The Belgravia Dispatch by GREGORY DJEREJIAN


Sadr Watch

Probably the right call--but the risks of resistance spreading to Shi'a areas will be somewhat increased.

posted by Gregory| 10/31/2003 04:24:00 PM

Wolfy Pressures Sharon!


But what will Richard Perle and Doug Feith think?

More here (including, on a somewhat related matter, details of Blair's support of the GVA plan).

Oh, and here's some wise counsel from Moshe Yaalon.

Watch Sharon looking more 'road-map-y' over the coming days. Put differently, he'll be signaling, I'm a man with a plan too! But the roadmap hasn't gone anywhere for so very long. Thus all the new plans bubbling about.

The pressure is building on Sharon's government. The comatose state the Israeli left has been in for at least three years is lifting.

People are increasingly starting to smell out other options. Sharon's avuncular image--as the hawkish best shot to maximize security--is getting old and ringing increasingly false. Developing.

posted by Gregory| 10/31/2003 02:19:00 PM

Letters Department

UPDATE: My responses in bold.

Reader BM from Tel Aviv writes in (his comments italicized, portions of my original post that he is reacting to in normal font):

I've been for the most part enjoying your blog since I "discovered" it several months back, mostly for its intelligence and discernment. For the most part.

And here's the complaint! As it seems that intelligence and discernment, in spite of one's best and most earnest efforts, seem to entirely disappear when discussion turns to the Israel- Palestinian issue. Alas, you are not alone.

Two points:

1. "Someone has to move the process ahead despite Arafat's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't."

This is quite a vague suggestion. What exactly do you propose? American deployment? Internationalization? How does one push a leader to the sidelines when that leader controls the apparatus of the regime? You are, it seems to me, demanding that Bush induce regime change (while leaving Arafat around, which means, practically, in power), and seem to feel that this is not only feasible but something that has not hiterto been attempted (or if attempted, not done in the right way). Had you discussed the pros and cons of getting rid of Arafat, you might have been at least offering a concrete proposal, but ignoring Arafat in Palestine is akin to ignoring Saddam in Iraq.

So how would the following have sounded in January 2003?:

"Someone has to move the Iraqi process ahead despite Saddam's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't."

What does removing (or sidestepping) Arafat mean for the Palestinians? And was Arafat "sidestepped" between Bush's June 2002 speech and today? Once again, you are not taking into account that Arafat controls the apparatus and sets and implements Palestinian "policy."

So while I would agree that the situation is very frustrating (and I could suggest to you why this is so), I would suggest that you be more specific and rely less on innuendo.

I've already admitted that Arafat presents a very tricky Catch-22 situation. On the one hand--he's epitomizes the quip that the "Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity." He appears increasingly irrational and incapable of any intelligent decision-making--quite apart from his degree of involvement in any attacks on Israeli civilians (as opposed to IDF forces in the Occupied Territories).

Would we be better off if he were gone? Of course, particularly if a leader with credibility among the Palestinians was there to replace him. The problem is, we can't willy-nilly, pick and choose what leaders should be in power and which shouldn't. Which merit "regime change" and which don't. Thus America's attempts to marginalize Arafat--rather than egg on the Israelis to outright get rid of him.

And yes, Saddam was a different case. We had a legal right to act per Resolution 1441--unlike the situation with the Palestinian leader in Ramallah where such a legal justification to unseat him doesn't similarly exist.

Worth keeping in mind too, as even senior Israeli leaders like Moshe Yaalon have pointed out, Sharon didn't make life particularly easy for Abu Mazen. To help marginalize Arafat--we should have put more pressure on Sharon as well, particularly in the early stages Abu Mazen's PMship, to make some additional concessions so that the Palestinian street saw results that improved their daily lives.

That would have empowered Abu Mazen a bit and put him in a more viable posture vis-a-vis Arafat. And that's part of the reason I criticize Bush. There wasn't significant follow through post the Aqaba summit to bolster Abu Mazen's position.

2. "I say this is dumb policy. I'd take Yossi Beilin's fervent peace processing efforts over this paralysis any day of the week--especially as the Palis gave up right of return in the Geneva arrangements."

Yes, one becomes desperate and despondent; and fervently seeks whatever flicker of light there might potentially be at the end of a long dark tunel (or imagines one may see it). However:

a) What is the difference between Geneva in October 2003 and Taba in January-February 2001?

There are two main differences. First, and unlike at Taba, the so called "right of return" issue was settled. At Taba, both sides read into the old UNGAR 194 per their respective biases with the Israelis stressing the Palestinians "wishing" to return (per the actual text) to Israel proper (1948 borders) with the Palestinians speaking (per subsequent resolutions) of an inalienable right of return. That critical issue had been left unresolved at Taba.

Another critical difference? At Taba sensitive issues related to the status of the Temple Mount were handled more by stressing temporary arrangements rather than reaching final understandings as per Geneva. The Palestinians, per Geneva, actually have sovereignty over the Muslim Holy sites in Jerusalem--albeit with an international presence. Here's the key language that goes beyond Taba.

b) Are you absolutely certain that the Palestinian interlocuters really gave up the right of return (i.e., based on what?)? And if so, what power do they have to implement this politically in Palestine.

Here's the text of the Geneva Accord. The key section on right of return is Article 7. Within that section is an "End of Claims" subsection 7 that reads as follows: "End of Claims: This agreement provides for the permanent and complete resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. No claims may be raised except for those related to the implementation of this agreement." (See also subsection 2 in this section).

This is a highly controversial point. So let's take a slightly closer look.

From the Geneva Accord:

4. Choice of Permanent Place of Residence (PPR)
The solution to the PPR aspect of the refugee problem shall entail an act of informed choice on the part of the refugee to be exercised in accordance with the options and modalities set forth in this agreement. PPR options from which the refugees may choose shall be as follows;
(a) The state of Palestine, in accordance with clause a below.
(b) Areas in Israel being transferred to Palestine in the land swap, following assumption of Palestinian sovereignty, in accordance with clause a below.
(c) Third Countries, in accordance with clause b below.
(d) The state of Israel, in accordance with clause c below.
(e) Present Host countries, in accordance with clause d below.
i. PPR options i and ii shall be the right of all Palestinian refugees and shall be in accordance with the laws of the State of Palestine.
ii. Option iii shall be at the sovereign discretion of third countries and shall be in accordance with numbers that each third country will submit to the International Commission. These numbers shall represent the total number of Palestinian refugees that each third country shall accept.
iii. Option iv shall be at the sovereign discretion of Israel and will be in accordance with a number that Israel will submit to the International Commission. This number shall represent the total number of Palestinian refugees that Israel shall accept. As a basis, Israel will consider the average of the total numbers submitted by the different third countries to the International Commission.
iv. Option v shall be in accordance with the sovereign discretion of present host countries. Where exercised this shall be in the context of prompt and extensive development and rehabilitation programs for the refugee communities.

Note that the specific amount of Palestinian refugees that would theoretically be allowed into '48 Israel is at Israel's sovereign discretion. Yes, a "basis" to get to a number is the average of third country permanent resettlements. But a) that number will likely be pretty token and b) it's merely a "basis" and thus non-binding regardless.

What power do they have to implement this politically in Palestine?

None, of course, right now. But should such an agreement be consummated, the entire international community would have to act as guarantor of the arrangement. Palestinians pursuing irredentist claims re: '48 borders would be heavily marginalized and not gain much support except from radical Islamist circles.

c) But isn't the larger question, the crucial question, one of credibility? We all want to believe, to hope (let's assume). After all, we are all honorable men....But what basis is there to believe anything that emanates from the Palestinian leadership (even those elements of the leadership that are supposedly furthest away from leading)?

And if the response to that question (assuming that I'll not be labeled a racist) is that "in spite of justified doubts one must forge ahead (after all what alternative ist there? etc.)," then can't one rejoin that one is witnessing Oslo a second time, or for that matter acting out Munich redux?

To close, one's opinions reflect one's hopes and perceptions to be sure; but why in this case do normally intelligent people cast all caution to the tendentious winds in the name of hope?

I'm not casting all caution to the wind. I'm saying that Yossi Beilin and his Palestinian interlocuters came up with a quite ingenious potential settlement. Put simply, they pushed beyond Taba without moving purely into the realm of fantasy. I really believe that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians who took the time to read this agreement--should the current atmosphere not be as poisonous today--would likely be in a position to support the document.

It's not some absurd, fantastical document. It's grounded in an entire historical background of negotiations going from Madrid to Oslo to Camp David II to Taba. That's why Sharon was so pissed about it. If it was purely fantasy-land he could have more easily ignored it and it wouldn't have gotten under his skin so much.

Some pretty good points made here. So I'll be blogging a response today or tomorrow.

posted by Gregory| 10/31/2003 12:44:00 PM

Khodorkovsky, Putin, Yukos

I haven't blogged all the going-ons re: this matter. But a trusty B.D. Moscow correspondent thinks it's a bigger deal that I initially (and still) do.

So, while his report may be a tad hyperbolic, it's well worth a read:


Historian Richard Pipes relayed to me a conversation with former "kamizakee" Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar in the early nineties whom he asked: "don't you see the massive degree of theft going on in your country, why don't you do something?" According to Dr. Pipes, Gaidar bluntly responded "because that would prompt a counter-revolution and blow away what freedom we have managed to gain and are working to further build." The arrest of Russia's richest man on Saturday and subsequent resignation of Kremlin chief-of-staff Alexander Voloshin, officially accepted yesterday, evidence the fact this very counter-revolution is under way. It is not, as pro-Kremlin spinners will, and most likely have, attempted to communicate to policy-makers in the West, a Russian version of "Operation Clean Hands." Rather, it is a calculated power-grab by the very people the Cold War was fought to remove from political leadership in Russia. The country is moving--if not uncontrollably--quickly backwards.

The Washington establishment spent a good deal of time speculating about "who is Mr. Putin" following is accession to Russia’s presidency in late 1999. The United States is not uniquely to blame--it was on German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's good word that President Bush set forth on a positive relationship with his Russian counterpart. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was also an earlier advocate of Putin's bona fides. Putin is reportedly fond of relaying a conversation he had with Henry Kissinger in New York when, according to his telling, the two agreed that there is nothing wrong with intelligence men leading countries--look, after all at Bush the Elder. In Russia's case, though, it's not just a former intelligence man at the helm: following recent events, it is now painfully clear that the intelligence services are running the country, from the top down. Voloshin's departure from the Kremlin signals a victory of sorts for the "silovoki." The last voices of reason in this country are the liberal politicians we support, however, a clearly corrupt (witness Chechnya last month) electoral machine is working to further marginalize them in early December. The figurative crumbs we're being thrown in response (yesterday's decision by the Constitutional Court that journalists might actually be able to report on politics under certain circumstances), cannot obscure the unpleasant truth about what is happening in Russia. Democratic processes here are profoundly compromised and the situation is getting worse.

Time to Do Something

Last July, when this particular series of events began rolling into motion, I wrote--on the urging of another deputy--an appropriately shrill but perhaps underscored piece in a weekly report about the ramifications of what is going on in the Russian political establishment. Prompting what may have been an insufficient gesture on my part, a wide-eyed deputy asked me, incredulously, how Washington could sit by and allow this to happen. The Russians now understands that this is precisely what we have done and no longer look for much help from the West. During a live interview on NTV earlier this week, Javier Solana said current events amount to "an internal Russian matter," following this, though, by stating his personal concern (which was not translated.) In a full-page add in yesterday's Kommersant, self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky wrote, among other things, that Russia's opposition needs to stop looking to the West for help and start relying on themselves.

Perhaps Berezovsky was correct in some aspects of what he said. A unification of forces who stand for market-reforms, freedom and open communication with the outside world is very much in order. If, like Berezovsky himself or, as the General Prosecutor and FSB are doing their damndest to demonstrate, now Khodorkovsky, the advocates of these principals are not the most attractive people in the world, that is at best a side note. We are not unfamiliar with scoundrels playing virtuous tunes or appealing to higher values in the hopes of winning our sympathy--Americans are uniquely succeptible to such overtures because we actually believe in the principles. In the current case, however, Russia's oligarchs, for all their dirty laundry, are telling us something important:

Cognizant of what little we can do in this situation, at the very least I would urge you to neither accept nor implicitly legitimize the Kremlin spin on this matter. This is not an isolated business matter, as some Russia-boosters successfully persuaded the markets at the beginning of this week, pre-empting a financial freefall. It is not just about re-distribution of the world's fifth-largest oil company (a controlling stake in which was frozen late yesterday). It is certainly not about Putin fighting corruption. Rather, it is history moving in the wrong direction.

UPDATE: More very serious concern.

posted by Gregory| 10/31/2003 11:22:00 AM

A Neo-Con in London

So I went to hear John Bolton speak last night here in London. The talk was hosted by a British think-tank shop called the Bruges Group.

In the audience you had MPs, former British ambassadors, Boris Berezovsky, some expat Americans like myself. Bolton was to speak on the new world order after Iraq.

Instead, however, Bolton (who is commonly described as the neo-con 'spy' in dovish Powell's State Department) gave a hard-hitting speech that mostly centered on counter-proliferation efforts, various countries WMD capabilities, and the like.

I say "instead". Why?

Well, you might have thought the speech would be more expansive thematically given the theme of a new world order post-Iraq. But I suspect, for Bolton, the new world order after Iraq is much like the new world order after 9/11. It's all about the WMD.

His list of rogue states was impressively long. Of course, NoKo and Iran. But Syria, Libya, Cuba as well (and perhaps others but memory fails me--there were so many!)

He comes off as deeply expert on matters arms control, missile defense (a topic which clearly excites him and came up in the Q&A) and the WMD programs of various "states of concern".

Where Bolton didn't come off as expert was under questioning from some, like a retired British Ambassador to the Middle East, about issues like the potential perils of democratization in the Middle East.

What, the questioner asked, if free elections install Islamist regimes in power? The one man, one vote, one time issue. A theological party comes into power and bans, going forward, free and fair elections.

This scenario is likely hyped a bit among the crusty Whitehall old guard chuckling about the clumsy neocon Yanks (there were quite a few of those types in the audience)--but Bolton's response didn't give confidence that he had given such 'deeper' issues much thought.

He glossed over the current state of play in Iraq so I asked him about that. I prefaced my Q by relaying that guys like John McCain, Bill Kristol and his fellow AEI'er Tom Donnelly (Bolton used to be affiliated with that think-tank) were calling for more troops in Iraq.

What did Bolton think? Was he comfortable with the Iraqification strategy? The number of boots on the ground?

Oh, and Bolton painted Syria in pretty poor colors--though stated Damascus had been more amenable to Washington's demands lately. But I pushed him on the porousness (or lack of porousness) of that border. He conceded that the real foul play from Syria occurred during the "major combat operations" stage and they had cooled it recently.

On the troops issue--he passed the buck--like Rummy and Dubya--leaving such ruminations to the commanders on the ground. But he stressed that he felt that passing more responsibility over to the Iraqis, as quickly as possible, was good for us and good for them.

He didn't pause to query whether we might be training them in too hasty a manner and that, consequently, they wouldn't be ready for prime time given the sophisticated insurgency campaign we are facing.

All in all, I was impressed by Bolton. His command of counter-proliferation issues is truly impressive. I'm glad folks like him are keeping an eagle eye on WMD issues from Beltway vantage points.

But I would have liked to have seen more of a facility with historical undercurrents in complex regions like the Middle East, more thought given to ethnic and secretarian subtleties/issues, and, overall, a slightly less myopic view of the post 9/11 scene.

WMD proliferation is a hugely important issue--perhaps the defining threat of the post 9/11 era. But we have to put the issue in context and pursue more sophisticated strategies that take into account the individual factors driving each states' weapons programs.

To often, I fear, a guy like John Bolton will come at the issue solely from the prism of diktat-like clarion calls to disarm, disarm, disarm--without a deeper sense of regional dynamics or how best to apply the pressure points vis-a-vis the relevant government.

posted by Gregory| 10/31/2003 10:46:00 AM

Condi Watch

B.D. has occasionally issued polite criticisms in the direction of Condi Rice.

But boy does she get it per this article. And, doesn't she sound, you know, quite Vice-Presidential? Like she'd be a significant political asset in the campaign, even?

"It is now undeniable that the terrorists declared war on America and on the civilized world many years before Sept. 11, 2001," she said in remarks delivered to the legal center at the Waldorf-Astoria. "The attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988, the World Trade Center in 1993, the attacks on American installations in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000: These and other atrocities were part of a sustained, systematic campaign to spread devastation and chaos. Yet until Sept. 11, the terrorists faced no sustained, systematic and global response."


posted by Gregory| 10/31/2003 10:15:00 AM


Bush Reelection Prospects Watch


How will Paul Krugman spin this?

Doubtless that the rapid growth is on the back of perilous and spiraling deficit spending etc etc.

Noam Chomsky, hanging in Havana, provides a preview of this theme and--as a bonus--additional offensive musings.

UPDATE: As if on cue here is Paul Krugman writing today.

"To put it more bluntly: it would be quite a trick to run the biggest budget deficit in the history of the planet, and still end a presidential term with fewer jobs than when you started. And despite yesterday's good news, that's a trick President Bush still seems likely to pull off."

posted by Gregory| 10/30/2003 02:52:00 PM

Turkish Troop Deployment Watch

What was always a bad idea continues to dissipate as a viable policy option. In blog-land, you read about it here first!

posted by Gregory| 10/30/2003 02:48:00 PM

The Perils of Iraqification

I've been getting a bit worried that, given mounting casualties and attacks in Iraq, some in the Bush Administration are tempted to "Iraqify" the security effort--perhaps with the goal of getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible.

A version of this view has Bush wanting to avoid any post-March '04 U.S. fatalities as the election approaches. The problem with this, of course, is that the forces may be too hastily trained.

And if they are not yet ready for prime time they will likely be out-fought by Baathist resistance, Saddam Fedayeen, assorted jihadis and criminal elements.

But I'm not buying all the 'cut and run' speculation at this stage. Jim Hoagland, who has excellent Washington sources, writes today that:

"Bush was adamant that he will see through the challenge in Iraq. In private he is even more insistent, I am told, about not declaring a false victory and running out, as some prominent Democrats predict he will do. Bush aides say that is neither in his nature nor in his political interest."

Perhaps needless to say, but if this White House does cynically change course and leave Iraq--before having made a protracted and serious effort to leave a viable democratic polity behind--George Bush will have at least one fewer vote than he got in '00 courtesy of a B.D. defection.

And doubtless many others feel the same.

Anyway, as I said, I don't think that is going to happen. I really trust Bush is wedded to making a serious go of the Iraq effort.

But I'm worried he might go about it the wrong way going forward, partly because of the manner by which the renewed emphasis on Iraqification appears linked to potential troop reductions (or at least not troop increases).

Don't get me wrong. I think we should Iraqify--partly, per the plan, so as to free up more of our troops tied up with force protection duties, border monitoring, routine security. These troops are then free to concentrate on going after the bad guys.

But even with Iraqification freeing up more of our G.I.s to hunt down the resistance and terrorists--I still fear it will prove too little, too late.

So what to do? I'm with the McCain-Bill Kristol crowd at this stage.

McCain: “We need more troops,” said McCain. “We need more special forces. We need more marines. We need more intelligence capabilities.”

By the way, I suspect Bush too has some concerns about whether we have enough forces on the ground. Otherwise why would he be "constantly" asking Rummy about it (see bottom of linked post)?

Maybe it's time for key opinion leaders in the Beltway (McCain, Hagel, Kristol, Donnelly etc) to ramp up the pressure and make the argument more loudly and forcefully. The stakes certainly warrant it.

The Mix of Forces

As Donnelly points out in his piece, counter-insurgency campaigns are manpower intensive. Another reason to assure appropriate force levels in the theater.

In this vein, as mentioned above, McCain is wise to call for more troops, more marines, more special forces, more intelligence-gathering capability.

But what about constabulatory forces?

Once an area has been secured--are we really going to feel good about passing off the security maintenance duties solely to a hastily trained Iraqi police force?

Yes, they will have more cultural sensitivity and, of course, facility with the locals. But will they be able to keep a secured area secure?

This is where having sophisticated constabulatory forces available comes into play. This is where, just maybe, once we've secured key areas, countries like Germany could make a real contribution.

Not only by helping to train professional Iraqi military police cadres--but also, perhaps under a NATO umbrella--by having a presence on the ground to monitor the security maintenance implementation better.

Yeah, I know this sounds like an Afghanistan redux. And the Germans might balk. As far as I know, Schroder has merely offered to train Iraqi security forces and never specified whether he'd even do the training (let along joint patrols and the like) in Iraq proper.

Worth noting too, of course, that large swaths of Afghanistan are increasingly becoming unsafe again as the Taliban, neo-Talibs and al-Qaeda remnants regroup. Which argues for having more manpower there too. Clearly, we can't do all this alone.

The Larger Picture

Forget all the debates about multilateralism versus unilateralism. The charges of stubborn unilateralism lobbed at the Bushies were always of the nature of a straw man erected by opponents of the administration.

After 9/11, we are all multilateralists. We might have implemented diplomatic efforts at gaining multilateral cooperation better--but Bush, as much as his critics like to claim, never told the world to go f**k off. There was too much diplomatic effort exerted at the U.N., for one, that renders such claims of brutish unilateralism highly disingenuous.

He and his advisors realize that the challenges are too massive, even for the behemoth-like hyperpuissance, to be handled alone.

Financial detective work to track terrorist finances, intelligence sharing on terror groups and rogue states, troop deployment requirements--we require assistance on all these fronts.

As Chuck Hagel puts it in folksy Nebraska terms, "we need friends." But let's structure that cooperation and friendship intelligently. So a suggestion.

It's increasingly clear that the NATO community will be facing threats emanating from the "next door" region of the Middle East going forward. Might it not make sense to develop multinational constabulatory NATO brigades that are ready and able to both train third country military police and assist such cadres, on the ground, with stabilization duties in "peace-making" environments?

Above and beyond the Nato Response Force that was recently formed?

posted by Gregory| 10/30/2003 11:39:00 AM


Clark Oversteps

I'm starting to like Clark less and less. Oh, and Jamie Rubin has joined his team as senior foreign policy advisor.

More on Clark via Sully.

posted by Gregory| 10/29/2003 01:54:00 PM

Syria Border Watch

It appears that it's not quite as porous as you might have been led to think:

"Commanders from the 101st Airborne repeated this week that neither the aircraft nor human intelligence sources show significant infiltration from Syria. Foreign fighters could still be reaching Baghdad from Syria, Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait by passing through border posts with valid or forged travel documents, but concerns about illegal infiltration along the Syrian border appear unfounded, the officers said.

"If somebody is saying the Ho Chi Minh Trail runs through my area of operations, I'm going to tell them they're wrong," said Lt. Col. Joseph Buche, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne's 3rd Battalion, referring to the infiltration route through Laos used by North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War.

posted by Gregory| 10/29/2003 11:27:00 AM

Arab Solidarity Watch

Multiple suicide bombings in an Arab capital. Dozens killed, hundreds wounded. The vast majority of the fatalities Iraqi Arabs. Indeed, Iraqi nationals serving in nascent post-Saddam police forces mostly the intended targets.

So I thought I'd do a quick Lexis-Nexis search date segmented for the past four days.

Search terms: Hosni Mubarak, Bashar Assad, Crown Prince Abdullah, King Abdullah.

Would leaders of the key Arab states have anything negative to say about the spate of bombings? Would they condemn the brutality that felled so many of their fellow Arabs? The scourge of suicide bombing coming home, so to speak?

No. Not a whimper of condemnation from Hosni Mubarak (he tepidly wished for "Iraq's stability" in a meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister), Crown Prince Abdullah (who told a cabinet session that "he hoped Muslim countries and peoples would seize on the holy month of Ramadan to end all kinds of disunity and disputes"), King Abdullah (nada), or Bashar Assad (no surprise there).

Now, it might be that English language journalists simply haven't written up the strident condemnations issued by these key Arab leaders as word of the horrific bombings raced around the globe. Perhaps the Arab language press is full of such denunciations of Arab killing Arab.

Or maybe not.

Sadly (and pretty predictably), the reaction has been mostly of this nature.

Talk about morally bankrupt leadership. Leaders have to lead--not just bow to the prejudices and fears of their people. Sure, Washington has made some missteps in its Middle East policy and our reputation is at somewhat of a nadir in the Arab/Islamic world.

But does that mean that long term allies like Crown Prince Abdullah, King Abdullah and Hosni Mubarak can't even bring themselves to condemn the horrific suicide bombings of earlier this week?

Not on Washington's behalf, mind you. Listen, the U.S. isn't asking varied potentates to sycophantize and kowtow to America by always condemning whatever happens in the region that we deem worthy of condemnation.

But surely when Arab blood is spilled in such large number--Arab leaders might step up to the plate to condemn these vicious tactics?

Nope. Rather a quite deafening silence or broad banalities uttered about Ramadan bonhomie.

Guess the resurrection of any great pan-Arabist projects isn't looming just over the horizon, huh?

posted by Gregory| 10/29/2003 10:38:00 AM

The Mother of all Rogues

Over at Le Monde Diplomatique, it's not nuclear proliferation in NoKo or Iran that's of significant concern.

Rather, it's the U.S. nuclear capability that's the real concern.

No, seriously. (subscription required).

Dominique de Villain (I mean, de Villepin) is doubtless in the bowels of the Quai D'Orsay plotting a containment strategy now that Iran is all, um, tidied up.

posted by Gregory| 10/29/2003 01:14:00 AM

Krugman Suck Up Watch

There's something of a love-in over at the NYRB with Russell Baker discoursing on Paul Krugman's greatness (or something like that).

I feel a tad nauseous after reading it, to be frank. And no, it's not the snifter of Lagavulin that's to blame....

"Before anyone could say "narcolepsy," politics intruded, and it quickly became obvious that Krugman was incapable of being either boring or genteel, but was highly gifted at writing political journalism. Starting in January of the election year 2000, he rapidly acquired a large, adoring readership which treasured his column as an antidote for the curiously polite treatment President Bush was receiving from most of the mainstream media."

You can't make this stuff up.

posted by Gregory| 10/29/2003 12:40:00 AM


Dubya's Press Conference

Read it here. Some parts were strong, some less so.

Some key snippets (italicized) with observations below the relevant text in normal font.

Defining Imminency Down

Check out this interesting exchange.


Your package of reconstruction aid, sir, that the Congress, as you point out, is considering, that's an emergency package, meaning it's not budgeted for. Put another way, that means the American taxpayer and future generations of American taxpayers are saddled with that.

Why should they be saddled with that? I know you don't want the Iraqis to be saddled with large amounts of debt, but why should future generations of Americans have that?

BUSH: First of all, it's a one-time expenditure, as you know.

And secondly, because a peaceful and free Iraq is essential to the future security of America.

First step was to remove Saddam Hussein because he was a threat -- a gathering threat, as I think I put it.
[my emphasis]

Dubya's been reading Sully (see "The Real Issue")--or his advisors have.

Later in the press conference:

Q: Sir, David Kay's interim report cited substantial evidence of a secretive weapons program, but the absence of any substantial stores of chemical or biological weapons there have caused some people even who supported the war to feel somehow betrayed.

Can you explain to those Americans, sir, whether you are surprised those weapons haven't turned up, why they haven't turned up and whether you feel that your administration's credibility has been affected in any way by that?

BUSH: David Kay's report said that Saddam Hussein was in material breach of 1441, which would have been casus belli. In other words, he had a weapons program, he's disguised the weapons program, he had ambitions. And I felt the report was a very interesting first report, because he's still looking to find the truth.

The American people know that Saddam Hussein was a gathering danger, as I said. And he was a gathering danger, and the world is safer as a result for us removing him from power. Us being more than the United States, Britain and other countries who are willing to participate -- Poland, Australia -- all willing to join up to remove this danger.

And the intelligence that said he had a weapon system was intelligence that had been used by a multinational agency, the U.N., to pass resolutions.

It's been used by my predecessor to conduct bombing raids. It was intelligence gathered from a variety of sources that clearly said Saddam Hussein was a threat. And given the attacks of September the 11th, it was -- you know, we needed to enforce U.N. resolution for the security of the world, and we did. We took action based upon good, solid intelligence. It was the right thing to do to make America more secure and the world more peaceful.

And David Kay continues to ferret out the truth. Saddam Hussein is a man who hid programs and weapons for years. He was a master at hiding things. And so, David Kay will continue his search.

But one of the things that he first found was that there was clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, material breach they call it in the diplomatic circles. Causes belie (ph), it means that would have been a cause for war. In other words, he said it's dangerous.

And we were right to enforce U.N. resolutions as well. It's important for the U.N. to be a credible organization. You're not credible if you issue resolutions and then nothing happens. Credibility comes when you say something is going to happen and then it does happen.

And in order to keep the peace, it's important for there to be credibility in this world, credibility on the side of freedom and hope."

You know, I've said it before, but it's worth saying again. Dubya's right. Saddam, by not disclosing the existence of the weapons programs that Kay has uncovered, was in breach of 1441.

Casus belli right there. Sure, in the heated advent to war, there may have been some (very) unfortunate hyping of intelligence by some Administration figures (though nothing I've seen, to date, by the President, proves anything beyond very aggressive readings of imperfect intelligence--as compared with purposeful deception).

Would I be happier if we had stumbled upon large stockpiles of anthrax, sarin and botulinum toxin back in April? You bet.

But post 9/11, the burden of proof must lie on states running afoul of U.N. resolutions (particularly when led by leaders who have used WMD before) to persuasively show compliance with valid demands of the international community with respect to their weapons programs and stockpiles.

The Middle East Peace Process

QUESTION: Mr. President, your policies on the Middle East seem so far to have produced pretty meager results, as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians...

BUSH: Major or meager?



QUESTION: ... as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians continues. And as you heard last week from Muslim leaders in Indonesia, your policies are seen as biased toward Israel and I'd like to ask you about that.

The government of Israel continues to build settlements in occupied territories and it continues to build the security fence which Palestinians see as stealing their land.

You've criticized these moves mildly a couple of times, but you've never taken any concrete action to back up your words on that. Will you?

BUSH: My policy in the Middle East is pretty clear. We are for a two-state solution. We want there to be a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

Now, in order to achieve a two-state solution there needs to be a focused effort by all concerned parties to fight off terror. There are terrorists in the Middle East willing to kill to make sure that a Palestinian state doesn't emerge. It's essential that there be a focused effort to fight off terror.

Abu Mazen came here to the White House. You were here. You witnessed the press conference. He pledged a focused and concerted effort to fight terror so that we could have a Palestinian state emerge. And he asked for help, which we were willing to provide.

Unfortunately, he is no longer in power. He was eased out of power. And I do not see the same commitment to fight terror from the old guard.

And, therefore, it's going to be very hard to move a peace process forward until there's a focused effort by all parties to assume their responsibilities

You asked about the fence. I have said the fence is a problem to the extent that the fence is an opportunity to make it difficult for a Palestinian state to emerge. There is a difference between security and land acquisition, and we have made our views clear on that issue.

I have also spoken to Prime Minister Sharon in the past about settlement activities. And the reason why that we have expressed concern about settlement activities is because we want the conditions for a Palestinian state on the ground to be positive; that when the Palestinians finally get people that are willing to fight off terror, the ground must be right so that a state can emerge -- a peaceful state.

This administration is prepared to help the Palestinians develop an economy. We're prepared to help the long-suffering Palestinian people.

But the long-suffering Palestinian people need leadership that is willing to do what is necessary to enable a Palestinian state to come forth.

[emphasis added]

Was Bush joking when he prodded the questioner about whether results of Middle East peace processing efforts were meager or major? Sadly, I think he was seriously asking--though I didn't see the conference on video and am solely relying on the text.

Regardless, the bolded portion pretty much says it all. The peace process is moribund and in tatters. And it will likely remain so for quite a spell.

We are in the strange position that Arafat's presence all but means Bush has decided to hit the pause button on the peace process. At the same time, we are against the Israelis killing or expelling him--as the consequences would be dire (as senior IDF folks are aware too--another reason Sharon has held his fire).

Catch-22 in the Holy Land, you might say.

Someone has to move the process ahead despite Arafat's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't.

I say this is dumb policy. I'd take Yossi Beilin's fervent peace processing efforts over this paralysis any day of the week--especially as the Palis gave up right of return in the Geneva arrangements.

Condi's Role

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

You recently put Condoleezza Rice, your national security adviser, in charge of the management of the administration's Iraq policy. What has effectively changed since she's been in charge?

And a second question: Can you promise a year from now that you will have reduced the number of troops in Iraq?

BUSH: The second question is a trick question, so I won't answer it.

The first question was Condoleezza Rice. Her job is to coordinate inter-agency. She's doing a fine job of coordinating inter-agency. She's doing what her -- I mean, the role of the national security adviser is to not only provide good advice to the president, which she does on a regular basis -- I value her judgment and her intelligence -- but her job is also to deal inter-agency and to help unstick things that may get stuck. That's the best way to put it. She's an unsticker... [emphasis added]


... and -- is she listening? OK, well, she's doing a fine job."

An unsticker? No folks, she's got to be a proactive broker--like I've argued before.

A few points here. The use of the term unsticker is quite revealing. For one, it presupposes such frequent "stickiness."

Put differently, it means that in this Admin, it's pretty much simply assumed Rummy/Powell will go to the mat each time (with Armitage sparring in the background with Wolfy, Feith and Co.) and produce a morass of conflicting policies. And then Condi comes in and simply unsticks the mess, ie. the attendant inertia/policy paralysis.

Nah. That's not an effective M.O.

Again, think Brent Scrowcroft. We need an active broker with the gravitas, skill and intellect to bash Beltway barons like Powell and Rummy (and deal with a very, very powerful Veep with his own mini-NSC) into line when the national interest demands innovative bridging proposals (or other out of the box thinking) emanating from the NSC--when the other principals can't get their ducks in line.

Condi Rice, with all due respect, hasn't played this role to date.

Troops Levels in Iraq

Q:....And, in addition, are you considering the possibility of possibly adding more U.S. troops to the forces already on the ground there to help restore order?

BUSH: That's a decision by John Abizaid. General Abizaid makes the decision as to whether or not he needs more troops.

I constantly ask the secretary of defense, as well as when I was visiting with General Abizaid, "Does he have what it takes to do his mission?" He told me he does
. [emphasis added]

Why is Dubya "constantly" asking Rummy if we have another troops? Maybe because he, just might, instinctually feel we don't have enough? He might be on to something...

posted by Gregory| 10/28/2003 10:06:00 PM

Resolve Watch

Glenn Reynolds and Megan Mcardle nail it on the head. Though the Kucinich thing would be tough!

posted by Gregory| 10/28/2003 02:37:00 PM

Mahatir Watch

A look at post-Mahatir Malaysia. Oh, and Sholto Byrnes gets carried away and informs Spectator readers that they should "cherish" Mahatir.

posted by Gregory| 10/28/2003 12:35:00 PM

The Turkish Angle

Owen Matthews sees some good that has come out of the Turkish troops in Iraq issue.

"But there may yet be an up side to the affair, a rare instance of a positive manifestation of the law of unintended consequences. The IGC, as a result of its opposition to the US over Turkish troops, has never enjoyed more credibility or popularity among ordinary Iraqis, who were previously inclined to see it simply as US stooges. Since whatever government eventually grows up in Iraq to replace the coalition occupiers will grow out of the IGC in some shape or form, growing public trust in the Council, rather than some more radical alternative, must be a good thing. In the long term, the confidence the IGC has won by standing up to America may do Iraq more good than Turkish peacekeepers ever could."

David Phillips has more.

posted by Gregory| 10/28/2003 12:29:00 PM

Regional Escalation Watch

More cause for concern.

posted by Gregory| 10/28/2003 11:07:00 AM


A Bloody Day in Baghdad

A horrific day in Baghdad with dozens dead and hundreds wounded. The pictures of scores of traumatized Iraqis is heartwrenching. Four suicide bombs within 45 minutes, coming on the heels of a brazen attack on the al Rashid hotel, must serve as a wake up call to Washington policymakers. The guerrillas (likely Baathist resistance acting in concert with some foreign fighters) telegraphed to Washington (indeed, the world) that they were capable of highly coordinated and devastating action in persuasive and dramatic fashion.

Like the three laws of real estate (location, location, location) in Iraq today it's about security, security, security. Want NGOs to help out? They need a (somewhat) secure environment. Want outside investors in? They need security. Want additional "peacekeeping" troop contingents from other nations? Security again. Want to have a viable exit strategy? Need security--or what good is some chimerical constitution and hobbled interim governing authority? Without ultimately establishing security, the U.S. would be leaving before the job is done and would lose credibility as a serious international actor for a good while.

How to achieve this security will prove difficult. Some AEI'ers had some suggestions that I linked in my post below on the attack on the al Rashid ("Insurgency Watch"). But one thing is becoming increasingly clear. Our strategy requires, at least, some tweaking. Because it ain't working as is.

Supporters of this war (me included) need to stop spinning like the Paul Begalas of the world. Much of the news emanating from Iraq is bad. And, I note in passing, some of the big bloggers who carp on and on about how the media ignores the "good" news haven't even deemed it appropriate to briefly blog about this day of unprecedented post-war carnage in Baghdad. Their credibility is being strained too now.

How Will the Arab World View the Attacks?

A question. How will the horrific footage of Iraqis bloodied, hysterical, traumatized, wailing for loved ones lost--how will such footage play in the Arab world? What effect will seeing the devastation that felled scores of Iraqis have on swaths of the Arab world seeing the horrific face of modern terror in atypical fashion?

Put differently, the targets are not removed Bali discoteques, NYC skyscrapers, Riyadh expat targets--but rather the common citizenry bustling about a major Arab capital. Hundreds of Arabs wounded by suicide bombing tactics.

Will there be some revulsion at the tactics voiced by media and intellectual elites? Or will it just be viewed as "just desserts" to the occupiers (and those who cooperate with them, ie. Iraqi police, with the 'innocent' dead ignored)? Put differently, will the horrific scene ultimately be blamed on the Americans? Sadly, it probably will.

UPDATE: Rummy is spouting off on Fox about how we've got 85,000 Iraqi security personnel trained. Well, goodness gracious! Super.

Listen, I'm not one for Vietnam (or Vietnamization) analogies. But the divorced from reality feel, the pulled-back hair, the cockiness--all make me think of Bob McNamara. It doesn't matter if we've got 850,000 Iraqi security personnel trained if they can't block suicide bombings of the ICRC HQ or their own police stations.

It's good Don Rumsfeld is being frank about a long, hard slog (though there's a good deal of butt-covering involved to countervail the more triumphalist civilian Pentagon rhetoric of rosier Saddam-statue pull down days). And hje admitted it's been a tough day.

Still, the Secretary of Defense shouldn't appear so sanguine about the security situation, ie. all will be well because some Iraqi security personnel are being trained. His deputy almost died yesterday for pete's sake.

posted by Gregory| 10/27/2003 11:11:00 PM

Hope Springs Eternal

In defense of the Geneva Accords.

posted by Gregory| 10/27/2003 10:22:00 PM

The Iraqi FM

This poor man's job is being made so difficult (including, it appears, by individuals on the "inside") that the cross-Beltway sniping from Rummy on Powell (and vice versa) looks like child's play by comparison.

Oh, and don't you love the "nostalgia for the past" headline?

posted by Gregory| 10/27/2003 09:13:00 AM


What Bush should say to Sharon. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Jackson Diehl has more.

posted by Gregory| 10/27/2003 01:37:00 AM


Insurgency Watch

The guerrillas in Iraq had a really good day today. I think the spin that this attack was in the offing for at least two months and thus Wolfy wasn't the target is bogus. Sure, the attack was being planned for a good while, but the insurgents very likely waited to strike when such a high profile U.S. visitor was staying at the hotel (which leads one to wonder whether some Baathist intelligence agents might be infiltrating coalition information sources).

Kudos to Wolfy for spending the night in Tikrit and then Baghdad--rather than overnighting, like so many other VIPs, in Kuwait City--choppered back to safety at night. But say goodbye to the "small American victory" one might have surmised, symbolically speaking at least, from the Tikrit overnight.

That ended with the multiple rocket attack on the al Rashid hotel. The attack was a real propaganda coup for the guerrillas. A chief architect of the Iraq war overnights in a hotel synonymous with the U.S. occupation. Rockets slam into various floors--including the floor just below where Wolfowitz is sleeping or just beginning his day.

The sophisticated attack will likely be portrayed, at least by the enemies of the U.S. operating in Iraq, as a literal and figurative wake up call to Wolfowitz--and by extension, his higher ups in the Beltway, Rummy and Dubya.

For what it's worth, it's probably B.S. that he was "shaken", as both CNN and the Beeb (on air) reported. Dave Ignatius, who was actually there, says that Wolfy wasn't shaken.

That said, it surely isn't fun to be so woken up around 6 A.M., find a Lt. Colonel is dead and many wounded, and then move along and make a normal day of it. And the footage that went around the world of a pale and tired looking Wolfowitz somewhat grimly enunciating that, you know, we won't be cowed, the criminals will be defeated, etc. etc. had that grainy, historical feel you could almost imagine constituting a brief part of a documentary, produced a few years hence, meant to evoke a period that represented a pivot point in the occupation.

Listen, its been 7 months into this occupation and, truth be told, it's not going too swimmingly. Time to get tougher and smarter. Here's a smart place to start. And yeah, it might mean sending fresh Marine Units in rather than reducing our force presence in Iraq.

UPDATE: Check out this new soldier-blogger writing from Baghdad. Read his post called "Exciting Day." He gets the stakes--but is dubious that the American people will have the wherewithal to pull it out. I'm not so sure I'm as pessimistic as he is--but can understand his frustration. I wouldn't be surprised if this solider wouldn't advocate getting more "boots on the ground", btw.

IN-HOUSE NOTE: I'm thinking of adding, given the massive strategic import of how Iraq plays out to the American national interest, a new links section at B.D. focusing on Iraq (specialized media sources, CPA sources, Iraq media, Iraq-based blogs etc). Readers please chime in if you'd like to see this and I'll try to get one up and running at some point later this week if sufficient interest exists. Oh, and chime in on any other improvements and/or grievances you have about the site, if any.

posted by Gregory| 10/26/2003 10:57:00 PM

Keller Watch

A few beauts on tap today. First, in a Steve Weisman piece on the donor funds in the offing for the reconstruction effort:

"The United States, completing an extraordinary campaign for economic aid to Iraq, won commitments on Friday of at least $13 billion over five years for reconstruction of water, power, health care and other systems devastated by the American invasion six months ago." [emphasis added]

None of the infrastructure, of course, may have been damaged before the U.S. invasion. None of the reconstruction efforts the U.S. is spearheading, in the largest such effort since the Marshall Plan, in sectors as disparate as water, power, and healthcare, require a bit of upkeep or a spot of polish here or there due to the state of affairs during Saddam's reign.

All was rosy then, of course.

I mean, it almost seems like NYT correspondents are surprised that some Iraqis prefer life without Saddam rather than with him, at least given headlines like these.

Oh, and check out this sad story about a Corporal who made it through the dangerous security situation during service in Iraq only to die in a California shooting. But note the hyperbolic NYT language. The Corporal made it through the "killing fields" of Iraq-- only to be felled in Long Beach, California.

posted by Gregory| 10/26/2003 10:27:00 PM


Al-Qaeda Inc.

The Algerian Salafist movement officially comes on board with al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda thus continues to formalize its conglomeration strategy vis-a-vis having other Islamic radical groups formally move under its umbrella. The U.S. reacts to the Salafist news.

Syria Watch

In other Middle East news, Syrian FM Farouq al Shara is sketching out possible deterrent scenarios vis-a-vis Israel.

Elsewhere on Syria, check out this Neil MacFarquhar NYT piece from yesterday. Let me just say that, and not to question Mr. MacFarquhar's motives, this piece rang pretty hyperbolic to me.

There was perhaps a bit of an undercurrent of 'the U.S.-going-into-Iraq-radicalizing-the-region' bias underpinning this story and its prominent treatment by the NYT. I'm not an expert on religious dynamics in Syria--but I've followed trends in that country pretty closely.

And I'm confident that this article, at least to the extent that readers believe a significant Islamic resurgence is underway in Syria, exaggerates the situation there to the point of providing an inaccurate picture to the readership of the NYT.

As an example of said Islamic resurgence, MacFarquhar trots out a firebrand mullah from a working class district and, additionally, writes:

"Friday Prayers draw overflowing crowds. More heavily veiled women and bearded men jostle unharried among city pedestrians. Family restaurants on the outskirts of Damascus do not serve alcohol, and one fashionable boutique even sports a sign advertising Islamically modest bathing suits."

Busy Friday prayers? How unbusy were they before? A few "more" chadoors in evidence amidst the pedestrian traffic? Booze-less "family" restaurants? And a store selling slightly more modest bathing suits than this one?

This an Islamic resurgence makes?

Nah. Don't believe the hype (and don't add this to any checklist you may have about all those negative ramifications stemming from the Iraq intervention).

These Syrian intellectuals have it about right:

"Some Syrian intellectuals say militant Islam has peaked. They say the government manipulates the religious resurgence as a safety valve, periodically loosening the restraints to see who is involved so they can be monitored.

"The regime on this issue continues to put the question ina very drastic way, `It's either us or a Taliban government,' " said one Syrian intellectual

Oh, and to the extent this is true the Syrians are playing a very dangerous game.

"Such experts say the government opened the doors to jihad in Iraq to see who would go, detaining those who made it back alive. Islamic activists make up the biggest block of political prisoners, human rights activists say.

Syrian observers also attribute a heavy government hand to the fatwa that the grand mufti issued last spring sanctioning suicide attacks against the American forces in Iraq, a ruling that his son now describes as a mistake

By the way, and I say this as someone who appreciates the complexities and subtleties of the role Syria plays in the neighborhood--don't believe Syrian reps on Fox news that blame any Syrian infiltrations into Iraq on "porous" borders. A goat didn't cross that border when Bashar's father controlled it. The son could likely ensure the same if he really wanted to.

I'm worried Bashar Assad, on some level, thinks he can play a calibrated spigot on/off game in terms of guerrilla infilitrations in Iraq from Syria (much like the calibrated Hezbollah activity in s. Lebanon against Israel). Assad might calculate that, ultimately, the U.S. will pull out of Iraq and his occasional support to guerrilla forces would have preserved his hard-line, pan-Arab rejectionist credentials.

Likely a dumb move. Iraq might very well still prove a success. And regardless, Bush isn't pulling out anytime soon (see "long, hard slog").

posted by Gregory| 10/25/2003 10:27:00 PM

Taliban Watch

Instapundit's keeping score: America 100 and the Taliban 0. Great pic. Listen, she's doubtless got the best legs this side of Kandahar (when she's not chilling in Cali, where she's been living for quite a spell, having wisely vacated '96 era Talib-land for the more libertine climes of Orange County).

But here's what's really going on--and the score is decidely less resoundingly in America's favor. If you are, for instance, keeping score by looking at the amount of provinces Karzai-friendly (or tenuously allied) forces effectively control--it increasingly appears a significant number of provinces have now fallen under effective Taliban control.

The U.N., perhaps more risk averse post the Baghdad HQ bombing, is ceasing operations in four provinces (and says security conditions are such that armed escorts are needed in all districts of Kandahar).

While I'm on the topic of Instapundit, another quick remark. First, let me say how I respect this tremendously prolific and smart blogger. He's undeniably the Grand Central of the blogosphere and legions of us go there daily to see what's happening in the blogworld on any given day.

But this post was pretty crude and offensive, I thought. With all due respect, I might suggest that the good professor get out and about more often. He might even find out that not all those scurrilous Palis are genocidaires....

[Ed. note: Idiot, you've ensured even longer odds against getting those vaunted Insta-lanches going forward].

Yeah, I like heavy-traffic days as much as the next guy. But first, I figure that Glenn Reynolds is magnanimous enough to take such criticism in stride and link me if he thinks something in B.D. merits a link sometime down the road.

And second, I am simply uncomfortable, even in the context of making a point about NoKo, that one of America's leading bloggers writes phrases such as "(a) cynic might advise Israel to simply kill all the Palestinians" or "(t)he Israelis are, of course, too humane to subject the Palestinians to the genocide that the Palestinians would surely visit on them if positions were reversed."

This isn't about political correctness, naivete about irredentist impulses in the Palestinian polity, or otherwise making apologies for Palestinian terrorist activities.

But to somewhat breezily suggest a country undertake genocidal actions against a people and/or assume that said entire people would doubtless visit a genocide on another group is not evocative of reasonable, rational discourse. It smells, even in the context of the thoughts on NoKo, just shy of beyond the pale. You know, an inverted Easterbrookian feel of sorts (the Palis as genocidal savages, incapable of reaching a negotiated settlement, primitives, violence-prone, etc.)

And it's grossly speculative and somewhat incendiary, isn't it? Particularly coming from a YLS grad, law professor, and leading figure of the blogosphere commentariat (with all the presumed responsibilities such a background and/or role might suggest is merited).

posted by Gregory| 10/25/2003 09:18:00 PM

The U.K. Isn't Cool Anymore

Complains Zoe Williams' in an imbecilic piece in the Guardian.

Why? Iraq, of course:

"All those, however, are sideshows to the main sellout, which was, naturally, the attack on Iraq. Clearly it would be crazy to discuss hawks or doves in terms of whether or not they're "cool", but the truth of this is that to support Bush against the UN is a quintessentially un-Labour [ed. note: un-cool, that is] thing to do. Nothing in the rich history of leftwing internationalism could have prepared us for a Labour government that would side with the Bush family against the rest of the world. And all this would have been unthinkable without the erosion of ideas brought about by the "freshness", the "newness", the "thinking outside the box" that actually equated to "treading on the box, then throwing it away, even though it was a perfectly good box".

Incidentally, this theme has a totalitarian timbre - both Nazi and Soviet propaganda addressed itself first to youth, winning over the middle-aged later. Blair's Youth Experience Rally of 1996 now starts to sound a little sinister. Youth talk is like racist cant and patriotism. Its central aim is to go for the gut and stop people thinking. It isn't cool

Doubtless, Williams' risible musings will be welcomed as provocative, spot on, witty and "cool" by most Guardian readers--helping showcase the major intellectual capacity deficits of your typical Guardian reader.

posted by Gregory| 10/25/2003 08:07:00 PM


Turkish Reticence Watch

More on Ankara's pull back re: a major troop deployment to Iraq.

posted by Gregory| 10/24/2003 06:56:00 AM

IDF Military Activity Redux

I blogged about Sharon's occasional heavy-handedness a couple days back--specifically with regard to an operation in Gaza that press reports indicated wounded eighty individuals. The Israelis are rebutting the charges. Check out this imagery.

Or see Ze'ev Schiff. I still think it's quite likely many civilians were injured in the operation (so does Schiff, it appears).

But I will say this. At least the Israeli authorities, when accused of killing innocents, often attempt to show that their military strikes were targetted, in specific fashion, at terrorist targets. Groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas will sometimes all but stumble over themselves to take credit for the slaughter of innocents. That's surely a distinction worth keeping in mind.

UPDATE: More important information on this strike.

posted by Gregory| 10/24/2003 06:54:00 AM


Au Revoir


posted by Gregory| 10/23/2003 11:13:00 PM


Still Talking Turkey

Safire's still pretty clueless.

A female Iraqi blogger explains why Turkish troops are not wanted in Iraq.

For readers who are new to the blog--here's my Turkey take from a little while back.

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 09:51:00 PM

Middle East Peace Initiatives

Brad Pitt is helping fill the void. No, seriously.

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 09:12:00 PM

Don't just blame the CPA!

This is a pretty damning report.

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 05:31:00 PM

Iraq Watch

An interesting and nuanced piece from the WaPo on the current mood in a literary quarter of Baghdad.

"After a summer when tempers ran as high as the temperatures, a fragile sense of normalcy has returned to Mutanabi Street, a narrow stretch of bookstores and shops in old Baghdad that serves as the capital's intellectual entrepot. Frustration and the anger it brought have subsided, with the return of electricity and the tangible gains of the occupation in returning police to the streets.

But the debate in shops like Hayawi's is seldom over the success or failure of the six-month occupation, even less over support or opposition to U.S. forces. Rather it is more nuanced, with sentiments as intricate as the turquoise tiles that adorn the old city's minarets. The conversations drive to the essence of the country that is being shaped -- whether occupiers can understand those they occupy, how violence will interrupt their lives, what role new forces unleashed will play

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, some gloomier news on the Afghan front. Check out this Kandahar dispatch via TNR (subscription required):

A snippet:

"In fact, the Taliban isn't just regrouping--it's recruiting a whole new generation. Several months ago, Omar, who is reportedly hiding in Afghanistan, contacted trusted aides. He asked them to start recruiting Pakistani madrassa students in the southern province of Baluchistan in order to begin a more intensive guerrilla war. "Mullah Dadullah [one of Omar's aides] was sent to Pakistan because he is ... widely respected ... by many Pashtun youths," says a Taliban insider. In the last few months, the insider says, Dadullah has visited dozens of religious schools in Pakistan, asking boys to join his jihad against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. Those who volunteer are provided information about how to proceed to Afghanistan and whom to contact in the resistance once they arrive.

Omar and his lieutenants have also taken steps to insulate their activities from Pakistani police loyal to President Pervez Musharraf's mission of erasing religious radicalism. According to sources, Omar's lieutenants meet students but rarely interact with the principals of the madrassas or other local religious leaders. "Mullah Omar believes that most of these leaders are cowards or have been bought by U.S. dollars and so cannot be trusted," says one of Omar's associates

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 12:22:00 PM

The Post-Arafat Scene

Check out this interesting article.

The IDF has been gaming potential post-Arafat scenarios. The conclusion? At least in the short term, and this even if Arafat died of natural causes, there could be an uptick in violence in the Holy Land.

This is probably part of the reason that Arafat doesn't fully groom a successor--to so do would not only facilitate U.S. and Israeli efforts to marginalize him but would also give IDF planners less concerns about the post-Arafat security scene. And if a charismatic leader with street cred emerged (Barghouti is in jail, not sure Dahlan fits the bill) the concerns outlined below would be mitigated.

"The post-Arafat forecasts were said to have been mooted last week in simulation war games held with the participation of officials from the IDF's Military Intelligence, the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service and army units
operating in the West Bank.

The scenarios were contained within contingency plans bearing the unpromising code name "Yom Sagrir" - a term describing a day of gloomy, inclement weather. Among the scenarios, outlined in frightening detail on state-owned Israel Radio and in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper, were the following:

-- A funeral march by tens of thousands of Palestinians sweeps in a human tidal wave over and past IDF checkpoints and barriers, heading for Jerusalem with a furious determination to bury Arafat where the intifada began, the Temple Mount - sacred to Muslims as the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, and to Jews as site of the ancient Temple.

Israel would prohibit the burial of Arafat on the site, but would be hard-pressed to stop the multitude without a huge price in Palestinian casualties.

-- The Palestinian Authority could dissolve and the territories could be plunged into wholesale anarchy on a scale heretofore unimaginable, driven by unstoppable rioting and unrestrained violence by rogue militias.

-- Palestinians could mount a campaign to take over settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This could trigger violent responses from threatened settlers, who could form militias of their own

These concerns are likely a bit overblown. The IDF, after all, is wise to game worst-case contingencies. But they're certainly not fantastical or hyperbolic.

The article also makes it clear how much Arafat would love to outlast Sharon:

"Fresh speculation was prompted Tuesday, when senior aides to Arafat said the chairman, acknowledged to have been weakened by recurrent vomiting and diarrhea, would need to undergo surgery to remove gall stones in the near future.

Still, if past experience is a guide, Arafat may rally indefinitely, rendering the scenarios theoretical for years to come - perhaps long enough to realize his dream of watching a discredited Sharon leave office

Guess who else is dreaming of outlasting a prominent political leader? Not Sharon, but rather Bush?

Saddam Hussein, of course.

Deep down, Saddam's fantasy is probably to outlast yet another Bush in the White House. You can almost hear him rooting for a Howard Dean or Wes Clark to unseat Dubya while he remains unapprehended through the inaugural handover. Remember, the election is just over a year from now on November 2, 2004.

Of course, a year is a long time. And I'm not going to sit here and play arm-chair general. But I will ask a few questions.

Out of our total troop presence on the ground--how many are tied up with force protection duties? How many are in areas where Saddam isn't? How many Special Forces are looking for him round the clock? Should we "flood the zone" with more boots in the regions where the likely hiding places are? Put simply, are we fully confident we've devoted the requisite resources to apprehending Saddam?

We probably are. But here's stressing that we should be absolutely sure we are doing everything possible to get Saddam and not create another protracted UBL-hunt scenario. Let's squash Saddam's 'outlasting-Bush-fantasy' from the get-go--before it begins to appear a real possibility as the months roll along.

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 11:37:00 AM

Galloway Watch

Expel him, already.

UPDATE: Oops, wrong link. Go here. Thanks to the readers who pointed this out to me.

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 11:20:00 AM

Fleet Street Watch

Over at the Guardian, we've got a gale force Washington scandal brewing that's worse than Watergate:

"It is early autumn in Washington. The leaves are falling, another election season is limbering up, and the nation's capital is once more embroiled in a gale-force scandal. It is an extraordinary affair that combines espionage, political dirty tricks and weapons of mass destruction - a heady mix normally found only in airport thrillers. But fact has had a knack of trumping fiction in Washington lately. In principle at least, this is worse than Watergate and far worse than Bill Clinton's sexual liaisons."

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 11:17:00 AM

Daniel Pearl

KSM, the mastermind of 9/11, appears to have personally murdered Pearl.

Talk about an odious and repulsive human being. Rejoice he's in captivity.

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 10:35:00 AM

In-House Matters

A reminder that you can read about my background by clicking on my name above. Oh, and a more tech savvy friend helped me post a passport pic if you want to put a face to the BD musings....

posted by Gregory| 10/22/2003 10:11:00 AM


Arik Sharon Heavy-Handedness Barometer

It's getting worse, isn't it, with this "IAF blitz"?

A Rafah a day (or week), keeps the terror at bay? Is this now the military strategy of Arik?

"Security forces were on high alert Tuesday for threatened terror attacks by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in retaliation for an unprecedented wave of IAF helicopter assaults throughout the day Monday, in which 14 Palestinians were killed and some 80 wounded."

"Most of the casualties were believed to be non-combatants. National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said Tuesday that Israel should apologize for the civilian casualties and compensate the victims, Israel Radio reported

Asked Tuesday about the civilian casualties in IAF raids, Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said "The murderous Hamas and Jihad terrorism nests deep within the civilian population. Some of this population - and I emphasize, some-collaborates and aids these murderous organizations.

"Not all are innocent there, certainly not those who store lathes (for producing Qassam rockets) and weaponry, bombs, and Qassams in their homes," Boim told Israel Radio, adding that "some of them also receive good money for this. This is also true of the (arms-smuggling) tunnels in Rafah
." [emphasis added]

Yes, of course, Israel has a right to protect herself from the scourge of suicide bombing. But gunship attacks in crowded population centers are simply dumb policy.

Why? For one, such attacks won't deliver security. Robust IDF military activity has been underway in the Territories for some three years now. Have they stopped the suicide bombings?

For another, too many innocents are felled in such attacks and so Israel begins to lose the moral highground. If you are reasonably certain that an attack in a dense population center will kill and/or injure civilians that are not complicit with the terrorists/militants/gunmen how different is that, in actual effect, than a suicide bombing?

It's still removed from the purposeful intent of massacring as many innocent civilians as possible, to be sure, but the moral differences start getting blurred.

To put it differently, how many of the civilians are "collaborators" and how many are fully innocent? And who defines when one has become a "collaborator" anyway?

Is it just me, or is this a slippery slope where, in some sense, the IDF is beginning to rationalize the increasingly large numbers of so called "collateral damage" stemming from its operations?

Are we comfortable with this M.O.? It's getting too heavy-handed, I say. And it's not just the Mahatirs and Chiracs of the world who agree with me, by the way.

Minister Partizky sentiments to compensate the victims are all well and good. But those who have lost (or had injured) relatives are not waiting for checks from Tel Aviv. They're likely planning revenge. And when more blood of innocents is spilled in Haifa or Tel Aviv--then more gunship attacks. And so on.

Yeah, yeah. Lots of people get hot under the collar when you talk of the "cycle of violence." It smacks of some form of moral relativism. That's a fair criticism when IDF military responses target those directly culpable for the terror activity.

But if Sharon blows up a Hamas thug that's one thing. If he blows up a Hamas thug and injures 80 people, many of whom don't have blood on their hands, it's very much another.

We can't all sit around wishing that the Palis just turned in all their weapons, got rid of Arafat and played nice, so that we could move back to rosy Oslo days after a nice period of interim "understandings" and roadmap implementation-with the requisite "quiet" period achieved first.

Problem is, there is massive anger on both sides given the bloodshed that has transpired over the past three years. And waiting around for the parties to exhaust themselves again with reinvigorated bouts of bloodshed is a morally weak strategy.

Adult supervision by Washington is critically needed. We simply don't have the time to just wait around as various Palestinian PMs are trotted out and attempt to hash out with Arafat which leader has effective control of the security apparatus.

Yes, these are hard issues. I understand that Bush is frustrated that Abu Mazen is no longer available as a partner. But inertia and impotence do not constitute a diplomatic strategy.

In short, Bush's Middle East policymaking is in danger of becoming a bloody farce. The Bush Administration is just shy of being flat out AWOL. It's starting to look like a full-blown abdication of responsibility.

As a Bush supporter, I expect better. Don't you?

posted by Gregory| 10/21/2003 12:17:00 PM

Counter-Proliferation Watch

Now, this is interesting (from the Haaretz ticker):

13:36 IDF intelligence chief: Saudis are asking Pakistan to deploy nuclear warheads on the Arabian peninsula.


Meanwhile, here's the latest from Iran. Don't believe the hype.

The Iranians are tremendously subtle and will continue to aptly navigate the rocky shoals of supposed IAEA compliance. They might well still have a nuke in short order despite agreeing to cease production of enhanced uranium.

If this European diplomatic troika really believe this is a real breakthrough--then they've been bamboozled.

The deeper question is, really, why can Islamabad have a bomb and not Teheran (as viewed from Iran, of course).

Hezbollah, for one, the West will respond. But that's not persuasive fodder to the gang in Teheran. They view themselves as a much more sophisticated society than Pakistan. They want a nuclear bomb. Badly.

Developing, you might say.

posted by Gregory| 10/21/2003 12:01:00 PM

Perfidious Quai D'Orsay Watch

According to this report, Dominique de Villepin wanted to abstain on the latest U.N. resolution--but Putin helped rein in Chirac who, in turn, overruled Dom.

Thus does the former Soviet Union help bring France and Germany to the table to vote alongside the U.S. Yep, the world has sure changed post 9/11, in all kinds of ways.

posted by Gregory| 10/21/2003 07:46:00 AM

Singing the Blues

John Cougar Mellancamp has donned his political commentator hat for a spell. Given the quality of the advice he has previously proferred at commencement addresses, however, I figured his insights on the political scene wouldn't be blindingly penetrating:

"The fight for freedom in this country has been long, painful, and ongoing. It is time to take back our country. Take it back from political agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation. It is time to take action here in our land, in our own schools, neighborhoods, farms, and businesses. We have been lied to and terrorized by our own government, and it is time to take action. Now is the time to come together."

The Revolution is nigh. Grab your pitchforks and head to 1600 Penn.

Gee, and I thought Mellancamp was more of a realist about this kind of thing.

posted by Gregory| 10/21/2003 12:36:00 AM


Defining Expectations Down

Erdogan begins to pour cold water on what was manifestly a poor idea from the get go.

posted by Gregory| 10/20/2003 11:56:00 PM

Is the Worst Over?

Walter Russell Mead writes that the clouds may be clearing for Dubya and the Republicans.

Or maybe not.

posted by Gregory| 10/20/2003 11:43:00 PM


Easterbrook and Anti-Semitism

Others have discussed this pretty extensively whether Instapundit, Roger Simon, Meryl Younish, Dan Drezner or Josh Chafetz. The only reason I'm blogging about it is because no one has mentioned another Easterbrook post that I remembered reading a few weeks back.

Before I get to that, let me say a few things first, however. I think it's absurd that ESPN has fired Easterbrook and think they should reverse their decision (whether it resulted from Michael Eisner being pissed that Easterbrook criticized Kill Bill [ed. note. doubtful], or because of the anti-semitic sounding comments, or both). Easterbrook has apologized. TNR readers are venting. Life moves on. I think Eugene Volokh has got it about right.

Now to the older post. Easterbrook was writing about Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy. For the record, and to put it plainly, I view Pollard as a loathsome character and agree with everything Easterbrook wrote.

But I was still taken back a bit by some of the tone. Especially given that the piece was showing up in TNR--a periodical that is generally pretty pro-Israeli. Suffice it to say, it didn't sound like something Marty Peretz would pen.

Here's what Easterbrook wrote:

"LET HIM ROT: The traitor Jonathan Pollard slithered through Washington last week, though now is back in his prison cell where, it is hoped, he will remain until the end of his natural life. Or until there is peace in the Middle East, whichever comes first....

Pollard has become an icon to the lunatic Israeli right, to the same sick crowd that cheered the assassination of the great Israeli patriot Yizthak Rabin and who cheered the revolting mass murderer Baruch Goldstein. Flown to Israel, Pollard would be greeted by adoring crowds that would swoon before him and chant his name. Even some non-lunatic center-right Israelis might be inveigled to join the celebration.

An image on American newscasts of a traitor against the United States being received as a national hero in Israel would do immense damage to U.S. support for the Israeli cause. Americans would be reminded that the Israeli government paid Pollard to steal classified documents from the United States; that Israel cooperated with Pollard's betrayal of the country that is Israel's greatest friend in all the world; that after he was caught Israel even decreed him an Israeli citizen--this last helping Pollard thumb his nose at the citizenship America was obviously so wrong to grant him. Images of a man who hates and betrayed America being cheered in the streets of Israel would send Americans into a fury. This is an international train wreck waiting to happen; the solution is to keep Pollard in the cell he so richly deserves to occupy
." [Emphasis added]

My quibbles? Use of the word "slithered" seemed a bit, well T.S. Eliot like, perhaps? (Nor am I as sure as Easterbrook that Pollard would be greeted by "adoring" and "swooning" crowds in Israel).

Back to Eliot. He's commonly viewed as one of (if not the) greatest poet of the 20th Century. Check out a poem like "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar"

Burbanks crossed a little bridge
Descending at a small hotel;
Princess Volupine arrived,
They were together, and he fell.

Defunctive music under sea
Passed seaward with the passing bell
Slowly: the God Hercules
Had left him, that had loved him well.

The horses, under the axletree
Beat up the dawn from Istria
With even feet. Her shuttered barge
Burned on the water all the day.

But this or such was Bleistein's way:
A saggy bending of the knees [ed. note. a "slither"?]
And elbows, with the palms turned out,
Chicago Semite Vienesse

A lustreless protrusive eye
Stares from the protozoic slime
At a perspective of Canaletto.
The smoky candle end of time

Declines. On the Rialto once.
The rats are underneath the piles.
The jew is underneath the lot.
Money in furs.
The boatmen smiles,

Princess Volupine extends
A meagre, blue-nailed phthisic hand
To climb the waterstair. Lights, lights,
She entertains Sir Ferdinand

Klein. Who clipped the lion's wings
And flea'd his rump and pared his claws?
Thought Burbank, meditating on
Time's ruins, and the seven laws.

[emphasis added]

To me, and most judicious observers, parts of this poem are undeniably anti-semitic. And yet we continue to read this poetry--it remains, just as undeniably, great art.

Both Eliot and Easterbrook were, in a fashion, discoursing on the canard of the "money-grubbing" Jew, whether Eliot's Bleistein with his "palms turned out", Harvey Weinstein turning higher profit margins on violent films, or Jonathan Pollard selling American secrets to Israel for cash.

The key to avoiding falling into anti-semitic discourse is to avoid evocative language that taps into the symbolic anti-semitism of the venal, deracinated, money-loving Jew. You get a tad close when you are describing someone as slithering through town who happens to be of Jewish origin and who sold out his country. But you haven't crossed the line. It's language that, ultimately, fairly describes a repulsive and shameless character traveling about. It's not anti-semitic.

You come closer when you accuse Jewish executives of "worship(ing) money above all else" and, while saying some Christian execs do the same, holding out the need for Jews to possess some form of higher ethical responsiblity because of their special history of persecution.

And you cross the line with you write something like: "The rats are underneath the piles. The jew is underneath the lot."

But you don't necessarily delete all that person's writings because of it. I'm happy I can still find Eliot's poem online. It is "creepy", as Glenn Reynolds put it, that Easterbrook's writings have been pulled from the ESPN site.

Also, to be clear, let's recognize that some hyperventilation in the blogosphere likely helped lead to Easterbrook's firing. We should all take this as a cautionary tale and pause (if just for a bit) before hitting the post button.

The movement of content as between blogs and the major media is getting more fluid. When the story moved from the blogosphere to the NYT--Easterbrook was suddenly facing a major scandal.

All this is partly a good story. Blogs are gaining in influence. We can force the Guardian to retract a faulty story claiming Paul Wolfowitz admitted the U.S. went to war in Iraq for oil. Or get, particularly more recently in the post-Raines era, the NYT to correct erroneous stories more often. Or, of course, get Easterbrook to apologize.

But with this enhanced influence comes enhanced responsibilities too. Both Easterbrook and his more fervent critics, as well as all the rest of us, should keep that in mind going forward.

posted by Gregory| 10/19/2003 10:37:00 PM
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