, it will be the Iraqi government - the people with a right to sit at the table, the people with the right to Iraqi oil, the people with whom the nations of the world will ultimately meet at embassies. They will not be the rebels.

So far, the Axis of Weasels have determined that America and Great Britain should singly take the blame for all of the chaos and destruction this low level nastiness continues to reap. I, for one, don't think John Kerry's international asslicking would have made any difference. So we're stuck with the bad rap. GW will tough it out. But one day the 'international community' is going to have to decide whether or not to open embassies in Iraq or continue mouthing off through the media. And I say that day is not going to be determined by the schedule of the rebels, but by the leaders of the new Iraq. In other words, one day The Iraqi government is going to say "We're here, we're for real, get used to it." And immediately thereafter, they are going to ask for assistance. Let's see how soon the new Iraqi flag is flying in European capitals.

In any case, I cannot see how that government could possibly be anything but an ally to the US, because we will have been there all the way through. My recommendation to GW and the Neocons is to play both sides. We have proven our mettle for democracy. The other side is going to be some ultranationalists, and they won't blink at death squads.

Posted by mbowen at 03:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 09, 2005

Economic Horses, Political Carts

I'm going to go out on a limb which makes sense for my as a conservative, but perhaps not so much as a patriot. This may be understandable in light of my new international context, although it sounds counter-intuitive.

As I am reading a little bit at a time in Kishore Mahbubani, I find he suggests that economics is more important that politics. Well on the surface this sounds perfectly obvious, until you consider what most of us Neocons believe, which is that Western structural reforms in politics are a necessary precondition to the success of a modern nation. I'm trying to disaggregate all of that thing called 'democracy' or 'western style democracy' into component parts, because theres a real clincher when one considers the implications in Iraq.

If indeed the Global Capitalist in me is right, then taking some cues from ubiquitous war critics, we should have paid the Iraqi Army to stay together. By completely undermining the possiblity of elections and establishing some kind of military junta in Iraq, we very well may have avoided the kind of subversion that goes on today. I don't think there's any doubt in anyone's mind that the Iraqi Army was perfectly capable of suppressing any domestic insurrection under Saddam Hussein. So what if, having routed them and decapitated their leadership, we made offers and efforts to control them via the purse strings?

First, let me phrase this strategy as a criticism of the anti-war partisans, not that I think they have a particularly compelling case. It is the fact that we have insisted on democracy that allows the 'quagmire' to occur. It is indeed the promise of freedom and liberty as we Americans understand it, that has been primary in our approach, damn the cost. If we wanted to quickly establish control and suppress any insurgency and get American troops back home as soon as possible and save our money, then the answer would have obviously been to establish a new military regime in Iraq instead of a democratic one, which obviously needs time to develop - the very time we are taking at some expense.

Since the average Iraqi makes something on the order of $100 per year, we could have easily financed Iraqi Contras and had our paymasters run things. There's no drug trade, no other easy way for an Iraqi military to make money, so we could have been the sole provider. This has been, to my way of thinking, the way the CIA has been doing things for the past 30 years, at least. Nothing new in this idea. One question would be whether such a move could stand domestic scrutiny.

If there is anything that is perfectly clear about the current rebellion, it is that much of it is run by non-Iraqis and all of the so-called 'insurgents' are calling for a boycott of the upcoming election. They don't want democracy, they want power in the new Iraq. But there is no back-door way to power in the Iraq we want to see. What we want are transparent elections, a modern constitutional democracy and free markets. But that's why everything we are doing there is going to take so long, if we would have just bought and paid for it, the job would be a lot closer to finished.

I must add that it has long been my suspicion of the quick victory over Baghdad that we paid off many senior generals in the Iraqi Army, and that they took their men out of the fight. But I think we have lost many or some of them to the rebellion once we dismantled the Army completely. Those who were too young to figure out how to graft a living in Iraq were most likely candidates for rebellion. Who could wait to be paid again?

Our ability to carry out such a mercenary agency is not a given. But to put economics before politics would have led to this being a strongly positioned strategy. As I engage the subject henceforth I will consider that option more. Some of you may recall that I saw GWBush as an improper emperor, and that a more imperial strategy might have better served our long term interests. Hitch and I see eye to eye on that. But if GW is anything, he is sticking to his ideological guns which are the expansion of democratic rule and liberty in the American mold. He has insisted on giving the Arab world the benefit of that doubt, and taken any intransigence on that matter as ethnically chauvinist at best. Despite the obvious geopolitical advantage of ridding the Middle East of Saddam, he has wanted to go one better by doing it for the sake of politics.

Many may continue to read other ulterior motives in this war, but I think GW of all people knows he doesn't have the economic nose for a good deal on getting oil. But for the sake of liberty, he can spend. Unfortunately he doesn't have half this country's goodwill to spend, and must rely even more on his ideological inertia.

Democracy is very expensive. Then again, we could have done it the Contra way.

Posted by mbowen at 08:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

Supersize Me

Doomsaying seems to be the new favorite pastime of the dainty people. These days they are panty-bunched about this thing called the BRIC.

Today's reactionary reaction was this. Reporters around the globe are praying for Rumsfeld's departure. The reporters who commented on this matter made the point in a rather backhanded way. It was that this war in Iraq is the biggest America has been in since Vietnam, and whether or not the keepers of moral outrage like to think so or not, many Americans are looking at the numbers. I know I am. I think Rumsfeld hasn't killed enough American soldiers yet. He has to hit a Texas-sized number for his failures to resonate with the American public the way they do elsewhere. Not coincidently, I think that the numbers argument holds as well for the tortured prisoners. This occupation and house to house fighting is simply not numbing us with the sheer tonnage that usually gets our blood up. If you ask Americans if they believe that the world has suffered enough for nine-eleven, the answer is no. Forget the cockeyed aim, forget the misdirection, because these are political details. Americans by and large want to be even-handed, and we will pull back and say 'my bad' if our misstep is large enough. What I believe defenders maintain is that we may have misstep, but on the whole, we're still down and we haven't made a big enough mistake to back out.

Aside from the recent delicious detail delivered by Dexter Filkins, there has been a real dearth of reportage that gives us any apolitical perspective about what transpires on the ground. It is my opinion that we are doing ourselves a disservice by trumping up the political volume in calling for Rummy's head. It shows an America unable and unwilling to kill. That's really an important bottom line. You have to ask yourself how we get to the point of asking disingenuously if the Secretary of Defense is sensitive enough to the needs of the soldiers because he uses a machine to sign letters.

Serving the purposes of the not-so-shrill Right, I do nevertheless, feel the pain of America's besmirched reputation on the matter of torture. Yet I reserve my outrage. Outrage is not a particularly useful form of political engagement as far as my ethics are concerned. And I think that is part and parcel of the decorum of conservative ethics as I see them. Conservatives understand that the natural trend is towards entropy, so we are not surprised when the world goes to shit. We are always in one of two modes, putting on armor and backing into a corner or making dollars while the sun shines. The more sophisticated of us master the art of hedging. My view on the matter of torture remains much the same as before. Our monsters are temporary and they are on a shorter leash. I pay no attention to 'international law', and am satisfied that the Liberals among us sustain an adequate amount of outrage to keep that leash strong.

But with that comfort comes the knowledge that it is not my job as a Conservative to show outrage at the excesses of our engagement in the Middle East, rather it is to show the limits of my hawkishness, which is as I said, somewhere around Vietnam sized. By doing the Arab World a great geopolitical favor, we have also made demons of ourselves. The good deed has not gone unpunished. But I am no longer inclined to rate the outrage of Arab states on par with that of Americans. I'm beginning to see some relativity here. Instead, I am disturbed that American Liberals are taking Arab outrage at face value and defaulting to the propaganda of Al-Jazeera. It's bad enough that we don't have an adequate supply of battle-hardened American reporters, but to echo the sentiments that our cause is lost because of a single explosion that kills 60 odd combattants while they eat lunch is singularly retarded. As callous as it sounds, all of this is within the force reduction estimate.

Is it because the sweep through Falluja was a success that the attention of news crews has moved to Mosul? It's difficult for me to see otherwise given the arduous tasks described up close by Filkins. But American soldiers crying, wounded and confused make for the pictures of the year.

Posted by mbowen at 09:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 20, 2004

Absorbing Heresy

Today, after I finish my annual Christmas update letter, I'm going to read Kishore Mahbubani's 'Can Asians Think'. The preface is already rather intriguing in that it takes a target's take on questioning the legitimacy of democracy.

I've long argued that what makes America special, among other things, is the fact that we're a hugely literate society. Even though we have many different literacies, multicultural literacy is indeed a fact here, 95% of our adults call out and respond to a literate society. In Iraq, they don't read maps. They don't drive cars. They don't send their kids to school. And we expect such societies to absorb democracy?

No matter how many free and fair elections can be engineered in an illiterate nation, there is no way to expect that population to be critical consumers of intellectual productions. It's not only because we Americans are free to curse out Bill O'Reilly that we enjoy democracy, it's because we know how. And so anywhere there are large portraits of the national leader with no words because even billboard texts are the equivalent of fine print legalese, we ought to think longer and harder about the prospects for robust democracy.

This is one tangent Mahbubani evokes in speaking about Western intellectual arrogance in the post-Cold War world. Maybe we truly are more evolved and need to let the rest of the world catch up before we go formulating policy which expects Thirds to enjoy democracy. Asians are his focus, and I'll read up to understand the divide between East and West.

I have a feeling this will step on the toes of the PNAC's neoconservative ambitions, or rather I should say the libertarian impulse which leavens America's military ability in our foreign affairs. Ukraine didn't need America or the UN. In Iraq, both might not be enough. That's a hell of a set of facts to deal with.

Posted by mbowen at 02:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 15, 2004

Wrechard's UN

I actually find this conclusion believable:

One of the shadow costs of an obsession with the United Nations is the preemptive dismissal of diplomatic structures which have historically worked. The recent crisis in the Ukraine was resolved without the United Nations. Someone may eventually remember that the diplomatic structures which defeated Hitler predated the UN. When one considers the diplomatic record of the 20th century the really striking thing is how little of consequence took place under the Baby Blue flag. Of the 50 odd wars that took place after 1945, including such humdingers as the Iraq-Iran War, the Chinese-Indian confrontations, the invasion of Tibet, etc. only two -- Korea 1950 and Kuwait 1991 -- were successfully met by collective UN action. To a large extent the UN's case for its own existence is its own existence. It's a circular argument and the strongest one it has.

Posted by mbowen at 07:46 AM | TrackBack

December 12, 2004

Unfree & Unfair

I've been following only lightly the hubbub in Ukraine. So while I haven't had the occasion to say anything pithy on the subject, I have been impressed with the resolution the people have developed. That they have survived the bitter clash over a rigged presidential election is rather astounding. Although I wasn't expecting a civil war, it was certainly in the offing. Today I am greeted with the news that the opposition candidate, Yushenko, had been poisoned with Dioxin. Yike.

I'm fairly convinced that this is Putin's doing. What's up with this guy? I mean, what has Vladimir Putin really done to deserve our tolerance?

Posted by mbowen at 07:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 09, 2004

Wanker Benched

From Xinhua:

Iraq's Shiite Muslims led by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Thursday unveiled a broadly based electoral alliance which excludes radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The alliance, called the United Iraqi Alliance, is comprised of 228 candidates and groups the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Dawa Party and the Iraqi National Congress, Dawa party official Ali al-Adeeb said at a press conference.

The list of the alliance also included independent Sunni Muslims belonging to various tribal groups, he said.

However, Sadr, whose militia battled US-led forces in Baghdadand Najaf before calling a truce in August, "is not on the list," said Hussein Shahrastani, a member of the coalition's organizing committee.

Iranian-born Sistani has been overseeing the work of his to paides to compile the list for the Jan. 30 parliamentary election, in which Shiite parties are expected to perform strongly.

In the first popular vote since Saddam's ouster, Iraqis will choose a 275-member assembly that will write a permanent constitution.

Posted by mbowen at 09:40 AM | TrackBack

November 23, 2004

The Best We Could Do

In listening to Kofi Annan's Communications Chief this morning on the radio, it has become clear to me that there wasn't much the UN or anyone could do to avoid the Oil For Food scandal.

Considering the pain that Iraqis were suffering in the aftermath of the Gulf War (which is not repeating itself), it was in the interests of the US and the UK to get as much humanitarian aid to as many Iraqis as possible. The problem which was unavoidable was that there was only one way to get that aid to Iraq, through Saddam Hussein.

Posted by mbowen at 11:49 AM | TrackBack

November 17, 2004

Damned If You Don't

One of the consistent arguments that I've had in my favor about the nature of this occupation and suppression of the rebellion is that the US has been fighting as cleanly as possible. What pacifists have exploited are the onesy twosies of Abu Ghraib and more recently the shooting of a combattant in a mosque. But what there has nver been is a humanitarian crisis of the sort wars generally produce. Iraq is not full of refugees living in squatter camps or running towards the borders. This has contributed to the force of the rebellion, and made it tougher for humanitarians to do their jobs.

Iraq is not a classic charity case, says Kenneth Bacon, a former Pentagon spokesman who heads Refugees International, a Washington advocate for those displaced by war or disaster. Unlike in Afghanistan (news - web sites), Bosnia, Haiti or other places the West has tried to help, in Iraq there's no starvation or widespread disease. There is no refugee crisis. Still, Iraq is broken on a large scale. Only big contractors and military engineers can fix the electrical grid, oil fields and water and sewer systems. Luring Western experts means six-figure salaries.

This is from an article which updates the whereabouts of O'sullivan of JumpStart International, who has decided to bug out.

So there are two notes to remember. One is the bad news that Sully is out of the picture. The other is the corrective news which you should keep in mind whenever you hear an American (flabby-butt bourgie) journalist exclaim how dangerous Iraq has been. It would be a lot less dangerous if we simply exterminated Iraqis and destroyed more of their infrastructure more indiscriminately.

Posted by mbowen at 01:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 15, 2004

Thankless Jobs

Less than a week after PLO Chair Yassir Arafat dies from complications of sudden physical manifestations of his grinchlike soul, yahoos in Palestine are taking potshots at his successor Abbas. You couldn't pay me enough tribute to take such a thankless job.

Colin Powell, once the nation's clearest hero, now retires not two weeks after his boss gets re-elected. Sounds to me like he's clearing the hell out ASAP. Another tour of duty complete. Along with him go three other Cabinet members including Rod Paige, co-signer of the controversial 'NCLB', the unfunded mandate to force our kids and schools to just be better.

Meanwhile over at the CIA, our new notable Scheuer has several associates who are following him out the door with the assistance of Porter Goss' boot.

If I were the billionaire I deserve to be, I would use the US Government to develop a profound sense of frustration in brilliant men and women, then give them some job satisfaction.

Posted by mbowen at 09:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 12, 2004

What's Harder To Get?

Drudge and Unfogged are talking about a cat named Michael Scheuer, newly ex-CIA who is saying that OBL now has some sort of religious permission to use a nuke against the USA.

Now as much as I appreciate ex-CIA cats who lash out, which is to say a considerable amount, my first reaction is to say whatever to that. OBL is our enemy, and if we are at war with him, I'm not sure what purpose it serves to consider that he has permission. This would always be assumed anyway, wouldn't it?

What is more interesting and pressing is whether or not he has the goods. We'll keep an eye open on Scheuer.

Posted by mbowen at 11:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 07, 2004

Falluja: Commandos Take Main Hospital

So the first thing we have done is to capture the main hospital in Falluja and blocked a major escape route. Rebels will not be able to use the main hospital to treat their wounded or launch attacks against the coalition forces.

Units: First Marine Expeditionary Force

U.S. intelligence estimates there are about 3,000 insurgents dug in behind defenses and booby traps in Fallujah, a city of about 300,000 which has become a symbol throughout the Islamic world of Iraqi resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.
Posted by mbowen at 08:26 PM | TrackBack

November 06, 2004

The Fall of Falluja

Alawi has called for a hard press on the militias holed up in Falluja. It's going to be ugly.

From what I've heard of the Iraqi people, they have been exceptionally responsive to the kind of iron fists they grew up with. With Alawi calling the shots and Iraqi army in joint ops, the citizens seem to be much more prepared for the ugliness of battle. Still, it must be with a heavy heart that Alawi sends in the marines.

One of the things I recall from the news over the months is that very few people in Iraq know how to read maps, and very few of the houses in the various towns and cities have anything resembling what we call addresses. So even when we have infiltrated militias with informants, it's not possible to call a mortar strike. Such precision does not exist among the villagers. So it will be inevitable that ordinary people will be mowed down, accidently.

Falluja will not be cleansed, it will be thrashed. And it has come to this. I haven't made a secret that I was opposed to the first war on Iraq - in fact, I still have a 'No Blood For Oil' sign in my closet. At the time, I was swayed by the notion that American police and soldiers would not perform well, and might ultimately balk at the politics that drove them to fight. I'm certain I used the words 'the US military has been turned into a mercenary army for the sake of an undemocratic regime' or some such notion to announce my questions about the worthiness of Kuwait as an ally. Today, I am much less likely to believe that either soldiers or cops have the luxury of second-guessing the politics that drive the rules of their engagements. They are middle class people doing their jobs, just like the rest of us. We all know the politics suck - all politics not under your direct control suck. And so like it or not, American soldiers at the behest of Alawi will go hard and hot into Falluja and start wrecking things. Real soldiering.

I though to myself what would I do in such a situation. I certainly wouldn't want to leave my hometown simply because some asshat militia is holed up maybe 3 miles away in a part of town I don't frequent. But a militia on the run might be anywhere. I'm a red man in a blue state, a black family surrounded by non-blacks. There might be a Baptist next door to me. I don't know. Yes I've been to a Baptist Church, but I'm not one of them. Really. Well, I know my wife is a Baptist but she's not one of the bad ones. Really. Could I keep the occupying soliders out of my neighborhood? Could I keep the militamen out of my neighborhood? No. If my city were declared a target what could I do?

I could leave. I'd bet most Fallujans cannot. I'd bet they'd better try. There has been plenty water under the bridge where bodies were burned. Falluja knows its reputation. Falluja knows what's coming. The city will fall to the troops at Alawi's request and it's going to be ugly. But we know that.

Posted by mbowen at 09:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 05, 2004

RIP Yassir Arafat

I know, he's not dead yet, but he is the lamest of ducks.

All this mystery surrounding exactly what's wrong with this man stinks to the high heavens to me. As they say on CSI, poisoning is usually done by people close to the victim. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the culmination of a Mossad plot, or a Fatah or a Hamas..

But what the death of Arafat will most likely reveal is how much he, as the lightning rod of accusations of foot-dragging, was indeed the stumbling block of peace. His legacy will be an interesting lesson to us all, and it will not be complete until Palestine has a flag, borders and an embassy in London.

Arafat's fate seems emblematic of warlords and pseudo-leaders all over the world. Maybe he was one of a kind, but maybe he was ahead of his time - head of a people in the margins of world opinion, trying to become a nation against the odds. But I think history will judge him harshly and I think that Palestine is doomed to suffer the same fate as Albania. The unwanted millions will languish in a third world land - a country in name only. But what is Palestinian nationalism? How has it become so impossible to achieve?

I think it has become impossible because the militants are not defenders of land, property and the material possessions of the Palestinian people, but because they have been defenders of radical ideas. Their claims have been legitimated by persistence, but are essentially rooted in an insatiable oppositionalism to Israel. It's not enough for Palestinians to have and to hold, they have to hold forth and be heard. Arafat personifies the leader fighting forever for mindshare above all, how else do you turn down land and peace?

I have no special hopes for Israelis nor Palestinians. Their competing claims for Jerusalem will continue until somebody nukes the place. Arafat is gone. Let us see if those who succeed him will follow him.

Posted by mbowen at 08:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2004

Colonel Robert B. Abrams

It has been difficult, but I finally got the name of one of the soldiers that so many Americans claim to support. The quick and dirty is that Robert Abrams is the man whose soldiers have taken the greatest beating at the hands of the Sadrist militia. But he's also the one who has been bringing the pain to the Mahdi Army and is now involved in disarmament and rebuilding. Hearing him speaking about the progress made in Sadr City is just the kind of news we don't often hear. Listen to the story. It's extraordinary.

This is the kind of guy I have been talking about who has been putting the Wanker down. I hope he writes a book, because you sure don't hear about it on the regular.

Posted by mbowen at 11:37 AM | TrackBack

Practical Zionism

A moment of clarity is upon us. Israel, The Battered Child Nation, has come to the realization that it has captured too much territory and made itself impure. Too many Palestinians.

Boy was I wrong. I had this notion that Israel was to be a multicultural pluralistic democracy, but that it was simply too besieged to think straight. And so I had the unmitigated gall to suggest that a one-nation solution would calm things down over in 'Judea' and 'Samaria'. People said I was nuts, but I was persistent. Persistent and wrong.

Sharon's abandonment of Gaza is perfectly clear now. There's no way to have a Jewish state if you include all them damned foreigners. So the settlers will be resettled closer to home base and behind the wall. As Jerusalem is the famous walled city, Israel will become the walled nation.

Serves it right.

Posted by mbowen at 08:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 25, 2004

380 Tons & What Do You Get?

Explosives are missing in Iraq!

Kerry goes for the jugular:

"one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the great blunders of this administration."

He added that "the incredible incompetence of this president and this administration has put our troops at risk and put this country at greater risk than we all need."

The Independent takes off after the NYT:

According to The New York Times, which broke the story in a lengthy front-page story, the missing stockpiles - some 350 tons in all - are of HMX, RMX and PETN, extremely powerful, conventional explosives that are used to blow up buildings, fill missile warheads or detonate nuclear weapons. So devastating are they that just one pound of a similar explosive was enough to destroy Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988. HMX, RMX, or explosives like them have been used in car and apartment bombings in Moscow and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in recent years.

This is horrifying, until you get perspective.


Now, if you go back and look at the Duelfer report that recently has come out, according to the Duelfer report, as of mid-September, more than 243,000 tons of munitions have been destroyed since Operation Iraqi Freedom. Coalition forces have cleared and reviewed a total of 10,033 caches of munitions; another nearly 163,000 tons of munitions have been secured and are on line to be destroyed. That puts this all -- that puts this all in context.

So let's do the math: 243kilotons already destroyed. 163kilotons accounted for and secure in line to be destroyed. 406 kilotons accounted for, 380 tons missing. Kerry's focus? .0197% of the WMDs.

Let me make that clear. That's less than 2 hundreths of one percent.

Jesus this man is shameless.

Posted by mbowen at 04:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Drezner Flips, I Freeze

Drezner has flipped in a convincing way. It sounds as if he's got the good behind Friedman's arguments weighed soundly.

I've understood these arguments and never really denied them, but they've never been quite as clear as they are. Thus far, I have decided to reward Bush for his initiative and his efficiency, but not for his results. In remaining with Bush I am being partisan.

I don't believe that my own view of the geopolitical situation is complete and so any candidate who says more about it gets more of my support. I've given Kerry every opportunity to do so and he has not. I understand his philosophy, I simply can't get behind it. That said what Drezner points out about the Bush decision making process is very accurate. It is something I have noted time and time again. In August, I was going to abstain.

What stands out most in my mind is that the lesson of GWBush is that at no time should one vote for a president someone you think would make a nice president if things go the way you think they ought. Events always overtake the presidency and one ought to always hedge the bet, because omissions of skills at the presidential level always come back to bite somebody. More specifically, I don't want my vote going to somebody who is not some kind of Washington insider - the Executive Branch is too serious and complicated for that. And it is in Bush's mismanagement of that which I feel bears the greatest weight in my argument. Here is a man who has failed not only to win the popular vote, but to keep public opinion with him during wartime. How do you do that when Lee Greenwood is on the charts? How do you get your personality outshone by your VP, your political strategist and your house majority leader? Anyway, I don't want to beat up on the president, I think it's enough to say that I don't think he deserves another go 'round. He can't even answer questions about what oil is doing at $45/bbl and he's supposed to be an oilman.

Being a Republican, my vote was the president's to lose, and he's lost it. There's no way possible that Kerry can earn it. But there are two things a Democratic president can do for me.

1. Is put the Republicans in congress back on their toes and halt spending.
2. Undo Ashcroft's overzealousness by guaranteeing sunset provisions in the Patriot Act.

Kerry has done nothing to substantiate the two mulligans I gave him, which I would still value if he manages to pull an upset. Bush still has my vote, but not all of my confidence. Kerry has none of my confidence and several negatives to overcome, but I don't think he's a total loser. In either case I am truly burned out, and don't want to see either candidate, nor do I look to hear new things about the campaigns. I want this noise to be over, and I want to hear a different kind of reporting from Iraq.

Ironically, I don't believe I'll hear anything different about Iraq unless and until Kerry is elected - because everyone, including me, is stuck in the past regarding what Bush decided way back when.

Posted by mbowen at 08:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 22, 2004

Iraqi Memos

I've never heard of CNS, but they seem to have found something interesting. Have I been that far out of the loop these past few weeks?

Posted by mbowen at 04:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Magic Numbers

On the season finale of 'Rescue Me' the chief of the fire station which is the center of the drama said that they sent 343 men to their deaths in the WTC to save 10,000. It's a reactive number. Nobody could say ahead of time how many firefighters lives were expendable in saving the lives they could. They were predisposed to do their job, certainly no matter what the cost, but with the deadly danger in mind. It's what they do.

Today, many critics of the president say that Iraq is a burning building about to collapse, and that he was foolish not to send in more. It's difficult to reconcile this criticism with that of the 'backdoor draft', but that's not the case Tom Friedman makes:

Conservatives profess to care deeply about the outcome in Iraq, but they sat silently for the last year as the situation there steadily deteriorated. Then they participated in a shameful effort to refocus the country's attention on what John Kerry did on the rivers of Vietnam 30 years ago, not on what George Bush and his team are doing on the rivers of Babylon today, where some 140,000 American lives are on the line. Is this what it means to be a conservative today?

Had conservatives spoken up loudly a year ago and said what both of Mr. Bush's senior Iraq envoys, Jay Garner and Paul Bremer, have now said (and what many of us who believed in the importance of Iraq were saying) - that we never had enough troops to control Iraq's borders, keep the terrorists out, prevent looting and establish authority - the president might have changed course. Instead, they served as a Greek chorus, applauding Mr. Bush's missteps and mocking anyone who challenged them.

Conservatives have failed their own test of patriotism. In the end, it has been more important for them to defeat liberals than to get Iraq right. Had Democrats been running this war with the incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld & Friends, conservatives would have demanded their heads a year ago - and gotten them.

The fact of the matter is that this conservative had a number in mind at which point the war in Iraq had better be worth it. That number was roughly one 'Lynch Factor', which is about 3500. This magic number is about the number who died in the WTC and all those who had been lynched in this nation's darker days.

While I don't disagree that our nation's military might have been much better served with someone other than Rumsfeld in charge, I disagree that he has outspent his charge. As our military fatalities hover around 1200 at this moment in time in Iraq, I reckon we can double that before some parity is met. I know that it wasn't Saddam Hussein who flew the planes. I know that the theory of drawing terrorists into Iraq hasn't panned out. I know that Al Qaeda is still out there (although without 75% of its leadership, and OBL mysteriously quiet these days). And I know that there are two others remaining on the Axis of Evil who have yet to feel our swords.

But I also believe it's true that the 1200 American soldiers who died are part of the cost of 20 million appreciative Iraqi civilians who need their country rebuilt, even if the other 5 million are willing to muck up that process by any means necessary. I happen to believe in that equation with or without 9/11, and I always have. I'm one of the imperialists who would have liked to have seen us spend a little blood and treasure in Cote D'Ivoire when they were begging for it. That counts for Liberia on several occasions as well as many times for Sudan.

George W. Bush may be hunting the tiger with a blunderbuss, but it's easier to get new weapons to a man with a killer instinct, than it is to ge get the diplomat into the bush in the first place. America has blood and treasure to spare, quite frankly. And this is a just cause, as well as well-deserved payback. Call me back when we reach 2000.

Posted by mbowen at 11:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

Jump Start International

There is good news, of course, out of Iraq. Ever since the beginning of the conflict, I have been stunned at the lack of coverage of American humanitarian efforts. I wonder if there was ever a mainstream media story on Chief Wiggles. I've just discovered via Bill, a new American organization dedicated to assistin the Iraqi people.

JumpStart International was founded in September 2003 as a public charity dedicated to helping people help themselves. Founded in response to the aftermath of the 2003 war in Iraq, JumpStart has been funded by charitable individuals and organizations in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.

Jumpstart works on the principle that it is not possible nor desirable for charitable organizations to care for the world's poor and disadvantaged -- but it is possible and desirable for charitable organizations to help the world's poor and disadvantaged to rise up, take care and provide for themselves and other people throughout the world. Self-sufficiency is the only long-term answer.

JumpStart's efforts, then, are dedicated to these principles:

  • People are not interested in hand-outs. They want to earn a living and have the opportunity to advance on their own merits.
  • The path to peace is by ending oppression, repression, discrimination and racism. We support self-sufficiency and economic independence as a viable path out of many forms of oppression.
  • LWherever it occurs and whatever its rationale, military suppression is an economic disaster. It is much cheaper to give a man a hand up than to hold a man down.
  • The common purpose of life, of all religions and cultures, is in creating and building. We support projects which actively and concretely build or rebuild communities and peoples.
  • Planning is for patsies. Let's start yesterday.

Sean O'Sullivan is a man after my own heart. Tell everybody.

Posted by mbowen at 07:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

All Your Mullahs Are Belong To Us

Here is an interesting analogy between GWBush and FDR as regards their similar decisions to expend US military resources in a global war.

[D]estroy Japan, and Germany is unaffected. Destroy Germany, and the world is free to obliterate Japan.
destroy Al Queda, and Islamofascism is unaffected. Destroy Islamofascism , and the world is free to obliterate Al Queda.

There is something that annoys me about those opposed to the conduct, but not the aims of the war. They suggest that because they were not consulted about the military strategy, that they have the right to question the intent of the President. This flawed logic is perfectly clear to me. What is not clear to me is how much of the support for Kerry is actually logically pacifist, how much is simply anti-Bush and how much is genuinely convinced that we are fighting losing battles. In either case, I believe them all to be wrong, but at least I can respect the pacifists.

Posted by mbowen at 07:45 AM | TrackBack

October 07, 2004

The Partition Scenario

I want to toss out an idea that I haven't heard anyone talk about at length: the partitioning of Iraq. It seems that rumors are in the air. It's a radical plan which essentially concedes that civil war is inevitable. It's hard to imagine a Bush White House hedging their own bet, but if GW wins, I suspect there will be some pressure from the descendants of Gore voters trying to make their mark on American geopolitics.
So basically I'm saying that partition is a concession that democracy across the 25 million is impossible or impractical and that Kerry fairies might raise that idea as a refutation of the entire PNAC theory.

I'm not so sure that a partition is such a bad idea, so long as we get military bases in one or two. But some of the characters who think it may be unavoidable are real stomach churners in my neighborhood. Leslie Gelb says there should be three big chunks. Unsavory folks who believe that ethnic antagonism is a permanent and insuprable feature of humanity are betting on partition. Even the immigration bears at VDare are in on the action.

From Slate's Kurd Sellout Watch:

Peters and Gelb seem to believe that the Bush administration's attempt to maintain postwar Iraq under a centralized government was doomed from the start. Galbraith, a liberal Democrat who opposed Saddam's regime well before the GOP did, thinks a unified Iraq may once have been achievable. But the failure of the United States to maintain order after the fall of Baghdadmost especially, to stop the looting of all the country's major institutions save the oil ministrycaused Iraq's professional class, "the very people the US looks to in rebuilding the country," to lose "confidence in, and respect for, the US occupation authorities." Now, Galbraith says, Humpty Dumpty can't be put together gain.

So. This seems to be the only strategic alternative to the GWBush plan, which Kerry is attempting to micromanage and hair-split in such a way that boosts his credibility. As his global testers continue to slam his trial balloons, perhaps he might try this angle. I mean, nobody will fault him for changing his mind - at least this is something original and very different from the Bush idea. I wonder if he'll make this speech.

Posted by mbowen at 10:49 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Confessions of Saddam Hussein

Somewhere in Iraq, other than Abu Ghraib, Saddam Hussein has given interrogators the inside scoop on his weapons programs. This is a source of great satisfaction to pacifists and other anti-war protesters around the world. Apparently, we've been shown to be aggressive jerks of the greatest magnitude.

In other news Chiron, the drug manufacturer, has been injoined from distributing its flu vaccines around the world. Although this is flu season, and intelligence services around the world are suggesting that the flu virus harbors ill will and a threat to people. We really have no hard evidence of where this flu bug might be hiding. Intelligence services have been wrong before, and key figures are telling us that there is no real danger and no connection between the flu virus and Osama bin Laden.

So, here's to hope.

Posted by mbowen at 09:14 AM | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

Kerry the Emissary

I listened to Kerry spew out his new soundbites against the 'arrogance' and 'bad choices' of GWBush today on NPR. Yike. This guy is really bad. Again, no plan.

Here's the line of questioning a reporter with balls should ask Candidate Kerry, should he or she get a chance:

How good is Kerry's grasp of the geopolitical reasons that the dissenting Europeans fail to send troops to Iraq? His current responses hang it all on the 'arrogance' of the President. The logical conclusion of this, and key to Kerry's argument, is that a changing of the guard will restore 'credibility' to US foreign policy.

But let's get down to specifics. The rebellion in Iraq has made the place unsafe for elections, which disables the provisional government's validity. This is really the nut of any argument about things going bad in Iraq. The question is whether or not this is the same nut for the dissenting Euros + Russia. (Let's agree to call them the Weasels, OK?)

If the problem with 'Bush's War' is that it was too unilateral then what is the Weasel interest in keeping troops away now? Do they not support Allawi? Or is it simply too dangerous for them to commit troops? There doesn't seem to be any wiggle room when you say the occupation is going poorly because of the rebellion, because on one hand either the rebellion can be crushed with more troops or it can be diplomatically supressed with more supplication. Why would the Europeans choose to do anything in support of Allawi (or against him) only after the US election? The answer is that they wouldn't. The Weasels are withholding support from the alliance because they are betting against what Bush started, plain and simple. They are either incapable or unwilling to make the situation in Iraq any better than it is. It makes absolutely no sense that this attitude would suddenly change based upon the US presidential race. Unless you believe that the Weasels' logic is identical to that presented by Candidate Kerry. I do not.

The second line of questioning goes something like this:

Kerry suggests that Bush made the wrong choices because he was beholden to the ideologues. He's halfway right. However Kerry refuses to talk about what he would do, other than 'restore credibility' to make the situation on the ground in Iraq any better.

So is Senator Kerry getting his strategic view of Iraq from Fox News? If not, then whom? We know who the PNAC is and what they are all about. We understand their ideas and why they said 'go' on Iraq. We have no idea where Kerry's braintrust lives or what it thinks. Remember what Dumbledore said about that.

Here, Candidate Kerry is doing a Clarence Thomas. He is suggesting that he is eminently qualified to occupy the highest office in the land, but is not giving any clues as to his strategic position on critical issues he will inevitably handle. Kerry refuses to answer hypotheticals on Iraq. All he says is that GWBush was wrong, wrong, wrong.

This is shady.

Posted by mbowen at 08:50 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 19, 2004

Bush vs Al Sadr

This past April, GWBush called Al Sadr by name. Today, Al Sadr is not in jail. I happen to believe Moqtada Al Sadr to be a murdering scumbag jackleg Hamas symp and a wanker as well. I suppose I could be more kind and call him the leader of an insurgency, but I must confess to not have read quite enough of Juan Cole. Be that as it may, it upsets me that five months have passed and this asshat has not yet been arrested.

If anyone can provide a concise explanation to why this has not occurred - that our President has called for his head and he is still running around free with his ragtag outfit - please help me understand. I have a myth to maintain, which is that when the President calls you out, and the Marines are shooting at you, you lose.

I'll say it now. Al Sadr free is making GWBush look foolish.

Reference One.
Download file

Posted by mbowen at 10:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 12, 2004

New Barbaria

It will be some time before there is a universally accepted definition of terror, but we in the Old School think we know it when we see it. While we've been strong enough and our enemies weak enough since the Civil War to have it reduced to a few massacres, Tulsa and Rosewood come to mind. (You can count Orangeburgtoo if you like.)

There's a disjointed, dislocated empire of dissolution out there called New Barbaria, and Chechnya has just joined the Axis. Or perhaps they joined when they took over that theatre several years ago; they're certainly there now. How the rest of the world is to repel the onslaught of this new barbarism will occupy our best minds for some time.

Posted by mbowen at 04:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 31, 2004

More Support for the Internal Second World

Abiola makes a strong argument for expatriation of the educated in the Third World. I cannot recall the last time I considered this matter, but I'm sure that when I did, I thought it to support the notion of 'underdevelopment'. Not I am more convinced now that a professional brain drain is the result, rather than the cause of a nation's downfall.

Note also these goodies.

Posted by mbowen at 07:58 AM | TrackBack

August 29, 2004

Geopolitics Uber Alles?

I'm not accustomed to this kind of confidence, and I wonder today as I did in the month immediately preceding the war in Iraq if the smallminded and quarrelsome nature of our domestic politics has blinded us to geopolitical reality.

Considering all the time he's had, I find John Kerry mindnumbingly dumb on matters of foreign affairs. He has said not one thing that softens me to his cause. I continue to have my gripes with George W Bush, but it occurs to me that it is practically September and Kerry is still nothing but a nothing. I have heard no vision but carping against Bush and this shameless Vietnam bottom feeding. If Bush lacks, it is not for ambition, and a man of action is preferable to one who would let the likes of Michael Moore rally the troops.

So these days I am leaning more towards believing as I did on the eve of hostilities, that our domestic quibbles reflect poorly on us all, and given the choice of a strong foreign policy laced with realpolitik and the domestic agenda, I will take the worldly road. If I could vote for John McCain, I would. If I could vote for Colin Powell, I would. I cannot. But I think I am better off supporting their party, for nobody from the other side comes close.

We did the right thing in Iraq, and it doesn't matter who likes us for it. But I think I am willing to sacrifice domestic tranquility for the sake of the right confidence abroad, especially considering Democrat inability. The best American minds will always be at the disposal of the president, and so we cannot afford to let him fail - but at least we know GWBush will try to succeed at things that are worth pursuing, whereas for Mr. Kerry, all he wants to do is dance, and make romance.

My period of neutrality has ended.

Posted by mbowen at 07:40 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Larry Franklin

The Google count for 'Larry Franklin' stands at 4380 at this moment. It's going to get a lot higher very soon according to the allegations I'm reading this morning. Apparently, this character is an Israeli mole in the Pentagon who was funnelling secret documents about Iran to Israel.

There's going to be a lot of thrashing before we can figure out exactly what's going on here. There seems to be no comprehensive message or spin developed. Since Marshall has played a big part in breaking the story, I'll watch there first.

I've long said that since the ascendancy of Khatami, the US should have made some strong diplomatic advances toward Iran's secular leader. Iran whose population has a great deal more in common with ours than those in Pakistan could be a great ally in the war against Jihadism. Eager to pound his fist about an Axis of Evil, GW has used a rhetorical club instead of a sharp stick. He's only set himself to bat .333 by his own standard, and there's still division about the first hit. It's not even a good 8 year strategy to try and take out 3 countries, four if you count Afghanistan which almost nobody does.

I believe that what this means about Iranian policy is the more significant story. I'm not surprised that Israelis have spies here or have the ability to turn Americans, and that kind of dirty business is not news. Disgusting, but not alarming. What I'm looking for is evidence that the Bush Administration was overly influenced by a foreign agenda, and any connection to Feith is going to be a hot button.

There's already enough piss and vinegar over the Office of Special Programs, if these allegations stick, and the FBI evidence seems strong according to Marshall, then there can be political hell to pay for GWBush. I've already complained that Bush, being outside of the Beltway was incapable of being a wartime president in terms of the administrative genius needed. Even with the great speechwriting he had, it took a lot more than that to wrangle that bureacracy to the ground. Depending on Rove's political hardball was foolish.

Interestingly enough I watched Richard III last night.

Posted by mbowen at 11:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Clown From Portugal

Today, some asshat in a clown suit tackled the leader of the men's marathon. As a pathetic attempt at fame and desipicable deed against the sport, this idiot doesn't deserve any recognition. I hope Portugal is embarrassed, and I hope officials never release his name.

Posted by mbowen at 10:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 25, 2004

Fay vs Schlesinger

Last time I checked, there were about 7 different investigations into the Abu Ghraib scandal. I'm not sure whether or not that's a good thing, but it will certainly have the effect of burying the significance of the findings. 20 years from now it will be interesting for people fresh to the deal try to figure out which one the American people cared about.

As for me, I somewhat care. I have just a few new thoughts on the subject. It appears that Schlesinger is going to try to lay blame as much as possible up the chain of command. This makes no sense to me. How can it be that an entire bureacracy is responsible for injuries to a dozen people? Instead of the effect of highlighting the probelm, it simply spreads the blame all over the place. When 500 people are responsible for $100 dollars of damage, it doesn't matter much to each. If your aim is to target Rumsfeld, as many people's aim is, you end up taking the whole bureacracy route. Dilutes a misguided effort. Dumb.

It's interesting to hear something that actually merits the adjective 'horrendous', and I say so only because I have yet to see this in a Quinton Tarrantino filme, which is the Dog Game. The rest of the abuses, I simply don't find so far outside of the imagination of vulgar Americans.

Which brings us to an interesting inversion, which is that our liberal and permissive society would be better represented to the world through a disciplined military code of conduct, than by the goodness of ordinary American people themselves.

Posted by mbowen at 05:03 PM | TrackBack

July 24, 2004

Hitchens on Plame

So it turns out that Bush's caution over Niger's yellowcake trade was justifyable. That's a few too many twists for me to keep up with. Hitchens unmasks the reason the particular law in question was initiated in the first place - to protect a dodgy CIA.

To say this is not to defend the Bush administration, which typically managed to flourish the only allegation made about Niger that had been faked, and which did not have the courage to confront Mr. and Mrs. Wilson in public with their covert political agenda. But it does draw attention to an interesting aspect of this whole debate: the increasing solidarity of the left with the CIA. The agency disliked Ahmad Chalabi and was institutionally committed to the view that the Saddam regime in Iraq was a) secular and b) rationally interested in self-preservation. It repeatedly overlooked important evidence to the contrary, even as it failed entirely to infiltrate jihadist groups or to act upon FBI field reports about their activity within our borders. Bob Woodward has a marvelous encapsulating anecdote in his recent book: George Tenet on Sept. 11 saying that he sure hopes this isn't anything to do with those people acting suspiciously in the flight schools. ... The case for closing the CIA and starting again has been overwhelming for some time. But many liberals lately prefer, for reasons of opportunism, to take CIA evidence at face value.

I've been a big supporter of the CIA all my life, but that doesn't mean I don't prefer the Powell doctrine. I prefer a Department of War to a Department of Defense. Let's be up front about why we're in country and killing - that means Army. The CIA is better used to muck up private enterprise.

Posted by mbowen at 06:03 PM | TrackBack

July 16, 2004

Is It That Easy?

I understand that Iraq has replaced Palestine as the daily dose of death on the news. Five people here, 3 people there, 20 people at once every month or so. It's annoying and distracting to hear it. But this week there seems to have been a number of rather big wigs killed including the governor of Mosul in the usually quiet Northeast.

Allawi has a headache he intends to solve with a Crackdown. Maybe that will work. But it's amazing how fragile the peace is over there. I'm astounded at how easy it appears for 'insurgents' to assassinate political leaders. There has to have been one just about every month.

Posted by mbowen at 07:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

Sudanese Memetic Milestone

07KRIS.162.jpgToday is a milestone. Make a note of it. The NYT pasted this picture of adorable children on the front page of their web edition. It is at this moment that Americans may start waking up to the reality of suffering on the ground. I rather wish they had done it several months and thousands of refugees ago, but I'm just one political cartoonist.

The next step to watch for in the establishment of this meme for rescue is the naming of a warlord or evildoer. At the very least, you can expect NPR to pickup on the strangeness of the name 'Janjaweed Militia'. As of today there are about 15,000 hits on Google. When it hits 100,000 the meme will have weight.

Posted by mbowen at 09:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 24, 2004

Victory Over Al Sadr

It wasn't long ago when a lot of whiners were telling us that the Sadrists were taking the victory from the Coalition of the Willing after the fall of Baghdad. Well, here's the news now buddy.

The Army's powerful 1st Armored Division is proclaiming victory over Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr's marauding militia that just a month ago seemed on the verge of conquering southern Iraq.

The Germany-based division defeated the militia with a mix of American firepower and money paid to informants. Officers today say "Operation Iron Saber" will go down in military history books as one of the most important battles in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

So Iron Saber has delivered the proper smackdown that the Wanker has been deserving for quite a while now. I am glad that the WTimes has given a military type, if somewhat abbreviated accounting of this victory which is the kind of reporting we've been missing. Clearly occupations aren't so very dramatic as wars, but our troops are still doing important work, and as I said before, we could use this kind of news.

As time moves forward, I expect that the Sadrists will take some political responsibility now that we have showed them the pain of choosing bullets over ballots. Still, they will have little as compared to the Dawas and that's a good thing.

I am unclear as to whether Al Sadr himself is still subject to murder charges.

Posted by mbowen at 07:23 AM | TrackBack

June 17, 2004

If Not Perle Then Whom?

Long ago I read George F. Kennan's 'Around the Cragged Hill'. I recall very little of it. I am brought to mind of it at this moment by the following bit of a paragraph:

Although Kennan's influence ultimately waned, he seemed to make his greatest contribution to realist thought from the sidelines, where he served as a relentless critic of the dominant role that Wilsonian idealism or "do-goodism" came to exert on U.S. foreign policy. In this respect, Kennan joined the other realists in condemning U.S. interventions in Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Bosnia, and elsewhere as stemming more from an effort to improve the world than from vital national interests.

The Perle-Wolfowitz axis of neoconservatism owes much to that Wilsonian idealism. I have always been a neocon in much that fashion. However I have been saying the 'E' word out loud. America is an improper but should strive to become a proper Empire. It's the only thing that will stop the world from eventually crushing us out of spite.

But here we stand with an ingrateful Iraq, a staggering bill, and domestic bickering that seems to never end. Were we not realistic in our projections? Perhaps we could use some measure of political realism? Hmm.

Rakiir gives Truman (Kennan) credit for the victory of Containment and takes it away from Reagan.

So the historical record seems clear to me. Reagan continued a policy which was started in 1947 and continued over 33 years by six different presidents before Reagan assumed the presidency. Claiming that Reagan won the Cold War seems unjustified by any rational standard. What you can say is that Reagan increased the pressure on the U.S.S.R. on a number of fronts (diplomatic, military, and rhetorically), especially compared to the first three years of the Carter presidency. Reagan's efforts weren't small but they weren't ground breaking or particularly dramatic compared to what Truman, Kennedy, and Nixon both said and did (Korea, Vietnam, and Nixon's trip to China).

Considering the state of Venezuela today, and the absolute inability for anyone to declare any victory in Central or South America vis a vis Reagan's anti-communist interventions in this hemisphere, I think we'll have to concede Rakiir's point.

I have been reluctant to parrot the argument that Cheney and Rumsfeld rejected the Powell Doctrine out of spite and arrogance. But more people are weighing in on that notion. Is Admiral Crowe among that bunch who are now standing tall against GWBush? He and Hackworth just don't fade away do they? But as we come to transition day, there are no maypoles and confetti in Baghdad, just bigger car bombs and more effective sabotage.

There is a significant difference between Containment and Appeasement, but there seems to be a bigger difference between Containment and Regime Change and we don't seem to be made of the proper imperial stuff for the latter. Considering we have yet to lose one day's worth of Iwo Jima fighters, volume and pervasiveness of the political wimpery of our low-carb dissenters is a poor mark on the strength of the President. He chose Perle (or did Perle choose him), and Perle's time is just about over. June 30th marks the day in my book.

Is anybody shopping around for new ideas? I'm really tired of Stonewall Cheney and the haughty 'you try doing my job, you traitor' snorts of Rumsfeld. Maybe it's time we got real.

Posted by mbowen at 05:39 PM | TrackBack

June 08, 2004

Allawi Speaks

5_6_2004_Allawi.jpgThe carping haters are going to have to shut their mouths for a while. They'll come up with new excuses, of course. In the meantime, the Iyad Allawi is saying things like:

"In conclusion I would like to remember our martyrs who have fallen for freedom, for honour and for Iraq, and in the battle for the liberation of Iraq."

That means the coalition. He also reserved some special passion against the militias, bringing to mind GWBush's speech singling out Al Sadr as a criminal.

These cowardly terrorist acts have delayed and will delay the return of normal life and destroy the national economy and the souls of the people and their daily bread.

I'm looking forward to hearing an Iraqi leader as a credible ally. I expect the haters won't be shushed long, but perhaps they'll turn off Al-Jazeera for a minute.

Posted by mbowen at 10:11 AM | TrackBack

Bluehats & The Grid

One of the harsh lessons of Iraq is that it is now a bit more difficult to expect a proper empire. Anti-Americanism is a lot easier to spread than one might have previously expected.

The Left pretends that they have solutions and they are half right, if Sally Struthers is any example. But Americans on the whole I think share a sense of responsibility for victims of tyranny abroad. We engage philanthropically in humanitarian relief and aid. Still I have a strong sense that our efforts would be so much more meaningful were we able to take ourselves to those remote places and live among the people we seek to help.

On the international grid, we could support a distributed empire. Everyplace that is FedExable, GSMable and ATMable could be a potential outpost for the largesse of the West. And why not? Do we not have Iraqis in America who repatriated? I wonder why it is we haven't heard back from them on NPR? Perhaps they are quite satisfied with the American engagement and therefore don't square with the program directors sense of outrage at Bush's 'aggression'. That aside, we do have Americans of every persuasion who have lived here in the nation that functions well. Who better to spread love, joy and endless commodities?

But there is the matter of security. Even before the sums of cash from Western investment assists the new third world economies of choice, there must be a stable government. And it is is in this shadowy time period that we find ourselves in Iraq. After the ceasefire and disarmament of militias and before the national army is in place. This is the time, under optimistic circumstances, that Americans somewhat less hardy than Halliburton roughnecks, Red Cross volunteers and Wackenhut mercenaries might sieze the opportunity to ply their trades in countries like Iraq.

Imagine what an American plumber could do in a land needing plumbing where the per capita income is $500 a year. Could he purchase a compound and ramp up a business? Could he stay on the international grid and with a translator demonstrate what know-how he learned in the good old USA? It seems to me that the answer is yes, provided there was security.

I don't know how to judge the effectiveness of the UN Development Program, whose job this is supposed to be. But we have reason to believe that it is full of corruption given what we've seen on the Oil For Food program. That's a shame. But sooner or later the edge of the Global Grid is going to encroach on every habitable part of the world and Americans are going to be there, not only just watching on television or following blogs.

This is the new empire; get used to it. What remains to be seen is why we use the UN at all and if they can be trusted with security.

Posted by mbowen at 09:41 AM | TrackBack

June 01, 2004

Ahmed Hikmat Shakir

We've all heard a lot of smoking gun bedtime stories. But here's one that has got my attention and I daresay should be all the proof anyone might possibly need proving a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Check out this story over at the WSJ. And this column at the NRO.

Don't forget this name. He's got to be the most wanted criminal on the planet.

Posted by mbowen at 12:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 30, 2004

A History Lesson

John Dos Passos argues a number of things in 1946 that are being repeated about Iraq. An excellent gem of a letter about our bungling in Europe.

Try these points on for size:

  • We have swept away Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease.
  • Never has American prestige in Europe been lower.
  • Weve lost the peace"

I learned about this from hearing a fairly good speech by Bill Bennett, called 'The Politics of War and Civil Society'.

Other juicy tidbits. This 'unilateral' action includes a coalition of 31 nations. The Gulf War 'multilateral' action included a coaltion of 34 nations. This is a huge difference?

The last seven times the US military was engaged, it was done for on behalf of muslims.

Posted by mbowen at 11:28 AM | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

Monsters On A Leash

Seymour Hersch lobs a certain accusation at the US this weekend that a lot of people are paying exceptional attention. In this is his final closing bomb.

In an odd way, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said, the sexual abuses at Abu Ghraib have become a diversion for the prisoner abuse and the violation of the Geneva Conventions that is authorized. Since September 11th, Roth added, the military has systematically used third-degree techniques around the world on detainees. Some jags hate this and are horrified that the tolerance of mistreatment will come back and haunt us in the next war, Roth told me. Were giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.

First, let me point out the obvious which is that the defense of the nation requires no international sanction. While it is quite possible that the Geneva Conventions have hit upon a universal standard of behavior which has been and always will be broadly acceptable, the chances are more likely that it could use a review in light of the kinds of conflict with which we are engaged. It is just as likely that our Armed Forces may be completely unsuitable for this kind of conflict. Again, both were conceived with the kind of national defense required for a clash of modern nations. I am willing to stipulate both require update in terms of their dealing with the cellular nature of distributed guerilla terrorism.

The 'bar' is not 'lowered'. It is illusory. It is a bourgie convention designed to make citizens of liberal democracies sleep better with the idea that gallantry is the order of modern warfare.

With regard to the humanitarian treatment of prisoners of war, the Geneva Conventions are presumeably that thing which separates us from the savages. Or more appropriately, the Conventions separate the civilized warring nations from the rogue states. I think it is beyond question with regard to the perfidity of the jihadist irregulars that we are dealing with rogues. But we're all capable of savagery. In that regard, there is no difference between 'us' and 'them'. We all retain the essence of our humanity which allows us to kill at all. No one suggests that we not kill the enemy. The difference lies in what our systems are constructed to do and how they perform when called into duty. The difference lies in the quality of the cage in which our monsters reside during the off season. The difference lies in the willingness to look, to see, to judge and to act when monstrous subjects are at hand. These are not differences made real by the existence of a Geneva Convention, but differences made real by the structure and behavior of the US military and its civilian oversight. The Army is built with a purpose in mind, it is to defend us as a nation from our enemies. When orders flow from generals to lieutenants to grunts, it is our own military code which establishs boundaries within which professionals operate for the satisfaction of the citizenry. When there are honors and medals and certificates of merit to be handed out, then accredited professionals can parade past the reviewing stand in front of the gathered cameras. But this does not define the whole of our military capability.

I am perfectly willing to go out on a limb for the sake of argument and suggest that what is being done in the name of America in the spaces of Abu Ghraib are exactly what went on under Saddam Hussein. I know that is not the case, as do most reasonable people. But even if it were the case, there remains something we have that our enemy does not which gives us the moral high ground. Our monsters are on a short leash. There are few of them and their operation is limited to a short period of time.

So understand what I am saying. I'm not saying that we are worse or better because of who Americans are and who Arabs are or what our cultures sustain. For the sake of argument, in this conflict we have put our monsters out against their monsters. And there needn't be made any argument about whose monsters are worse. That leash on our monsters is not the Geneva Convention, it is the American system, the American press, the American courts, the American people.

Anyone suffering under the delusion that we wouldn't and couldn't have torturers and assassins working somewhere on our side is incompetent to judge. If we need to give this power a proxy then let us name Cambone. Let those nameable be fodder for our political satisfaction, but the capacity will never be dismantled so long as humans war. It cannot as it is inherent in the nature of humans. We fight, and sometimes we fight dirty. But dirty fighting is not what we are all about, what this war is about, nor what the occupation is about. If GWBush loses the next election, it both confirms the fact that we bourgie civilians are in control and that our monsters are under our jurisdiction.

Our monsters are, by definition, cruel and unusual. Rumsfeld approved 200. We know. They are back in the bottle. Don't be surprised.

I grew up in the shadow of the nuclear bomb. When I was an adolescent, Planet of the Apes was my nightmare. Charlton Heston crying at the destroyed Statue of Liberty defined despair. So I, and many like me are conditioned to terms of defeat and resignation which are orders of magnitude more monstrous than what we bear witness to today in Iraq. In a war and occupation where our troops suffer less than one thousand deaths, we suffer the death of a thousand bleating cuts at the hands of those for whom sneering disgust is their only public expression. It's naive, cowardly and dishonest and I am weary of it.

Posted by mbowen at 10:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

Raphael Maldonado, Vinnell and AQ

A fascinating theory. Bodyguards to the Royal Saudi Family were in on the AQ bombing.

The bombing on 12 May 2003 was implemented with precision based on meticulous intelligence. Lt-Col Raphael Maldonado, then a Vinnell instructor, claims al-Qa'ida received inside assistance from National Guard members. "This compound was too big and complex to be bombed without inside help", he said. He points to the discovery of a detailed map in the car left behind by the assailants and an improvised ladder consisting of concrete blocks and the trace of shoe markings made by people rushing to escape just before the explosion.

Posted by mbowen at 07:26 PM | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

Roche's Update on Sadr

Review this:

The fighting we are engaged in against the uprising of Muqtada Al-Sadr is one that is extremely sensitive and risks catastrophe. Had we entered this previously, it would not have been possible for us to win. Over the months, we have been involved in preparations and much planning. Thus, today we are scoring amazing successes against this would-be tyrant.

I ask that the American people be brave. Don't fall for the spin by the weak and timid amongst you that are portraying this battle as a disaster. Such people are always looking for our failure to justify and rescue their constant pessimism. They are raising false flags of defeat in the press and media. It just isn't true.

That's just what I needed to hear.

Posted by mbowen at 10:30 AM | TrackBack

May 12, 2004

Heads, You Lose

In a cruel twist of fate, Americans who have been screaming for the rhetorical head of Sec'y Rumsfeld have been handed instead the real head of Nick Berg. We have jihadists to thank for this.

I've spent a bit of time reading Juan Cole this afternoon. His angle generally is of the tenor that we don't understand Iraqis well enough to deal with the subtleties of their complaints and are irrevocably retarded and therefore not worthy of engaging them militarily. This is particularly interesting considering his identification of the 'Sadrists' as a legitimate faction whose future needs assurance in the new Iraq. His enthusiasm to identify this group early on may overstate their importance or influence around the country. But there seems to be some contradiction in his coverage over whether or not these vaunted Sadrists are indeed responsible for the Fallujah bridge lynching. Cole is eager to point out that while the Sadrist militia, the 'Al-Mahdi Army' are few in number, the Sadrists themselves number in the tens of thousands. Thus any military action against the militia, while appearing effective only enflames the multitudes. Adding one important point, the CPA and the President have called for the head of the leader of the Sadrist, Muqtada alSadr himself.

The reason I bring this up is because I too think it's important to understand with some clarity, exactly who is doing what to whom and for what reasons. So I question first whether or not the beheaders of Berg are Sadrists, and if so whether Cole and those following his reading of events feel it necessary for them to remain at large given the CPAs calling for his arrest. If not, and the beheaders are truly AQ, what does that say about the Sadrist followers and Sadrist supporters internationally? The point being, there may be complicated links between Iraq and international terrorism now, but if the Sadrists are any indication, then jihadist groups anywhere may be likely to oppose America in similar, popular militant ways.

Stratfor says War:

There are some who argue that it is not reasonable to speak of the
confrontation between the United States and al Qaeda as a war. It certainly
does not, in any way, resemble World War II. It is nevertheless very much a
war. It consists of two sides that are each making plans, using violence and
attempting to shape the political future of a major region of the globe --
the Muslim world. One side masses large forces, the other side disperses much
smaller forces throughout the globe. But the goals are the goals of any war:
to shape the political future. And the means are the same as in any war: to
kill sufficient numbers of the enemy in order to break his will to fight and
resist. It might not look like wars the United States has fought in the past,
but it is most certainly a war -- and it is a war whose outcome is in doubt.

The war against Saddam is over. So who is fighting Americans and coalition members? They are Iraqi militants who are too impatient for the handover, and their violent resistence catalyzes the Islamic partisans whose families are faithful.

What remains to be seen is how long seething resentment can motivate radical militancy and to what extent other partisan groups are willing and able to provide real justice. Whatever happens to Americans, the response is going to be disproportionate. We're big. Deal with it. But I have confidence that our forces are going to strike at the proper partisans. So if we are at war with jihadists (and we are) will enough sensible Iraqis know to move out of the way?

They had better.

Posted by mbowen at 07:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

Less Than Lynching

If I were GWBush I would send a fat-headed general to give a "you can't handle the truth" press conference. The Red Cross report, as adequately and appropriately interpreted by Josh Mitchell, is hardly as damning as many would like it to be.

What that man, way below Rumsfeld, would impatiently explain is some subset of the types of interrogations that go on, as part of the operating standards of our military. Furthermore he would explain the extent to which our military intelligence group authorized the use of certain techniques in the context of what excesses we know about. The point is to make explicit something of the nature of war interrogation and the fuzzy line between that and torture.

For example, what is the significance of using plastic handcuffs (like riot police do) and traditional handcuffs? When is it appropriate to blindfold or hood a prisoner and when is it not? What kinds of threats can an interrogator make?

Only by putting people in the uncomfortable light of options, tactics and uncertainty will some of the weight of responsibility be properly contextualized. It is somebody's job to do this. Were they doing it properly? It is not a question that is answered by a snapshot which is propaganda.

What the Red Cross report makes clear is that the excesses were systematic, that what was going on at Abu Ghraib was roughly what was supposed to be going on, and therefore not particularly aberrant. It is also made clear that whatever abuses occured were directed at a particular subset of the detainees and was not generally applied to any or every POW.

Quite frankly, I was prepared to hear that people's fingers were being chopped off or that their eyes or teeth were being poked out - the stuff of American gangster movies. But what we have, as Kevin Drum excerpts, is not quite up to par with American lynching. Emmitt Till got a much worse deal than any Iraqi detainee.

It is unclear whether or not any of these high-value detainees were hospitalized or required hospitalization, or that those needing it were denied. The priorities on hooding and permanent nerve damage seem appropriately high on the list of abuses.

I am pleased that we've been able to get this information quickly, and this seems to derail the impact of any extensive Congressional inquiry although we're likely to get one anyway. I cannot estimate what impact such news is likely to have on anyone although I am hesitant to publish some of the cartoons I've written in light of this revelation.

However one may feel about the purposes of this conflict, the ways and means of its accomplishment are very serious, and while it always makes sense to compare and contrast what Americans have done with what Saddam has done, it is most important to determine whether or not we Americans are breaking our own standards. That is job one. I find it difficult to believe that any information gained by breaking these prisoners is a net positive given how its news has been recieved in the West, but I am equally sure that it is not fundamentally changing Iraqi opinion in the street, given what they know of the Baathists.

It is inconceivable to me that the Iraqi on the street, given his dire conditions, is not at all looking forward to the establishment of self-rule. So the kind of rebellion established by militia groups and evidently supported by a sizeable plurality of Iraqis suggests to me that no absolute standards of law and order are attainable. If the CPA cannot arrest, and having arrested cannot deliver to justice then all expectations of the occupation should be as cynical as possible. But it is the highlighting of this aspect which erodes support for what peacable transistion the CPA expects to carry out. To the extent that propaganda of this sort is used to characterize the aims of occupation and the ways and means by which it is being accomplished, the CPA is undermined. Let us remember that the purpose of the American forces of occupation is primarily to secure the operations of the CPA as it works to make that transition real.

UPDATE: There is more grisly stuff than I expected, given that I expected Drum and Marshall to show the worst. Cryptome, a very trusted source, has this copy online: Note in particular paragraphs 15-18 as the gravest of the alleged war crimes.

Posted by mbowen at 10:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 06, 2004

A Picture's Worth

kwc.JPGThis is a church in Berlin. It is known as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Like most Americans, I am vaguely aware of who Kaiser Wilhelm was. Although the history is a couple mouseclicks away, I haven't bothered to learn much. I do know that it was gutted by American bombers when they purposely bombed the capital city of Germany during WW2. Our purpose was to kill civilians. We were engaged in total war; kill as many people as possible. So what if their churches get destroyed?

Clearly this was a beautiful building. Even in its damaged state, it retains the grandeur of its original design. However I was unable to find any pictures from before the time it was bombed. The meaning of the church has been irrevocably changed because of the damage we inflicted on the city and people of Berlin.

But you don't care. Nobody cares about Berlin. Berlin is fine.

All we care about today is a couple dozen victims of torture in a jail in Iraq. We care about a minor atrocity on the premises of the site where greater continuing atrocities was business as usual for the Baath Party. Today the world's literate and fed population, the ones with access to journalism, is focused on humiliation. Today America faces a political tragedy (perhaps), a tragedy of perception.

Phillip Kennicott of the Washington Post suggests:

But these photos are us. Yes, they are the acts of individuals (though the scandal widens, as scandals almost inevitably do, and the military's own internal report calls the abuse "systemic"). But armies are made of individuals. Nations are made up of individuals. Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done. We live in a democracy. Every errant smart bomb, every dead civilian, every sodomized prisoner, is ours.

I agree with Kennicott when he says any interpretation of the pictures can only be propaganda. Whether you say it's an aberration or that it's par for the course, it's propaganda. It's spining the facts towards pro- or anti-American sentiment during a period of armed conflict. That's war propaganda by definition. So let's take it for what it is, and ignore it until after the conflict is over.

It's difficult for me to determine whether or not people care about the reasons for war, or about the conduct of any war. The antagonism and furor created by the publication of the other pictures suggests no ends are worth any means. If it can be suggested that these pictures show more about America than anyone could possibly have known before their release, then what enduring truth about America really matters?

We are not engaged in a total war. In many ways, to the detriment of our troops safety and morale, we are not engaged at all. Rather we are sitting ducks getting symbolically whacked by photographs. It's a strage occupation but hardly war. Instead, the war is one of minds, of international politics, lies, distortions and of course propaganda.

These acts will stand alone and come to signify little in world history. Like prison guards at Dachau, every soldier smiling in a photo over the spoils of war may come to regret the orders they followed in a civilian court 40 years hence. Unlike the Nazis, however, our purpose is not and was never the destruction of a people, but for their liberation. So I have confidence that the world will look at Baghdad a half century from now as they look at Berlin today. They will say that Baghdad is fine. That's the way I picture it.

Posted by mbowen at 10:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 05, 2004

Sudan: Least Favored Nation

I've had a little time to think about it and my snap judgement is that the Axis of Evil needs an update. We need to bump Iran down a peg to position number four and move Sudan up to number two behind North Korea. Iraq holds at three and is about to drop off the charts. Zimbabwe comes in fifth.

The cheese-eating equivocators and spineless relativists at the UN have done the world enough disservices, but allowing Sudan to be on the UN Human Rights Commission is a new low. I reserve a very small amount of faith in the UN, but it appears that the only people who take it seriously are those for whom its budgets and powers seem great. That excludes much of the second world and all of the first, by my reckoning.

The whole thing needs to be rethought.

Posted by mbowen at 08:30 PM | TrackBack

May 03, 2004

Tacitus Capitulates, More Will Follow

As much as I like the idea of the American Empire, I think I'm going to have to settle for Hegemon for the time being. Tacitus, who has been following the progress of the Iraqi military strategy a lot closer than I have shows that he is weary to the breaking point and concedes victory to the jihadists. He did so on April 30th (It's very difficult to link to individual posts over there). Bush's plan has undergone enough tactical setbacks to be considered strategically mismanaged, and the volume of the dissent both foreign and domestic cannot be squelched.

At this point, I think Colin Powell officially becomes a footnote, and unless somebody like McCain has the cojones to run against Bush this fall, there is no end in sight for the downfall of the PNAC. Democrats, if they win, will backtrack and demolish any forward defense of Arab liberty. Bush, if he wins, will only entrench himself as a symbol of whatever it is anti-Americans call us these days.

But hey, we still make the world's best hot dogs.

What occurs to me at this moment in history is that any jihadist who is inflamed and encouraged by the pages of al-Jazeera may march confidently off to suicide unhindered by the truth of American life and purpose. Which also suggests to me that the time for nation-building is over and that the next Islamo-fascist nation that crosses our path needs to be absolutely crushed. If only there were an army to devastate, the world could learn a valuable lesson. But it seems now that we are paving the way towards total war, which is tragic.

The capitulation of Tacitus I take as a forward sign, a bad omen. That it comes directly in the wake of the expansion of the EU is also not good news.

Posted by mbowen at 04:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

Audie Murphy

If you grew up when I did, most of your heroes were probably astronauts. But I dug Combat, The Big Red One, and The Sand Pebbles, and most of all The Battle of the Bulge. So I understood that there was more than one kind of hero.

A couple weeks back I was rambling on about why I have no need nor desire to go back to school and finish off degree work; one of the reasons I gave was the example of Audie Murphy who never spent a day in college. My friend said, "Who?".

I don't think anybody knows what a war hero looks like, and somebody in this administration is to blame for putting on flightsuits himself and not letting the people who do for a living get some glory. And I mean ticker tape parade glory. The closest we got to it was the briefing from the commander who found Saddam.

There's a lot of people who deserve medals for what they're doing in Iraq. Might I suggest that the President start handing them out publicly? A certain Democratic candidate could be made to look pretty stupid for throwing his away.

Posted by mbowen at 04:52 PM | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

Does America Care That Much?

Larry Diamond makes the case, which I've heard repeated a number of times, that America should double the number of troops in Iraq, and crush 'insurgents' to insure that democracy happens.

Who has the nerve?

Posted by mbowen at 08:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 22, 2004

Iraq vs Vietnam

At Africana, Jelani Cobb suggests that we've got another Vietnam on our hands.

I would suggest a comparison of numbers. First of all, let's start with a math question. What is 22 x 254? That's the number of soldiers who died in Vietnam, just from California. If you care about the dead, perhaps you might check out their names. The answer is somewhere north of 5500, which is more than 8 times as many American soldiers as have died in Iraq. At the current rate of American casualties it will take 8 years of occupation in Iraq to match the number of Vietnam dead from California alone.

Look around you. Do you see any mass demonstrations in the streets of America? NO. It's because Americans can count. That's reason number one why this is not 'another Vietnam'.

Do you know what Congress was debating yesterday? They were debating whether or not National Guardsmen on active duty in Iraq will be penalized for early withdrawl of funds from their IRAs. If this were Vietnam, I daresay they'd be a lot more worried about whether they're ever going to see America again, much less the tax rates on their stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

Moral outrage is a good and fine tool in politics, but let's keep things in perspective. The occupation of Iraq is not another Vietnam, it's not even another Gulf War. It is what it is, so let's pay attention to that and leave historical comparisons to the time in the future when this occupation actually will be history.

Posted by mbowen at 11:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 20, 2004


The way I see things, the extraordinary blame Bush gets for the war against The Baath party owes much to the politics of Ritter, Blix and Fisk.

These days, few people are likely to consider the broad level of support our military action had, not only abroad but domestically. Congress gets almost no blame. There are no state governors who will say publically that they are against the war and that troops should come home immediately. Unless the anti-war sentiment can be spun into an indictment of Bush and an endorsement of Kerry, most political voices and elected officials are silent.

I say that the geopolitical conflict with Iraq was inevitable. The accumulation of damnation of Saddam Hussein grew greater as time went by. But that WMDs became the single most imporant issue of the domestic political legitimacy of the war owes primarily to the agendas of Blix, Ritter and Fisk.

I understand and respect any pacifist objection to this conflict, and I expect of that pacifist the acknowledgement that Hussein's murders would go unavenged. But the WMD argument is becoming ossified in opposition to the war, and I find it embarassing for my opponents to argue this point.

Blix represents the deliberation of the UN. His inability to find WMDs, in my opinion, was only exacerbated by the fact that the UN is incapable, on the ground, to be an effective fighting force. I don't think anyone doubts his eyesight, but his ability to get where he needs to see is entirely hobbled by the tactical incompetence of the organization he represents. Blaming Bush via Blix means you believe the UN is better at finding out secrets than our forces. He wouldn't even be as sure as he is today were it not for our thousands of troops pacifying large areas of Iraq. I would suggest that there was no other timely way of coming to the level of certainty we have today. The UN inspection regime has, ultimately lasted since the first war. It has failed for 12 years and not come up with a better raison d'etre than WMD, Bush's term.

Fisk embarassed all the journalists in the world by giving them a firehose of information they couldn't contextualize. He proved that few were doing their homework. In the end, about all the media could do was attempt to digest and regurgitate his politics, which were essentially that Bush was both stupid and conspiratorial. And yet our journalistic ethics blind us to advance the kind of thinking that could actually help Americans understand the situation on the ground. Were it not for the ready-made gripe that pool reporters and embedded reporters could only see a limited amount, media organizations might have an answer to Fisk. But like the CIA itself, media organizations have not been willing to invest in people with human intelligence on the ground. Between editorial and live footage of heads rolling, speculation ruled. Default to WMDs. Yeah that and a fair but self-serving documentary about a journalist's fate in Bagdhad the first time around.

Finally, and I believe most importantly, Ritter's decision to agitate against the war became a rallying point for the opposition. Yet Ritter made it entirely clear that he was not going to speak about humanitarian concerns, because if he were to detail what Saddam Hussein actually did, it would rally Americans to the cause of war. What Ritter knew and knows today is that Americans could be made to feel about Iraqis what it feels about Rwandans. Instead he chose to pursue a course which highlighted what he felt were abuses of our own democratic system. I think it is entirely reasonable for him to have done so from the point of view of a patriot willing to be isolationist in this matter. Yet the inevitable results of this is that it too combines to undermine the pacifist responsibility for averting their gaze from damage done by Saddam Hussein with or without WMDs.

The WMD argument is null and void. There are none, and perhaps there never were and those who needed to know, actually knew. As Woodward's book suggests, Bush and company had other significant geopolitical reasons to do battle with Saddam Hussein WMD or no. But in order to paint Bush in the colors of war, many Americans have undermined their own credibility as humanitarians with their suggestions that our deposing of Saddam has done more damage to Iraq than Hussein himself did.

Posted by mbowen at 08:18 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

Threat Logic

Was Saddam Hussein a threat to the United States? I believe so. As I've said before, I believe strongly in Powell's argument about the necessary complicity of nations in providing aid and comfort to terrorist organizations & leaders. Without the Taliban, bin Laden would have had no army. The threat of Saddam was certainly qualified, but it was certainly real.

For folks who have a difficult time understanding the level of threat of Saddam Hussein or of Iraq, perhaps you should consider the extent to which you believe America is mired and bogged down. It seems to me that you can't have it both ways. What we are going through is the inevitable cost of tyranny unchecked.

Looking back at my post of Little White Lies shows a bit of past persuasion. It's clear now, with the kidnappings and atrocious acts initiated by radical militants in the Sunni Triangle, that even helicopter gunships are necessary for the kind of destruction that 'bogs us down'.

As Blair said this week, his visits to other capitals in the Middle East, leaders are all breathing easier now that Saddam is gone, especially those (I bet) in Saudi Arabia. Remember, this is the man who liked burning down oil wells. This is the man who went after the oil in Kuwait. He had regional designs which were contrary to the regional designs of the United States. Whose do you prefer?

Posted by mbowen at 09:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

Bombing for Gay Marriage

My good friend Jim has updated his blog and is now running Trigger Fish. Do check him out. He's only just begun and he's on a roll.

It would be ironic if the end result of al Qaida's war upon the West and its values ultimately drove the West further into putting the liberal in liberal democracy. Blowback works both ways.

These days, I wonder if Spain's economy is so cushy that they can make such pronouncements, or on the other hand, is their newly elected leader really straight out of moonbat central?

Either way, Jim is a great tickler for the strategic.

Posted by mbowen at 05:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tony Blair, Once Again

This morning's press briefing with the President and the Prime Minister was a study in contrasts and symmetry. All told, I think it went quite well. Geopolitically, I don't think there is much more to be said which doesn't capture the proper intent and spirit of our intervention in Iraq.

Posted by mbowen at 12:24 PM | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

Illegal Militias

Muqtada Al Sadr is 'evil'. Now you know.

Why? Because he has an illegal militia. What precisely is illegal about the militia is unclear since there are more pro-American clerics and others, including Chalabi, who have militias. Maybe it's because of some illegal acts done by the militia. Either way, here is another snarl in the smooth rhetoric of good vs evil.

Still, I don't understand why some folks (I've been overusing this kind of logic) can't seem to figure out that whether or not Al Sadr is 'evil', that he's no more predisposed to agreeing with UN or 'international' rules than he is to kissing the ass of the IGC.

For some inexplicable reason, we are negotiating with and militarily surrounding Al Sadr. Clearly the IGC isn't powerful enough to arrest him, so he's only 'illegal' to coalition forces. One wonders exactly how much such loose cannons will be allowed to get away with as the transitional government takes control. Moreover, how many American journalists are going to stick around to see how much more of Al Sadr's kind of behavior will be tolerated as US troops stand down? Few, I'd bet.

So Al Sadr, the gangsta cleric, will run around unleashed for an intederminate period. He will continue to recruit militiamen... What really kills me is the logic of this. Here you have Iraqis who have clearly not all been regular army joining up into religious militias complaining that the Americans are shooting them down, and so they fight the coalition troops. They really have no legitimate reason to be combattants. What do they do when the government is theirs? They shut up and obey? No, they'll find another reason to try to get the American Army to leave Iraq. But until the new Iraqi army is built, under the auspices of the same damned IGC and its elected successors, they'll have to remain in the militias.

So the way I see it is that the post IGC government is either going to beat these guys down, with coaltion help, or they're going to give some kind of amnesty to militias currently in conflict with the occupation forces. Impossible.

What's even more incredible is the domestic opposition which says Bush is in a quagmire and more troops are required. Yet at the same time they say this is a battle for hearts and minds. It's a battle for reason and competence, I say, and with the likes of Al Sadr rising to national prominence, the likelihood of that battle going the right way is dubious. But it's not for a lack of trying. The Iraqi people simply refuse to be pacified. So it's attrition all the way forward.

We couldn't just crush them. That wouldn't be nice.

UPDATE: Sadr backs down.

Posted by mbowen at 01:01 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

Iraqi Council: Professionals Wanted

Updating my information and opinion on the Iraqi Governing Council, I don't think there's a hell of a lot to be lost if the IGC is expanded beyond 25 members. It's a concession to loudmouthing but it isn't clear to me that it will make Iraq any more governable.

As I was informed this afternoon, the problems with the IGC was not so much that the 25 were appointed by Americans, but its competence to govern was questioned when it tried to make its first appointments. The 25 bickered so much that every subordinate organization they appointed was done without consensus, so that instead of appointing a 10 member constitutional drafting committee, they appointed one with 25 members. My understanding is that they've done this twice.

So adding new members to the highest council, as is being demanded from all Iraqi quarters will only add to the madness in my opinion. Nevertheless, in accordance to UN Resolution 1511, there are some reasons to do this.

If Bremer continues to punt to the UN, I doubt that it will really help the Iraqi people. But I can see how shutting up Americans by doing so would have some domestic political currency. My guess is that this is what Kerry's appeasment process would be all about (appeasement to the Left wing of the Democrats that is).

I would draw the line, however, at adding some ethnic or tribal quotas to the IGC expansion. The bottom line is competence, and that seems hard enough to come by. Iraqi professionals need to be able to contribute.

None of this will speed up elections. None of this will get Sadr to pipe down. I don't see how the Iraqis are going to run an army when Sadr gets his own religious militia. I don't see who is going to arrest all the kidnappers and guerilla groups in the country when the handover is done. There's a great deal of complaint about the American presence in Iraq, but when the new government takes over, the American military is not going to just disappear. So when the screamers start throwing bricks over the walls of the American military compound, which Iraqis are going to make arrests?

Posted by mbowen at 04:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 10, 2004

Blix' (Little) Bombshell

Hans Blix, frustrated internationalist, confirms what I've been saying all along. Italics mine.

But if getting Iraq right was tough, getting the diplomacy right was much easier. Reading this book one is struck by how, at the end, the United States had become uninterested in diplomacy, viewing it as an obstacle. It seems clear that with a little effort Washington could have worked through international structures and institutions to achieve its goals in Iraq. Blix and ElBaradei were proving to be tough, honest taskmasters. Every country -- yes, even France -- was coming around to the view that the inspections needed to go on for only another month or two, that benchmarks could have been established, and if the Iraqis failed these tests the Security Council would authorize war. But in a fashion that is almost reminiscent of World War I, the Pentagon's military timetables drove American diplomacy. The weather had become more important than international legitimacy.

So here's the calculation. Let's imagine that the Pentagon's best calculation was that if we waited 2 more months for the invasion of Iraq, we would have lost about 4000 more soldiers than we did. Would it be worth it for international support?

More specifically, if you were the President of the United States of America and the troops are sent into Iraq by your sayso, would you send them later knowing that decision would both cement your international coalition and kill 4000 more Americans. How many American troops are worth the diplomatic victory?

Have I made this point clearly enough? 4000 is a number picked out of thin air, but somebody had to make that decision and the Pentagon knows what that number is. If the number was negligible then we have a problem. The question, I think, most clearly falls on the head of Colin Powell. After all it was his doctrine was that we go in with the big force at the right time.

One more thing to consider here, which in a way typifies the nature of timetable justifications. We all know that some dodgy intel suggested that Saddam Hussein himself had been pinpointed. On that tip we launched several tons of cruise missles which hit their target but missed Saddam. This upped the original timetable by 2 or 3 days. One can argue that this kind of aggressive opportunism characterizes the Administrations persecution of this war. The only imprudence I see in that is political, and I sleep just fine with that.

Posted by mbowen at 12:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

Your Competition

Could you do this?

Mexican woman performs own Caesarean to save baby
LONDON (Reuters) - A woman in Mexico gave birth to a healthy baby boy after performing a Caesarean section on herself with a kitchen knife, doctors said Tuesday.

The unidentified 40-year-old woman, who lived in a rural area without electricity, running water or sanitation and was an eight-hour drive from the nearest hospital, performed the operation when she could not deliver the baby naturally.

She had lost a previous baby due to labor complications.

"She took three small glasses of hard liquor and, using a kitchen knife, sliced her abdomen in three attempts ... and delivered a male infant that breathed immediately and cried," said Dr R.F. Valle, of the Dr. Manuel Velasco Suarez Hospital in San Pablo, Mexico.

Valle recounted the event in a report in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Before losing consciousness, the woman told one of her children to call a local nurse for help. After the nurse stitched the wound with a sewing needle and cotton thread, the mother and baby were transferred and treated by Valle and his colleagues at the nearest hospital.

"This case represents an unusual and extraordinary decision by a women in labor who, unable to deliver herself spontaneously, and with no medical help or resources, decided to perform a Caesarean section upon herself," Valle said.

Posted by mbowen at 09:33 AM | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

Strange Fruit in Fallujah

I read Healing Iraq for the first time a day or so ago. The feeling of utter frustration really struck a chord in me. What we witnessed on the front page of the NYT and other papers was nothing short of a lynching. According to Zayed, some of this is nothing new. And for that reason, Iraqis have my deep sympathy. So it wasn't a surprise to hear the following:

Iraqis know very well who those 'pious' people are. They are gangsters, rapists, murderers, thieves, kidnappers, looters, and criminals. They are only using religion as cover. I can't even dream of what would happen if those people were left to make trouble on our streets that way without punishment. I believe that it's now time for Al-Sadr to experience a very bad accident soon. We will be sorry for him I assure you, "Oh poor fellow, what a terrible misfortune, what a great loss" we would say to each other knowingly. It's scenes like these that make me sometimes wonder to myself if Saddam wasn't justified in assassinating all those clerics.

Although it's difficult to parse the details of foreign places, this kind of brutality carried out in the streets in front of children shows the depth of depravity that has befallen these people. I sense that it parallels our American South in the worse era of Jim Crow. Just as the Islam used in justification could only be a travesty of true Islam, Christianity was used to justifty Klan acts of terror. Our sense of revulsion that such things could be makes us react with anger. I know that anger. We all do.

I think we are fortunate to have the kind of reflective society that brings thoughtful influence to bear on the kind of reactions we could charge our forces to inflict. And as odd as it may sound, our experience with Jim Crow will help us moderate our anger when we see this kind of horror. In our gut, we want to wreck shit, but we know better.

Posted by mbowen at 05:25 PM | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

The Shores of Tripoli

I have recently come to discover that Libya just may become the place to be 20 years hence. If I were a rich man, I would seriously consider getting there first with the resort money.

Kadaffi, the country's leader who has been cut down to size via cruise missiles and international courts is sitting on a gold mine. Actually, it's water. A huge amount of it. Sooner or later, as they get it to the surface and golf course architects get whiff, Libya will be transformed.

Kadaffi's son is already saying nice things about America (IIRC, he attended university here) and Israel. We also know that in the wake of the fall of Saddam Hussein, Kadaffi himself took a timely opportunity to come clean about his weapons programs.

I don't know if Lebanon is back to normal or that Beirut is calm enough for tourism as it once was, but Tripoli may soon become a destination for people with megapixel cameras, mobile phones and short pants. Between now and then, watch the international engineering firms.

Posted by mbowen at 01:05 PM | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

Osama's Motivation, America's Capability

I have just been reminded of something I believe everyone has forgotten. The reason that Osama Bin Laden attacked America was because we had American troops in Saudi Arabia. And why did we have troops in Saudi Arabia? To protect Saudi Arabia (for oil reasons) from Saddam Hussein.

Osama Bin Laden believes that America should have no business with the Muslim world. Presuming that he is rational, we could just remove our troops from Saudi Arabia and the jihad would be terminated. But that would be a fool's bet. What we can count on for certain is that AQ continues to threaten peace and security all over, and that Bin Laden's rationale is not to be appeased.

But it is worth pointing out that we are at war with AQ because we went to war with Iraq in 1991. The Wahabists of Saudi Arabia started getting their knickers in a twist when confronted with the possibility of seeing American women driving military vehicles on the street.

Let me also add a notable contribution to clarification from Senator Joe Biden yesterday. (Yes I was listening to Franken again). The PNAC still finds acting against states as fundamental to the combat of terrorism. I concur and think it is wise despite the obvious consequences to priorities with regard to the deployment of American forces. Clearly in retrospect, it was a mistake to focus on anti-missle defense (whose very physics are a matter of intense debate) in contradiction to the priorities Richard Clarke would have had the Administration support in 2001. But none of that proves that actions against rogue states is a poor idea. Afghanistan is proof.

What the American military and its allies have proven beyond a doubt in Iraq is that it is capable of dealing with a rogue nation's army and can take down a tyrant. What America has yet to prove is that on the heels of such a coup, it can transition an entire nation more or less, to democratic rule. The failure of such a transition implies the reversion to the kinds of coups the CIA has orchestrated in the past, substituting one dictator for another. If you like the old style of puppets, then you should be cheering for the US to get out yesterday, constitution or no.

We also have not yet proven that we are capable of coordinating intelligence and alliances of the sort a global cell busting organization requires. After all it was the invocation of Chapter Five of the NATO treaty that got Germany, the UK and (yes) France, fighting along side Americans in the ugly back country of Tora Bora. I hear calls for more of this multilateralims but I don't hear it called for specifically with regards to joint military offensive action. I think the recent fighting in norther Pakistan which has dragged on for at least a week, demonstrates that covert coups are not going to work.

So someday we may have a new kind of Army - the kind Rumsfeld talks about. But we did what we could do well. Hopefully we'll get good enough, soon enough to rid the planet of AQ. But let us not forget that we must still deal with states, both friends and enemies. We are not constituted to do much anything else, unless you are particularly fond of the old CIA tactics.

Posted by mbowen at 12:54 PM | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Why Not Bomb Fallujah?

Air America did two things yesterday. It cranked up the juice on its transmitters and it cranked up the juice in its commentators. Whichever woman I heard yesterday evening talking about the stocks of American and United Airlines proves that this new radio station can be as crackpot as Pacifica. Certainly as Pacifica goes broke, they'll all bleed over. Al Franken is good, period. These other loonies are voices from the insane asylum.

While I'm not likely to subject myself to any such bleating in the near future, I have already heard enough of their theories (preheat oven to 200 degrees and warm for 3 minutes) to know that they are the sort who are full of Itoldyaso over the recent incident at Fallujah in which several Americans were literally roasted and then hung from a bridge. To these wild and wooly lefties, GWBush is the bloodthirsty tyrant who is looking at every opportunity to expand his thoughtless reign of unilateral militaristic domination of innocent brown countries. The mob at Fallujah represents to them nothing more than the justified reaction of cornered pawns in a geopolitical chess game in which America is a rogue red queen. This Air American airhead literally said that our purpose was to bomb Iraqi villages in order to save them.

But what does it take to bomb Fallujah and why are we not doing so? Can anyone honestly say that it is beyond our capability? We could carpet bomb the entire place with a day's notice. But we don't. It's not because we can't; it's because we don't want to. It is inconsistent with America's purpose in Iraq, which is not to bully people around or teach them a lesson in anything other than post-tyrannical life. Self-governance is the lesson, and we can only hope that the new government of Iraq has learned something from our forebearance. Clearly other people in Fallujah make it plain that they do not wish to learn any such lessons, but since we have such hardheaded fools domestically, such stubborness comes as no surprise. We can be thankful that Airhead Americans have as their only weapons of miniscule destruction, the power of AM radio. Not that they could shoot straight.

Posted by mbowen at 09:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

Slime and Defend

It's really disturbing how arrogant Bushies are these days, not only the apparent campaign to drag Richard Clarke in front of a grand jury, but the audacity that they are beyond criticism and reproach. Now distant memories about problems that Richard Armitage had as well as the ambassador who quit are slithering to the surface of my memory. This White House is too partisan and touchy for me. I'm sick of it. Is nobody taking a long view any more? This tit for tat is truly annoying.

Posted by mbowen at 02:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 24, 2004


No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. -- John Dunne

Richard Clarke is making me want to look closer, the more heat he takes from the Bush White House, the deeper hole they dig themselves into. It's as if they have forgotten that history is recorded and will be reviewed. As I take in the broad sweep of his allegations, he makes perfect sense. That the White House is already on the defensive nauseates me. They can't even co-opt his expertise. This is crummy, and I am now getting accustomed to a White House that won't come clean.

When I think about all the overblown rhetoric that surrounded missile defense, how absolutely wrong the Bush White House was about that it really makes me sympathetic to Clarke's case. Not only that, but in the hearings, he admitted failure. That's courage, and it is a clear showing of character, yes I said character, that George W. Bush singularly lacks. Bush is too small to apologize. Somewhere inside of him is a little Richard Nixon but he's very clever in hiding it from the cameras.

When nine-eleven hit, the first guy I thought might have had some answers was actually killed in the WTC. His name was. John O'Neill, who had asked for more focus on the bombers of the USS Cole. I expect that his name will come up in Clarke's book, but even if it doesn't, he's the man for whom a great deal is owed. Clarke said that has CT not been reduced from a cabinet post, and had the top agency directors been directly accountable to the president, the AQ operatives in the USA, who were already identified by the FBI, more traps could have been set and sprung.

It truly amazed me when the Bush Administration allowed missle parts to be shipped from North Korea to Yemen. It was like spitting on the grave of O'Neill who proved right on the AQ-Yemeni connection. But now I have entered the realm of history, which of course is nuanced. Reading history right about now would be a lot more interesting than the press conferences I am hearing.

UPDATE: Drezner is reading. History twists.

Posted by mbowen at 09:09 PM | TrackBack

March 21, 2004

Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke has thrown down the gauntlet. Now comes clobbering time for GWBush.

The Bush 43 White House has been able to hide behind Iraq for a good amount of time. I have been willing to say that Iraq was a good idea, if not a timely one. I am not one of those who find magic in UN sanction, but the president decided to go it alone, and he has to face up to that decision. So the question is whether or not the experts on terrorism really do agree with the president and what has he done to push them off or follow their lead.

I do buy Colin Powell's arguments that states still matter and that state sponsored terrorism is part of the threat picture these days. But I don't know what makes Donald Rumsfeld or any of the PNAC people experts on terrorism. Which is to say while I still look forward to a great American empire, it still must make the clear distinction between the wars against tyrants and the wars against terrorists. It has mushed up its rationales and is not coming clean. This is unacceptable.

A war against Iraq, regime change in Baghdad, is a good idea. I think it was inevitable. I think when all is said and done, America took the right path. But this is a path that others most certainly could have done more responsibily. Kerry has yet to prove to me that he would have taking the right road, much less more responsibly, but that still leaves Bush with a black mark which gets harder to ignore as time goes forward. He has taken advantage of the crisis (not as shamelessly as the Spanish Socialists - btw if anyone is still complaining about France, shut the hell up and look further south for your Quislings) and the time of crisis is over.

What positions Bush has put us in is not a bad one geopolitically, but it is a horrible one with regard to using the intellectual resources of this government properly. More and more he appears to me to be a single-issue, single-minded singleton. That's not presidential.

Posted by mbowen at 07:11 PM | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

One Year In


Let's start with the Axis of Evil. We are up against a terrible nihilistic enemy. Think about what the Islamist terrorists are doing: they are trying to kill as many people in Iraq and elsewhere as possible so the U.S. fails in Iraq, so Iraq collapses into civil war, so even a glimmer of democracy never takes root in the Arab world and so America is weakened.

Nails it.

He goes on to suggest that if we had more troops, things would be better. I disagree. We are just not good at nation building. Should we be? I'm convinced that we are doing about as well as can be expected and that there is nobody on the planet better equipped to do so, although the Brits have a bit more experience.

I think that our softheaded partners are letting us take the blame for something that nobody can do well and blaming us for trying. Cheeky. Wrong. This is World War 3. Maybe it will take a year or so before countries decide which side they are on. Then it's on.

Posted by mbowen at 07:57 AM | TrackBack

March 03, 2004

Drezner on Mexican Immigration

Note to self, Drezner is right.

Posted by mbowen at 08:52 PM | TrackBack

March 02, 2004

What Failure?

If you pressed me into a corner and asked me if I truly believe that the majority of Americans are sufficiently disciplined in their geopolitical worldview to sustain the proper policies for America, I'd say no. It takes me back to Chomsky who, in his inimitable way, pulled back the blinders.

Nevertheless, while I think Perle's rhetoric gets outsized, I fundamentally agree with him and the PNAC imperials. We have fairly good prospects to become a fairly good empire. The problem is our cushy citizenry, but in a two party system, they can be marginalized through bipartisanship. Sound cynical? Yeah, it sounds cynical to me as well.

At any rate, here's Scott Ritter shooting from the hip. I wonder if he overestimates the power of democracy. Certainly nobody is programmatically manipulating the blogosphere (although if it can be assumed that the CIA has moles everywhere of import it would be great sport to figure which of the bloggers in the top 100 is the mole), and we are not decieved. But what we can do about what we know is limited - we're too granular to exert power like other forms of mass communications.

From Scott Ritter, Feb 26 2004:

Well, if you're looking at it from the standpoint of the American intelligence services and the British intelligence services, nothing went wrong. I mean, one of the greatest frauds being perpetrated today is the concept of an intelligence failure. They didn't fail. Their mission has been all along regime change, so that succeeded. What we're confronting here is one of the greatest intelligence successes in modern history. They were tremendously successful. They were able to use deception, deceit, fabrication, manipulation, the classic tools of the trade to gain their objective, which was the elimination of Saddam Hussein.

One of the main deceptions they put out there was the notion of disarmament, that there was a requirement for Iraq to be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction and that the United States and Great Britain together with the Security Council supported this requirement, and we're responsible for holding Iraq accountable to this requirement. As a weapons inspector, I can tell you that I and hundreds of my fellow colleagues aggressively pursued a disarmament objective. That was our task. We worked for the Security Council, responding to a Security Council mandate. But the notion that the United States government and the British government, and, remember, these were two nations that helped frame the Security Council resolutions that we were implementing in Iraq, the notion that they actually believed in disarmament has turned out to be a lie. They never intended on allowing Iraq to be disarmed.

They never intended on allowing economic sanctions to be lifted against Iraq because, see, their policy wasn't to peacefully disarm Iraq and allow Iraq under Saddam Hussein to reintegrate itself into the family of nations. Their policy from day one, especially the United States, has been the elimination of Saddam Hussein. In order to do that, they had to continue economic sanctions against Iraq, and economic sanctions were linked to Iraq's obligation to disarm. So disarmament was only useful to the United States and Great Britain in so far as it facilitated regime change. Therefore, it's only useful in so far as you can continue the perception that Iraq has not complied with its obligation to disarm, therefore there's a legitimacy to maintain economic sanctions that have contained Saddam Hussein for a purpose, until which time we can bring together the means to achieve regime change. That was the goal. That was the objective. The CIA worked for the executive branch of the United States government, the executive branch being the President, has since '91 under three consecutive administrations pursued a policy of regime change. President George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States, made it clear that economic sanctions will not be lifted until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

This policy of sanctions-based containment linked to regime change was inherited by Bill Clinton, and, for eight years, the Clinton administration sustained that policy. Albright said on numerous occasions that economic sanctions will not be lifted until Saddam Hussein's gone. Again, this policy was inherited by Bush 43, the 43rd President, George W. Bush, the current President of the United States, and he made good on this policy. So it's a tremendous success. The notion that we had an intelligence failure is wrong. It was an intelligence success. We had a failure of democracy. We had a failure of the rule of law. We had a collective failure as the American people. We had a failure in congress to uphold the Constitution of the United States. We had a failure in the media to search for the truth. We had lots of failures, but we did not have an intelligence failure. The CIA knew that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed. The CIA knew that there were no meaningful weapons of mass destruction programs. But, see, their job as intelligence professionals wasn't to tell the American people the truth. It was to support the policy of the executive, which was regime change, which required them to create a perception in the American public that somehow Iraq was not complying with its obligation to disarm, that Iraq had maintained weapons in violation of the Security Council resolution that constituted a threat to the people of the United States, a threat that, since September 11, 2001, simply could not be ignored.

Ritter goes on to drop this bombshell on my world.

Ritter: I think anybody who opposed the regime of Saddam Hussein was a grave threat. He has a history of torturing and killing tens of thousands, maybe even more, of his own citizens. Millions of Iraqis fled the country out of fear of repression from Saddam Hussein's government. So I think that there is legitimacy. I'm an eye witness to it, to the horrific nature of his regime. I think we need to put it in the context of history. The brutal suppression of the Kurds, if you take a look at how the Kurdish people are treated by all the nations that have Kurdish minorities, Iraq, until the late 1980's, had the best record of treatment for the Kurds of any. The Iranians have a worse record of suppressing the Kurds. The Turks definitely have a pretty bad record of suppressing the Kurds. The Syrians aren't much better. Iraqi Kurdistan had a level of autonomy in terms of government that was unequaled in any other country. During the Iran-Iraq war, however, the Kurdish minority was used by the Iranians as a tool to fight Saddam, and so you had Iraqi Kurds actually switching sides and fighting for the Iranians. Now how would we treat that in the United States. I'm just curious; what would happen if South Carolina decided that they were going to withdraw from the union? Wait, they did that. It was called a civil war, and we fought the war for four some odd years, a brutal war in which we killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Read up your history about what the Union did in the Shedendoah Valley to break the back of the confederacy's ability to feed and sustain the army of northern Virginia. Talk about Sherman's march to the sea and suddenly understand how horrible civil wars are. Research the Russian civil war, and see what the reds and the whites did to one another and the brutality that took place. I'm not condoning Saddam Hussein's treatment of the Kurds. I condemn it in the strongest terms, but let's put it into perspective. People call it genocide. it is not genocide. It is brutal suppression of a population base that had committed treason. Committed treason. They had joined the Iranians. The same thing with the Shi'a. What happens during a time of war if a significant population base rises up against central authority? They've committed treason. And that's what the Shi'a did, and Saddam suppressed them brutally. Killed tens of thousands of them. I'm not condoning it. I'm condemning it, but let's put it in perspective. This is not Saddam running around gunning down the Shi'a. Fact is if you take a look at 1991, 70% of the Shi'a were on the side of Saddam. Of the 30%, not all of them rose up. Many were just sitting on the sidelines. It was a minority that rose up in 1991, and they were brutally suppressed. Saddam has a history of brutally suppressing, and let's not sugarcoat, murder, rape, and torture of those who oppose his regime. And he did so. But, you know, we knew about this. This is not a great secret. We stood by in the 1980's and let him do it. He gassed the Kurds in Halabja, or some people say he gassed. There's a question of whether or not it was Iranian gas or Iraqi gas. But we know he used gas against Kurds. We did nothing. We said nothing. We know he used gas against the Iranians. We did nothing. We said nothing. Worse, we sent U.S. teams to Baghdad with intelligence information, satellite photography, signals intercept, and helped plot out Iranian military positions on these photographs and then sat back and watched as the Iraqis planned chemical weapons attacks. We knew they were attacking Iran using chemical weapons, and not only did we not step up and say stop, but when they asked for more intelligence information, we provided it. And how do I know this? Because I've debriefed Wafik ai-Samarai, the director of military intelligence of the Iraqi army. He's the one who met with Rumsfeld. He's the one who met with Rumsfeld's people. He's the one who met with the CIA. He's the one who sat in a room while all of this took place. That's the reality of it. I'm not condoning anything Saddam did. I'm condemning him in the harshest terms. But to sit back here and suddenly say we have to invade Iraq because of the horrific nature of the regime, that's absurd in the extreme.

So this takes me back to my Holocaust Denial post, which now must be taken in this context.

Posted by mbowen at 09:45 AM | TrackBack

February 27, 2004

Or Else

The domestic political question about Haiti hangs on the gunwales of rickety boats. Are they coming or not? 'They' meaning black political refugees fleeing what would obviously be a brutal and repressive regime.

However 'brutal' and 'repressive' are hardly what one would expect to think of the government of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the man of the cloth who recieved heroic applause in these United States not long ago. As he replaced the despotic regime before him in elections ruled 'free and fair' by none other than Jimmy Carter.

The two tripwires have been broken to make this matter hit the television. The Florida politician has raised the spectre of boat people, subtly. The Black politician has called somebody racist.

What's next?

Posted by mbowen at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 16, 2004

Constitutional Rights, Internationally

Was Thomas Jefferson truly talking about the course of human events, or just whining about some deal that went sour for him and his white male buddies? This is a question at the heart of the value of the Constitution to humanity, vs the applicability of it to citizens of the United States of America, for whom no particular loyalty oaths are required.

I raise this question in light of the controversy over expatriot workers from Mexico whose residence in the US is a matter of legal and moral debate. I say that it's not wrong, it's just illegal, yet others disagree. If we separate the moral from the legal in this matter, what does that say about our position on the consitution? If the Constitution is a transcendant document then we must believe that it applies to all people whether or not they reside in the United States. If we value the Constitution simply because it is our Constitution, the we are buying into cultural relativity. So long as Country Two wants to have cannibalism, that's their business. It's their national sovereignty vs ours.

It is reasonable to assume that all Constitutional Rights are negotiated. That is to say, you may assert a right under the Constitution of the United States, but there is always a question of economy as to whether or not your right will be defended. But what is the practical limit? What excuses can we make up to abrogate the rights of human beings?

Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | TrackBack

February 04, 2004

Ahh Hindsight

This final paragraph of David Warren's replaces one year of hot bloviation for the pseudo-pundits and Bush bashers of the blogosphere. Thank you Mr Warren.

Unnoticed to the gliberal media in North America, Mr. Kay's reports have cleared the Bush administration of the charge of "sexing up" threat assessments in the same way Lord Hutton's inquiry into the suicide of David Kelly have cleared Tony Blair. It is clear as day after both inquiries, that the respective governments acted sincerely upon intelligence assessments that were as disturbing as they were wrong. Moreover, they could only be proved wrong because of the invasion of Iraq. Had that not taken place, Mr. Kay's massive search for the truth, under every discoverable desk and rock, would have been impossible.

What was 'sexed up'? Iraq itself, and nobody on the planet knew how much until we put troops on the ground. After more than a decade, a geopolitical mystery has been resolved. Were we to leave it to UN inspectors alone, we would still be in the dark.

Posted by mbowen at 07:38 AM | TrackBack

February 03, 2004

Conquer Mexico

Over at Dean's World there was a battle over how much we hate Mexicans because they take so much of our money away. Or some crap like that. So let's lay it on the table at a different angle.

There are many who believe that if we permanently offer amnesty and pleabargains for illegals (how illegal is illegal immigration, more illegal than marijuana use? thus should we start a War on Immigration?) that we'll be flooded. Canadians don't stampede the border because all they all have nice jobs. Socialism works? OK that's beside the point, Mexico sucks that's why they all come up this way.

So as an economic matter, can American standards of living be eroded so long as Americans are in charge? That is to say if there are, in the closed system of American employment 100 million jobs that require an average of a 11.5th grade education and pay an average of 15 bucks an hour and we drop our guard to the south, what happens? Do we suddenly have 10 million new jobs with a 5th grade education that pay 4 bucks an hour? Are these jobs going wanting in our big cities or are these newly indigent creating entire 3rd world economies on the fringes of society?

It seems to me that if the US public eductional system is demonstrably incable of educating, then we are demanding to be a third world country.

One more deally, which ought to be really scary. A lot of folks gripe about how expatriot workers suck up all the public services because they're paid under the table and don't hold up their end of the tax burden. Isn't that a call for a more efficient and ruthless tax collection regime? After all, somebody has a good idea which industries these tax leeches are working for, no?

Let us assume that there are limits, but until there is some equilibrium, indigent unskilled workers and their upscale expatriot bretheren will continue to press the borders. Assume that give the opportunity of wide open borders, 50 million Mexicans would cross over to work in America. It seems to me that the solution becomes more and more obvious the more people come to America.

We start conquering Mexican territory.

We just push the border a couple hundred miles down, grab up all that cheap real estate, cry havoc and let loose the dogs of McDonalds, KFC, John Ryland Homes, The Irvine Company, Sempra Energy and let's not forget Wal-Mart. They want America? We'll give them more America than they can handle.

I really love this idea. That's why I'll never be elected to public office in California.

Posted by mbowen at 03:49 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

February 01, 2004

Iran Devolving

Iran has taken a turn for the worse. Today, a full third of the parliament resigned in protest of the Islamic Council's disqualification of all the liberal candidates in the upcoming election. It boggles the mind that such things would come to pass in Iran, a country much misunderstood and maligned by Americans. Yet stereotypical views of mad islamists today have more than a taint of truth.

In a letter read aloud in the 290-seat Majlis, or parliament, liberal lawmaker Rajab Ali Mazrouie said that the result of elections held under restrictions imposed by the hard-liners would be a foregone conclusion.

``An election whose result is clear beforehand is a treason to the rights and ideals of the nation,'' the lawmaker told some 200 legislators attending Sunday's session.

Posted by mbowen at 10:27 AM | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

Iraqi Holocaust Denial

Few things have become as exasperating as the continuing back and forth between the explainers and the complainers over the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Yet it's remarkable to see how few people are talking about the masses Iraqi weapons have already destroyed. I don't understand what it is that activists of the Left have forgotten since Pinochet, but they have surely evaded the facts of Saddam Hussein's Genocide. Yes I said it. Genocide.

Instead of spending all of their attention on the failure of people who were looking for weapons, why aren't American humanitarians looking for people? The answer is a simple excuse which is the key to a moral evasion of significant dimensions: 'Bush Lied'.

I've been saying for almost a year now that the primary reason we were right in going to Iraq was to liberate the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime. Those Americans who consider themselves profoundly offended that GWBush has broken faith with them are now faced with the fact the WMD hunt was an honest effort and that our tactical information simply wasn't good enough. But they have broken faith with the Iraqis by their opposition to the destruction of the Baathists. It is something we owed them, not only because of our prior failure but because our forward commitment to justice.

Many choose to remain in denial. These are the new Holocaust Deniers.

Posted by mbowen at 06:39 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

The Appropriate Pacifist

In this appropriated clip, Martin Luther King Jr. echoes Gandhi and the Negro Spirit in his admonitions against the Vietnam War. MoveOn.org demonstrates how far they are from being non-partisan in their foolish portrayal of GWBush as Hitler in their anti-war effort.

While radicals of all sorts are intent on counterspinning every dodge and dive of actors on the political stage, the fundamental principles of Christian Love remain unchanged expressed through timeless metaphors. So I think what we ought to learn is that what the Left has lost and what MLK had in spades what Christian charity.

if you've seen the Hitler thing - take a look at the MLK thing.

Understand that people will appropriate MLK forever. It shows a lack of true leadership as this and that speech of his is stretched to work for every new challenge. But the difference between moral leadership and moral posturing is clear.

Posted by mbowen at 01:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

Little White Lies

Blackfive has a photoshopped picture of a soldier with a backwards American flag and several others that makes a snarky political point. The fact that it's a fabrication is either the whole point or beside the point.

A number of people make the point that GWBush lied to the American people about WMDs. I think it's reasonable to say that most folks bought what it was he was selling. I don't think he lied. I think he persuaded. We all saw Colin Powell's UN presentation and we all bought it. By we, I mean those of us near the tipping point.

If you were like me, you always had suspicions about buried reciepts in the Pentagon. Why did Saddam have WMDs? Because we sold them to him, that's why. I have been satisfied for so long with matters of his murder that I'm never quite sure if I've spelled them out clearly here. What is a weapon of mass destruction? Well, that depends on how massive the destruction must be to get your attention. In order to get together a reluctant, heel dragging international coalition, the destruction has to be an affront to powerful nations the likes of which survived WW2. Thus, dramatic slide shows at the UN. Keep this in mind.

Imagine you are a striker at a supermarket. You hate the fact that there are people going into your store while you're out in the cold without work. So in sympathy if not agreement, I've gone to other supermarkets. They're crowded. How crowded is a crowded supermarket? Ten registers with 7 people in each line, plus 14 baggers cashiers and stock clerks. You've got 4 people in line for the butcher and 4 for the baker and at least three shoppers in every one of 10 aisles. In middle class suburban America, that's considered chaos. In math its just 126 people.

How long would it take Saddam Hussein with one helicopter gunship to destroy a supermarket full of people? Forget that they're Americans for a moment and imagine that they're Kurds or the Ma'dan Iraqis. Instead of supermarkets causing headaches, you'd be equally aware of certain places in your neighborhood being deadly. According to this strategic assessment, Saddam had about 100 helicopter gunships. It wouldn't take him much time at all.

I don't understand why the Clinton and Bush administrations did not want to use the term 'genocidal' to describe Hussein's activity, but I think it's appropriate to describe what he was all about. So the question about the truth-telling somehow focused on the how but not the what. I don't know the cause, but many in the American public have been snookered into looking for a smoking gun rather than a genocidal maniac. Perhaps it's because the Bush family doesn't spend much time in supermarkets.

For my peace of mind, and specifically to look beyond the squabbles in Israel and Palestine, I decided to behave like a powerful nation which has survived WW2. I invented the Lynch Factor so that anything below 3k murders wouldn't pass muster and I wouldn't need to comment. Saddam passed that threshhold easily, but I must say that I regret that arbitrary decision. It's the same kind of blinder that makes mass homicide something other than genocide, the same kind of lie that makes it necessary to raise the stakes from proving intervention requires nukes and chemicals rather than helicopter gunships destroying villages. This is the same kind of self-deception that justifies hair-trigger reactions and overkill. I'll try not to do so in the future.

In the meanwhile we are faced with lies and deception about the nature of international conflict, but Bush couldn't have lied to us if we weren't already lying to ourselves.

Posted by mbowen at 08:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

Iraq Reassessed

Pacifists are the only ones I give any credit for opposing the war against Saddam Hussein. Everyone else is trying to make political points. This is the context for my judgement of Bush.

Something I've been thinking about for a couple weeks and really couldn't find a way to say it was what to think of American discontent with the war disaggregated from the political performance of GWBush. I've come up with some questions I think must be considered in order to do so. But first to Bush from my perspective.

I find GW Bush to be a mediocre president. His election was primarily a repudiation of the Clinton presidency gone sour. He was elected to do the standard kinds of things people now expect of Republican presidents. Compassionate Conservatism could work. His election was achieved in the context of a healthy economy and an overheated stock market which has gone mostly kaput and has now finally started creeping back. But as for Bush's own domestic agenda, especially vis a vis Compassionate Conservatism, he never quite rose to that task. Events overcame him.

I don't think he's made the best out of a bad situation, but he has performed admirably. My confidence about where we are as a nation comes not my faith in Bush's ability to work the government, but from the people we are as Americans. We handled the situation, and we wouldn't have let any other president do much differently. But the zealotry of Neocons have rubbed a lot of otherwise intelligent people the wrong way, and it is the squealing of these stuck pigs that adds more noise than signal to the evaluations of Bush, the anti-Saddam missions and the actions against global terrorism.

What should Bush have done differently? He should have given Powell more time to be a hero. When the operant words were 'regime change', Powell was a hero in Europe. Could we have waited 6 months? Yes of course we could have, and I think we should have. Bush antagonized many nations by his timetable. There was no present threat, but we weren't sure about that. We in the American public were no more sure about Saddam's WMDs than we were about the Arab Domino theories which were equally discussed and considered a year ago. How many of us remember this? (insert link of very popular animation with little mad bombing terrorists and missiles flying all over the middle east).

Key in my thinking about these matters is the question of the no-fly zones. These were supported by the American public. Supporters of the 'Baby Bin Laden' theory had very little concern about the militaristic reactions to that American military presence. For those who might have spoken up against flying American jets over Iraq, the concern was primarily humanitarian, or so it seemed.

When the hostilities escalated to an out and out shooting war, I expected many Americans who sounded like pacifists in order to justify their arguments against Bush to focus on issues of humanitarianism. From those who complained that America had run roughshod in the first war and defied the UN whose oil for food program was insufficient I expected an airlift. I wrote a cartoon about it because I felt that the spirit of the loyal opposition was primarily one of concern for the living conditions of the Iraqis themselves. But that airlift never materialized.

By the time the anti-war arguments began pointing to 'priceless antiquities' I realized the amount of hypocrisy in many of these arguments. The contradictions were becoming clear. Fisk himself was a great example of someone who consistently asked the kinds of questions that were not generally answered, but battles erupted about the man himself. I think that reflected poorly on everyone both pro- and anti- forces.

What we have not been hearing in the anti-war arguments are about the devastation of war itself. There may be people who complain about refugee problems, but are there really refugee problems? How many people have actually been displaced by the battles and occupation? The humanitarian question has really not persisted in any shape. This is what is most striking to me about most opposition to the war against Saddam Hussein, and it is for this reason that I will most likely discount the kind of arguments that I am beginning to see: the increasing body count of American soldiers. If your most strenuous objection to the war and occupation is expressed in terms of the cost to America then I believe you're on the wrong track. Such an argument fails to recognize most moral calculations, most notably humanitarianism. Besides, we can actually afford it.

More later on Bush's lies.

Human Rights Watch hasn't published a word on Iraqi refugees in over 10 months.

Posted by mbowen at 08:14 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Israeli Expansionism Pushes One State

The One State idea is anathema to most parties concerned for a variety of reasons, many of them good. Here we see it used as a rhetorical device - a scare tactic. From Ghassan Khatib of BitterLemons.

The recent statement made by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei concerning a binational state and resulting in such an uproar was not only a response to developments in Israeli-Palestinian relations, but also a response to growing debate inside Palestinian society and among various Palestinian political tendencies.

But before exploring the reasons for the statement, it is important to first clarify any misunderstanding. While many interpreted Qurei's comments to be an _expression of support for a binational state, this was not at all the context of his statement. Qurei was only intending to warn Israelis and the international community that if Israel's settlement expansion policy continues on its current trajectory, it will remove in practice the possibility for an independent Palestinian state and with it a solution based on two states; thus Palestinians would have only one remaining option to achieve their rights as equal citizens of a country: the one state solution. Qurei's warning stemmed, then, from his commitment to the two state solution, which remains the official position of the Palestinian people and their leadership.

Indeed, the binational state is not a solution. On the one hand, it contradicts a key element of Israel's objectives, i.e., to have a Jewish state, and on the other it contradicts a fundamental Palestinian goal, which is to have a state of their own. That is why this option has never been promoted by the Palestinian leadership and will never be its chosen policy. It could, however, be the practical outcome of current Israeli practices in the occupied territories, the wall and settlement expansion, which are delaying the establishment of a Palestinian state and making its prospects dimmer by the day. These changes happening right under our nose will likely be irreversible: as the saying goes, a ton of regret never made an ounce of difference.

If one state is such a bad idea, then so is expansionism. Israel might have no problem being a state if it were satisfied being a small state.

Posted by mbowen at 03:27 PM | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

December Surprise

What if GWBush knew with certainty that he could find and capture Osama Bin Laden? Would he? Right away?

There's something a little strange about the reactions to Dean and Clark these days. What Dean has said about the Iowa Caucuses is right soudbiters be damned. If we keep getting sentences instead of paragraphs, anyone can be made to look like a genuine idiot. Dean is an idiot of opportunity and that's a good thing for everyone. Loose cannons break up sclerotic debate.

Now Slate throws its nose cautiously to Wesley Clark for saying things like:

President Bush didn't do his job as commander in chief in the early months of his administration. He was warned that the greatest threat to the United States of America was Osama Bin Laden, yet on the 11th of September in 2001, the United States had no plan for dealing with the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden. The ship of state was on autopilot. There were good CIA officers and FBI officers and everybody doing what they'd been taught to do, but the essential leadership process of putting focus on the resources of the United States, and giving these agencies a real target and a mission, it wasn't done. At least, I think that's what the evidence will show if we ever get the results of this presidential commission, and if they've asked the right questions.

Clark is correct to emphasize that it's not quite enough to say you are doing something, or that you have the right intentions. Bush has done little of late to update us on the prosecution of the search for Bin Laden. All signs point to Pakistan, we can't place troops there, and Musharref's can't do it alone. Or maybe he can but won't.

So Bush, having delivered Saddam, a handsome trophy indeed would have sealed his fate into a second term if he deliverd Bin Laden before November. But if the Democrats self-destruct, as they are likely to do by trying to outdo Republicans on foreign policy (where there are clearly no wonks to out-wonk Wolfowitz), Bush would do a hell of a lot better to deliver Osama in his second term.

The White House has got to be thinking that perhaps the duck has a 50% chance of laming up so whatever is big and controversial will have to wait until the next term, if it comes. So talk big with domestic things and get the electorate jazzed about Mars and Mexico. Sound strategy, but what about Bin Laden?

Clark is not wrong to put the pressure on.

Posted by mbowen at 08:42 AM | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

64K Question

Drezner asks:

The $64,000 question, of course, is what would happen if democratization led to extremist rule. This is undeniably a scary prospect. Still, the case of Iran, whose leadership seems increasingly out of step with its younger, pro-American generations, suggests that radical elements will experience difficulties retaining popular support over the longer run. Likewise, Hugo Chavez's attempts to pursue dogmatically anti-American policies in Venezuela have been met with increasing opposition. Anti-American jihads are of limited utility if they fail to deliver the goods.

The answer is that Hitler was elected and so was deKlerk. Just because you're a democracy doesn't mean we can't pimp slap you with several billion dollars of ordnance, unilaterally.

I'll take a cashier's check, please.

Posted by mbowen at 12:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 31, 2003

Obligatory Seriousness on the Question of Israel

Israel. Middle East. Palestinian. Intifada. All keywords I shut out. Why? Because they fall below the level of one Lynch Factor. In a short time, however, it is likely to exceed a matter of 3000 deaths. But that doesn't change how many dBs the volume has been turned up on every injury sustained in that part of the world.

I am upset and I will continue to be upset at the focus maintained upon Israel and Palestine. American media coverage of their problems wildly distorts the perspective of injuries. We know, with Mad Cow precision, when every Israeli dies in this interminable conflict. But we have no equal in covering other nations. This is intolerable for me not because I believe 'jews control the media' but because it is a distortion of the priority in matters of human rights throughout the world in the interests of the American Empire and its role in global pacification. We have focused too long and a problem we have been unable to solve multilaterally, unilaterally or ass-backwards. If 100 people die in Liberia tomorrow, we won't hear about it. If 100 people die in the Gaza Strip, we'll hear about it for weeks. We will send billions to Israel and save no lives the IDF couldn't save themselves. We send nothing to Liberia where thousands of lives might have been saved. The math is simple 1 soul = 1 soul. Where are we saving souls? Certainly not in Israel or Palestine.

We used to hear about the Bakaa Valley as a harboring ground for terrorist. It used to be this way in Beirut, Lebanon. Hmm, maybe that was because Israeli forces were there.Now we don't care. My complaint is simple. The focus is undeserved and it distorts our world view.

I understand that my willingness to dismiss the prospects for Israel and Palestine will be met with fury. So I will say this once loudly, I have no reason to be anti-semitic in this stance, that is not the reason and you may conspire as many theories as you please to justify such a label. I refuse it and I barely have the patience to digifiy it here.

During my entire passive consideration of the questions of Middle East Peace it has always been the case that I believed in the appropriateness of a two state solution. Of course Israel has a right to exist. Nationalism is the paradigm and people have every right to soverienity. That right extends to the Palestinians as well.

However recently, try as I may to ignore this, I am confronted with a twofold reality. The first is in sympathy with the prosecution of occupation over lands Palestinians claim. I have few doubts that in the main, the IDF is being as reasonable and civilized as possible given their overwhelming military superiority. I think as well, that their achievement of assassinations can be justified on a strictly military basis. Politically, I think it stinks to high heaven and is an absolute disgrace. But I understand that keeping collateral damage to an absolute minimum is precisely equivalent to murder for hire. Wouldn't we like to know how the Israeli parliament picks such military targets? Ick! So on the whole, if you are at war with people, you might as well do it like the Israelis because on the whole, over the years they've killed only a few thousand Palestinians which is lightweight by any national standard.

The second part of this reality is that the Palestinians cannot, whether by attrition by the militant occupation or by inconsequential international support, or by reason of a lack of pacifist will, muster a standing government which is capable of handling diplomatic issues, controlling radical elements or a solid majority of factors necessary to move beyond (dare I say it?) tribalism. Of course it's more complicated. But what's Hamas, an NGO?

Hate me for the paragraphs OK, but it's all I can stand to think about the situation.

I hold Israel to a higher standard than the PLO. I would like to hold Israel to the standards I hold for any democracy, better yet, nuclear power. But I cannot. They don't deserve it in my eyes. I can go look for specific reasons, and something tells me that I may have to start reading all of the missives I've been getting from my subscription to Bitterlemons lo these many months. But I'm sure it will only depress me further. Perhaps it is better to be depressed and right, than willfully oblivious, especially if I'm going to have to answer to comments at Cobb.

I have said, jokingly, that I would rather have three Jewish states than one. We could aid one, bomb one and ignore the third. (I did so in a comic, and so therefore cannot find it in a text search.) But there is only one Israel and wishing it were not so doesn't help matters. So the combination of these two factors makes me think that perhaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians they could come up with one state.

Given that I have little faith that between them they would be able to negotiate a permanent peace between them as states, perhaps they might do so as citizens. It seems impossible to me that as nations they could ever resolve the property disputes between them without war, and while it is almost certain that Israeli law would give little or no recourse to nationalized Palestinians dispossessed of their properties, in the long run that may be preferable to war. If Israel were to grow up and grandfather the Palestinians what are the chances that they would continue their current course as a Civil War? On the other hands what are the chances that they would grant Palestinians full and equal civil rights?

This is something the Israelis have no impetus to do at the current moment, and it is for this reason that I heap shame upon them. But they are within their rights as a nation. Yet Arab Israelis certainly feel second-class pressures upon them as their families are split across the lines drawn and redrawn as checkpoints.

I believe a one state solution requires Israelis to be more respectful of Palestinians than they ever would be otherwise. I wonder if they could maintain their national conscription if it meant arming Palestinians. So long as there is a border, there are xenophobic excuses for civil rights abuses.

Mr. Sharon, tear down that wall.

Posted by mbowen at 05:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 30, 2003

Empire In Review

Back in my pre-blog days I was ranting in private forums and salons. Now that I've gone public, I've been pretty consistent in my ways. I am still firming up my ideas about the American Empire, but unlike Christopher Hitchens I have not always been so evolved in my thinking.

This morning I found an extended rant about Empire which reminded me of certain concerns I had with regard to xenophobia in our foreign policy. Surprisingly, of all the things GWBush has turned out to be, I find him singularly lacking in the ugly spirit. He might say 'crusade' but he is no crusader. I remain convinced that Rumsfeld's announcement to would-be supporters and generals in Saddam's army was a statement worthy of great honor. And I believe that the Battle for Baghdad was won because of such a backchannel of honorable surrender.

At any rate what is clearer in my thinking since October of 2001 is the potential of global Western fraternity and that the toppling of dictators is an expensive but probably necessary task. I believe the Western economies can sustain this.

the point i would make about american xenophobia is that it is fundamentally contradictory to the principle of our declaration of rights. we live in a society in which the more equal pigs determine the status of the farm whether or not the rest of the animals like it. part of the reason that we can have this huge diversity is that in the end, most of us are below the radar. there's plenty of food to go around and we often improperly call our consumption freedom. sure it's freedom from lack, but that is not the same thing as self-determination.

so when we project power on the rest of the world stage in the name of freedom, and we point to all of the variety of political opinions and ethnicities and religions here at home there is a subtle hypocrisy. and that hypocrisy is that the net consensus of all that diversity is not delivered from the ground up and that when it comes to affairs of state there is this thing called america which has little or nothing to do with the diverse interests of the common american. yet that american must stand by and be judged by the actions of a state over which he has no control.

the fundamental issue is how consistently our actions abroad enable or disable self-determination. what are we doing as a nation to enable others to have that ability?

I have a firmer belief in the benefits of market participation. A consumer economy is what fuels most of what America is. That being the case, a consumer economy can work anywhere in the world to deliver prosperity. So many people may sweat Halliburton, but Halliburton is a drop in the Wal-Mart bucket and we the American people buying socks, soap and sandwiches is what makes Wal-Mart.

The consequences of this idea is that a simple grasp of consumer economics can enable freedom in headless nations. But we shouldn't concentrate on oil wealth. That's not where it's going to come from. The oil will be cash flow for debt service anyway. It will be schools & staples that gets the economy rolling in Iraq.

I am distracted by China in all of this, because if markets are truly as powerful and fundamentally liberating as I think they are, then bourgie brotherhood has a truly awesome global future. Step one remains to clear the board of hoarding despotic regimes and let the people start being people.

We will all be shoppers in the same mall, and that's a good thing.

Posted by mbowen at 09:52 AM | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

The Trial of the Century, Not

"The moment had come, I swallowed my gum
we knew that blood would be on the sand pretty soon.
The crowd held its breath, hoping that death
would brighten an otherwise dull afternoon."
-- Tom Lehrer

I cannot imagine that anyone will be interested in seeing Saddam Hussein on the witness stand. The guillotine, sure.

After his capture, it's all downhill from here. There is no drama left to squeeze out of this morality play, at least from an American point of view. If you don't believe me, consider the drama attached to the current procedings against Milosevic. Who? You know, that war criminal that Wesley Clark is testifying against in The Hague as we speak.

In two days of testimony at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague, the retired four-star general and former supreme commander of NATO sought to bolster the prosecutor's argument that Mr. Milosevic was guilty of war crimes and genocide.

In the process, he also sought to burnish his credentials as a potential commander in chief. Of the Democratic presidential contenders, he said in an interview after testifying: "I'm the only one who's ever faced a dictator down. I'm the only one who's ever testified in court against one."

A distinction to be sure. I like Clark as much as anyone. Aside from Kerry, he's the only Democrat I think I could live with as president without much discomfort. It's probably not fair, but am I the only one who is yawning?

Posted by mbowen at 07:35 AM | TrackBack

December 14, 2003

We Got Him

14cnd-saddam.7.274.jpg I knew this day would come.

I swore that I had written somewhere that a lot of the carping would be deflated once Saddam Hussein was rotting somewhere in an American jail and forgotten five years later like Panama's Noriega. But I did not do so in Cobb, according to my search engine. Now is a critical time to watch the chatting class and find which way the loyal opposition is going to spin this.

Whatever is said, there is no question about this: Operation Red Dawn was a success at Wolverine Two, and although somebody is going to get a big fat cash reward, the biggest reward of all accrues to the Iraqi people. This is the beginning of the end.

Posted by mbowen at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 12, 2003

Gang Colors

As much as I like Norm Geras, I see that he has yet to blogroll me in his new location and he doesn't seem to understand the French position on banning religious signifiers.

This is a freedom of belief issue, and for freedom of belief to mean anything people need to be able to articulate their beliefs, short of incitement to violence or other provably harmful instances of their doing so.

The French ban on religious apparel in public schools is essentially nothing more or less than a dress code. But lots of folks have jerked their knees to characterize this as suppression, and some outsized and overzealous instantiation of 'secular humanism'. Falwell couldn't have put it better.

The cost of inclusion is integration but the French rationale is not to one of assimilation. It is for the protection in public schools of those muslims who choose not to wear outward religious symbols from the intimidation of those who say they must.

If the sacrifice of such a thing as a scarf or a crucifix, in order to participate in public society is too great a burden, then the solution is obvious, separate but equal.

UPDATE: I changed my mind.

Posted by mbowen at 11:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Whose 18 Billion?

Will somebody please outline the shape of the trough from which international contractors can slop? I know that $18 billion is not the whole thing, I know that non-coalition oil profiteers, AKA the 'Axis of Greasel' can subcontract on Iraqi reconstruction, and I know IMF funds are open and free. So why all the pissing and moaning?

Bush is right to restrict these funds to coalition partners.

Posted by mbowen at 01:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 09, 2003


I haven't been micromanaging the political rhetoric of the day because I've recognized that Bush matters a bit less than everyone thinks. GWBush has already done his big thing. His future is behind him. The invasion of Iraq and the destruction of the Baath is his legacy. There is nothing better he can ever do, and practically nothing he can do to undo it. Like millions of acute yet excitable and often obsessive Americans, I will do what I can to insure that he is a one-term president, however he appears to be doing something smart. (Or smart things are being said with his mouth):

Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are "ready" for democracy as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress....It should be clear to all that Islam the faith of one-fifth of humanity is consistent with democratic rule.

....Yet there's a great challenge today in the Middle East. In the words of a recent report by Arab scholars, the global wave of democracy has and I quote "barely reached the Arab states."

....Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands....This is a massive and difficult undertaking it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region.

This may sound to many right thinking individuals to be giving eloquent words to the obvious. Still, it does matter that the President of the United States says them. When I think of the most important speeches this president has made (though I haven't read this one completely), I must say that they are mostly correct and on target.

GWBush suffers a number of maladies, but he is shepherding a vision that is fine and proper. He is setting up a field of vision in such a way as a more able man will make it so. What GWBush evidently knows given this kind of speech gives me a sense that almost anybody can do the right thing. Elect anyone and they couldn't possibly be stupid enough to twist things around backwards.

The direction GWBush is taking geopolitically in the Middle East is proper. Hopefully our next president won't bollicks it up and be a better internal manager of the agencies that are supposed to serve the president. It is a happy accident that neocon ideologues have gotten the ear of the president, but it's too bad that they are his judgement as well.

I'm ready for a change in management, but as far as the Middle East goes; stay the course.

Posted by mbowen at 07:12 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

Hitchens & The No-Fly Zone

How can you not love a guy who wrangles out paragraphs like this:

Meanwhile, the no-fly zones managed to protect the Kurds and Shiites from a repeat performance of the mass murders of 1991 and earlier but did not prevent, for example, the planned destruction of the largest wetlands in the Middle East, home to the 5,000-year-old civilization of the Marsh Arabs. The smoke from this drain-and-burn atrocity was visible from the space shuttle. I shall leave open the question of whether "we" had any responsibility to prevent this and other mutilations and tortures of Iraqi society, except to say that the meltdown and trauma of that society, now so visible to all, were always inescapably in our future and would in any case have had consequences beyond themselves for the wider region. The continuation of this regime was indeed an imminent threat, at least in the sense that it was a permanent threat.

I find almost no anti-war partisan today who weighed in against the no-fly zones in the past. The entire argument about the inflammatory nature of an American military presence in the Middle East producing a wave of 'baby Bin Ladens' had no basis in the face of the fact of the effective grounding of the Iraqi Air Force by daily flights by US fighter jets in the region.

The no-fly zones have always been a considerable US expense and always accepted as effective in protecting ethnic Iraqis from Saddam's helicopter gunships and other aerial terror. Let's try not to forget that.

Posted by mbowen at 02:35 PM | TrackBack

November 03, 2003

James Bovard & The Cell War

I watched Brian Lamb interview James Bovard last evening on C-SPAN. The publication of Bovard's volume 'Terrorism and Tyranny' proves that we are just beyond the Monday morning armchair and into geek-level analysis. Lamb attempted quite deliberately to show that Bovard is not a crank. Bovard would fit righteously into the blogosphere. So I give him the benefit of the doubt. The good news is that we will inevitably parse Administration words and discover how lousy a manager Bush is. The bad news is that Bovard is no ideologue, which means that he is likely to shift the debate and thinking of non-partisan intellectuals off of the superhighway and into the backroads, and so I've been inspired once again to look at the big picture.

Cells vs States
Bovard's stellar point is obvious once considered, which is that 'state sponsored terrorism' has generally been interpreted because of GWB's rhetoric, as the compliticy of governments in the harboring of terrorist cells, training camps & notorious individuals. And so a War on Terror invites nations to broad police actions in cooperation with other nations. The problem with this is that nations themselves - governments partake in terrorist operations. If you look at the sum total of people killed by 'terrorists' by the generally accepted definition, Bovard counts about 8000 since 2001. But if you choose to examine the death toll attributable to duly constituted governments (OK governments recognized by the UN) you easily exceed that figure by two orders of magnitude. Declaring war on states which are not direct threats to America in the traditional 'national interest' sense is a use of disproportionate force if you are really trying to get the cells. In the name of a war on terrorism, you have problems throwing the state out with the terrorist bathwater. And so, according to Bovard, shaky with Afghanistan and dead wrong on Iraq.

Right after nine-eleven, I was saying that the most important development in WW3 is the breakdown of the nation-state. That was premature. I do believe Powell made a good case that nations matter, tangential to the Bush Administration definition of state-sponsored terrorism, and now Bovard seconds the motion. Yet the police actions of America's War on Terror tracks closely to a paranoia about cell-based organization and asymmetrical war. The targets are smaller and more mobile than we expected, and the collateral damage is significant. As I weighed in for patience on the ground war against Iraq, I was quite willing to support an international police action against cells. I'll now refer to the latter as the Cell War as distinct from the State Wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.

The civil libertarian in me is getting riled over the notion (because it's so damned secret, nobody has facts) that the Bush Administration is desparate to hide the collateral damage in the Cell War. Bovard chronicles many sources .

Whose Intelligence?
It is also rather difficult at this point, while political accusations go back and forth, to determine how adept any international coaltion might be at gathering and employing the kind of intelligence that would abet the purposes of the Cell War. Who can be trusted? Chalabi? Tenet? The Pakistani intelligence service? The BBC? Wilson? If no reasonable intelligence can be gathered, and that which is gathered cannot be wisely used and shared amongst an internation coalition in the Cell War, then what do we do about terror?

Part of me wants to say that we react only. If Al-Aksa and Hamas, Al Qaeda and Hezb'Allah and the rest of the secret cells are responsible for only 8000 deaths, what say we give it the same press as malaria?

On the other hand, if we open up intelligence and enable citizens to work within the current system, rather than grant extraordinary powers to the same alphabet soup of government agencies who have left us vulnerable in the first place, we might find a better way to fight at the level at which cells operate. Posses of vigilantes might do a better job than armies. Our 52 card deck of Iraqi's Most Wanted proved that rather handily. No PATRIOT Act necessary.

Look Forward
The problem with parsing words on Bush's justifications is that geopolitically astute people should already have had their own reasons for toppling or appeasing Saddam Hussein. This is why the Bush Lied crowd is so annoying to me. Of course he lied, he's a democratic politician and half-assed emperor. Who are you to merit his full disclosure? The more important question is whether or not he is using the resources of the Empire properly. We won't know that until the new Iraq is done. It still makes sense to debate and discuss the proper direction and implementation of the Wars on Terror, but debating the ways and means of disclosure? Understand that it was inevitable the George W. Bush would not run a tight ship under these kind of crisis conditions, that we all should have known when he was elected. The bottom line is how much does our pacification of the Middle East cost and is it worth it? That doesn't seem to be the kind of debate we are hearing.

Posted by mbowen at 02:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2003


Edelstein over at the Head Heeb has sparked a lively debate on the status of Arabs in Israel. His reasonableness has convinced me that I can approach a reasonable set of positions on an interminable set of dilemmas I have always been loathe to approach. Do read everything on this matter of the Waitangi Option.

I am particularly noting this in that it gives a bit of perspective on the proximity between America blacks and whites, legally speaking as well as a comparative standpoint with which to compare American Natives' legal rights. It fits nicely into discussions about the tension between nationalism and pluralism and the necessity (or lack thereof) for a legalistic framework. At what depth into the legal framework of a nation should minorities be recognized?

Posted by mbowen at 12:30 AM | TrackBack

October 18, 2003

The Monthly Bin Laden

Every month or so, we hear some idiotic threatening jibberish from Osama Bin Laden, some waffled mutterings and then certainty that it actually is Bin Laden. And then we go back to watching our regularly scheduled television program.

Are we supposed to be concerned? I'm not sure.

Posted by mbowen at 05:04 PM | TrackBack

October 12, 2003

Good News from Iraq

Thomas Friedman was just rebroadcast on CSPAN praising the grass-roots democracy building process that US Army officers have been undertaking in Baghdad. It's working.

I'm also going to replicate Dean's post of Bremer's report in full because it bears repeating over and over again. You can see it here.

Six months ago today Coalition Forces liberated Baghdad. I am sure that many of you were as thrilled as I was to see Saddams statue and his regime fall.

Most, but not all, of what has happened since then is good.

The Coalition has completed over 13,000 reconstruction projects, large and small, as part of our strategic plan for the reconstruction of Iraq. That plan has four elements:

Create a Secure Environment.
Begin Restoration of Essential Services.
Begin to Transform the Economy.
Begin the Transformation to Democracy.

Before taking your questions I would like to review briefly some of the progress in each of these areas.

Create a Secure Environment:

Six months ago there were no police on duty in Iraq.

Today there are over 40,000 police on duty, nearly 7,000 here in Baghdad alone.
Last night Coalition Forces and Iraqi police conducted 1,731 joint patrols.

Six months ago those elements of Saddams military that had not been destroyed in combat had buried their airplanes and melted away.

Today the first battalion of the new Iraqi Army has graduated and is on active duty.
Across the country over 60,000 Iraqis now provide security to their fellow citizens.

Six months ago there were no functioning courts in Iraq.

Today nearly all of Iraqs 400 courts are functioning.
Today, for the first time in over a generation, the Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.

As todays events have made clear, much remains to be done to establish an acceptable security environment. Even so, things have improved enough to ease the curfew in Baghdad to only four hours.

Begin Restoration of Essential Services:

Six months ago the entire country could generate a bare 300 megawatts of electricity.

On Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawattsexceeding the pre-war average.
Please notice these photos of central Iraq:
o The first was taken February 1, 2003.
o The second was taken April 11.
o The third was taken October 1.

If we get the funding the President has requested in his emergency budget, we expect to produce enough electricity for all Iraqis to have electrical service 24 hours dailysomething essential to their hopes for the future.

Six months ago nearly all of Iraqs schools were closed.

Today all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools.
Many of you know that we announced our plan to rehabilitate one thousand schools by the time school startedwell, by October 1 we had actually rehabbed over 1,500.

Six months ago teachers were paid as little as $5.33 per month.

Today teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.

Six months ago the public health system was an empty shell. During the 1990s Saddam cut spending on public health by over 90 percent with predictable results for the lives of his citizens.

Today we have increased public health spending to over 26 times what it was under Saddam.
Today all 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open.
Today doctors salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam.
Pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons.
Since liberation we have administered over 22 million vaccination doses to Iraqs children.

Six months ago three-quarters of Iraqs 27,000 kilometers of irrigation canals were weed-choked and barely functional.

Today a Coalition program has cleared over 14,000 kilometers of those canals. They now irrigate tens of thousands of farms. This project has created jobs for more than 100,000 Iraqi men and women.

Additionally, we have restored over three-quarters of pre-war telephone services and over two-thirds of the potable water production.

Before the war there were 4,500 Internet connections and important services, such as instant messaging were forbidden.

Today there are 4,900 full-service connections.
We expect 50,000 by January first.

Begin to Transform the Economy:

Six months ago Iraqs economy was flat on its back.

Today anyone walking the streets can see the wheels of commerce turning. From bicycles to satellite dishes to cars and trucks, businesses are coming to life in all major cities and towns.

Six months ago all banks were closed.

Today 95 percent of all pre-war bank customers have service and first-time customers are opening accounts daily.
Today Iraqi banks are making loans to finance businesses.
Today the central bank is fully independent.
Today Iraq has one of the worlds most growth-oriented investment and banking laws.

Six months ago Iraq had two currencies.

Next week Iraq will get a single, unified currency for the first time in 15 years.

Begin the Transformation to Democracy:

Six months ago there was no freedom of expression. Satellite dishes were illegal. Foreign journalists came on 10-day visas and paid mandatory and extortionate fees to the Ministry of Information for minders and other government spies.

Today there is no Ministry of Information.
Today there are more than 170 newspapers.
Today you can buy satellite dishes on what seems like every street corner.
Today foreign journalists and everyone else are free to come and go.

Six months ago Iraq had not one single elementlegislative, judicial or executive-- of a representative government.

Today in Baghdad alone residents have selected 88 advisory councils. Baghdads first democratic transfer of power in 35 years happened when the city council elected its new chairman.
Today in Iraq chambers of commerce, business, school and professional organizations are electing their leaders all over the country.
Today 25 ministers, selected by the most representative governing body in Iraqs history, run the day-to-day business of government.
Today the Iraqi government regularly participates in international events. Since July the Iraqi government has been represented in over two dozen international meetings, including those of the UN General Assembly, the Arab League, the World Bank and IMF and, today, the Islamic Conference Summit. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today announced that it is reopening over 30 Iraqi embassies around the world.

Six months ago Shia religious festivals were all but banned.

Today, for the first time in 35 years, in Karbala thousands of Shiites celebrate the pilgrimage of the 12th Imam.

In six short months we have accomplished a lot.

We are also aware that the progress we have made is only a beginning. A quarter century of negligence, cronyism and war mongering have devastated this country. Such profound damage cannot be repaired overnight.

Bringing Iraq up to minimum self-sufficiency will require the full $20 billion the President has asked of Congress in his supplemental budget request.

We are fighting terrorism here and we will continue to fight it until it no longer threatens the hopes of Iraqis, the hopes of the world.

The importance and urgency of this task was underscored for all of us today when terrorists car-bombed a police station and assassinated a Spanish diplomat.

As the President just said, "We will wage the war on terror until it is won."

L. Paul Bremer
Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator
Press Conference 9 October 2003

Posted by mbowen at 07:02 PM | TrackBack

October 07, 2003

Diehard Retards

Some retards over in Iraq have the unmitigated gall to assert that they are going to put the Baath Party back in power through the power of guerilla insurgency. I don't think they understand that there is going to be an American military base in Iraq from now until doomsday.

Love him or hate him GWBush is not going to reduce troops down to zero. Do these people just not understand? We won the war. Let me repeat that. We won the war. We decide when we come or go. Long after the United States make friends again with the French and Putin or whoever's next is having Caviar in the White House, and 90% of the civilized world forgets the numbers of all the UN Resolutions that had anything to do with Iraq, the US will have a military presence in Iraq. Three years from now, nobody in America will care and everyone will accept it - it really doesn't depend on much.

The mighty Baathists have struck out. They have been reduced to lobbing grenades and plotting kidnappings. SWAT team level problems. They will be squashed like bugs, and you know what? We should let the Turks do it, just for spite.


Posted by mbowen at 09:30 PM | TrackBack

October 04, 2003


Andrew Sullivan exerpts some decent geopolitical reasons to smash Saddam from Inspector David Kay, which are hardly debatable at this point. But for the record, here my two favorites.

* Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1000 km - well beyond the 150 km range limit imposed by the UN. Missiles of a 1000 km range would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets through out the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi.

* Clandestine attempts between late-1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1,300 km range ballistic missiles --probably the No Dong -- 300 km range anti-ship cruise missiles, and other prohibited military equipment.

Posted by mbowen at 04:34 PM | TrackBack

October 03, 2003

The Catbird Seat

The sooner the US gets out of Iraq, the faster Ahmad Chalabi accumulates power. He, more than anyone, has played us. Clever bugger. Considering the time and effort he has made in pursuing contacts with power-brokers in the US, I wonder which other parties in Iraq can compete in terms of access. Is Paul Bremer simply going to retire when he's done, or will there be some ongoing relations through him personally?

In the end, I believe that Chalabi's wit and sense of ingratiation, and simple experience in chumming the US waters will serve him better than most of the other contenders for power in post-war Iraq.

Posted by mbowen at 09:37 AM | TrackBack

October 01, 2003

Twisting the Kingpins

A very good article in the October 2003 issue of the Atlantic goes to some length to explain the different types of torture and coersion in use today and the difference between them. Read it if you can.

Posted by mbowen at 11:22 PM | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

Mugabe Strikes Again

Totalitarianism is so very predictable.

Posted by mbowen at 01:29 PM | TrackBack

September 14, 2003

DenBeste Debunks DU

This one is for the archives, just in case I find myself surrounded by a bunch of loony environmentalists or people otherwise hysterical about DU.

While it's reasonable to not want to be around any amount of battlefield debris, DU is no worse than any other.

The radon being emitted today from uranium in the soil comes from ex-uranium atoms which emitted their first alpha particles thousands of years ago. Before U-238 can reach radon, it has to pass through U-234 (half life 240 kiloyears) and Thorium 230 (77 kiloyears). U-235, which is vastly reduced in DU compared to naturally occurring uranium (it's the U-235 that's "depleted"), passes through protactinium 231 (33 kiloyears) before reaching radon. Therefore, refined DU does not emit radon in detectable quantities and will not do so during my lifetime (or a hundred times my lifetime).

It doesn't get much more clear than that.

Posted by mbowen at 05:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2003

Red Letter Day

This is what vindication sounds like:

Iraqis are optimistic. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. On both fronts, 32% say things will become much better.

The toughest part of reconstructing their nation, Iraqis say by 3 to 1, will be politics, not economics. They are nervous about democracy. Asked which is closer to their own view--"Democracy can work well in Iraq," or "Democracy is a Western way of doing things"--five out of 10 said democracy is Western and won't work in Iraq. One in 10 wasn't sure. And four out of 10 said democracy can work in Iraq. There were interesting divergences. Sunnis were negative on democracy by more than 2 to 1; but, critically, the majority Shiites were as likely to say democracy would work for Iraqis as not. People age 18-29 are much more rosy about democracy than other Iraqis, and women are significantly more positive than men.

Asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on from five possibilities--neighboring, Baathist Syria; neighbor and Islamic monarchy Saudi Arabia; neighbor and Islamist republic Iran; Arab lodestar Egypt; or the U.S.--the most popular model by far was the U.S. The U.S. was preferred as a model by 37% of Iraqis selecting from those five--more than Syria, Iran and Egypt put together. Saudi Arabia was in second place at 28%. Again, there were important demographic splits. Younger adults are especially favorable toward the U.S., and Shiites are more admiring than Sunnis. Interestingly, Iraqi Shiites, coreligionists with Iranians, do not admire Iran's Islamist government; the U.S. is six times as popular with them as a model for governance.

Our interviewers inquired whether Iraq should have an Islamic government, or instead let all people practice their own religion. Only 33% want an Islamic government; a solid 60% say no. A vital detail: Shiites (whom Western reporters frequently portray as self-flagellating maniacs) are least receptive to the idea of an Islamic government, saying no by 66% to 27%. It is only among the minority Sunnis that there is interest in a religious state, and they are split evenly on the question.

Perhaps the strongest indication that an Islamic government won't be part of Iraq's future: The nation is thoroughly secularized. We asked how often our respondents had attended the Friday prayer over the previous month. Fully 43% said "never." It's time to scratch "Khomeini II" from the list of morbid fears.

You can also cross out "Osama II": 57% of Iraqis with an opinion have an unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden, with 41% of those saying it is a very unfavorable view. (Women are especially down on him.) Except in the Sunni triangle (where the limited support that exists for bin Laden is heavily concentrated), negative views of the al Qaeda supremo are actually quite lopsided in all parts of the country. And those opinions were collected before Iraqi police announced it was al Qaeda members who killed worshipers with a truck bomb in Najaf.

And you can write off the possibility of a Baath revival. We asked "Should Baath Party leaders who committed crimes in the past be punished, or should past actions be put behind us?" A thoroughly unforgiving Iraqi public stated by 74% to 18% that Saddam's henchmen should be punished.

Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 09, 2003

Fatigue and Ennui

Aside from the fact that I still don't have a job, the great paving over of Iraq and implanting of Wal-Marts has not come quickly enough. So I am less than enthused these days. This is the point at which amatuers like me show our true colors and leave the boring details of statecraft in ruins to the professionals.

Iraq seems to be a destitute pit of petty political conflict, like 20s era Chicago politics with AK47s and RPGs. This is not news worth listening to. The great purge has taken place and now the society is tattered and torn, not in ruins mind you, but stripped of its authoritarian hand, in undisciplined chaos. The great question of present day Iraq is whose law and order will triumph, and under what conditions. It's something of a boring question despite the fact that it is tremendously important.

The President has spoken at length Sunday night. I don't listen to him any longer. David Brooks, who is not wearing his partisanship well - and that's a good thing - says that the Bush administration tries desparately to remain blameless. I think at some point soon, those who fell in love with him as they fell in love for Ronald Reagan are going to have to start finding clever arguments to explain the contradictions of his performance. They needn't do so. They should just admit that he's mediocre, and Ashcroft is only marginally better than Ed Meese.

The California Zoo looks to have worked in spite of its idocy. Bustamante and Schwartzenegger are the leading candidates, as it should be. Paleos are out of the running and Prop 54 is going to be beat down by minority dollars. This will end well.

Who cares about one federal judgeship? Not me.

So that's all there is. The deficit is coming, Bush will lose in 2004, the Democrats are still losers and everybody is going to go all mushy and somber in a couple days. Trolling the blogosphere for exclamation points is less exciting this week, besides I've got more comics to write.

Posted by mbowen at 10:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 06, 2003

The End of the Road[map]

People who think the current administration is completely doofus have some reason to pat themselves on the back over the dead bodies that will be piling up in Palestine & Israel soon. I'm just going to hang my head in embarrassment and shame.

Abbas is gone, Palestine reverts to the defense of Hamas. Pathetic.

Posted by mbowen at 10:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 04, 2003

African Multiculturalism

Africans are learning lessons in multiculturalism from an unlikly source, reality tv.

Nigerians howl at it. Botswanans scream at their screens. Ugandans watch it over cold Nile Beer, while some African politicians and clergy want the plug pulled on this continent-wide sensation.

It is "Big Brother Africa," the latest incarnation of the reality television show that started in Europe. An estimated 30 million Africans are watching, making it the most popular, and most controversial, show in Africa.

The show throws together strangers as housemates and then lets viewers watch their every move and the sparks that fly. The African variety has plucked a dozen young professionals from countries all across this vast, diverse continent and moved them into a comfortable house in Johannesburg with an oversize Jacuzzi.

At the start of the show there was an amorous Ugandan law student. An argumentative Nigerian businessman. A saucy South African business consultant who flirted with a cocky Kenyan psychology student and every other man in the house. The last one to survive 106 days in captivity wins $100,000.

Posted by mbowen at 10:29 AM | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

A Good Idea in Israel

The Head Heeb gives me pause, and reasons to turn my attention to Israel with something less than complete cynicism. There is an excellent post and discussion on the integration of Arabs into Israeli society.

Imshin has, as usual, some very eloquent thoughts about the commission's findings. Those findings should also come as no surprise to any of my regular readers, because I've been saying the same thing for the past nine months - that civil rights and Jewish-Arab reconciliation are as critical as the matsav to the long-term integrity of the Israeli state. I don't always agree with the Jerusalem Post's editorial positions, but today's editorial is one I could have written:

It now seems clear that Israeli Arabs will either be further integrated into society or will become increasingly hostile to it. The most practical, effective means of integration would be to share in some form of national service and, in some cases, like the Druse and Beduin do now, full participation in the military. In exchange, society would have to lift the glass ceiling imposed on its Arab members, who are not proportionately represented in many walks of life.

Posted by mbowen at 06:13 PM | TrackBack

September 01, 2003

All Out War

Now that's more like it. Nothing like a little honesty.

It really is too bad that there cannot be two jewish states in the Middle East. That way we could abandon this one without appearing hostile to Jews we aided after WW2. What a pit.

I said it once, I'll say it again. International Protectorate.

Posted by mbowen at 05:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 31, 2003

The World Trade Address

Gerard at the American Digest wrote the following. I quote it here in full. I'd probably make a few changes but it is nothing short of brilliant, if somewhat unoriginal.

Two years ago our enemies brought to us on this continent a new war, conceived in hatred and dedicated to the proposition that all Americans are to be slaughtered because they are Americans.

Now we are engaged in a great global war, testing whether this nation or any nation so attacked can long find the courage to endure the duties and sacrifices necessary for victory.

We are met on our first mass grave of that war. We have come to remember it as a final resting-place for those who here were murdered in our airplanes, at their desks, or trying to save others. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

Our fellow citizens, living and dead, who struggled here and in the war since that day have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The old world and those among us still weak and dedicated to appeasement will little note nor long remember what we say here, but we can never allow ourselves to forget what happened here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the as yet unfinished war which by their deaths these victims and heroes have required of us.

It is rather for us to become more deeply dedicated to finishing the great task remaining before us--that from the ashes of our honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that all nations under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that governments of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Posted by mbowen at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 29, 2003

George Schultz on the Internal Empire

A great quote from a very interesting website:

George P. Shultz: The President has done a good job and in community after community there have been strong expressions that this is not about Islam, this is not about Muslims, this is not about Arabs--they're not our enemy. Our enemy are people who somehow have been caught up in this pattern of terrorism and violence--they are our enemy. And so in the spirit of what has made the United States a great nation, we are a diverse nation and we honor that diversity, and we think and people here are loyal Americans. And that's--I'll never forget, on July 4, 1986, we had the hundredth anniversary of the Statue of Liberty being put in New York harbor. It had been refurbished, and President Reagan--the lights went on, the torch was writ--lit, and President Reagan spoke. One of the things that he said was, you can go to France, you can never become French, you can go to Japan, you'll never become Japanese, you can go to China, you'll never become Chinese, you can go to Italy, you'll never become Italian, but anyone can come to America from anywhere and become an American. It was a thrilling--and a deep statement about the nature of America, and of our attitude. We're a diverse country. And when you attack America, you attack the world, because the world is here. And furthermore, in the World Trade Center, I'm told that nationals of some eighty countries are among the lost or missing. The Chinese representative called on me the other day, told me--I think he said a hundred and thirty one Chinese national's among them--just to take an example. And practically any country you name. So, the United States is the world. And we're in favor of the world, and these people are the enemies of the world.

Posted by mbowen at 06:06 PM | TrackBack

August 22, 2003

Wal-Mart Imperialism

I cite Matt Welch's post as more evidence that things are going as I planned. Bwah hahahahah!

Now if we can only get them over to West Africa.

Posted by mbowen at 12:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

Ethnic Africans

Abiola and his retaliator have got me thinking briefly about this idea: African nationalism owes its failure in part because of its inability to sustain a multicultural, pluralistic society. I wish Tim Burke would reply because I know him and trust his judgement.

Anyway, I'll stash it away on the plus side because I remember a particularly convincing article about the some white colonialists applying their own values to the Hutu and Tutsi. One of the ethnics were taller and more square jawed in appearance, qualities that Europeans associate with trustworthiness and leadership. Prior to their arrival, the tall ones were the out group, the Euros made them the administrators, they lorded over their formerly superior rivals and it intensified the rivalry. After the Euros split, 'graciously' leaving the tall guys in charge, they continued their own Jim Crow and the rest is bloody history.

I have some questions about Senegal, which never seems to have any of these more ugly problems. Nor does Ghana from my perch, but I could be wrong. Does the ethnic question hold true?

Also, there has certainly got to be some group for whom cooperative pluralism is not a completely alien concept.

Posted by mbowen at 02:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

Are We Feeding Starving Africans Yet?

I'm getting a little bit tired of the media spin on humanitarian aid to Liberia. What do we need to do to get CNN to start talking about self-determination and the new government of the West Africans, sorta like those Shia Iraqis they pretend to respect so much.

Posted by mbowen at 10:47 AM | TrackBack

August 12, 2003

Last Nation-Builder Standing

The RAND executive summary, for your reference.

As Table S.1 summarizes, what principally distinguishes Germany, Japan, Bosnia, and Kosovo from Somalia, Haiti, and Afghanistan are not their levels of Western culture, economic development, or cultural homogeneity. Rather it is the level of effort the United States and the international community put into their democratic transformations. Nation-building, as this study illustrates, is a time- and resource-consuming effort. The United States and its allies have put 25 times more money and 50 times more troops, on a per capita basis, into postconflict Kosovo than into postconflict Afghanistan. This higher level of input accounts in significant measure for the higher level of output measured in the development of democratic institutions and economic growth.
Posted by mbowen at 12:51 PM | TrackBack

A Full Deck for Liberia

The case against Charles Taylor is made plain. I momentarily lost my mind yesterday in thinking much of Liberia's pain might not be at his foot, but are circumstantial. That doesn't change the fact, whether or not Taylor said so in his exit speech, that America will have to step up its committment to West Africa.

I have to admit that Rummy's idea for a deck of cards listing the top bad guys in Iraq was a stroke of PR genius. It goes to illustrate the necessity of communicating to the American public how important it is that we round them up. We know their names and we know what horrendous things they have done. So too, we should have a full deck any time we are involved in peacekeeping and regime change, even if it is nothing more than a Carterian audit of free and fair elections.

If there is a possibility that Charles Taylor Jr might have some hand in Liberia's future under Blah, then we will have failed their people, and indeed Taylor may be prophetic in his promise to be back. The international community needs to be able to reign in the thugs with equal efficiency as their bosses.

Posted by mbowen at 09:32 AM | TrackBack

August 11, 2003

Rawls vs Nozick?

Somebody needs to give me a thumbnail sketch of this battle because it seems to be key to understanding the consistency of Michael Walzer the man who wrote the following:

But my critique of French and German policy doesn't have much to do with just war theory. It is a much more general moral/political critique, having to do with hypocrisy and irresponsibility rather than with injustice. France and Germany did not refuse to fight or wrongly resist a just war; they refused to provide what was in their power to provide: a serious alternative to an unjust war. I continue to believe, even at this late date, that had France and Germany (and Russia too) been willing to support, and had the UN Security Council been willing to authorise, a strongly coercive containment regime for Iraq, the war would have been, first, unnecessary, and second, politically impossible for the American government to fight. But this would have involved giving up the notion that force was a 'last resort,' as the French said, or morally impermissible, as the Germans said. For containment depended on force from the beginning: the no-fly zones and the embargo required forceful actions every day, and the restoration of the inspection regime depended on a credible American threat to use force. Now imagine the no-fly zones expanded to include the whole country; imagine the very porous embargo replaced by 'smart sanctions,' which actually shut down the import of military equipment (while permitting materials needed by the civilian population); imagine the inspectors strengthened by UN troops, who could patrol installations once they had been inspected, and by unannounced surveillance flights. Given all that, it would have been very difficult to make a case that Iraq was still a threat to its neighbours or to world peace. But the US did not want a regime of that sort, having settled on war early on; and France and Germany were not willing to support anything close to this: they had, in fact, decided that the appeasement of Saddam was the best policy.

Later he suggests that a 'multilateral empire' is best, admitting and understanding as he says above, that force is required to subdue brutal regimes. Yet he has serious reservations that the values of any single country, multicultural that it may be, can protect the world. Again this suggests that the internal empire is more likely than the external.

My gut tells me that Rawls is wrong (heh). We cannot reject our natural endowments in developing our moral philosophies. The planet is fine, but we need to take care of our needs. Computers will tell us about themselves quite completely, and we won't care that much. It will be the morality of humanity that matters most and if it comes to a fight between us and the machines, the humans should and will win.

Posted by mbowen at 04:08 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Between Doe and Blah

It seems only yesterday that Charles Taylor was near the top of the list of bad guys to be deposed. Call me an idiot, but I'm beginning to wonder if this was not circumstantial. I'm searching now for a complete text of his departure speech, but the little piece I heard today on NPR, completely absent as it was from the NYT's piece, made me consider the broader scenario.

Posted by mbowen at 02:08 PM | TrackBack

August 06, 2003

The Planet is Fine

George Carlin made the point that environmental activists have their priorities all wrong. Instead of worshiping the planet and suggesting that we should take better care of it, they should admit that the planet is fine.

The planet is fine, and its weather systems, bacteria, viruses, tectonic plates and other parts are all rather oblivious to us. The planet will survive our worst. We won't.

In the end, environmentalists ought to help us to understand what it is that we do wrong doesn't threaten snail darters and other biodiversity, but threatens human beings ourselves. The problem is of course that we have another 150 years or so until we're paved over, and people will notice.

But environmentalists have another enemy and that is the capitalist market. You see the market will inculcate upon us a consciousness of choice and price. We will either have high prices or limited choices and those will change so gradually that we will adjust. like frogs in the broth. I am thinking of this specifically because, after all these years, I have found that my favorite drinking water ever, Dasani, is manufactured, bottled and distributed by the CocaCola Company. I prefer drinking this to water out of the tap. You ask me about the environmental effects of water pollution and I don't care because I drink Dasani. When Dasani costs too much for someone with my income, like never, then I'll pay more attention to the lead levels of the Mississippi River. You see the problem.

There is a simple and clever solution to this problem, and it's something that even a politician as notoriously reviled as Cynthia McKinney has learned. Go local.

McKinney, who was and is a lightning rod for racial politics of the most contentious kind, nevertheless won re-election after her district was jerrymandered from overwhelmingly black to majority white several years ago. What saved her? Lead paint on children's playground toys and the failure to clean up toxic dumps in her district. Everybody got it. In fact, McKinney and similarly minded black activists have taken their show on the road to Durban, South Africa and added 'environmental racism' to the political lexicon. Obviously you can't fix the same problem twice, but the initial lesson stands. Show what individual polluters do to local communities.

Chaining oneself to a tree fifty miles from the nearest McDonalds only brands one a weirdo. Allowing McDonalds to take credit for using paper instead of plastic wrappers on its billion burgers is genius. Trying to cram scientific research about global warming down the throats of Joe SixPack is foolhardy if not suicidal. Lobbying to change how sixpacks are package, with cardboard instead of plastic, with aluminum instead of tin, with tabs that stay on instead of being tossed away, that's inspired.

People care about quality of life issues, they don't care about the planet. My suggestion is to eyeball your school yard, not the habitat of the spotted owl.

Update: Now take this ethics lesson and apply it to the question of vultures. I leave that as an exercise.

Posted by mbowen at 04:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 05, 2003

How High is Heaven?

Just about as high as the American relationship with the Saudis stinks. Will somebody please drop a daisy cutter on the White House obfuscation? We are not likely to hear explanations anytime soon from the horses mouth. The vast left-wing conspiracy is such a piker. Al Q, *is* Saudi. Let's start dealing with them on the ground.

When, by the way, is Ari Fleischer's last day? Sensible people like me are starving for new information that explains the standoffishness of this White House, and the sucker press. It's making me theorize and I don't like theorizing.

Posted by mbowen at 12:33 PM | TrackBack

August 02, 2003


The NYT reports:

National Security Council officials are leading an interagency delegation to Saudi Arabia this weekend to discuss with Saudi officials investigations into the financing of terrorism. The Americans may also ask Saudi permission to interview Mr. al-Bayoumi, who is reportedly now in Saudi Arabia, officials said,

What goes on in this meeting is of crucial import going forward. If the 46 Democrat senators are not going to get their way in having this document declassified, then the precise meaning of the Bush Administration's meeting must be figured out.

We should look to the frustrations of the FBI in regards to their knowledge about the cleric in San Diego.

Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

The Beginning of the End

Everybody speculates, but if this is true of the Saudi Royal Family:

SEN. BOB GRAHAM: I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted not just in financing -- although that was part of it -- by a sovereign foreign government and that we have been derelict in our duty to track that down, make the further case, or find the evidence that would indicate that that is not true and we can look for other reasons why the terrorists were able to function so effectively in the United States.

Then there will be hell to pay.

We do know that the Saudis are corrupt, and we do know that scenarios of ridding ourselves of them have gone around. We also know that the royal family does indeed send money to the Wahabis to deflect criticism from the rabble of religious fundamentalist Saudis. So there is a convincing case to be made that they are close to this.

In fact, its written all over the place, and somebody knows. I want to see those 28 pages.

This is the first real chunk of news of any significance since the fall of Bagdhad. I smell something very big, much bigger than 16 words.

Posted by mbowen at 12:42 AM | TrackBack

July 31, 2003

More Crap From Israel

NPR Reports:

Citing national security, the Israeli parliament votes to prevent Palestinians who marry Israelis from obtaining Israeli citizenship or even permanent residency status in Israel. Many of Israel's 1 million Arabs condemn the move as racist and a violation of human rights.

This is about as low as you can go. The Israeli right is boil on democracy and civil rights.

Posted by mbowen at 06:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 30, 2003

PAM Kicked to the Curb

Cash rules everything around me. John Poindexter has run out of cash. He should have used Whuffie. If the reason it was killed was just that, then people are really out of their minds. Haven't they ever heard of HSX?

I remember a very popular pacifist site with cartoon figures popping out of maps of the Middle East which described a rather overblown worst case scenario if we went to war. Do you remember it? I'll give you props if you can find it. (Props is like virtual dap, which has long been a social currency in the 'hood. Surely you can find an economist to explain it if you must.) This seemed to be very convincing to folks who were against the intervention, and with a very good reason. It showed what was possible as a game. The problem was that it wasn't dynamic, it was scripted, and there was no way to tell what probability of independent events were used in the model nor the levels of causality implied in dependent events. These were only things that work together in the mind of a paranoid, or a conspiracy theorist.

I'm not likely to give thanks that we have John Poindexter in service to our nation. Let us not forget that this bloody genius didn't know how to delete his own email. But I do give him credit for his involvement in the PAM gaming idea, which as soon as one of you fine folks finds it was shared by the left. Chances are that PAM was overpriced and overcomplicated, but that doesn't change the fact that this is the kind of tool which could help ordinary folks understand what connecting the dots is really all about. Sophisticated, computer aided guesswork.

I am a big supporter of open source intelligence, and it may come to be that the debacle over Niger will be another brick on the public disclosure side of the intelligence see-saw. No matter how that goes, any tool that the public can use is a good idea. So let us hope now that the code for this unfunded project finds its way to SourceForge. I can't wait.

Update: Much props to George for finding the original game.

Posted by mbowen at 11:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 29, 2003

Off The Coast

GWBush has upset me once again. This time it is his half-assed show of military force off the coast of Liberia. Evidently, somebody has convinced him to pay attention to the 'Q' word.

Levy doesn't come squarely out and say it, but the history between Liberia and America is largely symbolic here, and it doesn't matter exactly how complex it actually is. The action required of American peacekeeping is largely independent of that. If people cannot come up with a good historical reason for saving a couple hundred thousand people from the chaos, torment and brutality of a civil war, it's morally difficult to say why we bother having an army that travels the world.

I think we can come to expect that GWBush is not leading the charge with any depth, but that doesn't change the character, capabilities and nature of the American military. Let us have our reasons at the ready aside from his thinly disguised domestic political ambition.

If this watered down watery excursion were to make a stop at hmm, say Principe, would that be a surprise?

Posted by mbowen at 10:31 AM | TrackBack

July 25, 2003

The Undiscovered Country

COULD we but know
The land that ends our dark, uncertain travel,
Where lie those happier hills and meadows low,
Ah, if beyond the spirit's inmost cavil,
Aught of that country could we surely know,
Who would not go?
-- Edmund Clarence Stedman

I like this stanza. It speaks to me as regards the possibilities for the Middle East. Back when Hitchens began blowing everyone's mind, I was making my first steps into accepting the idea and focus on a future American Empire.

My expectations of the Empire should be long standing, and they will survive the damage being wrought by the current resident of the Oval Office. I despair of his ability to do anything befitting a man in his position. He simply is incapable of articulating a vision appropriate for the mission. He's a governor.

It is difficult to envision how our future embrace of free countries might work where we provide the technology and infrastructure of destruction while embracing refugees to be integrated into our pluralist society. But that is the goal I see.

Posted by mbowen at 04:12 PM | TrackBack

July 22, 2003

Why Did You Support the War, Daddy?

It looks like a lot of bloggers whom I respect are giving their rationales the once over and giving an entire retrospective on their wagging lo these many months. I suppose I have the advantage of not being so prolific with the call and response of the major blog circles. I try to call 'em simply and let the details fall to those without elementary school children in the house.

Uranium was never part of my moral calculus. In fact neither were WMDs. I was no more afraid of Saddam's military this time around than the first time, and everybody knows that Colin Powell cut them off and killed them. What's more, when mitigating circumstances showed themselves about gassing of the Kurds, I still didn't waver.

Something you are not going to hear in any of today's debates about this is the fate of the Kurds. The Kurds are just fine, thank you, not that any American in media earshot gives a damn today. In fact, the American forces have held back the Kurds from a well deserved jaunt of revenge during the hostilities, and the Turks were still displeased at the Kurdish bravado under their newly found freedom.

Let's get this all straight. We Americans are continuing our ridiculous debates only listening to ourselves and not the rest of the world, and it is making us a truly sucky empire. Thank god Tony Blair has the guts and brains to say what's up and what's right about this expression of might. It's all about liberty, but not American liberty. It's about the liberty of people in the Middle East and that's why deposing Saddam was a key priority with or without uranium, scuds, chemical agents, bioweapons or terrorist ties. Iraq itself was wrong, and now it has another chance. But until we Americans grow up and shutup sometimes and listen to the cries for freedom elsewhere in the world, all of our justifications for everything in our foreign policy, military or not, will become a partisan sham.

A partisan sham is what we are enduring right now. I'll try not to suffer it, but only repeat now the logic that made me support GWBush in his actions, if not his reasons.

Several weeks ago, I asked the rhetorical question whether or not the world will accept this imperial show. I wondered out loud if Saddam, of all the nasty bastards on the planet, and Iraq of all the gawdawful spots in the world, were the right targets for our first venture. Perhaps I am waiting for the right person to do the right thing in consideration of the fact the GWBush is wrong for just about everything which calls for an intelligent command of the oratory worthy of free world leadership. I want my emperor to be kingly, and why oh why did I get GW? Do you hear me pissing and moaning?

Yet if I could stop for a minute and start dealing with the hideous facts of the matter on the ground in Iraq (and probably a half dozen other horrible places), I wonder if I would mind so much if my president is Shrek instead of a Handsome Prince. I'm a policy snob in the face of Saddam's clear and present danger. Not to me, to Iraqis. It's not about me.

Since it is not about me, and a busybody neighbor is better than an abusive parent, I have to concede the fact that an ugly rescue is better than benign neglect. I feel that our geopolitical snobbery and posing are pretty worthless right about now, and the fact that we have to wheedle our way around the diplomatic chicanery of the UN and everyplace else is only necessitated by a failure of brotherhood and an ignoble squeamishness which is not rescued by our well-meant outrage at Bush's mendacity. I do believe in class warfare.That means noblesse on our part and revolt by the Shi'a.

The focus of the world is on Saddam Hussein. WMD or no, Iraqis are hopeless without our intervention. Now is the time for action, political snobs be damned. No matter how physically wreckless we may be, and I have a strong feeling that we won't be, this war is better happening than not. No matter how diplomatically wreckless we have been, and I know for damned sure that we have been, those are only words and hard feelings, but they're not lives. Lives are more important than words.

Posted by mbowen at 04:44 PM | TrackBack

July 20, 2003

Revenge and Rescue

Another political timebomb is ticking for the Bush Administration as yet another interestingly marginal rationale for war is deconstructed.

In the 14 weeks since the fall of Baghdad, coalition forces have not brought to light any significant evidence demonstrating the bond between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Uncovering such a link should be much easier than finding weapons of mass destruction. Instead of having to inspect hundreds of suspected weapons sites around the country, military and intelligence officials need only comb through the files of Iraq's intelligence agency and a handful of other government ministries.

Our intelligence experts have been doing exactly that since April and so far there has been no report of any proof (and we can assume that any supporting information would have quickly been publicized). Of the more than 3,000 Qaeda operatives arrested around the world, only a handful of prisoners in Guantnamo all with an incentive to please their captors have claimed there was cooperation between Osama bin Laden's organization and Saddam Hussein's regime, and their remarks have yet to be confirmed by any of the high-ranking Iraqi officials now in American hands.

We will find nothing of political relevance. This is a lose-lose rabbit hole.

There are only two reasons, apparently, that Americans are willing to war over. They are revenge and rescue. Kill the killer or free the hostage. The objectives, if and when accomplished will become self-evident. But if you use dodgy or even stellar intelligence, you lose. The American public can and will be spun endlessly over this and that evidence. Even a smoking gun is not enough, especially not if Americans weren't shot. In Iraq we can't even find a cold gun. Now that we are debating endlessly policies and procedures, we are turning the US Military into the LAPD. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

I like the kind of military we have today. One that can shock and awe. In fact the longer it takes to rebuild Iraq, the more profoundly impressive the amount of mass destrcution we are able to wreak without 'weapons of mass destruction' becomes. But GWBush and Rumsfeld, unaware, are about to transform the American armed forces into something much less than a force for non-nuclear detente. They are going to turn them into police. They are going to turn the great American three-headed Rottweiler into a flea-bitten mutt on a short leash.

The politics and circumstances of this war will have long term consequences that to me, spell even more reluctance from the international community to acquiesce to their deployment anywhere in the future. There will be limits on the number of divisions that can go in. There will be limits on the kinds of armaments they can use. The American president will say, hell we'll go in alone, and the Europeans will say fine. Then one day an American will shoot a French trooper and that will be the beginning of the end, and the end of my speculation.

The ability for us to punish Korea is no geopolitically diminished. We can only pray that GWBush doesn't have to be the man to unleash the beast once again.

Posted by mbowen at 10:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2003

A Theory of Engagement

Charles Taylor has about 40,000 troops in his army. The rebels allied against him have a total of about 5,000. And so there is a civil war going on. I've seen figures of about 3,000 bandied about when it comes to the sizing of our peacekeeping force, and of course about 1 million Liberians have been displaced since 1999. Understanding that I am a numbers kind of guy, it doesn't seem too difficult to percieve that a cease-fire imposed by an international peacekeeping force of very moderate size could go a very long way in Liberia.

50,000 warring troops can certainly destabilize a nation of 3 million but if the rebels are that few, does it follow that an equal number of peacekeepers can bring stability?

I'm not gung ho for battle, but I think that it might be worth sending a force to find out. If the rebels accept them, and the cease-fire is established, we can accomplish things rather quickly.

My theory is that a tripwire can be set based upon the lives of American soldiers. They stand among civilians and establish a demilitarized zone until elections are called. If too many American peacekeepers are killed, we lower the boom. The boom destroys the country a la Iraq, and then we leave. The effect is the imposition of a mutually assured destruction incentive on warring factions. The US is not primarily responsible for the peace, we can leave that to Belgians and Swedes and all other such experts in the international community. The Americans are the boom and the bang - mercenaries for peace, the Sword of Damocles, the Alien Threat.

Note that we go in for peacekeeping purposes only, and we get off the hook from nation building. I think it's a role no American president can screw up. How's that for cynical?

Posted by mbowen at 01:16 AM | TrackBack

July 10, 2003

Elephant Man

Sometimes I wonder where this man keeps his brain hidden. I swear he can be an embarrassment. Three billion dollars worth of compassion is not much more than an international greeting card.

Posted by mbowen at 09:37 AM | TrackBack

July 09, 2003

Background on Zimbabwe & Mugabe

Last year at various points, I was discussing Mugabe and Southern Africa. Here's a bunch of stuff from the archives:

Google Groups:
zyro (me) and Economic Watcher banter back and forth informatively.

the story has percolated to the u.s., sort of:
one presumes that lekota has come back empty-handed, but i'm still looking

From South Africa's Fingaz via the internet archive

Mbeki Attacks Blair over South Africa's refusal to sanction Mugabe & Zimbabwe

Posted by mbowen at 09:28 PM | TrackBack

100 for Zimbabwe

One hundred demonstrators in supoort of the MDC opposition party in Zimbabwe called upon GWBush to support their causes against the Zanu-PF of Robert Mugabe. This protest was in Pretoria, Bush's second stop on his African whirlwind.

Yesterday, however, I bothered to watch the video news and saw footage of hundreds of children among dozens of rebel militia mobbing American military advisors in Liberia with chants of support. That was truly spectacular.

Soon, Bush will be meeting with Thabo Mbeki as the latter will no doubt be asking the American president to solidify his committment to the Millenium fund for AIDS assistance. The irony of that conversation is staggering, given Mbeki's previous superstitiously dismissive comments on the disease, and Bush the Elder's legendary intransigence.

At this point I should be referring to Randall Robinson's TransAfrica webpage for some background and policy recommendations. Unfortunately, I read his last book and have discovered him to be one of the most incoherent writers I have ever come across. What to do, what to do?

Well, in Zimbabwe we need to ignore the 'white farmers' issue because it will be impossible for Bush to convey any nuance of those disputes through the racial fog of American media. Instead he should simply stress that Mugabe is a garden variety tyrant. The question is whether or not those MDC actually have support in southern Africa. Since they are a genuinely democratic opposition movement, somebody on the American backchannel should be hooking them up for the future. That means, of course, that we are going to have to deal with the thousands of political tentacles Mugabe has used to ensnarl southern African businesses in his tyranny.

We're teasing Liberians with jarheads in camo. The Liberians think we're on the ground as peacekeepers. Let's continue scouting out the place so we can set up camp soon.

Posted by mbowen at 08:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 06, 2003

The Challenge Defined

If you are one of those folks, like me, who have been thoroughly convinced that the American Empire needs to be, then you need to understand exactly how difficult its creation and maintenance will be. Tim Burke reminds us, without sparing the rod:

You can only make nations slowly, through persuasion and example and investment and the painful unfolding of history. If you want something resembling liberal democracy in Iran, for example, then put your money on Iranians who want it too, not on the US military. The fighting in the Congo will end when the fighters finally decide that they cannot live this way any longer, or their victims successfully fight back, or when a single group of combatants achieve a necessary and structurally solidified monopoly on force sufficient to suppress any opposition. There is no way for outside military powers to impose any of those things on the Congo, not without a force of a million men, decades of work, an intellectual clarity about the nature and origins of liberal democracy and trillions of dollars to match, and maybe, probably, not even then. If China is going to be a free society, it's going to get there the same complex and messy way that Western Europe did, because there are social groups that have meaningful power who want to be free and are willing to pursue their own liberation.

I think that I should further explain how I believe my thinking on this avoids some of these pitfalls while admitting plainly that I am parsing what seems logical and desireable without the benefit of any formal study of the develpment of nations.

Firstly, I think it is important to show that Americans become Americans rather quickly. As a nation of immigrants, we absorb and transform peoples of all sorts. And while we suffer from the excesses of blood and soil nativists on occasion, it does not overwhelm the system. America is, within itself a Diaspora. We have ethnics and classes and devout of all sects plying their trades, hawking their ethics, yet stable and without the kinds of revenge killings we see in nations less fortunate. With the three draws of accumulated abundance, land and liberty, we should continue to be a destination of choice.

As much as we complain, I don't see any evidence that the increase diminishes our democracy or significantly alters our national interests. There is a certain level of responsibility that the elites of this nation hold to the American public despite the fact that they often do not serve us directly. Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, sells far more cigarettes to the Czech Republic than to California. But you are likely to find that the work ethic of Californians more represented in the high offices of PM USA. In other words, as Americans, our expectations of ourselves at work, transcend national boundaries. There are class and ethnic and religious expectations we shed in our daily lives of service to the multinational corporations that employ us. This ethos is a very significant part of our lives, it makes us somewhat ahistorical and flirts with the destruction of other social values, but it makes us, in our work lives interesting kinds of global citizens. Only America could create a Wal-Mart. Our consistent conversion of all manner of people into corporate zombies is a good thing.

Depending on your overall take on the value of globalism, the values propagated and disciplines established by the tasks inherent in gaining global market share are constructive or destructive. I happen to believe that it is the task of the University and not of the corporation to find ways and means of preserving the millions of ways of knowing that are reduced by the establishment of corporate rules and motive. The corporation turns human effort into profit and glorifies profit, not human effort. This works so long as exploitation and slavery are kept in check. They are kept in check for the most part and so the American economy is constructive. That the world depends upon our solvency is not an accursed addiction, it is to our mutual benefit. We are a benevolent engine.

Let us keep in mind that this goal of globally democratic nations is one that is just as reductive of human activity as that of global markets established by corporations. Whereas democracy puts liberty in the hands of the people, so corporate life puts economic affairs in the hands of the people. You vote and you get your slice, you work and you get your slice. They work exceedingly well together and they are both liberal and destructive of memory. They require people to put trust in the future, to delay gratification, to be zombies today in order to prosper freely tomorrow. That means people must have a reasonable amount of stability and so these systems both require the kind of physical security only well-disciplined armies can provide.

In the 90s, it was Albert Murray who said rhetorically against James Baldwin that "The fire next time will be put out by next Wednesday." He was referring to the futility of armed struggle against the United States in the wake of the Los Angeles Riots. America has got a good thing going and a huge amount of wealth and effort will be expended to keep that standard of living intact. So we are bound to defend and project power. Whatever threatens the American order will be met with rage, because all of us have invested in the future of liberal capitalist democracy and our investments have not yet paid off - we have sacrificed our organic lives for it. We cannot be ethnic selves, we cannot be religious selves. Those affinities do not carry very far in the substrate of American life. That's just you in your subdivision; there is no Irish Catholic corporation for you and your ilk. That freedom is for the privacy of your own home and do not carry out into the street.

I believe that this is the fundamental difference between the West, and the developing world. Whereas we enjoy the security of a well-disciplined army and are willing to sacrifice our tribal selves to the zombification of being a home-owning taxpaying middle class American with predictable loyalties and an endless variety of breakfast cereal choices, our fellow humans elsewhere are free in other dimensions. They are free to grow their own food, sew their own clothes, employ their own feet for transportation, sing songs of their own creation and otherwise live off the grid of dependencies that sustains here in the Matrix, er, the West. And because of that fierce independence, they will also pick up their own machetes, torches, AK-47s and other oversupply of the global arms market and fight whatever battles seem appropriate to their disconnected worlds. There, the fire next time is the same fire as their father's time. It continues to burn in Liberia and the Congo.

I should add here the important consideration that these days in some parts of Africa, a 15 year old orphan boy with an automatic rifle is a weapon of mass destruction. It is a weapon too horrific to contemplate, it requires a very specific kind of environment to be produce and sustain such weapons. What could be a more poignant example of the failure to delay the gratifications of liberty and prosperity than the haunting face of a child soldier?

But these are not the only failures in our world and an American Empire cannot be justified on such egregious terms. But our domestic tranquility is of necessity a model for the prospects of other people. Establishment of a spreading order is as much one of evangelism as of conquest and pacification. The success of immigration is our great gospel, and if we are truly our brothers keepers, why shouldn't we keep them as we keep ourselves?

There are great reasons why the rest of the world shouldn't be like America, but that is a matter of arrogance and attitude, not of substance. America is good enough for the rest of the world. Our problem is in sustaining the balances of power within our own system to make American liberty enough for anyone on the planet. When we master that, with stability and without oppression a good portion of the world will beat a path to our door.

But I say that the decentralization of global communications networks means that a culture is arising in the stable areas of the world that foretells the kind of life some of us are already living right here right now. And while I don't want to elaborate on that now, I think it is important to understand the absolute dependence this decentralized culture has on the American nation.

Think of the US and the EU as a global utility for the new networks of city-states. If these city-states are cultivated under the auspices of the same kind of industries American corporations have become, they will have no more need for their own armies than does Philip Morris.

This is the why I think an American superpower which can be globally pre-emptive is a good idea. It may, with the proper cooperation with China, Russia, Japan and the EU, create the kind of dominance and omnicience that obviates the practicality of organic armies. Developing nations will be put on the same terms as American immigrants.

Thus the future of all wars will be terrorist suppression. But we will say farewell to the rebel soldier. Or at least, that's my vision.

Posted by mbowen at 07:51 PM | TrackBack

July 03, 2003

Be Careful What You Wish For

According to the NYT:

The Pentagon has ordered military planners to prepare detailed options for American troops to join an international peacekeeping force to oversee a cease-fire in the war-battered West African nation of Liberia, two senior military officials said today.

This is a good thing. America has been largely ambivalent at best in its regard for the tribulaitons of African nations. Excuses made over the fate of soldiers in Somalia have been overblown. Still, one wonders whether or not this State Department is still a redheaded stepchild to the Pentagon and we are possibly on our way to doing more damage to our own reputation.

Posted by mbowen at 07:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 02, 2003

Flying Monkeys

Two months ago I said sing Ding Dong because the witch was dead. Well, it looks like those flying monkeys are a bit more pesky than anyone imagined. Finally, some ugly truth. Now we're getting somewhere.

Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

June 29, 2003

Liberia, Again

Liberian war is in the news again. Of all the nations in the world, this is one we have a nice historical link to. It's not so nice these days because our diplomatic history with West African must be rife with horrendous mistakes. The greatest, of course, is that few Americans know or care to know our history with the state at all.

Charles Taylor, I will add without much detailed consideration, to the list of dictators we should be looking to oust as per the Least Favored Nation section of the New American Imperial Code. As of this moment, I am not so sure how brutal he is, but I do know he's been involved in more than one war and in power for more than ten years. That's enough to get me suspicious.

Next, a closer look.

Update: References

Posted by mbowen at 10:28 AM | TrackBack

June 26, 2003

Cows May Come and Cows May Go

..but the Bull in Palestine is a permanent resident.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has vowed to avenge an Israel helicopter attack Wednesday in the Gaza city of Khan Younis which killed two people.

Israel says the strike was aimed at militants on their way to attack an Israeli settlement. Palestinians said the dead were innocent bystanders walking past the two vehicles that were struck by missiles fired from the helicopter.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militant groups are denying reports they have reached a deal with the Palestinian Authority on halting attacks against Israel. Hamas officials say their organization, along with Islamic Jihad and Fatah, are discussing the ceasefire with Palestinian officials but have not yet reached an agreement. Palestinian sources were quoted Wednesday as saying the three organizations had signed a ceasefire document in Damascus, Syria.

Posted by mbowen at 05:56 AM | TrackBack

June 25, 2003

Almost a Nation

In the news Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah issued a joint statement that they will suspend their militant campaign against the state of Israel. Taking the cynical view, I suppose that means when the next bus explodes, they simply won't take credit.

What is one to make of a promise such as this? If I tell you that I won't rape your sister for three months and I don't, does that make me trustworthy? Probably not. I'm not going to celebrate this, as if I celebrated any news out of that nasty little corner of the world. I'll just reiterate my most caustic advice: International Protectorate.

Go ahead Security Council, I dare ya.

Side Note: I have it on the authority of someone I trust that Hezb'Allah is not to be judged in the same breath as these three. Hezb'Allah is not such a terrorist organization in that they like Umkhonto we Sizwe are a militant wing targetting only infrastructure and military installations.

Posted by mbowen at 08:47 PM | TrackBack

June 17, 2003

Neologisms & Policy

Many people, especially guilty chickenhawks and pacifists are now flogging themselves and everyone over the issue of the missing weapons of mass destruction.

I have to ask, when did 'weapons of mass destruction' enter the lexicon of foreign policy? Since when did it become a crime to possess them? I think the answer should be obvious. GWBush invented both the term and the crime. Now that people are attempting to be wiser in retrospect I find it a little ironic that they are using the same political terms which have been invented for this very geopolitical situation.

Weapons of mass destruction are not criminal in the hands of France. But machetes in the hands of Hutu are. This distinction should lead us to the heart of the issue with Saddam and Iraq. Unfortunately those who are crying the loudest now are those who never put enough weight on the most important humanitarian issues of the day. They are guilty of being seduced by the illusions of political rhetoric.

As I look back at my own decision making, I think a crucial turning point in the war of reasons and excuses was Powell's presentation to the UN. While I was skeptical from the beginning about the Bush vision, especially as regards Rumsfeld's destruction of Powell's diplomacy, I finally found good reasons to support the destruction of the Baath party.

What nobody is talking about today is the phrase 'material breach'. This was once the trigger point. That it is no longer is testimony to the ephemeral nature of political values. I imagine this should be expected. So when we talk about credibility we should remind ourselves that we are engaged in a game of rhetoric that shifts from month to month and season to season.

Is the Ituri slaughter genocide? Like most everything else we mutter, 'that depends'. Depends on what? It depends on our ability to convince people we are right and that our language is acceptable. This has a shifting dependence on what actually transpires with regard to justice or brutality on the ground and that is the key issue.

If Bush lied about "WMD's" it is because he could and the world community that balked in the face of Saddams tortures expected him to. Define what a 'WMD' is and you will produce an epistemological nightmare. By the way, where is Judith Miller these days?

Posted by mbowen at 12:43 PM | TrackBack

June 11, 2003

Don't Look Now

The Ituri reminds me of pygmies. It was something I learned in highschool about human biodiversity. But, the pleasant memories of being called an African pygmy by my enlightened teenaged schoolmates are taking a back seat to a new genocide.

Now I know that since I am not a diplomat with international credentials I am not authorized to use such polarizing language. But hell, I heard that 14 year old boys are shooting faces off and hacking off genitalia and making necklaces with them. The death toll is something on the order of 3,000 a day if NPR commentators are to be believed. This is East Congo in the hands of several wretched militias.

The response of the 'International Community' is about on par with that of the International House of Pancakes. Everybody is invited to have a nice meal and discuss the matter. Well, it's a good thing because it's not making headlines. (I can't believe I just wrote "it's not making headlines", as if the concern of Americans who read headline has any moral force worth soliciting. Well it would if this were a proper empire, but as we know, it is not.

I think finally people with good sense are giving up on GWBush, not that he was so very brilliant in the first place. You have to admire his audacity - that is to say his willingness to step up and put a brave face on the peanut brittle diplomacy he dishes out. I can only hope that Colin Powell runs against him. Please do it. Out the bastard. He's just too slow.

Cheney-Powell '04. That'll work.

In the meantime we've got a world class disaster unfolding. Hema vs Lendu. Bastards we could stomp.

I am compelled to quote the Reverend Doctor at this moment. You know the old 'injustice anywhere' line. It is not sufficient. So I will steal a set of fundamental injunctions from a simple research paper covering King's Letter. The moment calls for the language. (Thank you Professor Draeger)

(1) Justice is not conformity to the law --- King argues that laws can be unjust and this implies that the state does not define justice. Segregation should not be considered just simply because it is the law of the land. (Notice that this is similar to the thought that justice is independent of public opinion found in the Crito. Note also that King shows respect for the law even while breaking it. This is seen in his willingness to submit to punishment.)

(2) Justice is conformity to Gods Law --- God is the source of the moral law. So, any law of human creation that agrees with Gods law is considered just and any human law that violates Gods law is unjust. Segregation is considered unjust because it violates Gods law. (Notice that this definition depends on Kings particular theological views which others may or may not share).

(3) A law is just if it uplifts the human spirit and unjust if it degrades. There are at least two ways we can think of uplifting and degrading:

(3A) A law is uplifting if it has the effect of improving peoples lives and is degrading if people are worse off under it. In order to evaluate the law, we look to its consequences. Does it effect people positively or negatively? Here, segregation is unjust, because it doesnt lead to human flourishing (i.e. peoples lives are decidedly worse).

(3B) A law is uplifting if it respects human dignity and is degrading if it treats people as mere objects. This is not quite the same as evaluating consequences, rather it sets limits on the sorts of laws that can be considered just. Here, segregation is unjust, because it treats people as things and as such fails to show value human dignity.

(4) A law is just if it applies to all equally and is unjust if is imposed on some but not others. The thought seems to be that justice is tied up with fairness. A law cannot be just if it treats people unfairly. People are treated unfairly when they are treated differently. Here, segregation is unjust because it gives special treatment to whites and imposes unfair restrictions on blacks.

(5) A law is just if those bound by that law are involved in its creation and unjust otherwise. The thought here seems to be that democratically constructed laws are just in ways other laws are not. Here segregation is unjust because not some are excluded from political participation. (Notice how different this version is from the one found in (2)).

There is no violation of principle in applying equal measures of justice then here and now there. The question rather is are we capable? Are we the Bull Connors or are we Arkansas National Guard? Is our international policing capability ready? The capacity is clear, the rationale for evasion is murky. We cannot continue to pose as superheroes chasing mad scientists bent on world domination with secret weapons. We need to beat down the thugs with clubs. If we don't, then we cosign the kinds of dictatorships we just put down in Iraq and the Balkans.

We need to see, but we are looking in all the wrong places. Iran is not the place needing pacification. They are not at war with their neighbors. Nor is North Korea for that matter. I'm going to suggest this once and let your mind roam on it. What if we learn that some African warlord gets his hands on a bioweapon? Charles Taylor, for example? Don't look now...

Posted by mbowen at 12:29 AM | TrackBack

Tolja So

The news today is that Israel is back in the assassination business. So as I was saying, these things take time, as in over their dead bodies time. I am so sick and tired of this pissant bullshit. When can we just let the Israelis starve?

Posted by mbowen at 12:06 AM | TrackBack

June 06, 2003

Mugabe Briefly

I have mentioned before that we should have Least Favored Nations and that the UN ought to approve, on a regular bases, the ouster of dictators - Baghdad style. Now is the time to add Zimbabwe to the list, not because of white farmers, which complicate and distort the West's view of real injustices there.

For the moment, the web has failed me in locating what I have written on Mugabe and Zimbabwe in the past when the issue first bubbled through the haze of western journalism, borne as it was on the wings of racial interests. I will search and re-report.

Posted by mbowen at 07:51 AM | TrackBack

May 24, 2003

Roadmap 'Accepted'

The Instigator of Israel must have muttered the word 'accept', because credulous people around the world are giddy with glee. I wish them well of course, but don't look forward to any visas stamped 'Palestine' any time soon.

Israel is just a few years into the denoument of the assassination of their Prime Minister, just as America is just a few years matured from irrational exuberance. These things take time.

Posted by mbowen at 09:19 AM | TrackBack

May 22, 2003

A Great Test of the CIA

The CIA is supposed to be an Oracle of truth. Even if it cannot predict the future, it is supposed never to lie, to evaluate all possibilities and give its most honest assessment of what it sees to the President. The CIA is supposed to be beyond politics. That is why it's latest assignment, a re-evaluation of the Iraqi threat assessment, is so important.

The director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, has named a team of retired C.I.A. officers to scour the classified intelligence reports that were circulated inside the government before the war on a range of issues related to Iraq, including those concerning Bagdhad's links to terrorism and unconventional weapons, officials said. The team plans to compare those reports with what has actually been discovered in Iraq since the war ended.

Not like we're ever going to find out the results. They will be classified beyond democracy. The American public will not be able, within the period of GWBush's presidency, to evaluate the results of the most important decision of that presidency.

Wouldn't it be nice if the CIA worked for the American public?

Posted by mbowen at 06:29 AM | TrackBack

May 13, 2003

Rome in a Day

People are saying the 'E' word. Yay. But Bookman looks up and believes it is a fait accompli. I say that the attitude is just the first step. Two presidencies from today, give me a call.

Posted by mbowen at 07:32 AM | TrackBack

Good News from Iraq

From Najaf, the city of the holy shrine we spared destruction, comes this good news.

The leader of the largest Shiite Muslim group that opposed Saddam Hussein said Tuesday that a democratic government should rule Iraq, days after he advocated a "modern Islamic regime."

"Neither an Islamic government nor a secular administration will work in Iraq but a democratic state that respects Islam as the religion of a majority of the population," Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim said at a news conference Tuesday.

Posted by mbowen at 07:21 AM | TrackBack

April 29, 2003

Where's the Bomb?

The battle cry of weenies everywhere goes a little something like that, as if they were promised weapons of mass destruction for breakfast and were disappointed with oatmeal. The cruel gruel is torture kids, and Iraqis have been eating it for decades. Here are a few quick hits: Also, this story is irresistably funny to me. It reminds me of an extreme sports blooper reel.
Posted by mbowen at 07:17 AM | TrackBack

April 25, 2003

Crude Calculations

Let's imagine the worst. Say GWBush is only in Iraq because he's an oil man and all he wants is to use the power of America to grab as much oil from Iraq as possible. Does it add up? I'm looking at a great site with facts and figures about Iraqi oil, and am considering at length the 'crude' calculations: what does America have to do to get it for itself? We have spent at least 65 Billion during the hostilities and may yet spend another 10 on humanitarian aid. Can an economic case be made for war for oil profits?

According to the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES), problems at Iraqi oil fields include: years of poor oil reservoir management; corrosion problems at various oil facilities; deterioration of water injection facilities; lack of spare parts, materials, equipment, etc.; damage to oil storage and pumping facilities; and more. MEES estimates that Iraq could reach production capacity of 4.2 million bbl/d within three years at a cost of $3.5 billion, and 4.5-6.0 million bbl/d within seven years.

As of October 2002, Iraq reportedly had signed several multi-billion dollar deals with foreign oil companies mainly from China, France, and Russia. Deutsche Bank estimates $38 billion total on new fields -- "greenfield" development -- with potential production capacity of 4.7 million bbl/d if all the deals come to fruition (which Deutsche Bank believes is highly unlikely). Iraq reportedly has become increasingly frustrated at the failure of these companies actually to begin work on the ground, and has threatened to no longer sign deals unless firms agreed to do so without delay. Iraqi upstream oil contracts generally require that companies start work immediately, but U.N. sanctions overwhelmingly have dissuaded companies from doing so. In 1992, Iraq announced plans to increase its oil production capacity to over 6.3 million bbl/d following the lifting of U.N. sanctions. This plan, which was to be accomplished in three phases over a five-year period, assumed billions of dollars worth of foreign investment. Much of the production was to come from giant fields in the south (Halfaya, Majnoon, Bin Umar, West Qurna), plus the Mishrif reservoir (Luhais, North and South Rumaila, Zubair, etc.), East Baghdad, and others.

So here's my preliminary assessment. It's not worth the 70 Billion.

Right now Iraq's best case operating production is about 2 million barrels a day. Assuming they export 84% of their oil and consume the rest, that gives them approximately 15 Billion dollars in revenue per year, not counting what it costs for them to get it out of the ground and into the hands of buyers.

Let's just assume that it magically comes out of the ground for free and that with no further investment, they can increase their output by 25% per year. At the end of 6 years there will be just short of 175 Billion in oil revenue.

Let us further assume that the 38 Billion in deals Saddam did with China, Russia and France amount to absolutely zip. That is to say America masterminds a way to keep their hands out of it and it all goes to Exxon. Well what is 'it' anyway? Exxon doesn't get all the oil revenue. They have to buy rights to drill and pump and refine and all that. But let's say they make a deal with the new Iraqi oil minister who turns out to be a pure puppet. Exxon gets half of the oil revenues for all of the oil from all of the oilfields in Iraq. Fat chance right? Well, we're just supposing.

That means at the end of 6 years, Exxon will have scooped out 86 Billion of oil money out of poor old Iraq. Now they pay their taxes to Uncle Sam. Companies like Exxon always pay their fair share right? OK - top tax bracket 40%.

Expense made for one month of war: 70 Billion dollars
Tax Revenues from Exxon over 6 years: 35 Billion dollars
The wrath of China, Russia, France, the Arab World and the American taxpayer: Priceless

Hmm. There must be another reason for this war.

Posted by mbowen at 05:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

I note with some satisfaction that empire is on more and more lips.
If a Martian historian with Methuselah's life span devoted himself to observing from afar the broad patterns of human activity over the past millennium, he would see an explosion of energy in the British Isles from the 16th century onward. In particular, between the early 1600s and the 1950s more than 20 million people emigrated from Britain and settled in other lands. The British also developed dense patterns of trade with such faraway areas as India and Africa. Only a few of them emigrated to those countries, yet they reshaped them in line with their own practices.

  • Tariq Aziz remains my favorite Iraqi. I am hopeful that he works out a deal with the US and possibly gets a role in new government. He will come with a load of information to dump on Americans.
  • China is going to have to decide which side it is on. North Korea is the catalyst. I think they will side with us.
  • The NFLI looks to be a new troublemaker in Iraq. They've already tried to kill Chalabi.
  • The State Department last year funded six Iraqi opposition groups. This is actually rather amazing. These are diplomatic Contras. This 'Iraq Liberation Act' of 1998 has allowed them to finesse the laws against recognizing, let alone militarily funding governments in exile.

Posted by mbowen at 07:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 24, 2003

American Muslims Go To Hell

I'm perplexed by a question I would like someone of Islamic faith to explain. That is quite simply, is America such an evil place that the light of Allah cannot shine here? Are American Muslims destined to fall into disfavor of their God? In other words, isn't the call for an Islamic state merely one of convenience?

What kind of Islam cannot stand the rigors of secular rule, and what kind of Muslim cannot bear its tribulations?

On the other hand, there are some with a more reasonable position.

Posted by mbowen at 10:36 PM | TrackBack

April 20, 2003

MET Alpha

The NYT seems to finally have gotten close to something like a smoking gun. Stay tuned. Let us listen to what Ritter, Butler and Blix have to say about them.

I'm not particularly comforted that the UN Security Council is unbiased and that their independent confirmation of American discoveries are inherently useful. Still. I will reserve judgement until I have a closer inspection of the International Red Cross' Humanitarian values FAQ.

Posted by mbowen at 11:51 PM | TrackBack

Fisk, Briefly

"The people who came in here knew what they wanted. These were not random looters," Donny George, the director general of Iraq's state board of antiquities, said Wednesday in front of the museum as he held up four glass cutters - red-handled with inch-long silver blades - that he found on the floor of the looted museum.

This report blunts some of Fisk's latest pregnant questions.

When I first heard of Fisk, it was through a documentary I heard in Houston in which he launched into a fascinating deconstruction of Western journalism. He came with a sufficient amount of historical information to run circles around the recycled rhetoric of that which has come to characterize the endless droning on the Middle East. This was refreshing, and so I heard him out. Of the few anti-Israeli arguments I heard, few sounded as brutally honest as Fisk's recounting various acts againsts civilians.

Later, I have come to find him villified as chief 'idiotarian' by less charitable denizens of west blogistan. But I can't say that anything he said irked me until recently. It wasn't Fisk nor was it a particular reaction to Fisk, but just the general slippery rhetoric laden with lumps of historical facts that I find irritating.

So I'm a bit miffed about this whole looting focus and his role in giving the story legs. I comment a bit more over in Vision Circle.

Posted by mbowen at 11:30 PM | TrackBack

April 13, 2003

The CNN Thing

The prison in question is at the General Security Services headquarters, which was inspected by my team in Jan. 1998. It appeared to be a prison for children toddlers up to pre-adolescents whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually I'm not going to describe what I saw there because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace.
-- Scott Ritter, September 2002

Well, that was actually enough for me. The blogosphere seems to be falling all over itself trying to make something out of CNNs recent confession, as if they were shilling for Saddam. Eason Jordan sounds reasonable in his explanation.

The truth is that we don't want to know. Our hearts are too big. It would make us responsible for others. By the Fourth of July, Iraq will be on page 20. Ritter has said some interesting things that I'm going to review over at Vision Circle. In retrospect, a lot of things are becoming clear.

Posted by mbowen at 12:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 06, 2003

Eye on Chalabi

Ahmad Chalabi is the man in the middle. Chances are that you've not heard of him before, but after this conflict is over, you will hear more and more. An early start beats fast running. Here are a few things I've been able to dig up. The Perlez article will cost you money but the interviews are priceless. Read them before they get destroyed.

Chalabi & Jordan

In "The Washington Times," editor-at-large Arnaud de Borchgrave, currently also with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, discusses Iraqi National Congress (INC) chief Ahmad Chalabi, who some view as a potential post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi leader. De Borchgrave says Chalabi's detractors argue he has only known "comfortable exile, first in Jordan, then in Britain," and is ill-suited to the rigorous test that would await him leading a postwar Iraq. De Borchgrave also points put that on 9 April 1992, Chalabi was sentenced "to 22 years hard labor by a Jordanian state security court on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds, and speculation with the Jordanian dinar" for his actions as founder and head of Petra Bank, Jordan's third-largest. At the time of the sentencing, Chalabi "had already skipped across the border to Syria."

Chalabi denies the charges "and claims jealous royal courtiers framed him." But de Borchgrave says Petra Bank undeniably failed, "and some $300 million in depositors' accounts had suddenly vanished." He says Jordan's ruling establishment "does not look forward to a Chalabi-run Iraq, propped up by the U.S. military." However, considering Jordan's "total dependence on Iraqi oil, it's a safe bet that a President Ahmad Chalabi would receive a royal pardon in Jordan."

Chalabi & Neocon Hawks

In Washington, Team Chalabi is led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, the neoconservative strategist who heads the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. Chalabi's partisans run the gamut from far right to extremely far right, with key supporters in most of the Pentagon's Middle-East policy offices -- such as Peter Rodman, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Michael Rubin. Also included are key staffers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, not to mention Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.

Chalabi on Saddam

Saddam's regime is of a similar nature. In Iraq, Saddam has control over the security services, the army, and he has a complete monopoly on instruments of violence. He has complete control over any foreign exchange, any money that comes to Iraq. He also has total and absolute mastery of the media. Every newspaper in Iraq, every day, has on the front page a picture of Saddam, without a caption. He is just there--like the sun, he always shines. He is there. So people know that Saddam is omnipotent and omnipresent. Every significant public space in Iraq has a huge mural of Saddam in every garb--Saddam the great leader, Saddam the Kurd, Saddam in Arab dress, Saddam with a feather in his hat. All these things are displayed.

And also Saddam demonstrates his control by spending billions of dollars to build new palaces, while he claims the children of Iraq are starving. And he says, "I, Saddam, am more important in my trappings of mastery of you than the food for your children." There are details of how this happens.

Saddam has divided the armed forces of Iraq into broadly three structures, which are separate--in concentric circles--they don't join. The regular arm is weak, hungry and ill clothed. They have no ammunition. They have old equipment, and they are deployed on the periphery of the country. They cannot get near the capital. Then there are the Republican Guards, who are better off than the army, but also they cannot enter the capital. And in the capital only, there is the Special Republican Guards. . . . And they are an urban control force.

Posted by mbowen at 10:48 PM

March 31, 2003

From Russia With Envy

Rumsfeld is crafting a victory in the geopolitical realm which may be divorced from reality on the ground. The Russians are giving us information that helps us see the difference. I have recently discovered a couple of very interesting sites that are giving me the kind of detailed information that I crave, but don't tell Ashcroft.

The first and foremost is Venik's Aviation. He's blogging the best he can and boy does he come up with the details.

American troops continue massing near Karabela. As was mentioned in the previous update, the US group of forces in this area numbers up to 30,000 troops, up to 200 tanks and up to 230 helicopters. Latest photos of this area suggest that the [US] troops are busy servicing and repairing their equipment and setting up the support infrastructure.

According to radio intercepts, the coalition commander Gen. Tommy Franks has visited the US forces near Karabela. He personally inspected the troops and had a meeting with the unit commanders. Currently no information is available about the topics discussed during the meeting. However, it is believed that the [coalition] commander listened to the reports prepared by the field commanders and formulated the main objectives for the next 2-3 days.

The current technical shape of the coalition forces was discussed during the meeting at the coalition central headquarters. During a personal phone conversation with another serviceman in the US one participant of this meeting called this technical state "depressing". According to him "...a third of our equipment can be dragged to a junk yard right now. We are holding up only thanks to the round-the-clock maintenance. The real heroes on the front lines are not the Marines but the "ants" from the repair units. If it wasn't for them we'd be riding camels by now..." [Reverse-translated from Russian]

I've seen nothing like that to date. But Venik isn't the only site that provides some interesting analysis in English. There is also the specially built warblog War In Iraq. The transalation is not quite as good, but the message gets through. What I find especially useful at this site in its efforts to spin against the Allies, is that the perspective is a bit more elevated than the mendacity of the pacifists' poster children. Here you have actual military analysts with a bit more credibility than American ex-military with political axes to grind.

I seem to have lost the story in which some authorities of some sort commented on the oft-quoted failure of the seige of Leningrad, but also of Bagdad itself. Apparently it has never been taken in all of human history.

Now here's a new word. History. We haven't been looking at history much here in the US outside of Vietnam and GW1. Reading Russian websites brings Chechnya immediately to mind. No doubt there are ugly memories in Russian military minds about their own conflicts with muslim militants. Surely the Russians have not bothered to be as meticulous as we are attempting in their battles, but why should American generals listen to Russians who crashed and burned in Afghanistan where we made quick work of the Taliban in our demi-war?

Posted by mbowen at 09:29 PM | TrackBack

March 23, 2003

Ones to Watch

Ones to Watch. 
Posted by mbowen at 09:08 PM | TrackBack

Just a Schmuck

Here's a story I won't soon forget.

I wanted to join the human shields in Baghdad because it was direct action which had a chance of bringing the anti-war movement to the forefront of world attention. It was inspiring: the human shield volunteers were making a sacrifice for their political views - much more of a personal investment than going to a demonstration in Washington or London. It was simple - you get on the bus and you represent yourself.

So he learns first hand from an Iraqi that he's been a naive dupe, or better yet

I was shocked when I first met a pro-war Iraqi in Baghdad - a taxi driver taking me back to my hotel late at night. I explained that I was American and said, as we shields always did, "Bush bad, war bad, Iraq good". He looked at me with an expression of incredulity.

As he realised I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime. Until then I had only heard the President spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family.

It scared the hell out of me. First I was thinking that maybe it was the secret police trying to trick me but later I got the impression that he wanted me to help him escape. I felt so bad. I told him: "Listen, I am just a schmuck from the United States, I am not with the UN, I'm not with the CIA - I just can't help you."

Posted by mbowen at 09:04 PM | TrackBack

March 13, 2003

Least Favored Nation

"There is no end to what a man can accomplish so long as he does not care who gets the credit."
--Robert W. Woodruff

The problem is timing, you see. Everyone agrees with our direction. Many quarrel with our degree of severity. A few just don't like that it's us, of all people. But almost everyone disagrees with the Bush timetable. Let's forget for the moment, that GW and company are more arrogant than a pack of hyenas and somewhat less diplomatic. How about a schedule?

I propose that every 7 years, the United Nations and anybody else who cares about the state of the planet, elect a least favored nation. Halfway into the cycle, the international community wallops the dictator chosen last go round, or celebrates the triumph of reform. Just like the Olympics. The problem is dictatorships, this should be obvious.

I'm clearly not the first person to suggest that dictators can be ranked. Nor does it take any great intelligence to know one when you see one. The trick is how do you get the world to sidle alongside so one isn't percieved as unilateral. Easy. Schedule the hostilies 7 years in advance. Most dictators hang around too long, and they don't listen up. Chances are when they are elected by the International Dictator's Tribunal, if they are ruthless enough, they'll still be around when the world's patience is officially scheduled to end.

Ganging up on poor defenseless dictators can be a wonderful sport. I think everyone will try to outdo each other to send troops of liberation. It could transform war as we know it. Who would dare stand in defiance of the considered opinion of the world, when they are willing to unleash the big, bad Americans on them with all diplomatic bona fides? This is the way to keep the Empire.


Posted by mbowen at 08:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 08, 2003

Murder By Numbers

In the matter of civilian casualties, OxBlog gives us a number of figures to consider. Those of you who read up in Cobb, know that I've set the radar at 1 lynch factor which equals 3,000 lives, the approximate number of African Americans lynched between the failure of Reconstruction and the triumph of justice. That's also approximately the number dead on both sides from the intifada since 1968 as we keep counting them off, busload by busload in the census of inexorable human butchery.

I cannot recall any figures for heart disease, but here are some for women. I'm not sure how many people die of drowning every year, but here's a great page on mortality due to bizzare twists of fate. So according to these statistics, even if I was a Kosovar during Clinton's bombing or an Afghan during GWBush's bombing, I'd be more at risk drowning by accident than being a casualty of American Aggression. Small comfort if you own a swimming pool.

But let's leave aside the freak accidents and stare down the barrel of hostility. In 2000, there were 16,765 homicides in these great United States. That's a right fat number. As much as we fear muggers and crooks, most Americans don't worry too much about being murdered, yet a good number of us are murdered. So what of this character Saddam and his Ba'ath party? Even though OxBlog cites 'em I want to go directly to Human Rights Watch's numbers. How about killing off 190,000 folks in a decade?  This is the kind of stuff that is difficult to read through, especially if you don't want to know. I don't want to know, and I don't want to be responsible. But now that I know.. well, now I know.

Several weeks ago, I asked the rhetorical question whether or not the world will accept this imperial show. I wondered out loud if Saddam, of all the nasty bastards on the planet, and Iraq of all the gawdawful spots in the world, were the right targets for our first venture. Perhaps I am waiting for the right person to do the right thing in consideration of the fact the GWBush is wrong for just about everything which calls for an intelligent command of the oratory worthy of free world leadership. I want my emperor to be kingly, and why oh why did I get GW? Do you hear me pissing and moaning?

Yet if I could stop for a minute and start dealing with the hideous facts of the matter on the ground in Iraq (and probably a half dozen other horrible places), I wonder if I would mind so much if my president is Shrek instead of a Handsome Prince. I'm a policy snob in the face of Saddam's clear and present danger. Not to me, to Iraqis. It's not about me.

Since it is not about me, and a busybody neighbor is better than an abusive parent, I have to concede the fact that an ugly rescue is better than benign neglect. I feel that our geopolitical snobbery and posing are pretty worthless right about now, and the fact that we have to wheedle our way around the diplomatic chicanery of the UN and everyplace else is only necessitated by a failure of brotherhood and an ignoble squeamishness which is not rescued by our well-meant outrage at Bush's mendacity. I do believe in class warfare.That means noblesse on our part and revolt by the Shi'a.

The focus of the world is on Saddam Hussein. WMD or no, Iraqis are hopeless without our intervention. Now is the time for action, political snobs be damned. No matter how physically wreckless we may be, and I have a strong feeling that we won't be, this war is better happening than not. No matter how diplomatically wreckless we have been, and I know for damned sure that we have been, those are only words and hard feelings, but they're not lives. Lives are more important than words.

Let's go kick some ass and not worry so much about collateral damage.

Posted by mbowen at 09:13 PM | TrackBack

March 03, 2003

GWBush, Spendthrift

I can recall the brilliant part of Powell's book, or something I read of his reflections, that explained why Clinton was so wrong about Bosnia simply because he was so late. Drezner drudges up that vague memory this early morning, and bucks me up a bit.

These "conservative hawks" supported the [Clinton] administration even though they also -- justifiably -- disagreed about process and planning matters. If you read, Richard Holbrooke, David Halberstam, or Samantha Power, it's clear that the Clinton foreign policy team took far too long to act in Bosnia. When they did act, it was in a largely ad hoc manner to avoid the shame of deploying U.S. forces to cover a withdrawal of French and British peacekeepers. In the case of Kosovo, there was such a lack of consensus about the means that Clinton decided on his pledge not to use ground troops a few hours before his televised speech in response to an offhand comment from an ex-NSC staffer. Altruism and democracy promotion were not high up on the priority list.

I dredge all of this up not to argue that the Bush team is better than the Clinton team, but rather to point out that crafting foreign policy is like making a sausage -- you really don't want to know exactly how they do it, but the end result is usually pretty tasty. The interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo were not the result of carefully crafted decisions in line with an overarching philosophy of foreign relations -- they were messy and clumsy and, in the end, did much more good than harm.

Yes, yes but they were late. We would all do well to remember Srebernica, the city under seige that the UN security guards with Americans on the scene did nothing to save.  8,000 is 2.5 nine-elevens. We stood by and watched, and this was what got under Powell's fingernails.

I am somewhat beyond bashing GW Bush. It's not that I can't stand him so much, but that he may be destroying the Empire for the sake of Iraq. We might be fortunate and find some other corner of the globe in need of assistance, South America or West Africa for example, if we completely flub Iraq and North Korea. But GW doesn't have the strategic view, and never has, and a White House running on the egos of Rumsfeld et al is unbecoming. GW Bush cannot perform the Reagan trick. The world won't fall for it again, not after Clinton's rhetorical brilliance. Bush cannot play cowboy and be emperor at the same time; even if it were a good idea, he's incapable. That leaves us with dozens of foreign leaders who cannot be seduced, Colin Powell overburdened, and GW left with only the blunt weapons money and guns to achieve global diplomacy. It's a weakness that we cannot prolong no matter which direction the war goes.

Diplomacy may be sausage-making, and we may be looking too closely at GW. Saddam is a bad-guy who is one of the most appealing bullseyes in the world. Everyone would like his head on a plate, yet GW is making a hash of that order.

Drezner may be right. When Mandela was finally freed, the celebration was so great that many folks forgot how controversial was America's policy of 'Constructive Engagement' in the midst of a world of boycotts. The Administration would do well to keep up the pressure and allow more water to pass under the bridge. Sooner or later, the world will come around, but not if we anger them too much now for the sake of expediency.

Posted by mbowen at 09:12 PM | TrackBack

March 01, 2003

Recap on Iraq

While I have never been willing to follow GW into battle, I have given my tacit support to the decapitation of Saddam. But as time passes by and more and more things go wrong, it's getting to the point at which I can't see this being a good thing at all. Not because the goal is not admirable, but because the players on our team are so wreckless.

We are fast approaching the point at which a great deal is at risk with repercussions far beyond the battlefield, and the Bush administration is isolating itself for the sake of a goal which is slowly slipping beyond its grasp. To establish the world beating military hegemony administration wonks desire at the cost of great amounts of diplomatic goodwill is not worth it. We can be pinpricked to death, and a living hell of American life can very well be accomplished. Anyone with a memory of the days when Americans made films about bad guys on motorcycles should recall what it was like to feel the kind of paranoia we may be subjecting ourselves to. The entire national psyche can revert to the days of malaise.

There are any number of scenarios in which too many American soldiers get the bad end of a bad war. If we don't win with overwhelming decisiveness, the entire Mexican Bus strategy will fail, that is unless we are immediately ready to take on Korea. Even if we did take on Korea, is that really what we ought to be doing, so soon? GW is making us look like a petulant nation, one that cannot absorb any downside and one that won't take any downtime.

There seems to be no subtlety left here, nor anyone left to impress except the Iraqi people themselves. That's pathetic.

  • The AQ Mastermind is Caught
  • The Turks Double Crossed Us
  • The Koreans Are Blackmailing Us
  • The Shuttle Exploded
  • NATO is Crumbling
  • The Army Resents Rumsfeld
  • The UN is Spied On
  • The Protests Continue
  • Civil Liberties are Continually Attacked

Is this any way to run an Empire? For what? 3,000 lives? It's preposterous. Somebody needs to slow this train down. We're headed in the right direction, but too fast and on a dangerous track.


Posted by mbowen at 09:19 PM | TrackBack

February 27, 2003

Barlow on Cheney - The Wackjob Empire

Ahh. I do love being right. John Perry Barlow writes:

Veteran Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory accompanied me on one of my futile visits to his office, where she spent better than an hour listening to us argue about circular errors probable and MIRV decoys and the other niceties of nuclear nightmare. When we were leaving, she, who had seen a lot of politicians in her long day, turned to me and said, I think your guy Cheney is the most dangerous person Ive ever seen up here. At that point, I agreed with her. What I was not thinking about, however, was the technique I once used to avoid being run off the road by Mexican bus drivers, back when their roads were narrower and their bus drivers even more macho. Whenever I saw a bus barrelling down the centerline at me, I would start driving unpredictably, weaving from shoulder to shoulder as though muy borracho. As soon as I started to radiate dangerously low regard for my own preservation, the bus would slow down and move over. As it turned out, this is more or less what Cheney and his phalanx of Big Stategic Thinkers were doing, if one imagined the Soviet Union as a speeding Mexican bus. They were determined to project such a vision of implacable, irrational, lethality that the Soviet leaders would decide to capitulate rather than risk universal annihilation. It worked. While I think that rock n roll and the systemic failures of central planning had as much to do with the collapse of communism as did Dicks mad gamble, I have to confess that, by 1990, he didnt look quite so nuts to me after all. The MX, along with Star Wars and Reagans terrifying rhetoric, had been all along a weapon for waging psychological rather than nuclear warfare.

Im starting to wonder if were arent watching something like the same strategy again. In other words, its possible Cheney and company are actually bluffing.This time, instead of trying to terrify the Soviets into collapse, the objective is even grander. If Im right about this, they have two goals. Neither involves actual war, any more than the MX missile did.

First, they seek to scare Saddam Hussein into voluntarily turning his country over to the U.S. and choosing safe exile or, failing that, they want to convince the Iraqi people that its safer to attempt his overthrow or assassination than to endure an invasion by American ground troops.

Posted by mbowen at 08:23 AM | TrackBack

February 06, 2003

War Assessment Update

I caught about a half hour of Powell's testimony on tape. He sounded exactly like himself. Reasonable with a capital R. At the moment, I feel the need to go and list all of the UN resolutions on Iraq ask the question, how much does Iraq violate, let me count the ways. I imagine it would be a large number.

There isn't much question that Iraq has no intention of compliance. This is what has changed in my perspective. Yet knowing that, I still find Bush's reasoning to be weak. So I'm still going to play 'blame Bush' and criticize him, while praising Powell.

The way I see it is thusly: Bush, having been led by the nose by his chickenhawks is now in material breach of his campaign promise "No Nation Building!". As I've said before, my problem with Bush is that his foreign policy stinks, he's not a proper emperor and he is not leading us towards proper empire. He did not differentiate between the War on Terror (which should be properly an international police action and shared intelligence operation, which by the way are we still doing with the French? Of course we are.) and the Shooting War against Iraq. This is a consequence of not having a strong vision of the world, and now the overkill in the hired hawk department from Rice to Rumsfeld has got him in a bind.

Some folks have suggested that Blix should have been on the recieving end of the kind of intelligence declassified for Powell's speech. No way. That would have given everyone yet another excuse to say that the US is acting unilaterally by tweaking the process. Blix' independence is crucial. But knowing that Blix would not come up with the type and quality of intelligence that we have should have tipped the White House into setting up different parameters for the case for militancy. A six month rope for Saddam to hang himself would have been preferable to the expectation forced on Blix to find a smoking gun. We know Saddam has the gun, and we know that with Blix in country, he couldn't procede forward with any loading of that gun or building of another, so why build up the unilateral military buildup and provoke the Security Council? I think that is a consequence of not letting Powell lead. Then again Powell has his job to do, and he did a fine job of moving the White House from 'regime change' to 'disarmament'.

Obviously this was a compromise that Rumsfeld probably took spitting and cursing. I see him as the man pushing materiel and troops to the Gulf. So now we are playing hurry-up and spending money on readiness that may or may not have international support. We knew Iraq would defy, that's why 1441 was created. The trap would have been enough, and it still is enough, without the provocations of the White House hawks. And now that it's clear that Saddam is indeed defiant, where we could have and should have had unanimity, now we don't. I'm saying that the White House war rhetoric has given all self-respecting nations no wiggle room and made them uncomfortable with their own UN resolution. We could have just shutup.

There's really no excuse here, because we have shutup about Iran and Korea. I don't know about you but I was rather shocked when that Korean ship was let go. The White House position?

"There is no provision under international law prohibiting Yemen from accepting delivery of missiles from North Korea," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "While there is authority to stop and search, in this instance there is no clear authority to seize the shipment of Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen. Therefore, the merchant vessel is being released."

Yike. Scud missiles go to Yemen? The same Yemen as this?

Cole was in the Yemini port for a refueling stop when a small boat laden with explosives was detonated beside the ship, blasting a hole in its side. Following the attack in which 17 Sailors were killed and 39 were injured, Cole was returned to the U.S.

So what's Yemen got that lets them have Scuds, while we chase down Iraqi Scuds? I don't get it.

Posted by mbowen at 08:11 AM | TrackBack

January 27, 2003

Paging April Glaspie

I was lazy yesterday, and my laziness will make me look like an idiot. So I don't have citations to back up my claim that I finally figured out the reason for the Bush Administration's arrogance on Iraq, even though linking in the blogosphere is child's play. Ok so demote me from Bro to Poindexter.

Part of this was Condi's recent argument published in theNYT that they know Saddam is lying. Then I discovered someplace else, some brit I think, that in the 80s, Rummy used to be an attache to Saddam. And suddenly it becomes clear. We know that Saddam has WMD because we armed him. To make that patently clear would require an embarrassing inquiry.

OK so now I'll do a little linking. How about this on April Glaspie? OK, now how about this one on July 25th 1990?. Mind you, I'm not reading all that crap. I'm just inferring that if the general public doesn't speak about April Glaspie (as if she were Lord Voldemort), then it will be more difficult for us to make sense of our insistence on the go-ahead. It makes perfect sense to give as much credibility as possible to Hans Blix, but we already know what we know.

This brings up an interesting question about the redaction of Saddam's own report. A cookbook for terrorism is hardly a good excuse. Any idiot with a ChemE can cook up a bunch of Ricin. It's growing the 'nads to set off the bomb that we ought to worry about. That being the case, what if Saddam, not a complete idiot, decided to put in a goodly amount of propaganda into his compliance report? Something indicting the US with complicity and sanction of Iraq's weaponry. Imagine that Saddam said, hey remember that guy Richard Secord from Iran - Contra? Iraq was 'country two', we got our chemical weapons in exchange for some infromation about Iran that we got during that war when America was on our side. Here's the Bill of Lading. Oooh, that would sting.

So while I'm just happy to be an American citizen, relatively safe from American weapons of mass destruction, I'm not going to get bogged down in generating conspiracy theories. It simply makes plain sense to me, and is a matter of record, that we ought to know a bit more than Hans Blix can discover about certain weapons in Saddam's arsenal, because we were responsible for selling him some.

Don't look at me, I'm not an investigative journalist. I'm too lazy to link, remember?

Posted by mbowen at 12:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 15, 2002

High Tech Lynching Only

arabs are not getting lynched. in fact, here in the states, nobody is getting lynched. america, in that regard, is almost civilized. i happen to think australia is civilized. jamaica is pretty civilized too. as regards the latter, somebody asked me (yay) in preparation for a paid (yay) marketing research thingy, whom would i hang out with in history. i decided that i would perform on stage with bob marley. so this week, if you catch me in my car that goes boom, it will be belting out reggae songs of peace, which always sound more credible to me than bob dylan's. australians are civilized because i don't perceive them as particularly belligerent, plus they really love animals. canadians, i am evaluating. i am particularly struck by the fact that canucks have about the same number of guns per capita as we do, but only a fraction of the gun crime.

in america, the hangin' tree has been replaced by the microphone and the camera. the posse of spin-doctors and ideological pundits (and i'll be damned if i dignify them with their own 'ocracy) slither around and dig up incredibly deep dirt and toss it into their media stew, served hot or cold 24/7 for two weeks. a story with legs has about two weeks until there can be a trite conclusion. as you think about it now that trent lott is spinning slowly on the media-rotisserie, my guess is that 1 in 50 of us thought about the washington sniper this past week. but i told you this.

the point of this installment of the blog is to point out that the african american task is just about complete, and trent lott's demise & clarence thomas' passion on cross burning are close to being some of the final milestones. but first, lemme tell you about a colleague of mine - from the archives:

damn, i can't find it. well, somewhere i'm sure i waxed eloquently about this kuwaiti sikh i worked with during the season of nine-eleven who had to take to wearing an oakland raiders baseball cap instead of his traditional turban. this was incredibly poignant to me and every time i saw him in that ridiculous cap i really wanted to sock somebody in the nose. first of all he wasn't muslim, much less a radical islamicist. second he was a kuwaiti, the guys we busted up iraq to defend. he wasn't lynched but he was scared. i seem to recall that somebody pitched a rock at his car, or perhaps i'm conflating the memory of a semi-veiled woman with a huge hole in her windshield whom i saw driving in pasadena.

when los angeles broke out in flames after the not guilty verdicts for wind, koon, briseno and powell, i wandered the midnight streets of brooklyn feeling the oddest sort of brotherhood with every black man in america. during the season of nine-eleven, that brotherhood stretched. i was down with the browns. i still am, of course, and with everyone else who has reason to be afraid of patriotic crowds and overzealous security forces i offer my experience as bitter comfort. when you grow up black in los angeles under darryl gates, you recognize the face of the police state. mind you it's just the face of fascism. well, it's got the arms too. yet, i have a strong feeling that men like johnny cochran would not be bothered with celebrity if we had the guts, legs and hobnail boots of a full bodied police state. yes i've been detained by cops about 30 times for no good reason, but i never got beat down. few people disappear here. it's horrid enough but it still ain't lynching - we've had lynching.

you brothers out there still stinging from pete wilson's take on asian superiority and knee-jerk reactionary whites who all of a sudden conceded yellow intelligence? here's your answer, because it's mine. try it sometime. the african american project was to make this nation of barbarians civilized enough to let asians in and thrive. whether we like it or not, blacks and civil rights are inextricably tied, as they were to human rights in the days of the whigs. the project is almost done, because almost anybody can come here from almost anywhere in the world and not get lynched. blacks bodies satiated the racist bloodlust of the american body politic. foreigners still get spit on, and they still have reason to be scared, as do gays and others america still considers misfit. but african america was too large to get ground to bits in the american sausage machine. we will survive it without fully assimilating because we fielded several classes, just as italians and germans and other europeans have and hispanics will. (remind me to tell you why i say 'hispanics' instead of latinos - it's that damnable richard rodriguez, he's right you know.)

nobody else is going to sing the blues like billie holiday. nobody else is going to rap the streets like whoever it is that's keeping it the realest this week. nobody else is going to amend the constitution and rock the supreme court like african americans. nobody else's plight is going to engender the support of so much fundamental nation-building. why, because somebody is going to have to nuke us back to the stone age before our infrastructure lets us backslide too far. yeah i hear you on reconstruction, but i'm more optimistic.

as i've said elsewhere, we go from human rights, to civil rights, to social power. eminem serves to remind us that there are more generations to come who will be in 2020 where harlem was in 1920. it is inevitable that they'll sing the african american songs. we made the military what it is. ok you get the picture.

so high-tech lynching is all arabs can expect. yeah there will be some chokeholds and some sleazy plea bargains and some intimidation tactics. maybe 10 will get maimed or shot under various ugly circumstances. surely several hundred will rot in jail for no good reason, and the majorities will be justifyably scared and resentful in public. trust us, we've been there.

the arab world will survive america, *in* america. it's the safest place to be.

Posted by mbowen at 07:14 PM | TrackBack

November 15, 2002

More Killing Each Other

remember 'constructive engagement'? this was reagan's
answer to the boycott of apartheid south africa. people like me said
sell american products until the nationalists are out. people like george
schultz said, the influence of american corporations are positive, they
should stay. people like me said, i want to support anybody in opposition
to the nationalists. george schultz said, if you send money to south africa,
you could be supporting a terrorist organization and we can throw you
in jail after a secret trial. people like me said, you make me sick to
my stomach, george, but i aint going to jail to get nelson out of jail.
i was hamstrung, and so were you. so i decided to support constructive
engagement with the following rationale: the corrupt american presence
will accellerate the popular revolt, sell more big macs!

it's very difficult to be a global citizen if your actions
are limited by the state department of an evil administration. ahh the
clarity of youth. the bottom line is that if you're not ross perot it
makes little sense to think globally, because you can't act globally,
not even a little bit. transgressing against the lines set down by the
foreign policy of your own government makes you, especially these days,
essentially a terrorist. this is how we define terrorism / freedom fighting
/ warlording / cartelling. if you don't use the national army (or the
national bank, or the national spy agency), you run afoul of the international
order. it's a national thing.

so you can see how appealing it becomes to retreat into
organicism. i mean who wants to be a crusading american bourgie globalist?
for all i know, south africans might actually think like mark mathabene.
scary, but possible. when you lose the ability to distinguish yourself
from the average american consumer / voter / suburban demographic al-qaeda
target it's a terrible thing. it's like liking just one song from donna
summers' 'bad girls' album and being considered responsible for all of

here's where senseless death and multiculturalism come
in. if you wear a red white and blue flag on your left shoulder and kill
me on orders of gw, then you are a killer protected by national policy.
if you wear a black and white scarf over your head and kill me on orders
of arafat, you are a killer protected by international liberal sentiment.
if you wear baggy pants and kill me on order of tupac shakur, you are
a killer protected by west coast gangsta rap. if you wear whatever you
wear and kill me for no apparent reason at all, you are a killer protected
by whatever defense you can muster at trial. the reason you kill me has
nothing to do with your level of protection. it's simply a numbers game.
more people are likely to sympathize with american national policy than
international liberal sentiment on down the line to your personal insanity.
let me state the obvious: killing me would be a tragedy of world historical
proportion. depending on which regime of truth you can credibly invoke,
your chances for survival of murder charges vary widely.

Posted by mbowen at 07:38 AM | TrackBack

November 14, 2002

Let Them All Kill Each Other

this is the appropriate attitude for feudalists like myself. if you are somewhat anti-imperialist, then you must agree with me. the problem is that i kinda like the idea of an american empire. don't you? i mean if you believe in global justice and human rights for everyone, and you believe like mlk an injustice anywhere and all that, you're a globalist. only bourgie folks have the luxury, and face it, you're bourgie. yes you are, you buy clothes that you hope will express your personality, therefore you are bourgie, and likely to become a pompous ass. i readily admit to being a pompous ass, and what blogger is not? but i'm not so bourgie as you. i don't even wash my car.

i'm a recovering organic. an organic is basically a person like harrison ford in 'the mosquito coast'. somebody who is painfully conscious of their usage of consumer products. an organic is an acquirer of skills as opposed to brickabrak. macguyver is the patron saint of organics. we hate designer labels, we'd rather learn guitar than pretend to like r.e.m., we despise people who are incredibly demanding of waiters and can't boil water. organic women, despite their similarity to janeane garofalo would never be a *fan*. i am not so organic as i used to be. why? in a word, wal-mart. but that's another story.

the point is that if you are a distributed fuedalist in anticipation of dyson's utopia, or at the very least, fascinated by stephenson's concepts of philes, then you understand the value of a healthy skeptical distance between yourself and your more brutal global neighbors. on the other hand, if you nourish hopes for esparanto, java and the global village, then you want an american empire and robocop. and of course, you probably think gw is doing a good job. on my side of the fence, where there is still room for lapsed organics, you hope for the prospects of a *good* al-quaida at best, like medecines san frontiers, a kind of decentralized backpacking civil troupe, and you scour the web for 100 people who can stand you.

now the conflict is that organics have no refrigerator pals. sure we have vpns and anonymous peer networks, but we don't have people whom we let walk in the front door and grab a beer out of our fridge. well we do, but that was back in college and now they live in des moines, oahu and the 19th arrondisment of paris. not likely to have a pta meeting with those folks. so this is where wal-mart comes in. but that's another story.

Posted by mbowen at 01:36 PM | TrackBack