The Belgravia Dispatch by GREGORY DJEREJIAN


More Cartoon Fun From Le Monde

Osama is saying: "It wasn't me?" The book's title, with Dubya's face interposed between the Towers, reads "The Real Culprit."

Note this cartoon is linked to a story that states that 19% of Germans think the U.S. was responsible for 9/11.

Classic hypocrisy. Put the revolting cartoon up in your nation's main paper but make it appear it's describing the German world-view (for more on that angle go here).

Oh, and doesn't the timing and prominent placement of this cartoon reveal, as well, the French elite's increasing discomfort with the burgeoning U.S.-German rapprochment?

posted by Gregory| 9/30/2003 10:31:00 PM

Cockburn's Scriveners

You knew it was coming.

What? A polemic titled "Does a Felon Rove the White House"?

Cute, isn't it?

posted by Gregory| 9/30/2003 10:07:00 PM

Scandal Watch

One of the fascinating aspects of unfolding scandals in the Beltway is surveying the breathtaking hypocrisy of the politicians carving out their partisan positions. The winner today, for me at least, has got to be Tom Daschle:

"Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader, said an outside counsel was vital. "The conflicts that would exist in the Justice Department are obvious," Mr. Daschle said. "John Ashcroft won't even go after Ken Lay. How will he possibly go after someone appointed, who appointed him as attorney general?"

Kenneth Lay, who was once friendly with President Bush, is the former chairman of the Enron Corporation, which collapsed amid allegations of corporate wrongdoing.

When a questioner noted that Democrats had opposed several calls for independent prosecutors during the Clinton administration, Mr. Daschle said, "We don't have confidence in John Ashcroft. I had confidence in Janet Reno."

Um, ok. But wait, the Enron Task Force is pretty busy. Ken Lay isn't sleeping easy just yet.

And more confidence in Janet Reno? Oh my.

Oh, and there is this too:

"One Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, said on Monday that the situation was reason enough to revive the independent counsel law, which Congress allowed to die in 1999 after widespread concern over Kenneth W. Starr's Whitewater investigation".

Here's what Lieberman was saying back in '99:

"I see the Starr investigation and some of what I would call its excesses as a reason, a basis for us to amend the law when, as I believe we should, we reenact it. For instance, I think we ought to narrow the number of high officials of our government who are subject to this investigation. We ought to -- independent counsel. We ought to raise the threshold a bit for when the counsel gets appointed." [my emphasis]

Put on your seatbelts. There' s a lot more of this on the way...

posted by Gregory| 9/30/2003 09:49:00 PM

White House Counsel's Email

Here's the text:

"PLEASE READ: Important Message From Counsel's Office

We were informed last evening by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee. The department advised us that it will be sending a letter today instructing us to preserve all materials that might be relevant to its investigation. Its letter will provide more specific instructions on the materials in which it is interested, and we will communicate those instructions directly to you. In the meantime, you must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation. Any questions concerning this request should be directed to Associate Counsels Ted Ullyot or Raul Yanes in the counsel to the president's office. The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation."
[my emphasis]

OK, so this debate (see "What Is Her Job") is moot--she was undercover--or Gonzalez is a really, really careless lawyer. I'm betting on the former (very obviously).

Meanwhile, Howard Kurtz has an interesting media roundup.

UPDATE: David Corn started the whole thing so his current take is worth checking out. This part stuck out at me (I'll explain why in a second):

"Scott," one reporter said, "the statement you gave about why there shouldn't be a special prosecutor was almost word for word what the Clinton people said in 1994 about why there shouldn't be a special prosecutor in Whitewater. Why should it stand now if it didn't stand then?" McClellan answered: "I just reject that comparison." The reporters laughed."

I was just watching CNN Int'l and saw footage of Dubya discoursing on the Plame affair. He said, and I think I've got the quote right, "If that person violated the law that person will be taken care of..."

It all sounds a bit like "no controlling legal authority" (Gore) or the myriad Clintonian tortured legalistic parsings.

C'mon Mr. President--you can do better. How 'bout "if anyone in my Administration revealed the identity of one of our undercover CIA agents they will immediately be relieved of their duties and I will urge that they are prosecuted to the maximum extent allowed by the law..."

Or something like that.

posted by Gregory| 9/30/2003 05:03:00 PM

Blair Watch

He's still in the driver's seat.

"Acknowledging he felt battered after 6 1/2 years in office and seeing growing dissent over his policies, Blair told the party's annual conference: ``So what do we do -- give up on it, or get on with it?''

Delegates gave him the response he wanted -- ``Get on with it!''

posted by Gregory| 9/30/2003 04:27:00 PM

Constitution Drafting

Can someone show this to the French?

And, even if you want to argue that sovereignty can be handed over before the Constitution is finalized, note this peril:

"Noureddine and other council members said a longer timetable to write the constitution should not result in a longer occupation. They rejected the Bush administration's view that a constitution and elections must precede a transfer of sovereignty, insisting that the issues should be separate.

Bush administration officials contend that if they transfer sovereignty before a constitution is drafted and a democratically elected government is seated, the interim political authority could prolong or subvert the process. "If a constitution has to be drafted before there can be a government, you bet we'll get a constitution," one U.S. official said."

It's smart to pressure the Iraqis to get the Constitution drafted before sovereignty is handed over. That way, we can at least ensure the Constitution contains "principles [of] federalism, democracy, nonviolence, a respect for diversity and a role for women."

Bremer takes pains to stress the document will be drafted by Iraqis. That's, of course, critical. But it's fair to at least monitor that the resulting document contain the above key principles/rights.

So the Constitution-writing process is likely going to prove messy, protracted and complex.

But the larger point is simply to pause and witness how such important debates, ideas, horse-trading etc. are playing out in the nascent Iraqi polity.

Delegates to a constitutional convention to be chosen by popular vote? Or the selection of "wise men" to ward off the dangers of crude Shi'a majoritarianism?

No, wait. How about:

"A compromise approach that appears to be gaining support is to hold caucuses in provinces where religious, political and tribal leaders could assemble and select a few delegates to represent them at the convention. The 250 or so delegates could be augmented with a few appointed members, particularly legal scholars and other academics, supporters of that approach said."

Caucuses? In Iraq? Who would have thought?

From the ashes of Saddam's totalilatarian regime, democracy is stirring. Fitfully, yes. In the midst of a dismal security situation in (one part) of the country, yes.

But progress is being made. Let all the Iraq nay-sayers continue to castigate Dubya for his foolhardy and reckless adventure.

But History's verdict is still very much at play. And I'm betting Dubya's big bet is yet going to pay off. He may yet create a functioning democracy in Mesopotamia. It's just going to take a while. And cost a lot in terms of blood and treasure. But the potential rewards are immense. So keep the faith. This was never going to be easy.

UPDATE: Go check out how Pat Tyler writes up the same story in the NYT. Might there be a "coalition efforts are floundering" kind of agenda at play here? Just asking.

posted by Gregory| 9/30/2003 12:33:00 AM


Pull a Clinton

Joe Klein has got some advice for Dubya. On a policy basis, given balooning deficits, Klein's ideas make sense. But the last thing Dubya wants is to risk another "read my lips" pledge-breaking imbroglio. So don't expect anything like this to happen.

posted by Gregory| 9/29/2003 01:02:00 PM

Valerie Plame

The WaPo provides the latest on this worrisome affair. BTW, my view on all this, at least at this stage, is pretty similar to this take.

UPDATE: So, it's not Karl Rove, right? (Or Scott McClellan is smoking lots of crack). Aside from Rove being the person Joe Wilson had fingered as the key culprit--it's interesting to see the Administration come out swinging defending Rove first. At this stage, I'd wager, Dubya needs Rove around more than, say, Cheney. It's getting rough out there....

ANOTHER UPDATE: Via Instapundit, this is a must-read.

posted by Gregory| 9/29/2003 09:02:00 AM


Prolific Priest

Much output from Dana Priest in the WaPo today. First, you have got this piece on intelligence shortcomings related to Iraqi WMD. Next, along with Mike Allen, Priest writes about the developing scandal related to the "outing" of Joe Wilson's wife.

On the latter, go see Tom Maguire and Josh Marshall. For what it's worth, my thoughts at this stage are to wait and see if the story is accurate. Next, discipline whatever individuals were involved--to the maximum extent allowed by the law--if the story ends up proving true.

But I think it's a tad early to speculate about whether it was Andy Card, Ari Fleischer (on the day of his departure), Karl Rove or Dan Bartlett who "outed" Mrs. Yellowcake. And let's certainly not start hyperventilating about impeachment of Dubya and the like. We're so far from that stage it's risible to even write about it in serious fashion.

And for the record, don't you find it pretty rich that some like Josh Marshall and Atrios are suggesting that the White House (rather than merely refer to matter to the Department of Justice) should just reveal the alleged leakers right off?

Josh Marshall must surely be thinking of the approach the Clinton White House took re: such matters, doubtless (and no, I'm not just talking of the Monica peccadillo, but several other scandals besides). Wait, I seem to recall that the Clinton White House was not, uh, exactly forthcoming about turning over the goods...

That said, Bush's White House should not be striving to approximate the ethical moorings of the Clinton White House. They must do better. And to "out" the professionally-employed CIA agent spouse of a retired government official who is making public information inconvenient to the Administration is gang-land style politics. It's reprehensible. But this story has many moving parts and nothing definitively damning is yet evidenced. Referring this over to DOJ is the right way to go at this stage. Patience.

On the first Priest story regarding intelligence shortcomings, I'm going to put aside the alleged shortcomings related to the links to al-Qaeda and the nuclear program. On the former, that wasn't one of the reasons that I favored going to war against Iraq. I felt the links between Baghdad and al-Qaeda were pretty de minimis (given the very differing world views of Saddam and Osama). So I'm not surprised to see that the intelligence was pretty weak in that area.

Likewise, on the nuclear angle, I never viewed Saddam's nuclear program as necessarily constituting an imminent threat and suspected a judicious reading of intelligence on Iraqi nukes would render people, if not sanguine, at least not pushing a preemptive war on that basis alone.

That's leaves the intelligence related to the chemical and biological weapons. Saddam's potential possession of chemical and biological WMD is always what concerned me--particularly post 9/11. We've all heard it before, but it's worth stressing yet again. Post 9/11, the possible nexus among transnational terror groups, rogue regimes and WMD forced a reappraisal of U.S. strategic policy.

If Saddam wasn't a madman, irrational demon, etc etc--he was at least a strategic blunderer. To allow such a leader, who has used chemical weapons against people in his own country (and who was commonly considered to still possess chemical and biological weapons capability by myriad intelligence services) to retain such a capability post 9/11 would have constituted (at least) negligence in terms of a government's national security obligations.

Now back to the Priest story. The money graf (in terms of the chem/bio angle at least):

"The absence of proof that chemical and biological weapons and their related development programs had been destroyed was considered proof that they continued to exist," the two committee members said in a letter Thursday to CIA Director George J. Tenet. The Washington Post obtained a copy this weekend.

Now, let me say right off that I have tremendous respect for Porter Goss. And so I don't take his comment on this lightly at all.

But let's analyze that sentence from the letter. Even if you end up agreeing with Goss' conclusions--they aren't that damning.

We all know Saddam possesed WMD at some stage (see Halabja, for instance). We didn't have conclusive proof that he had dismantled the program or destroyed his WMD weapons stockpiles. We knew how he had made a speciality of evading U.N. inspection schemes. Faced with these realities, given the post 9/11 strategic framework, the lack of compelling proof that the chem/bio capability had actually been dismantled didn't leave us with any easy policy options.

In other words, the burden of proof had shifted to those rogue states accused of possessing WMD. And Saddam failed to meet that burden.

Meanwhile, it's worth keeping in mind that collecting and appraising intelligence information is a highly imperfect science. And so to conclude that a threat existed, from a composite picture (no proof of destruction of the WMD and fragmentary indications of renewed activity, ie. possible mobile bioweapon labs) that a chem/bio capability existed doesn't strike me highly irresponsible. Indeed, it strikes me as just the opposite.

posted by Gregory| 9/28/2003 06:06:00 PM

Moral Bankruptcy Watch

An interesting read on the terrorist money trail.

Here's an insight into the amoral nature of terrorists fund-raisers we are dealing with:

"In one bizarre money-raising scheme, investigators discovered that Hezbollah financial leaders talked about taking out life insurance policies for operatives in Lebanon who would eventually carry out suicide bombings. The idea was to have family members tell the insurance company that the suicide bomber "had disappeared without a trace," an investigator said, and then try to collect on the policy."

Oh, and here's another reason to quit smoking:

"In Charlotte, N.C., last year, members of a Hezbollah cell were convicted of racketeering in a cigarette smuggling scam. Cigarettes purchased without paying state tax in North Carolina were trucked to Detroit, where they were resold, for cash. The cash was then sent to Lebanon, by courier or by mail. A photo introduced as evidence at the criminal trial showed several cell members sitting at a table overflowing with $20 and $100 bills."

posted by Gregory| 9/28/2003 09:35:00 AM

This is Actually Good News

Pat Tyler paints this as a pretty bad story, ie. the troop shortage (contra the Danielle Pletka's of the world) continues. But this is actually good news. Any of Indian (magnets for terror attacks), Turkish (dumb policy to allow troops of any neighboring countries in, too big a tempation for mischief) or Pakistani (more domestic strains on Musharraf, ISI troublemakers in the lot etc.) troops in Iraq would have likely proved detrimental rather than helpful to the U.S. in the middle to long term.

posted by Gregory| 9/28/2003 09:21:00 AM

Euro roundup

Lots of good Europe-related material around over the past few days--mostly specifically on the state of Euro-U.S. relations.

First, U.S.-Russian relations. I, like David Adesnik, had spotted the "deuling" NYT vs. WaPo headlines re: the results of Bush's summitry with Putin. But, reading the actual WaPo piece, one would see they were pretty much in agreement with the NYT's take. Regardless, the WaPo has updated their headline and story today with a Dana Milbank analysis of the summit. [Does Milbank get a bit carried away with the analysis of Putin's black turtleneck? Yeah, I think so]

As I suspected a few days back--Putin appears to still be getting a bit of a free pass on Russian assistance to Iran's nuclear reactor.

Second, a clarification from an earlier post (go to "Eurodefense Force Issue" section) where I might have downplayed, if to a small extent, the degree of U.S. discomfort regarding the establishment of an independent Euro-defense force. The key issue I neglected to analyze was that there is much sensitivity, at least in some quarters, that painstaking steps be taken so that such a Euro force not overlap, in any material way, with NATO's functions. This article describes the situation pretty well.

Finally, Elaine Sciolino says U.S.-French relations aren't that bad after all. She must have been smitten after all that time with Chirac. Richard Holbrooke, quoted in her article, agrees that the Franco-U.S. spat has been overblown. Take a look too at this piece that uses gender role analysis explain why we appear to have a differing approach to France versus Germany.

Oh, and just in case you missed it, check this out too. Pretty sobering fare.

posted by Gregory| 9/28/2003 09:05:00 AM


Not Neo-Cons or Neo-Straussiansm, But Neo-Hobbesians

In an interview (French language) in Le Figaro, Peter Sloterdijk opines that neo-conservatives seek to return world politics to a "state of nature." He therefore labels them neo-Hobbesians.

Sloterdijk's "Critique of Cynical Reason" remains a wonderful text. Who can forget his treatment of the haunting picture of the entry sign at Auschwitz that read "Arbeit Macht Frei" or "Labor is Liberating"? Little surprise, in his narrative, such events help an "enlightened false consciousness" take root after such grotesquely cynical treatment of the most evil barbarism.

But, as do many Euro-intellectuals these days, Sloterdijk goes off the deep end a bit when it comes to the USA. Not only are brutish neo-Hobbesians populating the Beltway--but Europe has become the idlyic America of the 18th Century:

"Nous sommes devenus des Américains du XVIIIe siècle, proclamant notre droit à vivre dans des espaces où l'histoire ne peut plus nous atteindre."

Translation: "We [the Europeans] have become the Americans of the 18th Century, proclaiming our right to live in the spaces where history can not reach us." [ed. note: yes Sloterdijk does credit Robert Kagan for having made related arguments recently]

But is that what America's founders were seeking? To live in a blissful nation unscarred by History's march?

No, I'd wager. The Founding Fathers were boldly staking out a new polity--not with the goal of creating a paradise outside of history--but with the hope of creating a freer society than that which they had come from. But the key point is that they were surely conscious that threats would gather and need to be confronted to retain the fruits of liberty achieved in the new polity. They had not embarked on a frivolous mission with the chimerical goals of "escaping" history.

Ultimately, Sloterdijk is too tempted to analyze the state of world politics through overly ironic lens thus reaching too cute conclusions:

"Les Etats-Unis se sont construits justement pour échapper à la réalité européenne décrite de façon exemplaire par Hobbes. Car l'auteur du Léviathan justifiait philosophiquement l'absolutisme étatique. Les premiers Américains sont les ennemis de cet absolutisme et ils n'ont qu'un rêve : fuir une Europe où Hobbes a raison. Or aujourd'hui, que voit-on ? On voit les Américains faire leur le pessimisme ontologique de Hobbes et se convertir à l'idéologie même dont le rejet constitua la raison d'être de leur nation!"

Translation: "The U.S. built itself precisely to escape the European reality described in exemplary fashion by Hobbes. Because the author of Leviathan justified philosphically state absolutism. The first Americans were the enemies of this absolutism and had but one dream: to flee a Europe where Hobbes was right. And today, what do we see? We see Americans make Hobbes' ontological pessimism their own and convert themselves to this same ideology whose very rejection constituted the reason for their nation's creation!"

Doubts about Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, de-mining protocols, and the like do not, even collectively, evince a desire among key policymakers in Washington to return to the "state of nature." Nor does sober analysis evidence attempts by the Administration, acting pursuant to Presidential direction or imperatives, to purposefully make irrelevant any of the varied post-WWII international security/economic architecture. And note only two post-WWII conflicts (Korea and Gulf War I) enjoyed explicit UNSC approval.

So what is it about this latest war in Iraq that causes this intense distrust of U.S. policymakers among so many in Europe, these hyperbolic arguments bandied about by intellectuals about a reversion to the "state of nature"?

I think we need to conclude that it's the presence of a sole hyperpower that's really to blame--the resentment of a behemoth like hegemon without any counterweight(s) on the international stage. It was all tolerable in the '90s when the actions undertaken were either in response to direct aggression against a neighbor (Kuwait) or to tidy up Euro-messes (Bosnia, Kosovo). But its seemingly gotten a bit too burdensome now. And many need to lash out because of it--often in irrational manner.

There's more to this, of course, and we share a bit of the blame. But the lion's share of the lashing out against the U.S. on this side of the Atlantic, I'd wager, stems from the simple fact that the hyperpower appears so omnipotent.

The international system is off-kilter and unmoored from traditional balance of power politics. This has upset many in Europe who, particularly post 9/11, fear that American policy is taking a militaristic turn without any nation (or group of nations) able to restrain such perceived tendencies. All this helps expain some of the happiness (barely concealed) at the perceived comeuppance of the U.S. in Iraq during the post-war slog.

posted by Gregory| 9/27/2003 09:04:00 PM

Escalation Watch

Is the IDF heading into Gaza come October?

posted by Gregory| 9/27/2003 08:20:00 PM

Old Media Lion Watch

Eminence grise Walter Cronkite lets loose in the august pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Money grafs:

"In his two and a half years in office, Attorney General John Ashcroft has earned himself a remarkable distinction as the Torquemada of American law. Tomás de Torquemada, you might recall, was the 15th-century Dominican friar who became the grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. He was largely responsible for its methods, including torture and the burning of heretics - Muslims in particular.

Now, of course, I am not accusing the attorney general of pulling out anyone's fingernails or burning people at the stake (at least I don't know of any such cases). But one does get the sense these days that the old Spaniard's spirit is comfortably at home in Ashcroft's Department of Justice."

posted by Gregory| 9/27/2003 07:48:00 PM

Condi Watch

Lexington on the National Security Advisor.

But is Lex right when he writes:

"And what about Ms Rice's own prospects? Uniquely among Mr Bush's foreign-policy team, she has the potential for a separate political career." [my emphasis]

Powell still does, doesn't he? You never know...

posted by Gregory| 9/27/2003 07:29:00 PM

Conspiracy Theories

Guess how someone landed at this humble blog.

posted by Gregory| 9/27/2003 07:14:00 PM

Keller Watch

I couldn't find the link but a trusted source at the NYT forwarded the below via E-mail to me (contents of E-mail italicized):

September 25, 2003, Thursday Late Edition - Final
Section A Page 2 Column 3 Desk: Metropolitan Desk Length: 125 words
Type: Correction


An article on Monday about Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz's comments at a forum on Iraq misstated President Bush's position on whether there were contacts between Al Qaeda and the government of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Bush has said there were such contacts; he has not said they were unsubstantiated.

So they came clean re: this catch. Hats off to Mr. Keller. It appears there is hope for the Times in the post-Raines era!

UPDATE: Here's the link.

posted by Gregory| 9/27/2003 02:41:00 PM


Iran Nuclear Program Watch

More on Iran's nuke program. Keep a close eye on what Bush and Putin have to say on the issue after the weekend at Camp David.

This is one of the few areas where Democrats can say that Republicans have taken their eye off the ball on a national security issue, ie. giving Putin a bit of a passe-partout in his dealings with Iran.

posted by Gregory| 9/26/2003 02:52:00 PM


W. 43rd St. Watch

Is the Times going soft and fuzzy? Will it get boring (heaven forbid) under Keller? A look at the post-Raines vibe in the Observer.

Sample graf:

"If Mr. Keller lacks the booming Rainesian charisma that could suck the oxygen out of a room, all the better. But Mr. Keller does have something of his own to offer. Attracted like old ladies to the sensitive new young vicar at a country church, the Times is singing a more modern hymn of inclusiveness, humaneness and general good-feeling. The era of fire and brimstone is over; pass the crumpets, please, it’s time for a heart-to-heart!"

How 'bout a "heart-to-heart" about their corrections policy? Still none re: this story a couple days out....

posted by Gregory| 9/24/2003 06:12:00 PM

Reader Feedback

Not surprisingly, I'm catching a bit of flak on my somewhat negative take re: Dubya's address to the UN yesterday. Reader DG's missive was pretty typical of some of the feedback I've gotten:

"I generally agree with your comments and value the time you spend making your views known on your website, but I strongly disagree with your modest criticism of Bush’s speech. Listening to him made me proud to be an American. He stated clearly and concisely his positions on Iraq and other world issues. The world does not respect not [ed note. "nor"?] follow humility, but strength and Bush exuded strength. Anything less would have energized France and Germany, if not others, with renewed vigor to oppose a resolution to gain UN support in whatever form it might take. They now know Bush will not back down and attempts to sidetrack or veto a new resolution will be futile and will force them into a corner as obstructionist, particularly France. Bush showed that he has resolve and will not be deterred by domestic political considerations...."

This was one of the aspects of my criticism that I was a bit concerned about, ie. expressions of humility can also have negative ramifications. Sadly, humility often leads others to trample on you and/or lose respect in your outlook. Such is, unfortunately, often the state of human nature.

I generally agree that it's very important to project strength in the implementation and enunciation of foreign policy goals. But I wasn't arguing that Bush needed to kowtow to Berlin and Paris. I was just arguing for a bit more of a realistic appraisal of where things stand in Iraq today and little doses of humility sprinkled through the speech. I don't think such an approach would have necessarily led to "renewed vigor" from Franco-German quarters to oppose the U.S. in its attempt to secure a new Iraq resolution. Regardless, nowhere did I mean to intimate Dubya needed to go in on bended knee.

Anyway, thanks to readers who wrote in. I appreciate the level headed feedback. And let the debate continue.

posted by Gregory| 9/24/2003 05:49:00 PM

What's Katrina Smoking?

Katrina vanden Heuvel asks what Bill Kristol has been smoking over at the Nation. Kristol was basically arguing that all the Iraq doom and gloom is getting overblown. Yes, his contention that the U.S. has done an "amazing job" in Iraq is a bit rich--but he made some pretty sober and cogent points about the relative dearth of U.S. casualties and how much of the country outside of the Sunni triangle has remained pretty stable.

Let's turn the tables and ask Ms. vanden Heuvel what's she's been smoking given recent posts such as this one or this one.

Call it the Eminemization (or Madonnaization) of foreign policy analysis. The resulting apercus aren't exactly breath-taking, it must be said.

posted by Gregory| 9/24/2003 07:23:00 AM

Baghdad Poll

A Pat Tyler piece from Baghdad that isn't overly negative! Check it out.

Money graf:

"After five months of foreign military occupation and the ouster of Saddam Hussein, nearly two-thirds of Baghdad residents believe that the removal of the Iraqi dictator has been worth the hardships they have been forced to endure, a new Gallup poll shows."

Remember that if you've been sitting on your couch from locales like Berkeley and Cambridge cursing Dubya's brutish unilateralist tendencies.

posted by Gregory| 9/24/2003 05:01:00 AM


Bush's U.N. Speech

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm a pretty strong Bush supporter. But I found his speech to the U.N. today somewhat mixed. The speech was basically divided into three sections (or "challenges"): 1) Afghanistan/Iraq, 2) WMD proliferation, and 3) humanitarian crises ranging from AIDS to famine to the sex trade. I'm not going to discuss 2 and 3 here--despite their obvious importance--but will rather concentrate on Iraq.

My basic beef with that part of the speech was that it didn't show enough humility (the projection of a humble America that Bush campaigned about back in 2000) and there was nothing really new in it, ie. Dubya sounded like a broken record here and there. In a way, both of these issues can sometimes go hand in hand.

For instance, even the most die-hard Bush supporters would admit that the post-war in Iraq hasn't gone too swimmingly. So maybe Bush might have mentioned that the going had been a bit rough and that was one of the reasons he needed more international support.

This would have also served to inject a bit of new language into his speech (over and above the Iraq is the "central front in the war on terror" mantra) while simultaneously showing we can eat a little humble pie now and then.

Nah. Instead he just says as follows:

"Our international coalition in Iraq is meeting its responsibilities. We are conducting precision raids against terrorists and holdouts of the former regime. These killers are at war with the Iraqi people, they have made Iraq the central front in the war on terror, and they will be defeated."

Great, but such language doesn't smell like a fully honest reckoning.

For example, how precise are the "precision raids"?

And are we really meeting our responsibilities? If those responsibilities include provision of security and basic services to the Iraqi people--we simply haven't to date.

We can't just blame it on terrorists and assorted dead-enders. Iraq's our baby now. We've got to make it work--no matter the legions of saboteurs that are rearing their heads to scuttle our efforts.

Sure it's early days. But we should be confident enough to get in front of the podium at the U.N. and talk about the difficulties we are facing in Iraq--rather than sound a bit too pollyannaish.

Another snippet:

'Our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were supported by many governments and America is grateful to each one.

I also recognize that some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagreed with our actions. Yet there was and there remains unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations. So let us move forward." [my emphasis]

Why the need for the word "sovereign" here? Was that ever in question, as if the U.S. holds sway over the national security decision-making processes of other states? And great to stress common ground--but the "so let us move forward" sounds a tad breezy--and perhaps to some ears a bit like a diktat of sorts.

All this said, there were some good parts of the speech. Bush made specific mention of the "vital" work the U.N. carries out in Iraq every day--with an eye towards signaling to the French that the U.S. is happy to see the U.N. play a major role in Iraq.

That said re: warming up to the French demands a bit, I also liked the swipe at Chirac and de Villepin's highly unrealistic timetable for transfer of key governing responsibilities to Iraq (that the self-government process would be "neither hurried nor delayed").

Still, it might have been better if that sentence wasn't placed directly before Bush turned to the prospects of a new U.N. resolution on Iraq. Not the most diplomatic juxtaposition.

There were also eloquent parts of the speech that reminded us of why we are engaged in this war on terror: "24 months ago--and yesterday in the memory of America--the center of New York City became a battlefield and a graveyard and the symbol of an unfinished war."

It was also positive to see Bush, in such an international forum (and with many Euro leaders prancing about), state that the U.S., in Iraq, had undertaken "the greatest financial commitment of its kind since the Marshall Plan." A powerful reminder of the scope of the current task as well as the work undertaken after WWII to help create a peaceful and prosperous Europe.

No doubt, Bush has definitely put his (well, our...) money where his mouth is. He's really striving to make a success out of Iraq (more than say, his efforts with the roadmap or NoKo). It's probably still all going to work out pretty well--and the doom-sayers will be proved wrong again. But it wouldn't hurt to project a bit more humility and adjust some of the themes to the changing situations we are confronted with now and then.

posted by Gregory| 9/23/2003 08:22:00 PM


Chirac's NYT Interview

Yeah I know this is a day late but I'm on the road. Anyway, the interview is pretty long but worth reading.

Funny to think, but the piece is actually Chirac's counterpoint to Gerard Schroder's somewhat conciliatory NYT oped from a few days back. It's actually an attempt at rapprochment with those jingoistic Anglo-Saxons--but a la Parisienne--meaning with some verbal epingles thrown in, the requisite haughtiness, an annoying didactic tone sprinkled about, and a good dollop of Gallic disingenuousness.

Why is it a rapprochment interview? Because ultimately he says he won't veto a new resolution unless the resolution is "provocative" (translation: as long as you don't really rub our noses in it, make us feel grossly irrelevant, or don't even attempt to negotiate what might get us to a yes vote).

He then provides somewhat of a roadmap re: what would get a yes vote-- "a precise deadline for the transfer of sovereignty, and second, a timetable for transferring responsibility, and a key role for the U.N."

A "key role" is suitably vague language where middle ground can be easily broached by the diplomats negotiating the resolution. The sovereignty deadline and reponsibility transfer timetable are tricker issues. That said, we could probably push the French on the symbolic sovereignty handover to 3-6 months hence with the transfer of the lion's share of responsibility to about 18 months (double the 6-9 month time frame Chirac mentioned, that's an initial negotiating position, and one he said would happen "little by little").

All this to say--I think we can get a yes--and that would be a pretty good outcome in terms of helping heal the ill feelings over all the spilt milk at Turtle Bay earlier this year. Still, if the French don't agree to more realistic sovereignty handover time frames--we will likely see an abstention. But they are telegraphing that before the negotiations get down and dirty--thus reducing their veto leverage mightily. So, especially viewed in that context, it's all pretty conciliatory fare that Chirac laid out in the interview. Put simply, and critical, the veto cloud has been lifted.

Other key take-aways: 1) no French troops in Iraq (at least in the short to mid-term, ie. he doesn't definitively take the possibility off the table but comes very close to doing so) but the French will likely be happy to help train an Iraqi police force (with some of the training perhaps taking place in Iraq), 2) a view of the world as moving towards multipolarity but with the U.S. and Europe acting with "solidarity for each other, vis à vis the others, which have a different culture", and 3) Chirac stressing an effective Euro defense capability is in the offing so that Europe could act outside NATO when it deems it in its interest.

Eurodefense Force Issue

Related to #3 above, Chirac said as follows in the interview:

"We have seen this recently in Macedonia. Our American friends have told us that we should take responsibility for the Balkans from now on. We can do this, but how? With a flute? We have seen it in Africa; we need a system, a European defense policy." [my emphasis]

The Gaul's gall! First, it's worth noting that we bailed the Euros out of the Balkan imbroglio at Dayton. When in 1991, a Eurodiplomat enthused that the "hour of Europe" had arrived (ie., Europe would solve the Balkan mess), Bush 41 was happy to let the Europeans take the lead. Of course it didn't quite turn out that way, did it?

Second, who in Washington DC is leading the call to oppose the creation of a Eurodefense force? Not many people, as far as I know. In fact, the whole Bob Kagan thesis that had post-Kantian Euros keeping defense spending low and enjoying a U.S. paid security umbrella (in somewhat ingrate-like fashion) likely has some in the Beltway cheerleading increased European defense expenditures (as long as they don't get too robust, bien sur).

So why Chirac's sarcastic reference to the "flute"? By all means, get a Euro defense force up and running. And then use it to patrol "your" neighborhood--Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia.

But don't disingenuously argue that the U.S. is keeping Europe from assuming its perceived security obligations and/or ambitions. Its been more a story of European abdication than the U.S. restraining possible Euro military groupings.

The System is Broken, Dude

Note as well that the French still haven't dropped the de Villepinian (and hyper Cartesian) analysis of the "logic of occupation" (Chirac calls it the "system").

"On the contrary, I’m simply giving my view of how things are. One, it is a complicated business, two it is a dangerous business, and is becoming more dangerous by the day. Three, we must try and get out of it. It is my conviction that the current system-- let’s be clear, I mean a system of occupation-- will not allow us to find a solution to this situation. It will generate more and more reaction against this system, which will grow even more complicated, as you say, due to the difficulties that already exist among the Shiites, Kurds, Sunnis and so on. All of this is true, but I do not see any other way out. I only see the probablity of the situation getting worse." [my emphases]

This is all pretty bogus stuff. As Dan Drezner points out:

"In what way will the transfer of de jure sovereignty without de facto responsibility accelerate statebuilding in Iraq? Is sovereignty without responsibility merely an example of organized hypocrisy, or is there normative content to this concept?"


A Couple Final Thoughts

Isn't it sad that a French President even has to say something like this in an interview with America's leading newspaper?

"This is all the more necessary since we are watching with sorrow and distress the attacks that have been taking place, often against American soldiers. And frankly, it hurts us whenever. It hurts us to hear about the attacks against American soldiers or to see images on television; the attacks against others as well, of course, but particularly American soldiers. It hurts us."

I'm still left just a tad muddied as to whether Chirac chokes up more when a Ba'athist loyalist dies or an American G.I.--but let's take him on his word--why does this even need to be said? Ca va sans dire, non?

And don't look to the French to come up with major innovations to replace the near-dead roadmap:

"Q: And what can be done about the Israel-Palestinian crisis?

A: It fills me with sadness. But I’m afraid I must go since I have a plane to catch …"

posted by Gregory| 9/22/2003 02:44:00 PM

The NYT and Wolfy

So a courageous (or mad) Paul Wolfowitz gave a talk to the crowd at NYC's New School University. Eric Schmitt writes it up in the Times.

We are treated to this vignette:

"Mr. Wolfowitz has had a lot of practice in the last two years as the administration's lightning rod for Iraq policy. He barely flinched when a burly, bearded protester rushed the stage, yelling, "Nazi war criminal!" Security guards tackled and removed the man, the first of six people ejected."

And then:

"The United States waged war for three reasons, he said: the concern over Iraq's drive to obtain chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; Iraq's connections to terrorism; and Mr. Hussein's reign of terror that Mr. Wolfowitz said was responsible for perhaps a million Iraqi deaths.

"It was a human rights nightmare," he said, emphasizing a reason that was not a principal one the administration articulated before the war, but has become so since.

When pressed by Mr. Goldberg and audience members, some of these justifications seemed less certain. "Iraq did have contacts with Al Qaeda," Mr. Wolfowitz insisted, momentarily silencing the audience with an accusation even President Bush now says is unsubstantiated. He added, "We don't know how clear they were." [my emphasis].

Wait a second. Dubya merely said that Saddam (or Iraq) didn't have links to 9/11--not al-Qaeda writ large. It's a bit Guardian-esque of the Times to suggest otherwise.

Even this Beeb story makes that clear:

"US President George Bush has said there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 11 September attacks.

The comments - among his most explicit so far on the issue - come after a recent opinion poll found that nearly 70% of Americans believed the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks.

Mr Bush did however repeat his belief that the former Iraqi president had ties to al-Qaeda - the group widely regarded as responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington." [my emphasis]

Will the Times now issue a correction? Don't hold your breath.

posted by Gregory| 9/22/2003 02:29:00 PM


9/11 Plot

It could have been even worse.

posted by Gregory| 9/21/2003 09:24:00 PM


Clinton at Srebrenica

Anyone else a bit offended that Clinton is in Srebrenica spouting off about "genocidal madness"--genocidal madness he did so very little about for three long years (after campaigning against Bush pere saying he would)?

I tend to agree with the woman quoted in this article who lost her only two sons (and still dreams they will come home) in the massacre that, as Dick Holbrooke has written, has "become part of the language of the horrors of modern war, alongside Lidice, Oradour, Babi Yar, and the Katyn Forest."

"Clinton could have helped this not to happen," she said. "Now it's embarrassing because he has to come here and justify himself."

But he's always been pretty shameless, hasn't he?

posted by Gregory| 9/20/2003 07:47:00 PM

The 20 Billion Dollar Man

Jim Hoagland on some of the problems facing Jerry Bremer. Nothing earth-shatteringly interesting in his op-ed.

Except for this interesting nugget:

"The diplomats on Bremer's staff in Baghdad report directly to him, not to Washington. Secretary of State Colin Powell has told friends that he has to rely on newspapers and the diplomatic reporting of other nations that is shared with State to follow developments in Iraq.

Powell no doubt has a point: The lack of communication within the Pentagon itself is a well-known problem, and the fierce rivalries between the two departments rule out what might be described as meaningful contact. This has become a severe problem for Bush, who has tolerated an unacknowledged but visible war between Powell and Rumsfeld

Hoagland goes on to say he doesn't think this is a big issue. Having Bremer and his staff report up through to State too (and perhaps the U.N.) would just muddy the waters and make the Iraq reconstruction task harder (or so the argument goes).

Hurry up with it all through a clean and simple reporting chain of command from Bremer to Rummy and Dubya. Let Bremer expeditiously pursue "working himself out of a job as soon as he can."

I beg to differ. If true, this is FUBAR, pure and simple.

Listen, perhaps Powell needs to be a bit more careful not to be perceived as overly removed (running out the clock a bit) before moving on to new challenges after Bush's first term (if you believe press rumors, he likely won't serve in a prospective Bush II administration).

Instead, like any good Secretary of State, he's got to fight to protect his turf and thus the interests of Foggy Bottom. I bet he isn't too removed and that he is acting as an effective advocate for State. Still though, to be an effective advocate you need to be well informed.

Surely the Secretary of State of the United States can access information on developments in the "central front" of the war on terror from the American proconsul on the ground. Surely he doesn't need to "rely on newspapers" and the "diplomatic reporting of other nations"? (France?)

You know, Powell might actually have some decent ideas about what to do out in Iraq here and there. Especially if he's getting real time briefings from the guys on the ground rather than reading about it in the WaPo or NYT. Don't you think?

posted by Gregory| 9/20/2003 06:55:00 PM

Syria Dispatch

Charles Glass has an interesting piece up on Syria over at the LRB. Some in the Beltway get a bit carried away about mega-democratization processes unfurling with ease from Riyadh to Damascus; Algiers to Teheran. Iraq, to date, shows us what a hard slog democracy-building in the region will be. So does this extract from Glass' piece:

"In September 2000, 99 members of Syria's intelligentsia - writers, teachers, lawyers, engineers, film-makers - published a letter in the London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat declaring a kind of war on the Government. Called Charter 99, it demanded an end to the 1963 state of emergency, the release of political prisoners, the return of political exiles, freedom of the press and the right to hold public meetings. Two months later, Assad freed about six hundred political prisoners and closed Damascus's notorious Mezzeh prison, where political dissidents have been mistreated ever since it was built by the French. (The much harsher Tadmor prison in the eastern desert is still in use.) A month later, the Government issued a licence for al-Domari (the 'Lamplighter'), the country's only privately owned newspaper. Meanwhile, more civil society networks were forming, and more declarations were being issued. Although the government press in Syria ignored them, Lebanese newspapers reported their activities and published their statements. Some of their pamphlets circulated as samizdat in universities and schools. On 3 June this year, 287 'Syrian citizens' published an appeal to Bashar in the Lebanese daily as-Safir. The petition warned that Syria faced two enemies, Israel and the United States, and was too weak to defend itself against either. While making the usual demand for an end to martial law and the release of political prisoners, it also argued for something more fundamental. 'The authorities have no remedy for our ills,' the petition stated. 'There is a real cure, which is national reform.' Rather than appeal to America to deliver democracy in Syria, the signatories appealed directly to Bashar.

What is happening in Iraq and in Palestine is just the beginning of what America calls the new era. The characteristic of this era is the use of force by America and Israel. We should stop them from achieving their goals by repairing our society and making our country strong. The way to do this is to have a free people. The masses have been ignored and excluded from public life. You should let them come back and use their power to protect the country.

One of the signatories was Sadek al-Azm, a recently retired professor of philosophy. A participant in civil society groups that include both Marxists and Islamists, he spoke to me about the message of the American war in Iraq for Syria. 'In meetings, we asked ourselves: suppose this happened here? Who would go out and fight for the regime? No one said: "I would." The strength of civil society is to tell the regime to be legitimate. There is a difference between defending the regime and defending the country.' He said the Syrian dissidents who drew up the al-Hayat petition have studied the political process in Turkey. 'When Erdogan said: "I have to submit to Parliament," the Americans could not tell him to go to hell. What Arab leader could say that without the Americans laughing him off the stage?' Syrian democrats are not waiting for democracy as a care package from the American Armed Forces so much as wanting to seize it themselves as a weapon with which to confront the American empire."

Put differently: yes there is a hunger for democracy in the Arab world. Groups like Charter 99 are eager for more freedom in the environs of Damascus. But there is, as well, great distrust of the U.S. as the democracy-bearer, as the vehicle for democracy dispensation.

There are doubtless many reasons for this. National pride and fear of neo-colonialism. Or suspicions of U.S. intentions given what Richard Haas has called the "democracy exception", ie. our many decades old policy of dealing with various Arab autocratic regimes without pushing the democratization agenda with as much alacrity as we did in Europe, Latin America, Asia. The strategic U.S.-Israeli relationship. Other reasons besides.

Policymakers need to better keep this complex rubric in mind as the next policy steps in the region are undertaken and implemented. In the short to middle term--much hinges on making Iraq a success and getting power, in time, handed over to an Iraqi authority. This would go a long way towards allaying Arab fears. So would a more comprehensive effort at peacemaking between the Israelis and Palestinians. But even if both of these efforts were to go pretty well (which is so very far from assured) we still have much catch-up work to do in terms of our reputation in the Arab world--and not just with Wahabist types in Saudi Arabia--given the sentiments of intellectuals making up groups like Force 99.

UPDATE: Jackson Diehl has got an op-ed that touches on the above over at the WaPo:

"Arab governments "are not concerned about the success or failure of the U.S. in Iraq," Egypt's veteran national security adviser, Osama Baz, bluntly told me and several other visiting journalists over dinner in Cairo. "They are worried about the consequences for themselves." Don't expect Egypt, Baz said, to supply troops or police to help its nominal American ally. On the other hand, he added, "we can help with the drafting of a constitution. We can help strengthen the governing council and the bureaucracy."

Egypt is betting, in other words, that ultimately it will be easier for Arab states than the United States to reshape Iraq. "You can't export the American system of democracy all over the world," Baz said pointedly."

posted by Gregory| 9/20/2003 09:53:00 AM

Krugman Watch

You gotta read it to believe it (via Romenesko).

Money grafs:

"In it, Krugman describes how, just as he was about to send his manuscript to the publishers, he chanced upon a passage in an old history book from the 1950s, about 19th-century diplomacy, that seemed to pinpoint, with eerie accuracy, what is happening in the US now. Eerie, but also perhaps a little embarrassing, really, given the identity of the author. Because it's Henry Kissinger.

"The first three pages of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine," Krugman writes of A World Restored, the 1957 tome by the man who would later become the unacceptable face of cynical realpolitik. Kissinger, using Napoleon as a case study - but also, Krugman believes, implicitly addressing the rise of fascism in the 1930s - describes what happens when a stable political system is confronted with a "revolutionary power": a radical group that rejects the legitimacy of the system itself.

This, Krugman believes, is precisely the situation in the US today (though he is at pains to point out that he isn't comparing Bush to Hitler in moral terms). [ed. note. Gee, great!] The "revolutionary power", in Kissinger's theory, rejects fundamental elements of the system it seeks to control, arguing that they are wrong in principle. For the Bush administration, according to Krugman, that includes social security; the idea of pursuing foreign policy through international institutions; and perhaps even the basic notion that political legitimacy comes from democratic elections - as opposed to, say, from God."

Folks, Krugman is a very talented economist. As he himself admits, the NYT likely hired him at the height of the 90's boom to cover the seemingly ever-expanding economy. Krugman would have been concentrating on issues like supposed labor productivity booms and so on. Instead the bubble economy crashed and 9/11 happened. Krugman is out of his depth commenting on matters foreign policy. I mean, this is the guy who thought Enron would have a greater effect on the course of U.S. history than 9/11.

And how can Krugman seriously contend that a "revolutionary power" in Washington has completely set aside the idea of multilateral cooperation and the "basic notion that political legitimacy comes from democratic elections"? This is absurd fare from the wacky extreme left. You don't expect it from a columnist who has been granted a lofty perch over at the NYT.

posted by Gregory| 9/20/2003 09:05:00 AM


French Jews

Are voting with their feet and leaving France in significant numbers. Why? Incidents like these . Elsewhere, the Jewish community in France is described as being in a "post-traumatic" state. [All links to French language media]

Sample quote: "L'inquiétude est indéniable. C'est même le malaise le plus profond depuis la seconde guerre mondiale. Les juifs français savent que l'option Israël existe pour eux."

Translation: "The worry is undeniable. It's even the most profound malaise since WWII. French Jews know that the option of Israel exists for them."

Think the above is one of the reasons Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is threatening to expel some radical Islamic groups out of France?

There are upwards of 5 million Muslims in France and about 500,000 Jews. Given the presence of these two significant communities--I think Sarkozy has real concerns about outbreaks of inter-communitarian violence. Note that, in April of 2002 for instance, there were 110 separate anti-semitic incidents (that averages out to more than three incidents a day).

It's no coincidence, of course, that such attacks gained in number and intensity during a time when the IDF was pursuing muscular military action in the Occupied Territories. But, of course, there can be no excuses or valid rationales for inflicting harm on random Jews in France because of anger at the policies of the Israeli government.

On a related topic, note that there has been some talk in Europe of the phenomenon that some call the "new" anti-semitism. This latest manifestation of anti-semitism is couched in the rhetoric of progressivism (ie. opposition to racism, injustice, "colonial" policies and the like). A more subtle approach to anti-semitism than, say, these old libels. But the results can be just as poisonous.

I've lost track of how many in Europe have told me they view Israel as a racist, pariah state. As bad as the Nazis and so on. When the rhetoric is so hyperbolic, one can see how the movement from disagreement with Israel's policies towards anti-semitic thought and violence can occur pretty easily. And I think that's part of the reason that French Jews are so worried--to the extent that they consider moving to North America or Israel--despite living in a secure (at least to most), secular, European democracy.

UPDATE: Check out this interesting lecture too.

posted by Gregory| 9/19/2003 07:14:00 PM

More on the Beeb

Don't privatize the Beeb--argues Peter Hitchens. Oh, and are we being too tough on ace reporter Gilligan? Nah.

posted by Gregory| 9/19/2003 06:19:00 PM

The Situation in Iraq

Mark Danner has a pretty gloomy piece up at the NYRB. But he's a talented writer, pretty judicious, and so well worth reading. This part describing the Iraqi resistance is what gets me worried:

"This is the dynamic that various opponents of the occupation must try to sustain. By whatever means, they aim to produce in Iraq growing political anger and discontent and to focus that anger and discontent on the occupiers, thus alienating more and more Iraqis, who might join the anti-occupation forces, actively support them, or at least count themselves sympathetic to the cause. Since the numbers of the armed opposition, as Paul Bremer noted, are far too small to defeat the Americans militarily, their strategy relies on provoking the Americans to take actions that will create among Iraqis the broader support needed to sustain a guerrilla war."

We can quash the Ba'athist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen and assorted foreign infiltrators over time if their numbers remain relatively constant and trend downwards as we kill and/or capture them. The problem is that heavy-handed counter-guerrilla operations might well increase their ranks.

I think that's the key concern policymakers and the military leadership should be wrestling with right now. Basically, how to catch the bad guys without creating more of them.

Bring on the Gendarmarie

To help with this task, as I've argued before, I think we need to have many more constabulatory-type forces in the theater. Professionally trained military police might help us handle local sensitivities better per some of Danner's concerns.

In this vein, I'm beginning to think, more and more, that this whole effort to get large U.N. peacekeeping contingents into Iraq is somewhat misguided. Especially given the actual countries that are often bandied about as most likely to send troops.

Indians are loathed by many jihadist type Muslims and will therefore also constitute a prime terrorist target. We shouldn't involve neighboring countries (like Turkey) as they will very probably pursue their national interests in a manner that may well conflict with American objectives. Bangladeshi forces are not of particularly high caliber (I remember visiting the Bangladeshi UN battalion in Bosnia in the mid-90s. It wasn't pretty).

What we likely need instead are highly trained European military police types.

On this, remember Joe Wilson, Mr. Yellowcake?

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall has an interesting interview with him. I disagree with much of what Wilson says, (including his opening contention that we are "fucked" in Iraq), but he makes a good point here:

"We don't do national policing. We do state policing, we have a national investigatory agency, the FBI, but we don't do national policing and we particularly don't do it in the way that it probably needed to be done in the aftermath of the Second Gulf War. The Europeans do. The French have a national Gendarmerie, the Italians have the Carabinieri, the Spanish have the Guardia Civil. They do national policing; they train to military standards; they follow a military-style doctrine; they have military-style discipline. It is an organization that is for all intents and purposes paramilitary, but it has policing functions. They would have been perfect for that. When I was political adviser to CINCEUR [Commander in Chief, United States European Command], we did the Bosnia intervention. One of the things we did early on from our European command headquarters was go around and talk to these countries about how they could use their national policing force as an adjunct to our own military presence--understanding that it was the role of the military to win the battle, put in the interposition force, in the case of Iraq fight the insurgency--but you probably had better type forces, in terms of what their training was, in terms of what their understanding of their mission was, in terms of what their resources and capabilities and armaments were, for a policing-style operation."

This rings pretty true. We need more professional constabulatory types to ensure we don't lose too many hearts and minds as we clamp down on the Ba'athist remnants etc. This is where the Euros can perhaps give a real hand. (Note that speaks of Germany helping train MPs rather than contributing any German nationals). Getting those types of forces into Iraq is likely where we should focus once we get the U.N. resolution.

posted by Gregory| 9/19/2003 11:43:00 AM

Black Thursday at Le Monde

So it was a bad day for the coalition over in Iraq yesterday. But a "Black Thursday" ("Jeudi Noir")?

Gee, normally Le Monde is pretty strait-laced and sober. No Fleet Street tendencies for the cerebral gaggle that run a paper of such reknown and repute. But apparently the schadenfreude gets a bit overwhelming sometimes, doesn't it?

Note: Le Monde speaks of eleven dead G.I.s. Note these figures haven't yet been confirmed by the Pentagon. Compare Le Monde's story with this one.

But let's not let facts get in the way of a good headline that might well boost Friday sales...

posted by Gregory| 9/19/2003 10:10:00 AM

Keller Watch

Felicity Barringer has an op-ed (sorry, an article) about the future of the U.N. over at the NYT. We are treated to the following series of (italicized) apercus--often simply written up as wholly non-controversial, generally accepted facts and realities.

"A mood of skittish uncertainty has descended on the leaders of the United Nations. They are eager to overhaul their institution, but worry whether any change can give it the freedom it needs to survive without being seen as either a lackey of the United States or an easily swattable gadfly."

Very vivid imagery. And the U.N. felt very lackeyish, didn't it, during the Res 1441 imbroglio?

And this:

"The fundamental assumption of its neutrality has been supplanted, at the fringes of the Muslim world, with the assumption that the United Nations is simply a stalking horse for the imperial ambitions of the United States."

We are left to ponder what is meant by the "fringes of the Muslim world"? Is that code for al-Q and those who bomb UN headquarters, Jordanian embassies, and Shi'a shrines--or, more ominously, is Ms. Barringer alluding to public opinion over at the omnipresent "Arab street"?

It gets better:

"Europeans today view the United Nations as the embodiment of international law and world order. The United States seems to view it as a tool to be used when handy."

Oh yeah, says who? Ms. Barringer as she was dashing this piece off on the laptop?

And more still:

"The Bush administration is facing a lot of international skepticism. Despite the recent decision to turn back to the United Nations for its imprimatur on the forced remaking of Iraq, many here fear that the United States may step back yet further from the creed of multinationalism hewn to by presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and treat the organization merely as a necessary evil."

Translation: We (over at the NYT) think you (Dubya) have taken the wrecking ball to varied international fora and we're not happy about it. FDR got it. Your daddy did. So did Bill Clinton. So what's your problem you brutish, unilateralist cowboy?

Not quite yet done, Barringer opines some more:

"The French dislike the degree of American power being exercised today around the world, and the American tendency to skirt, isolate or ignore multilateral institutions."

Remember, this is ostensibly a NYT article--not opinion piece.

Is Bill Keller on holiday or something? I mean, this is embarrassing....

UPDATE: Take a look at today's masthead too.

Soundbite: Bush is misleading the American public about a Saddam/September 11 connection (though he never actually said Saddam was implicated in 9/11) and hasn't learned the lessons of the "poison of Vietnam", ie. misleading the American public about overseas developments.

It's shabbily written and so nakedly partisan. Can't the newspaper of record do better?

posted by Gregory| 9/19/2003 09:50:00 AM

Root and Branch Review

"The BBC is to be subjected to the most wide-ranging review of its role in its 80-year history, amid a growing clamour for the abolition of the licence fee and a curb in the powers of the corporation's governors."


posted by Gregory| 9/19/2003 08:34:00 AM


Kill Arafat?

Israel, per this article, indicates that it is "a matter of how, not if" that the IDF will act to kill or expel Arafat.

Arafat is certainly taking it seriously--thus the children and women being employed as human shields.

I'm still betting Bush will rein Sharon in on this one. It would just be too dumb an operation with widespread negative ramifications.

Let me add a couple points to Marshall's post. TPM assumes Arafat is expelled, not killed, so that he would be able to retain operational control of the PA's security apparatus from, say, Tunis. And I'm worried an increasing number of Israeli elites are thinking that too--thus bolstering the case to assassinate rather than expel Arafat.

Killing Arafat would be even dumber. I'll touch on some of the reasons why a bit later.

First, a few words on Arafat. Yes he has blood on his hands. Yes he didn't submit a counter-proposal to Barak at Camp David II when he very much should have gone the extra mile to try to get a deal. Yes he still says stupid stuff like this way too often. Yes, he's stuck in a time warp where he romanticizes himself as a 60's style national liberation guerrilla while appearing increasingly incoherent and incapable of comprehending the realities unfolding about him.

Put simply, an Abu Ala or Abu Mazen operating without Arafat hovering about them would be a major improvement in terms of providing a real negotiating partner with unfettered authority to strike a deal some day.

But, despite all this, it would be folly to kill him. Call it the humiliation factor. Arafat, or at least the iconic kaffiyeh-clad figure the world sees poking about his Ramallah compound, is the repository and symbol of Palestinian national aspirations, whether you like it or not.

To kill him would most assuredly not be viewed by Palestinians, as it is in some quarters of Tel Aviv and perhaps Washington, as a means by which to benefit the prospects of forward movement on peace process negotiations by getting rid of a "problem" leader.

Instead, such an action would be viewed as a de facto decapitation of Palestinian national aspirations. It would cause widespread fury, humiliation, and cries for retribution through the Occupied Territories (and, indeed, through large swaths of the Arab and Islamic world).

But put all that aside for a moment. Ultimately, like any leader, Sharon must ask himself whether killing Arafat would enhance the security outlook for his people. Would Israelis be safer with Arafat gone? Would there be fewer terror attacks? No and no, I wager.

Commentators might wonder if Sharon's strategy was to create a quasi-anarchic situation in the West Bank and Gaza with Fatah remnants battling it out with Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Let them devour themselves, he might calculate, while we wait a few years for the storm to cool and hope a more responsible Palestinian government is in the offing.

I think the reality would be quite different. Yes, there would be some internecine violence. But, more significantly, a wave of increased anti-Israeli radicalization would sweep the Territories. You couldn't devise a better Hamas and Islamic Jihad recruitment drive if you tried. Legions of Palestinians (yes, more so than today) would try to blow up any Israeli they could. No fence, no matter how wide or long, would be able to stop all such attacks.

Meanwhile, the regional situation would escalate. The Israelis would be making our life more difficult in Iraq--where an Arafat assassination would play into the hands of the Iraqi resistance--at least as a propaganda tool. The Egyptians might, I think, go beyond a mere downgrade or suspension of diplomatic relations with more substantive anti-Israeli actions. Important Israeli bilateral relationships--like the Israeli-Turkish and Israeli-Indian ones--would suffer. Syria would allow the spigot in southern Lebanon to be turned on (more) to allow for Hezbollah to intensify attacks into N. Israel. More strain would be put on Jordan's stability given its restless Palestinian population. And so on.

Oh, and Israel would be roundly condemned by, well, just about everyone for taking such an action. More than the routine anti-Israeli diatribes over at Turtle Bay--strong messages of disapproval would flow into Israel's Foreign Ministry from pretty much every government around the globe. Israel would rarely have been so isolated on the global stage.

There's more. But I think readers can tell by now that I think killing Arafat is a supremely poor idea. Here's hoping, ultimately, Sharon will too.

posted by Gregory| 9/18/2003 11:55:00 AM

Franco-American Relations Watch

Its come to this. France is described as "becoming our enemy" by a leading American columnist writing in the op-ed pages of the NYT.

Bravo, Dominique.

Also, check out this highly interesting Thierry de Montbrial (French language) piece on the phenomenon of France's decline.

posted by Gregory| 9/18/2003 09:59:00 AM


Mea Culpa Department

The Beeb (well, at least Gilligan) starts coming clean.

UPDATE: More from the FT.

AND MORE: The Guardian has a U.K. press round up on Gilligan.

And as the Beeb, more or less, leaves Gilligan out in the cold--the Daily Telegraph draws the obvious conclusions and asks the right follow on questions:

"It was not only Gilligan who was forced on to the defensive. Richard Sambrook, the head of BBC news and current affairs, was pressed for an account of the editorial process under which Gilligan was supervised. Why had no legal advice been sought? And no further corroboration of the story?

BBC executives were clearly convinced that - in broad terms - they were on to a genuine story, but they chose unwisely (and unprofessionally) to defend the Gilligan rendition of it in implacable detail. The corporation and its governors will have to answer for that misjudgment."


But instead of addressing these matters, the Beeb headlines this Hutton inquiry related story today.

Or, they shamelessly continue to pass the buck. This last link contains this gem from the Beeb's news director Richard Sambrook commenting on Gilligan:

He said Mr Gilligan was "extremely good at finding out information, but there are sometimes questions of nuances and subtlety in how he presents it which are not all they should be".

They aren't quite ready for a reckoning yet, are they? But it very much needs to happen.


posted by Gregory| 9/17/2003 01:07:00 PM

Keller Watch

I'm starting to look at the Lelyveld interregnum with increasing nostalgia. Appears the denizens of W. 43rd St. are beginning to view themselves as a new samizdat or such--with the Pentagon playing the censorious Politburo meanies.

How else to explain this hyperbolic claptrap from a Douglas Jehl article in today's NYT?

"The defense officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were concerned about retribution for straying from the official line." [my emphasis]

Since when are routine leaks accompanied by such melodramatic verbiage?

I mean, if they are caught, does Rummy personally behead such leakers on the Pentagon grounds or something?


All this said, I agree with the thrust of the article that, given the myriad U.S. raids conducted daily, the generally poor security situation, and difficulties with getting services back on tap--the U.S. presence is creating significant resentment among the local populace--particularly in the so-called Sunni Triangle (though the article claims such sentiments are growing in Shi'a areas too).

Resentment that merits better responses from the National Security Advisor than this quote:

"But there is, even in that part of the country, progress," she said in an interview. "People finished their university exams, the Iraqi symphony orchestra performed and took a tour up to the north. Kids went to school."

The Mozart recitals can come later folks--let's get the electricity up and running first.

Listen, this might still prove to have been a long, hot summer of Iraqi transition pangs and discontent--with the situation improving in the coming months. Jim Hoagland, for one, suggests that might be the case.

But only Panglossian naifs would breathessly cheerlead how the post-war scene has gone to date--and much remedial action is obviously still necessitated.

Bush spoke openly of the "great harm" done to the reconstruction efforts by Iraqi resistance and foreign elements operating in the theater in his recent speech to the nation. His advisors should take a page from his book and more often own up that all is not rosy over in Mesopotamia as well.

Their credibility would be enhanced by stressing the bad news along with the good. The American public is sophisticated enough to handle the mixed news coming out from Iraq.

Anyone expecting a Hollywood blockbuster ending has already sobered up. The Iraq denouement will be lengthy (despite absurdly speedy French sovereignty hand-over proposals). So let's get the straight scoop as often as possible from our leaders during this protracted process--we're all adults and can handle it.

MaDo Encroachments?

A final note. Isn't Jehl's Condi "symphony" quote perhaps suspiciously truncated or otherwise not put in full context? I don't know if a full transcript is available--but might we have a Dowd Award nominee in the works?

posted by Gregory| 9/17/2003 10:41:00 AM


Folie de Grandeur Watch

Delusions aplenty over at Le Figaro.

Sample graf: "...le problème pour Jacques Chirac, aujourd'hui, est de transformer sa popularité dans le monde en influence sur le cours de l'Histoire. Quelle capacité a- t-il d'imprimer sa marque sur le destin de l'Irak ?....Il a moralement gagné la guerre. Reste, concrètement, à ne pas perdre la paix."

Translation: "The problem for Jacques Chirac, today, is to transform his popularity in the world into influencing the course of History. What capacity does he have to make his mark on the destiny of Iraq?...He morally won the war. What's to not lose the peace."

Oh my.

posted by Gregory| 9/16/2003 09:28:00 PM

Book Corner

Ron Rosenbaum has a very interesting book review of BHL's "Who Killed Daniel Pearl" in the NY Observer. Go check it out.

posted by Gregory| 9/16/2003 08:45:00 PM

Is Islam the Enemy?

Internet surfers traipsing through large swaths of the post-9/11 American blogsophere would be forgiven for thinking that Islam has become the main enemy of the United States and "civilized" world since the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon--the next "ism" to be confronted after fascism, communism and so on.

In a must-read survey, the Economist helps put the Islamic world into less hyperbolic context. Most of the articles require subscription but this one doesn't and is well worth reading.

The article is particularly interesting as it describes the worldview and thinking of one Sayyid Qutb--a literary critic and key activist of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood about a half century back (note UBL and Zawahiri are both former members of the Brotherhood):

"In the late 1940s, Qutb spent two years living in America, an experience he hated and which appears to have turned him against what most people in the West would call modernity but which he saw as something much worse. On returning to Egypt, Qutb wrote a series of books, many from prison, denouncing jahiliyya (ignorance), a state of affairs he categorised as the domination of man over man, or rather subservience to man rather than to Allah."

Note that Qutb was deeply hateful of modernity itself. Living in post-WWII America for a couple years (doubtless pretty happy times for American society writ large) nevertheless left him embittered, fearful and disconsolate with the mores of a secular, modern society.

Such Qutb-types were (and are) seeking the consolations of reactionary "purity" born of isolation and withdrawal from the modern world. They fear the cacaphonous noises emitting from the boisterous West. They fear the dismantling of theocracies, the values of the Renaissance, Englightenment, modern and postmodern thought. They fear man governing man rather than an omnipotent God (whose teachings would, of course, be interpreted by the Qutbs of the world) ruling over the earthly Kingdom.

In a word, they fear progess, forward-movement, societal transition. They seek to resign themselves to a dystopia of sorts--something of a Hobbesian universe where life might be nasty, brutish and short--but, more important to them, proceeds within the confines of an isolated Islamic caliphate modeled on their aspirational vision of a "pure" Islam.

The battle underway isn't necessarily between the forces of the civilized world's "good" against theocratic barbarism's "evil"--though terrorist tactics are obviously evil in their total lack of concern for the slaughter of innocents.

The deeper battle, ultimately, revolves around whether one believes in the very notion of progress or not. To capitulate to the Osamas of the world would be to forsake, at the very least, the firmaments of post-Rennaisance and Enlightenment Western thought. The very notion of an individual pursuing his or her dreams under a society governed by men and the rule of law--without fear of arbitrary death, enslavement, detention. High stakes indeed.

But here's the good news. Of the 1.5 Billion Muslims in the world today, extrememly few share these grotesquely reactionary worldviews.

Per the Economist:

"How representative are such views? Around one in four of the people in the world are Muslims. Only a small fraction of these 1.5 billion Muslims will have heard of, let alone subscribe to, the ideas of theorists such as Qutb. No more than a few thousand people are involved in the violent activities of al-Qaeda and like-minded jihadi organisations. After September 11th, moreover, Muslim clerics and intellectuals joined ordinary Muslims throughout the world in denouncing the atrocity al-Qaeda had perpetrated in their name. By no means all of these were “moderates”. One was Sheikh Fadlallah, the Beirut-based ayatollah often described as the spiritual guide of Hizbullah, the Iranian-inspired “party of God”. He issued a fatwa condemning the attack. Another condemnation came from Yusuf Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Egyptian television cleric with some fiery views and a following of millions."

I happen to think the numbers are a bit more than a "few thousand people." Hard-core jihadis and the like probably number more in the tens of thousands. But either way--we are certainly not at war with 1.5 billion individuals. And occasionally, given the present, often inflammatory mood, that's worth keeping in mind.

posted by Gregory| 9/16/2003 10:55:00 AM

Euro-Cohesion Watch

Alan Cowell espies three Euro "castes."

And see too this informative Economist piece:

Money graf:

"The “heart” of Europe this last week was the Italian lakeside town of Stresa, where some of the euro’s smaller members berated France for violating the unpopular stability and growth pact, which sets a limit of 3% of GDP for budget deficits. Both Germany and France are in breach of the pact. But it is the defiance in France’s public attitude as much as the deficit in its public accounts which draws the ire of countries, such as the Netherlands and Austria, which tend to respect the EU treaties they sign. If the Stresa get-together is any indication, the fate of the euro area’s smaller members is to keep up the appearance of solidarity and equality among euro members, while the big economies, such as France and Germany, bend the rules to suit themselves. If this is the “centre” of Europe, no wonder Sweden prefers to remain out on the edge."

Oh, and shouldn't Romani Prodi be staying awake during these troubled times at European Commission meetings? (subscription required)

posted by Gregory| 9/16/2003 10:33:00 AM


Guardian Watch

So what does this mean? That, unfortunately, even more folks saw their galling error about Wolfowitz's supposed admission that we went to war in Iraq for oil?

Best part of the interview:

OJR: How does the Web site reflect The Guardian philosophy -- which I understand as independent, irreverent and left wing?

EB: I think we're all of those things in measure. Like the paper, we're very cautious that our news must be news, and our comment is comment. This issue of having a trusting relationship with your readership translates online as well as offline. We try to be as objective as we can in our reporting, and we try to be as forceful as we can in the edginess of the comment that we carry alongside it. [my emphasis]

Yeah, whatever.

UPDATE: I guess from "edginess of the comment" Ms. Bell means offering up a quasi-respectable forum (the Guardian op-ed pages) to offensive conspiracy theories like this one?

And then, viola, it metamorphosizes into news (rather than "comment") too!

posted by Gregory| 9/15/2003 09:54:00 PM

The Kurdish Hiroshima

Samantha Power's descriptive phrase describing Saddam's horrors at Halabja. Kudos to Colin Powell for visiting the site and memorializing the atrocity.

I've been hearing a lot about Salvador Allende and Chile over on this side of the pond recently. Let's remember the innocent victims of Halabja too during such moments of sudden fellow-feeling.

posted by Gregory| 9/15/2003 09:36:00 PM

Most Bogus Headline of the Week

Check it. "Committed"? Like a serial philanderer to his wife, perhaps.

posted by Gregory| 9/15/2003 09:24:00 PM

Flypaper Agonists Unite

More anti-flypaper commentary from the blogosphere (via Backword).

Oh, and the fact that Colin Powell said there might be up to 1,000 foreign jihadi/terrorist-types active in Iraq (and as little as several hundred) shouldn't be used by flypaper adherents to buttress their arguments. Unless, of course, they think that out of the approximately 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide the hard-core jihadists only number about a K or so.

Powell was really dumping coldwater all over the flypaper argument (ie., Rummy) through his public statements. The not so subtle message was--the main resistance here in Iraq consists of Baathist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen, criminal elements, and likely, parts of the population who are being alienated (mostly in the Sunni Triangle) by frequent U.S. military activity in their regions and towns.

That's not to say high-profile incidents like the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy or the U.N. HQ might not be the work of foreign terrorists--but the day in, day out guerrilla tactics that kill roughly a G.I. a day aren't.

Nor are tens of thousands of jihadis flocking to the flytrap. At least that's what Powell appears to be telling us.

UPDATE: All this said, one terrorist in Iraq is too many. In that vein, check out Powell's warnings to Damascus to make their border less porous. C'mon Bashar, you can do it. Rumor has it your dad didn't let anyone across that border that he didn't expressly authorize to do so.

posted by Gregory| 9/15/2003 08:03:00 PM
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