The Belgravia Dispatch by GREGORY DJEREJIAN


1/30/2004  

Shin Bet Watch

"The security service also predicts that if Yasser Arafat remains in charge of the Palestinian Authority, terror attacks can be expected all the way to 2006, for lack of any political progress that includes the Palestinian security services fighting terrorism.

According to Shin Bet information, Arafat is not ordering any terror attacks but neither is he allowing any internal attempts to unify the security services under anyone else, like Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan or Ahmed Qureia, who has been denied any control over any security services.
."

from Haaretz.

I think that's about right. Arafat is unwilling to give up real power to a potential heir apparent. And he's unwilling and/or incapable to engage in a good faith, bottom-up, security reform effort.

As we don't meet with him--we don't really have much leverage. If we did meet with him--he'd probably be ineffective regardless.

So, you say, why not let the Israelis get rid of him?

Because, simply, he is viewed as the spiritual embodiment, like it or not, of Palestinian national aspirations. To kill him would cause huge turmoil. And to exile him would change nothing.

He'd issue commands to his cronies from Tunis or wherever.

So the status quo of violence is with us for the forseeable future in the absence of any creative American diplomacy, an ineffective and duplicitous Arafat, and a pretty obstinate Sharon uninterested in any major 'Nixon goes to China' type major diplomatic initiatives.

Regardless, it's worth keeping in mind, Arafat will die, in some fashion, someday.

Why are so few people in Washington thinking about the post-Arafat scene?

Do we want the Territories being roamed by myriad militia groups in anarchic fashion once he's dead?

I'm told by credible sources that people like Mohammed Dahlan control only modest sectors of Gaza.

Barghouti, of course, is in jail.

Abbas and Qureia are viewed, by many, as corrupt stooges--so lack street cred.

Is anyone at Langley looking at the next generation? Someone with popularity on the street who is also moderate and willing to negotiate with the Israelis?

These days, probably not.

Note:

Reader Daniel Aronstein writes in regarding this earlier Middle East related post:

"I stand by my major point and against yours: the seeming inactivity of the Bush Administration in the Arab-Israeli conflict was actually very good policy: isolating Arafat was the best way to get him to appoint aPM and get the PNA on the road to a democratic, non-terrorist Palestinian state.

Without a PM willing to crack down on the Arab terrorist groups, there can be no negotiations, and therefore no statehood for the Arab Palestinians.

There has been no such PM; there is still no such PM.

Therefore, lack of progress must be accredited to the fact that the PNA has of today still no effective PM.

You reasonably can't blame that on Bush or Sharon
."

What I guess I'm getting at is that Washington needs to be doing more to bolster real and credible alternatives to Arafat.

And, more generally, our diplomacy has lacked ingenuity, passion, direction and consistency.

Trench warfare between different Administration camps has led to drift in our Middle East peacemaking efforts. The President is not involved. Condi Rice doesn't actively broker between the bickering factions.

I don't blame anyone for the fact that Arafat is ineffective and that Abu Mazen couldn't do his job because of Arafat's interference (and that Sharon didn't help him with some concessions in the nascent stage of his PMship.).

But I do blame, generally, Washington's inattention (at the top) to this grave crisis for so many months now. Believe me, it's not a positive factor for the regional equation.



posted by Gregory| 1/30/2004 07:52:00 PM
 

And Then There Were Three

Bye-bye...and good riddance.

posted by Gregory| 1/30/2004 07:46:00 PM
 

Greg Dyke

In my post below yesterday (at the "Still More" update) I took Greg Dyke to task for his reaction to Hutton's report.

But, sadly, he's just getting started:

"Former BBC director general Greg Dyke today hit out at Alastair Campbell, calling him "remarkably ungracious", and said Lord Hutton's conclusions were "quite clearly wrong" on some points of law." [emphasis added]

Later:

"I would be very interested to see what other law lords looking at Hutton thought of it. There are points of law in there in which he is quite clearly wrong."

Mr Dyke said he agreed with the departing BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies, that one could not "choose the referee" and had to accept his decision but quipped: "The government did choose the referee
." [my emphasis]

Clearly Dyke is eager to don his legal cap and engage in a spot of legal analysis.

But, unlike Lord Hutton he, er, isn't an eminent lawyer (in fact he has no legal background at all).

Put differently, it's hugely arrogant for him to say Hutton's report was "quite clearly wrong."

And insulting and inappropriate in the extreme to suggest that Hutton's law lord peers would reach a differing result.

Of course, this breathtaking arrogance is an old story (the linked story details Dyke's previous stubborn recalcitrance to pursue reforms at the Beeb).

But back to Dyke's recent comments.

What Dyke has done today is two things.

He's called into question Lord Hutton's competence as a lawyer--amazing given the tremendous respect for Hutton as a top-notch jurist that exists in large swaths of the London legal community.

And, even worse, he's called into question Hutton's integrity (by suggesting that the Lord was not impartial as the "government chose the referree.")

Put simply, he's pretty much doing to Hutton what what he did to Blair--doing the very kind of thing, yet again, that necessitated the Hutton inquiry to begin with.

He's again crudely maligning people's character and competencies.

The only difference is that, this time, he is doing it himself. The last time he allowed subordinates, with impunity, to do so. [ed. note: Note too, of course, that he is today speaking in his personal capacity (though, I reckon, for these folks too)].

So forget repentance. This is about incorrigibility.

NB: When might Dyke take a brief peek at the mirror and appraise his own actions in this sorry affair?

Well, don't hold your breath. Still, one thing is for sure. He's got plenty of time to do so now.






posted by Gregory| 1/30/2004 12:59:00 PM


1/29/2004  

Whitewash!

Scream all the Beeb's men. Here's a typical example of the genre.

And the top half of the Independent's paper edition is (risibly), you guessed it, all white (they should do that more often and spare us their grotesquely biased journalism, no?).

But back to Jonathan Freedland's piece:

"For the press benches, this was all too much. Several journalists began first to sniff, then to snort and finally to chuckle their derision. Jeremy Paxman, for once barred from asking questions, was shaking his head in bemusement as each new finding in favour of the government came down from the bench. When Mr Scarlett's subconscious was introduced, the room seemed to vibrate with mockery."

Incorrigible and arrogant, aren't they?

You'd think there might be a smidgen of shame and introspection among the Jeremy Paxmans of the journalistic trade, no?

Alas, quite the contrary.

This attitude is part of the reason the Beeb is facing its darkest hour ever.

I mean, Gilligan actually wants to keep his job!

More likely, like others, one hopes he will be gone soon.

But, believe me, the problem will remain. The mockery in the judicial chambers makes that clear. The message is--we don't care about the facts--when they run contra our deeply embedded biases.

So facts be damned!

Whether the clinically examined facts of the Hutton inquiry.

Or the fact that Blair didn't knowingly mislead the Commons on WMD.

Or 'sex up' any dossiers.

He, you know, did all that anyway. Hutton's an arse. He's a rank apologist for the government. It's a whitewash.

So back to Blair and Bush hating.

It's the best game in town--at least if you are a simplistic, journalistic hack--and don't care to really examine the geopolitical scene with care, the actions really taken by those in power (rather than those conjured up by Islington conspiracy think), the deeper problems related to why so many intelligence services the world over believed Saddam possessed major WMD stockpiles.

No, just run around playing gotcha and impugn, grossly, the motivations and actions of those in power whose views you don't like.

The difference is, this time, this tawdry and incendiary kind of journalism wasn't carried off with impunity.

There will have to be a real reckoning. Heads are rolling.

But, will it really make a difference?

I doubt it.

After all, Paxman's arrogant courtoom sneers don't bode well, do they?

UPDATE:

The Independent's 'whitewash' cover--




Can they do this tomorrow (and the next day) too? It's, er, easier on the eyes...

MORE: Dyke's out. The casualties grow. As they should.

STILL MORE: Yes, Dyke resigned. But in a press conference, he averred:

"I don't necessarily accept the findings of Lord Hutton's report."

And he told cheering supporters: "Don't be cowed."

Again, no humility, no repentance.

Instead, Dyke keeps fanning the flames thus making the crisis messier (yes, it's possible) for the Beeb.

One result? More boorish romantization of Dyke as some besieged keeper of the flame of that so unique (and nauseatingly self-important) Beeb "independence."

Remember, these protestors (er, I mean reporters) all still work at the Beeb.

So don't worry Greg, they're not cowed! Quite the contrary.

Pity they don't have a leader who, when forced to resign, would issue an unvarnished mea culpa.

Who would say that the entire episode wasn't about the preservation of the Beeb's independence--which was never threatened by nefarious Campbell.

It was about being challenged about flatly false reporting--regarding hugely important issues of war and peace--by leaders whose honor and integrity had been besmirched by the Beeb's sloppiness, bias, and bull-headed refusal to apologize or retract the inaccurate reporting for so many long months.

Traits and characteristics, I fear, still well alive at the Beeb.

A final note.

Tony Blair was very magnanimous (imagine the joyous lynching of Blair, in all the likely quarters, had the report gone the other way!) accepting acting Chairman Lord Ryder's apology.

But he didn't mention Greg Dyke. Now you know why.

posted by Gregory| 1/29/2004 12:32:00 PM
 

Carnage on Egged Bus No. 19

Another bus. More innocents slaughtered horrifically. A particularly grisly suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

This comes after an uptick of violence in Gaza.

It also comes, almost contemporaneously, at the same time as a Hezbollah/IDF prisoner exchange.

And while U.S. peace envoys (read: hapless Foggy Bottom folk without support from the Oval Office going through the motions of roadmap, er, 'implementation') are in the region.

In other words, the bombing comes as good news (if minimal) was in the air.

Put differently, there is some logic to this grotesque, savage violence.

No surprise of course.

The peace process has always been a race between moderates, on the one hand, and extremists on the other.

Right now, the Palestinian extremists are, pretty much, driving the show (lest we forget, Israeli extremists have driven the show in the past, see Baruch Goldstein, or the repulsive Rabin assassin Yigal Amir).

A big reason why is because Bush detests Arafat and won't deal with him. And no other effective Palestinian leader exists. So there's no one, so to speak, to do business with.

In this vacuum, a young suicide bomber can have more impact on short-term Palestinian-Israeli dynamics than leaders in the region.

At the same time, the Bushies never got over their "ABC" approach (Anything But Clinton) that derided Clintonian micromanagment of the peace process.

The images of Bill Clinton intently peering at maps with Yasser and Ehud whilst digesting myriad minutae about Jerusalem neighborhoods and such were viewed derisively by Bush foreign policy advisors--as was the seemingly endless gaggle of special envoys rushing about the Holy Land hither dither through the Clinton years.

But there is a middle ground between cheapening the Presidential (or special envoy) coin by constant use--and, pretty much, not using it at all (at least since Aqaba last year).

There are no easy answers, of course. It's an election year, Bush is busy with Iraq, etc etc.

So 10 dead here, 8 dead there. The toll mounts, day by day, week to week, year after year.

And Washington does little to nothing.

It's an abdication of our leadership role as honest broker. We are the only power that can bring these two parties to the table. No one else can do it.

So we have to roll up our sleeves and try harder, don't we?

This means the President needs to be personally involved. It might mean a special envoy. Or that Condi should go out with a CIA team ready to think, really think, about ways to extract real security reform from Arafat in return for Sharon making real-time contemporaneous concessions if the PA security reforms are fully verifiable, transparent, and fully made in good faith.

But don't hold your breath. The peace process is dead until at least '05.

That's a real shame and, of course, a human tragedy.

And a fact that Kerry will be using against Bush in the election.


posted by Gregory| 1/29/2004 11:00:00 AM
 

Kerry Suck Up Watch

"If Karl Rove thinks he can take down John Kerry the way his mentor, Lee Atwater, took down Michael Dukakis, he's got another thing coming. The Kerry who delivered that victory speech in Manchester on Tuesday night was the most effective Democratic politico since the fall of Bill Clinton."

-- Harold Meyerson, writing in the Washington Post, and warming up to the prospect ( pun intended) of all those JFK-esque fetes over at 1600 Pennsylvania...

Most effective Dem pol since Clinton? That was, like, yesterday--guess it means that Meyerson thinks Kerry is a better candidate than Gore (talk about damning with faint praise).

Anyway, go read the article to see Meyerson make the obligatory FDR comparison. Oh, and we are informed that "real men" support Kerry.

Listen, I've said before that Kerry likely represents the Democrats best shot at beating Bush. But Meyerson's piece is not a candidate appraisal but a breathless panegyric.

Oh, and speaking of "real men," is the feminization of politics in abeyance?


posted by Gregory| 1/29/2004 08:54:00 AM


1/28/2004  

Kay Watch

We will have a lot on David Kay's various reports and testimony, the impact on U.S. credibility (in relation to intelligence matters) with our allies going forward, and the need for change in our intelligence-gathering capabilities. But, for now, let's be sure to note this part of Kay's testimony on the Hill today:

"I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated," he said. "And never, not in a single case, was the explanation, `I was pressured to do this.' "

"Almost in a perverse way," he added, "I wish it had been undue influence, because we know how to correct that. We get rid of the people who in fact were exercising that. The fact that it wasn't tells me that we've got a much more fundamental problem of understanding what went wrong
."

How does this jive with images of Dick Cheney playing the heavy and breathing down the necks of hapless Agency intel analysts at Langley?

Ken Pollack, for one, seems to believe some of that went on. But I wonder if, much like the hyped up charges lobbed at the Blair government in recent months, this charge will prove to be just as bogus.

The real issue is that a variety of sovereign nations' intelligence services believed Saddam had WMD.

Believed it on the merits of their analysis--not because Doug Feith, Richard Perle and Dick Cheney were holding a gun to their head and demanding they get the 'right' results.





posted by Gregory| 1/28/2004 11:59:00 PM
 

New Hampshire Predictions Watch

So how did we do?

The results with 97% of precincts in (with my pre-primary predictions juxtaposed in parantheses):

Kerry: 38.5 % (34%)
Dean: 26.3% (28%)
Clark: 12.4% (10%)
Edwards: 12.1% (14%)
Lieberman: 8.6 (8%)

So, like much of the punditry class, I got a bit (though not as much as many) too bullish on Edwards.

I really thought he'd beat Clark by 3-4%. I was wrong (perhaps swayed by reader Linda who wrote in from New Hampshire describing Edwards as a "force of nature"!)

Kerry did a bit stronger than I expected, Dean a tad less well.

I nailed Lieberman.

And Clark, well, I still think he looked like a mortician through the final days of the primary. And I think he's now down for the count--despite his protestations to the contrary.

So's Joe.

Edwards admitted he needs to win South Carolina to stay alive last night on Larry King's show.

He better turn on the southern charm--big time--while keeping Sharpton and Clark numbers down there.

Why? Because Kerry has big momentum in SC (from 2% in December to 17% in January--post Iowa, but pre-NH--so that might pick up more).

And Dean? Dean appears in for the long haul (though crushing blows on February 3rd might force some real re-thinking regarding the merits of zig-zagging the country looking a tad Naderite).

He's got cash, lots of drive, Deaniacs still running amok, strong organization, and so on. A very strong show, for instance, in Missouri would give him more cred. His fiery brand of populism will also play well in places like Wisconsin. And Santa Fe types will likely like him too.

So where is this race heading? I think, sooner rather than later, into a two person race.

The quickest way that happens is for Clark to prove very weak in SC (and other February 3rd states) and for Edwards to come in number 2 there after Kerry.

Then Dean and Kerry will likely bloody themselves for a few more weeks.

And I think Kerry will win by TKO a bit further down the road.

For now, I trust most of Karl Rove's troops are busy scouring the very, very long voting history of the junior senator of Massachusetts.

There's a lot to mine there. But I still think Kerry is the biggest threat to Bush--despite his liberal voting record, weakness at the stump, and tired resort to Shrumisms.

That's good news, even for Bush supporters.

A hard-fought, quality general election campaign is a refreshing tonic that re-invigorates our American democracy.

So, as they're saying, bring it on.

posted by Gregory| 1/28/2004 11:59:00 AM
 

A (Very) Big Day for Blair

It's a bit nippy in olde London town, but barely a cloud in the sky earlier this A.M. Indeed, it was a beautiful crystal clear blue sky early in the morn'!

And the skies are metaphorically clear too, especially for uber-survivor Tony Blair (he's giving Arafat a run for his money as a cat with myriad lives).

He faced down the ossified legions of Old Labour (brimming with Euro-sclerosis aficionados) by boldly pushing a vote on tuition top up fees.

He won that vote (though, in most of the British press, a win is, it appears, treated pretty much akin to a loss).

And now, if you believe this report, Blair looks to be exonerated in the Hutton report too.

From the Sun:

"But the document--top secret until it is published officially at noon today--is a devastating indictment of the BBC and its defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan. There was no dishonourable strategy to leak Kelly name.

Gilligan is effectively accused of LYING in a bombshell broadcast blaming Number Ten for 'sexing up' a dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Beeb bosses are blasted for failing to check the notes of the journalist, who was already under a cloud over his misuse of language.

And chairman Gavyn Davies, director-general Greg Dyke and the BBC board of governors are implicitly blamed for dereliction of duty to licence-payers
."

The Beeb, of course, was spinning this A.M. They were in a tizzy over the overnight leak of the Hutton report.

News-readers, without a hint of irony, faux-anxiously queried: will Hutton demand an inquiry over the leak?

Memo to the Beeb anchors: The Hutton inquiry is over, not starting.

(Note: We'll link the full text here once made public and analyze in more detail).

Memo to Beeb chairman Gavyn Davies.

You once worked at Goldman Sachs.

Check out your old firm's website banner: "Complacency can lead to Extinction."

Memo to Tony B: Take the momentum from the top-up fees victory. Make accountable that atrophying gaggle of paleo rose socialists at the Beeb.

They've been stuck in a 70's warp for too long. They've been suckling on public funding for too many years. Unwean them from their pre-Thatcherite cocoon!

Privatize it already. I mean, it's 2004, didn't you know?

A final note. While Blair is vindicated by Hutton and busy pushing through painful but necessary educational reforms, what is Jacques Chirac, that avatar of international human rights (along with sidekick Dominique) up to?

Out hitting the EU hustings to persuade the Euro-zone to allows arms sales to China.

Who would you rather have leading your polity?

UPDATE:

When the Guardian writes this, you know it has been a bad day for the Beeb:

"Lord Hutton today delivered the worst possible verdict for the BBC, describing its editorial systems as "defective" and declaring that the board of governors led by chairman Gavyn Davies had failed in its duty to act as an independent regulator.

The judge lambasted BBC management for allowing the Radio 4 Today reporter Andrew Gilligan to broadcast "unfounded", "grave" and "false allegations of fact impugning the integrity of others
".

Ouch.

Davies should do the honorable thing now (if he's capable of it) and resign promptly.

Here is a compilation of Hutton's key points.

Snippets:

Re Blair:

--No 'dishonourable, duplicitous, underhand strategy' by the prime minister
--There was nothing dramatic in Kevin Tebbit's evidence that Blair chaired the meeting that agreed to confirm Kelly's name, or any inconsistency in their evidence
--The desire of the PM to have a strong dossier may have subconsciously influenced John Scarlett and the Joint Intelligence Committee to produce a strongly worded document


Re the BBC:

--BBC editorial system was 'defective'
--BBC management failed to appreciate that Gilligan's notes did not support the most serious of his allegations
--The BBC governors should have recognised the desire to protect its independence was not incompatible with investigating Mr Campbell's complaints, no matter what their tone
--The BBC governors should have investigated further the differences between Gilligan's notes and his report, and that should have led them to question whether it was in the public interest to broadcast his report relying only on his notes


The third bullet is particularly damning for those who supported Davies' bull-headed and stubborn actions by chanting on about the Beeb's independence.

To be sure, Alistair Campbell's is a tough, 'strong player' as Blair once remarked--but none of his actions imperiled the Beeb's independence.

But Davies' arrogance has imperiled it's reputation. And in a big way.

ANOTHER UPDATE: He is capable of it--Davies has resigned. Frankly, given the scale of this disaster for the Beeb, there was no other choice.

STILL MORE: Yes he resigned, but, not surprisingly, sans class.

In his resignation statement he had the gall "to raise some important questions about the [Hutton] report itself."

As I said, not a class act.


posted by Gregory| 1/28/2004 11:26:00 AM
 

CIS Watch: Democratization from Below

These popular trends, which have gained some momentum post the so-called Revolution of the Roses, need more attention and back-up from Washington.

Meanwhile, authoritarian CIS leaders are certainly paying attention:

"The lesson learned by other governments, though, may be not to permit the sort of open dissent that fostered the Georgian revolt, analysts said. In Tbilisi, an independent television station effectively sided with the opposition and Shevardnadze did little to crack down on critics. Other countries around the former Soviet Union zealously control television and often do not tolerate rival political organizations.

"There are authoritarian regimes that clearly pay attention to what goes on in the neighborhood and they're clearly reacting to it," said an official from a Western nongovernmental organization that helps foster democratic institutions in the region, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

In Azerbaijan, where Aliyev's ruling circle installed his son, Ilham Aliyev, in the presidency shortly before the older man's death, the new government has unleashed a wave of repression, locking up at least 1,000 opposition activists and engaging in widespread torture, according to a report last week by Human Rights Watch.

In Uzbekistan, where thousands of people are in prison for what human rights groups call political or religious reasons, the government of President Islam Karimov recently decided to require foreign nongovernmental organizations to register with the Justice Ministry. The groups, calling it a direct reaction to events in Georgia, said they fear that they will be refused registration and ordered to close. Some groups report pressure in Kyrgyzstan as well
."

I want our troops, as much as the next guy, to be able to use Uzbekistan as a staging ground to continue prosecuting the war effort in Afghanistan. But we still need to make the Karimovs of the world aware that democracy norms really count for something when we take stock of the bilateral relationship. Will our man in Tashkent raise this issue vigorously the next time he has an audience with Karimov?

Let's hope so. If we overly myopically look at each country solely through the prism of 'war on terror' cooperation we risk giving the lie to our ambitious democratization agenda. We'll keep a closer eye on this issue through the year.



posted by Gregory| 1/28/2004 10:44:00 AM
 

Golden Oldies Edition

"I have no doubt that there are thousands of pages of documents in safes in London and Washington right now - the Pentagon Papers of Iraq - whose unauthorised revelation would drastically alter the public discourse on whether we should continue sending our children to die in Iraq. That's clear from what has already come out through unauthorised disclosures from many anonymous sources and from officials and former officials such as David Kelly and US ambassador Joseph Wilson, who revealed the falsity of reports that Iraq had pursued uranium from Niger, which President Bush none the less cited as endorsed by British intelligence in his state of the union address before the war. Both Downing Street and the White House organised covert pressure to punish these leakers and to deter others, in Dr Kelly's case with tragic results." [emphasis added]

-- Daniel Ellsberg, writing in the Guardian.

Read the Hutton report tomorrow. Tell me then if you believe that Dr. Kelly's death is a result of Downing Street "covert pressure"? (as compared to, say, breathtakingly irresponsible Beeb journalism and dearth of serious institutional controls).

But leave this entire hyped maelstrom aside.

Who is Daniel Ellsberg anyway to ascribe culpability in Dr Kelly's death?

What, finally, does he really know about the complex emotions that led this particular scientist towards his tragic suicide?

Put differently, Ellsberg does Kelly's surviving family no favors trotting the dead scientist out to score cheap points in op-ed pieces.

Oh, and note, contra Ellsberg, that British intelligence did believe there was an Iraq/Niger/uranium connection.

But hey, it's just an op-ed in the Guardian. Facts are, er, of de mimimis import.








posted by Gregory| 1/28/2004 01:41:00 AM


1/27/2004  

Blair Vindicated

"Hutton: Tony Blair has been cleared of 'duplicitous wrongdoing', but BBC governors condemned for failing to investigate truth behind Andrew Gilligan's Today story, according to The Sun which has got hold of a leaked copy of the Hutton report... more soon"

From the Guardian's main web page.

And he ekes out the vote on tuition top off fees.

Yay.

UPDATE: The Guardian no longer has story on their main page. And, not suprisingly, they are downplaying the leak to the Sun.

Oh, and I'm watching the Beeb's midnight news. Boy, it sure sounds like a requiem for Blair (Blair in "terminal decline" and such). How they spin!

And, just shy of 10 minutes into the show, still not a whimper on dastardly Gilligan!

Folks, this is worse than Fox news. Much worse.

Remember that the next time assorted Beeb-o-phile pseudo-sophisticates badger you about the crude American media.

posted by Gregory| 1/27/2004 10:16:00 PM
 

NH Watch

OK, I couldn't resist.

Here goes:

Kerry: 34% (perhaps hit plateau, still kinda flat on stump, but obviously looking strong given Iowa bounce)

Dean: 28% (Iowa screech mitigated by Judith factor, some re-energizing of Deaniacs because he's no longer front-runner)

Edwards: 14% (press buzz, 'mo, great stump speaker, but little to no NH org, in Iowa-bounce preservation mode, ie. looking on to February 3rd and less to lose than Dean)

Clark: 10% (fading fast, looks increasingly like a mortician, likely dead post NH, especially if Edwards beats him by good sized margin)

Lieberman: 8% ('Joementum', McCainites/independents for Joe--but ultimately doesn't matter--Joe's dead if he's doesn't come in third)

Kucinich: 1% (lest we forget)

posted by Gregory| 1/27/2004 07:31:00 PM
 

Davos Postcard

David Ignatius:

"Top U.S. business leaders here said they can feel the muscle tone of the global economy firming, based on their order books. John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco Systems, said the weaker dollar only made Cisco's products more competitive abroad. Carly Fiorina, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said that while her company had operations around the world, the weaker dollar wouldn't do it any harm.

The only Americans who seem unhappy with the reviving economy (other than the Democratic presidential candidates) are short-sellers who have bet that with its spendthrift trade and budget deficits, the United States' stock and bond markets would inevitably decline.

"It's a squeeze play," said a man who for years ran the currency trading operations at a giant investment bank. He argued that the Bush administration was pumping so much money into U.S. corporations through its war spending and other fiscal measures that their profits will keep soaring -- and Wall Street will keep rising despite the weak macroeconomic fundamentals
."

That's probably about right. Check out this article on U.S. budget deficit forecasts too.

But, as is often the case, the Euro-outlook is considerably gloomier:

"Contemplating all this bullish talk about the U.S. economy, a top European financial official was scratching his head. If European economies were facing trade and budget deficits like those in the United States, coupled with a sharply declining currency, European investors would be jumping out the windows. But for America, all news is good news.

Euro-pessimism was a common theme here. One British economist predicted that a strong euro, coupled with the continuing structural rigidities of the European economy, would produce "a decade of stagnation in Europe," worse than what happened in Japan after its bubble economy burst
."

Meanwhile, ECB Chief Trichet enunciates a policy of, er, let's call it constructive ambiguity (read: Paris and Berlin can burst the budget deficit ceilings whenever they so desire) regarding the all but dead stability pact.

Note too that the Chinese are hugely bullish on the remnibi going forward:

"The one thing few here seemed to doubt was that China's economic power will someday rival that of the United States. I asked one Chinese investor whether he thought the dollar would remain the world's reserve currency 50 years from now. "Of course not," he said. "The reserve currency will be Chinese."




posted by Gregory| 1/27/2004 11:54:00 AM
 

Multipolarity Watch Continued

Even the Germans think the French are rushing too headlong into resuscitating arm sales to China.

posted by Gregory| 1/27/2004 11:27:00 AM


1/26/2004  

Soros in the Guardian

Some extracts from Soros' book get published over at the Guardian.

Most offensive graf:

"We have fallen into a trap. The suicide bombers' motivation seemed incomprehensible at the time of the attack; now a light begins to dawn: they wanted us to react the way we did. Perhaps they understood us better than we understand ourselves."







posted by Gregory| 1/26/2004 11:39:00 PM
 

Arundhati Roy Watch

"In any case, New Imperialism is already upon us. It's a remodeled, streamlined version of what we once knew. For the first time in history, a single empire with an arsenal of weapons that could obliterate the world in an afternoon has complete, unipolar, economic and military hegemony. It uses different weapons to break open different markets. There isn't a country on God's earth that is not caught in the cross-hairs of the American cruise missile and the IMF checkbook."

And don't miss this deep-think further down in the article:

"The best allegory for New Racism is the tradition of "turkey pardoning" in the United States. Every year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the US President with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Every year, in a show of ceremonial magnanimity, the President spares that particular bird (and eats another one). After receiving the presidential pardon, the Chosen One is sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia to live out its natural life. The rest of the 50 million turkeys raised for Thanksgiving are slaughtered and eaten on Thanksgiving Day. ConAgra Foods, the company that has won the Presidential Turkey contract, says it trains the lucky birds to be sociable, to interact with dignitaries, school children and the press. (Soon they'll even speak English!)

That's how New Racism in the corporate era works. A few carefully bred turkeys--the local elites of various countries, a community of wealthy immigrants, investment bankers, the occasional Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, some singers, some writers (like myself)--are given absolution and a pass to Frying Pan Park. The remaining millions lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, have their water and electricity connections cut, and die of AIDS. Basically they're for the pot. But the Fortunate Fowls in Frying Pan Park are doing fine. Some of them even work for the IMF and the WTO--so who can accuse those organizations of being antiturkey? Some serve as board members on the Turkey Choosing Committee--so who can say that turkeys are against Thanksgiving? They participate in it! Who can say the poor are anti-corporate globalization? There's a stampede to get into Frying Pan Park. So what if most perish on the way
?"

Notting Hill starlet Roy, embarassing herself ( again), in the pages of the Nation.

posted by Gregory| 1/26/2004 12:52:00 PM
 

Belgravia's First Blogiversary?

Belgravia Dispatch is now a year old! The first substantive post--the day after I proved to myself that Blogger was indeed idiot-proof and Luddite-compliant by putting up a test post--aimed at debunking the (then and still now) in vogue theme that, pretty much, the Bush administration was about as theologically radical as Osama and Co.

B.D.'s first real breakthrough occurred when we caught the Guardian grossly distorting comments by Paul Wolfowitz. This led to significant press coverage for the blog in varied media outlets including 1) a Sarah Baxter Sunday opinion piece in the Times (UK), 2) a Clive Davis Washington Times books section piece and 3) other media outlets.

I was even rung up, out of the blue, by the Guardian's ombudsman Ian Mayes (or do I mean 'public editor'?)! He later wrote a piece on the entire episode too.

Shortly thereafter, B.D. was ranked one of the most influential blogs by Online Journalism Review. In text accompanying this chart, Mark Glaser wrote that such blogs were "pushing the direction of media coverage and perhaps even public policy." [ed. note: True, especially the public policy part? Who cares, it sounded great!]

Some of my friends ribbed me a bit about my placement on Glaser's chart (so far to the right (only Taranto was further right on Glaser's chart)! So 'bloggy' (as opposed to journalistic)! But, hey, it was nice to be on the chart at all.

There are a few other highlights in my first year blogography worth noting. It was very fulfilling, given that Sullivan's blog was, truth be told, the main inspiration for starting mine, to have him describe a post that I wrote up for the second anniverary of 9/11 as "the best 9/11 commentary".

The indefatigable Glenn Reynolds was also kind enough to link a bunch of my posts, including this one keeping an eye on potential perfidious going-ons in Paris and this one keeping an eye on Maureen Dowd's, er, Dowdifications.

This brings to mind some of the lucky days when Glenn and Andrew would both link to the same post. The resulting tsunami effect resulting from the confluence of Insta and Sully-lanches did, it should be admitted, sometimes lead to that strange condition defined by the good folks of Samizdata as "hitnosis."

A few other thank yous are in order. One important one goes out to David Adesnik of Oxblog. He was the first major blogger to link to B.D.--way back in early March of last year. And David was also the first blogger I actually met in person (he was kind enough to drop by my office in Mayfair to swap blog and politics talk over a quick cup of coffee).

Thanks go out to Innocents Abroad as well, a fine blog that blog-rolled me in my early days. And Dan Drezner has been kind enough to link me a few times as well--doubtless helping provide me with a smidgen of street cred with cerebral academics hunkered about Cambridge, Chicago, and Berkeley.

Most important, of course, a big thank you to all those readers who boosted my readership from a couple of old high school buddies to a slightly more respectable amount of readers. Please keep coming and, as ever, write in with suggested improvements, gripes, kudos, or whatever is on your mind.

A final note. While this blog is quite often on the conservative side of the foreign policy fence (often pitched, somewhat perilously, between the rocky shoals of realpolitik and neo-conservatism), my most important goal throughout is to strive for intellectual honesty, put simply, to write what I believe.

Thus, when an argument (say, like Flypaper) strikes me as hugely bogus, I won't make any bones about trying to debunk it in muscular fashion even if such a thesis is touted by some of my favorite (right-of-center) bloggers.

Coming soon, therefore, as someone who supported the Iraq war based on the WMD rationale, an in-depth look at where U.S. credibility stands on the world stage (and no, it's not in tatters) given such stories.

Look for continued coverage in B.D.'s second year of Euro-American relations, Middle East politics (including, so critical, the unfolding Iraq story), assorted media excesses, and the like.

And, of course, we hope to ramp up election year coverage too.

So don't go away. We're just getting started.




posted by Gregory| 1/26/2004 10:38:00 AM


1/23/2004  

More Positive News from the Middle East

Remember all those dire prognostications that the very gates of Hell would open and engulf varied precincts from Tangier to Muscat should a single U.S. G.I. be let loose in Mesopotamia?

Here's yet another positive development:

"Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Thursday that one of the benefits of the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein was that Arab moderates were no longer afraid to have contacts with Israel.

"It looks like many moderate Arab leaders are more willing to have contacts with us, more than they were willing to have in the past, because they were very afraid of Saddam," Shalom told a small group of reporters.

He said he believed Arab leaders were intimidated by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and support for opposition parties in moderate states, although he conceded in response to a question that no Arab officials had told him that.

"I see there was a change after the war in Iraq. I don't say that it's the only reason," he said
.

Still, the Egyptians poured a little cold water on Shalom's thesis:

"Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, told AP: "nobody is afraid," and he questioned whether Israel's foreign minister had any more contacts today than he did before the war.

"I don't think the situation is better for Israel," he said. "We are angry and protesting" Israel's building of a wall in the West Bank and its continued policy of constructing settlements.

He added that he had no plans personally to meet with Shalom in Davos
."





posted by Gregory| 1/23/2004 10:56:00 AM
 

Bush Multilateralism Watch

"The Bush administration's attempt to forge a policy that is both ambitious and multilateral is the right approach."

From today's lead WaPo masthead (might Krugman, Dowd, Soros, and Kerry take a peek at it?)

"...the White House is considering several potentially important new initiatives. One envisions a charter for freedom for the Middle East -- a mutual commitment by countries in the region to embrace the principles and institutions of democracy, linked to a follow-up process. Another centers on a possible program by NATO to forge training and other security cooperation agreements with Arab states. A third would promote economic links between Middle Eastern countries and the United States and European Union. The ideas are nascent and face a few obstacles. But the fact that the administration is discussing them with key European governments is encouraging."

More:

"At best, the Middle East initiatives could form the basis for a common European-American strategy for addressing one of the world's most serious challenges."

Over here at B.D., we were discussing the need for renewed U.S.-European cooperation on a meta-'region-building' project in the Middle East about a week back. We also noted the need to avoid the "trap of Kaganism." If you didn't read the post then, check it out now. I think it's worth a gander.

For more re: enhancements of NATO cooperation with Arab states check out this piece on the so-called "Mediterranean Dialogue."

A partnership for peace style NATO presence in countries like Jordan and Egypt could prove a force for stability going forward in the region.

And might help give, down the road (note I don't mean down the moribund, er, roadmap), Martin Indyk's trusteeship idea more legs.




posted by Gregory| 1/23/2004 10:52:00 AM
 

Iraq: Insurgency Watch

The Washington Post has an excellent article on the state of the Iraq insurgency today.

On the positive side of the ledger:

"Commanders are heartened by a sharp reduction in the number of attacks on U.S. forces and say that an overhaul of intelligence operations has produced a series of successes that have weakened the anti-occupation insurgency.

"Things have gone well both in Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of our military's ability to get the job done," Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, said in a interview at his headquarters in Qatar after a weeklong tour of the region and consultations with his commanders and the leaders of Pakistan, Jordan and Afghanistan
."

Casualty figures bear Abizaid's analysis out:

"Defense Department statistics show a drop in U.S. troops killed in action since November, when the insurgency was at its peak. After sustaining 70 such deaths that month, the U.S. military withstood 25 in December -- the month in which former president Saddam Hussein was captured -- and 22 so far in January.

Commanders credit a number of sources for recent military advances. Three-fourths of roadside bombs are now being detected before they explode, Army officials in Iraq said. After a shaky summer marked by finger-pointing among intelligence officials about a raft of failures, especially in the coordination of data, the U.S. intelligence effort in Iraq was revamped in October and November. The overhaul has made operations much more effective, officials said
."

Still, there are cautionary notes. Abidzaid again:

"I stay away from the 'turning the corner, light at the end of the tunnel' sort of thing," he said. "There are an awful lot of political movements and activities that will take place between now and moving toward some sort of Iraqi sovereign entity, and that will put an awful lot of pressure on the system within Iraq, and that could change the security situation in dramatic ways."

Regardless, it appears we are at a key juncture:

"Military leaders believe that their operations in Iraq are entering a critical phase. One of the biggest troop rotations in U.S. history is getting underway, creating new vulnerabilities as 130,000 seasoned soldiers depart and 105,000 fresh ones come in to replace them. Also, the planned U.S. handover of power to the Iraqi people looms in less than six months, intensifying the already volatile politics of the country.

Some military experts, including officers fighting in Iraq, continue to worry about the Iraqi insurgency, which they regard as surprisingly resilient and adaptive.

Some fear that the resistance could be regrouping and planning new attacks, and is quiescent now only because it is studying the changes in the U.S. force structure and searching for new vulnerabilities. Some point out that attacks on Iraqi security forces have increased in recent months
."

A major concern, according to some of these interviews with U.S. military personnel, is that large-scale Shi'a protests, stemming from disaffection with electoral modalities, might degenerate into riots.

On that note, it is obviously critical to try to broach a compromise solution with Ayatollah Sistani.

Adnan Pachachi, chairman of the Iraqi Governing Council, is suggesting a sensible compromise.

He has proposed expanding the governing council "as a compromise between the American insistence on selecting a new government through a complex caucus system and the demand for direct elections by Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani."

Sounds almost like a loya jirga, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, efforts are being made to bring the U.N. on board to argue to Sistani that full, direct elections at this stage would not be feasible.

But Annan has concerns that simply telling Sistani voter rolls aren't good to go and the like isn't going to cut it:

"Mr. Annan is said to feel that it will not be enough to tell the ayatollah that his desire for an election is not feasible. The ayatollah needs to hear, diplomats said, when an election can be held and what arrangements can be made before it occurs."

Annan is probabably right given comments like these from Sistani:

"In his remarks Thursday, Musawi said Sistani would drop his demand for elections if U.N. and Iraqi experts determined they were not feasible. But he said that shift would be possible only if another plan were adopted. He called the current plan "extremely dangerous."

"If neutral experts come and say that elections are not possible, I will retreat from my position, but on one condition," Musawi quoted Sistani as saying. "Foreign experts and Iraqi specialists should find an alternative
."

Also an important factor doubtless driving Shi'a machinations, a feeling of continued Shi'a vulnerability vis-a-vis the Sunnis given the brutalities visited upon them during recent Iraqi history (note too that Hoagland suggests that U.S. policymakers not fight the power shifting underway as between coalition authorities and the Shi'a).

Finally, there is an increasing consensus that the initially proposed caucus style elections would be too unwieldy regardless:

"The American-backed plan for caucuses is increasingly derided within diplomatic circles as cumbersome and confusing. Under it, caucuses to choose a new interim legislature would take place in each of Iraq's 18 provinces. But before that happens, organizing committees in each province would be established.

These committees would choose "selection caucuses," which would choose members of the new Iraqi legislature, which would then choose a prime minister and provisional government — all by June 30. Several diplomats say the process must be radically streamlined, if not scrapped
."

Developing, as they say.
















posted by Gregory| 1/23/2004 09:46:00 AM


1/22/2004  

Requiem for Dean

When the self-styled "authentic" protest candidate starts getting coached and engaging in major stylistic overhauls, well, you know that the gig is pretty much up:

"Senior aides to Howard Dean took several steps on Wednesday to overhaul his candidacy, including softening the tone of his speeches and eliminating high-voltage campaign rallies in favor of dignified appearances where he would present himself as a mature ex-governor with a command of health care and the economy."


posted by Gregory| 1/22/2004 03:21:00 PM
 

Multipolarity Watch

The Chinese-EU connection.

posted by Gregory| 1/22/2004 11:12:00 AM
 

Book Corner

Warren Bass has a new book out detailing how the Kennedy administration was so pivotal in cementing the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Here is the NYRB review.

An interesting snippet on how Nasser helped push Kennedy towards closer ties with Israel:

"Nevertheless, Bass is convinced that Phillips Talbot's fears of antagonizing Arabs were overstated. He shows that Kennedy's opening to Israel came only after an intensive attempt to court Nasser was rebuffed by the Egyptian leader himself. To the chagrin of many of his supporters in the State Department, Nasser launched a disastrous war on Yemen, which he himself soon called his "Vietnam." At one point his forces used poison gas and threatened neighboring Saudi Arabia as well. The dramatic collapse of Nasser's ambitious union of Egypt with Syria only made him adopt more radical policies. Egyptian agents tried to kill King Hussein of Jordan. Arab conservatives led by Saudi Arabia and the American oil lobby worked against Kennedy's attempted rapprochement with Nasser and derailed it.

It was at this point that the US changed its previously cool relations with Israel and swung toward the close alliance that continues today. Relations with Egypt further worsened during the Cuban missile crisis when Khrushchev mistakenly calculated it would be profitable (as he had found during the Suez war) to use the threat of nuclear missiles. The Egyptian press sided with Cuba. Kennedy's attempts at improving the situation of Palestinian refugees came to an end. He secretly taped the decisive meeting on this issue. Up to this point the sale of Hawk missiles had been tied to Israeli concessions on the repatria-tion or compensation of Palestinian refugees. On December 27, 1962, Golda Meir, Israel's foreign minister, met Kennedy in Palm Beach. He told her that Joseph Johnson's plan was dead. America, he said, "has a special relationship with Israel in the Middle East really comparable only to that which it was with Britain over a wide range of world affairs." To Meir's delight, the President added: "I think it is quite clear that in case of an invasion the United States would come to the support of Israel
."

And a fascinating snippet on that still very hot topic today, nuclear proliferation:

"Opacity" continues to this day. By 1967, according to Cohen, Israel possessed its first rudimentary nuclear weapons. The BBC, drawing on the analysis of the Federation of Atomic Scientists, recently reported that Israel may now possess as many as two hundred nuclear bombs. A report on the MSNBC Web site estimates that Israel has produced enough plutonium to construct between one hundred and two hundred nuclear bombs and that it could also have by now some thirty-five tactical and strategic thermonuclear devices, as well as the long- and short-range missiles to deliver them.[3] The policy of "opacity" has so far prevented a serious public debate in Israel over what is still called obliquely the "nuclear option." The issue has only once been raised in parliament—by an Arab deputy who addressed a near-empty house.

Israel never signed the non-proliferation treaty originally sponsored by the US. It continues to say only that it will not be the first country in the Middle East to introduce atomic weapons. Israel's recent history vividly illustrates the limits of overwhelming power. "Opacity" did not prevent the 1967 war or the Arab surprise attack in 1973; nor did it prevent the two Palestinian uprisings since or the recent wave of suicide terrorists. On the other hand, when a former Dimona technician named Mordechai Vanunu revealed in the London Sunday Times what he claimed to have seen there, he was kidnapped in Rome, taken to Israel, and given an eighteen-year prison sentence, without parole. His term is nearly over by now. He spent more than eleven years in an isolation cell, an unusually harsh and heartless punishment, and I have seen reports that he nearly lost his mind.

On the eve of the Six-Day War, a few liberal and international-minded Knesset members, led by the Labor poli-tician Eliezer Livneh and the prominent conservative Salman Abramowitz, called for a general Middle Eastern nuclear disarmament agreement. After the war, Abramovitz joined Likud and Livneh became a militant of the Greater Israel Movement. The initiative died. Today, only Egypt advocates a nuclear-free Middle East. Israeli doves, precisely because they favor withdrawal from occupied territories to the less secure pre-1967 borders, are now among the most ardent advocates of the "nuclear option
."





posted by Gregory| 1/22/2004 10:58:00 AM
 

"Betting the Farm on a Shaky Foundation"

More profound embarassment for Auntie Beeb.

"The programme disclosed that Mr Dyke had pressed Mr Sambrook about his confidence in Gilligan's story, asking: "Have we effing got this right, because if we haven't, we'd better go back on it."

But Mr Sambrook was struck by Gilligan's insistence that his interpretation of Kelly's remarks was right, and he did not ask to see his notes.

"The director general and his senior executives bet the farm on a shaky foundation," Ware said.

Dr Kelly was shown being asked about the threat posed by Iraq's weapons for a Panorama programme in October 2002, a month after the government published its weapons dossier: an interview which was never broadcast.

Dr Kelly agreed that Iraq's chemical and biological weapons were an "immediate threat", and added: "Even if they're not actually filled and deployed today, the capability exists to get them filled and deployed within a matter of days and weeks
."

Well, they didn't "effing" get it right, did they? In fact, they got it flat out wrong given the whole snafu over the 45 minute claim (Kelly never said the government inserted it to 'sex' up the dossier). So I'd say this is a mega-eff up.

So wither Greg Dyke given this?

More at the FT too.

posted by Gregory| 1/22/2004 08:53:00 AM


1/21/2004  

SOTU Watch

Not his best speech. Here's the link to the text. Go read, if you haven't already, Patrick Belton's excellent instant analysis from last night. (Oh, while you're over at Oxblog, scroll up to read some excellent material Dave Adesnik has up. He's wearing his essay reviewer hat).

Here's the Democratic response (Pelosi, of course, trots out the Krugman radical meme: "[Bush] embraced a radical doctrine of pre-emptive war unprecedented in our history.")

I'll leave the parsing of domestic policy to others like Matthew Yglesias: "Long story short -- more budget BS than you can shake an unprecedented expansion in entitlement spending at."

Worth reading too, Sullivan's pretty gloomy take on the speech.

But let's look at the bright side for a little. Here were the strongest parts of the speech:

"As part of the offensive against terror, we are also confronting the regimes that harbor and support terrorists, and could supply them with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The United States and our allies are determined: We refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger." [my emphasis]

In other words, denial isn't just a river in Egypt. The intersection among transational terror groups, rogue states and WMD remains the greatest peril facing the civilized world in the 21st Century.

Bush gets it. Blair gets it. Nancy Pelosi, er, doesn't.

"Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better. Last month, the leader of Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime's weapons of mass destruction programs, including a uranium enrichment project for nuclear weapons. Colonel Qadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off, and far more secure, without weapons of mass murder. Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible - and no one can now doubt the word of America." [emphasis added]

Some will find such a claim risible. They will say the word of the United States, on the most important national security problem facing us (ie. WMD etc.) has taken a beating given that no significant WMD stockpiles have yet turned up in Iraq.

But myriad intelligence services of other sovereign nations were similarly fooled (and the Kay Report provided a good deal of evidence re: WMD programs). There was no mega-hoodwink, no Big Lie.

Governments the world over realize this. We'll have a harder sale, to be sure, if we are suddenly rushing about Berlin and Paris saying that Iran is about to go nuclear--particularly if their intelligence is to the contrary.

But I believe, at the end of the day, that we will still be able to persuade our allies re: the merits of our intelligence. We haven't lost all credibility here. After all, if Iraq's WMD was the rubric, virtually all intelligence services would be considered about as credible as the local weatherman.

Bottom line: I believe foreign governments take this Administration's pronouncements very seriously and at face value. In other words, we have that precious commodity, crediblity, on the world stage.

Contrast that with the Clintonian era of legalistic verbal parsing exemplified by Clinton's smirky utterance "it depends on what the meaning of is is." That very phrase encapsulated a low, dishonest decade where Clinton presided over a party-time bubble economy based on no real foundations except, so frequently, rank graft and looting of the company store.

Back to the speech.

"I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime - a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments. After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted, and tried, and convicted, and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got."

In other words, steer clear of, say, Wes Clark's (Radovan Karadzic's immunity for genocidaires) legalistic approach to waging the fight against international terrorism.

"Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners, or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support. There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country."

This bears keeping in mind. When a Nancy Pelosi poo-poohs Bush's unilateral war--don't forget that Brits, and Japanese, and Poles, and Italians, and many others--have died in the course of multilateral allied action with the Americans. Indeed, Bush is right, we should never glibly dismiss their sacrifices.

Oh, and the "submitting to the objections of a few" language was a winner. Remember folks, "Europe" as such wasn't against us. A few countries' governments, mostly because of self-interested agendas, were (see France, Germany).

The weaker spots on foreign policy?

The passages on democratization in the Middle East were very weak (it will take more than VOA pipe-ins) and light on specific policy. Ditto on Iraq's future.

This is why I say it wasn't one of his stronger speeches. And he should have told us how, specifically, the Libya precedent might be employed with NoKo, Iran, and others.

And nothing (I mean, nothing at all) on Israel-Palestine. Or critical relationships with Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Nada. As I said, weak--even if, like me, you hate laundry lists. Some critical issues bear mentioning. And they weren't.

A couple final thoughts. When Bush first mentioned Iraq

"Since we last met in this chamber, combat forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations, ended the rule of Saddam Hussein - and the people of Iraq are free"

the chamber erupted in applause. And on both sides of the aisle. That's part of the reason why Dean is losing steam.

It's still an election mostly driven by the trauma of 9/11. And the majority of Americans, not because they are imbeciles and think Saddam is UBL, but because of their prudential fears re: the intersection of rogue states, terror groups, and WMD--still think going into Iraq was the right call (yes, despite 500 fatalities and $120B).

Finally, a brief thought on the domestic side of the fence. I was struck by this passage:

"And even some of the youngest understand that we are living in historic times. Last month a girl in Lincoln, Rhode Island, sent me a letter. It began, ``Dear George W. Bush.'' ``If there is anything you know, I Ashley Pearson age 10 can do to help anyone, please send me a letter and tell me what I can do to save our country.'' She added this P.S.: ``If you can send a letter to the troops - please put, `Ashley Pearson believes in you.'''

Tonight, Ashley, your message to our troops has just been conveyed. And yes, you have some duties yourself. Study hard in school, listen to your mom or dad, help someone in need, and when you and your friends see a man or woman in uniform, say, ``Thank you.'' And, Ashley, while you do your part, all of us here in this great chamber will do our best to keep you and the rest of America safe and free
."

Well, this ain't Haight-Ashbury folks. Talk about counter-counter-cultural rhetoric. Thank the troops, listen to dad, and study hard--it brings to mind an idlyllic, rosy, nuclear-family-centric Eisenhowerian America.

Rove's not dumb. The SOTU locked in critical swaths of the Republican base that are socially conservative through such rhetoric and talk about sexual abstention and the like.

Now Bush will strike out towards the center during the main campaign season to get critical independent and moderates on his side--having used the SOTU to help consolidate the base.

Bottom line, the SOTU gets a C plus. It didn't look forward enough, as Sullivan points out.

But, as mentioned, it consolidated the Republican base, reminded all that U.N. resolutions on Iraq were finally enforced by real action and the concommitant overthrowing of a genocidal thug, and of continued progress in the war on terror and counter-proliferation initiatives.

Kerry might not be Dukakis. But he will have his hands full on national security.

And given that the economy (at least for the next 10 months) looks to be O.K., Kerry needs to get really smart guys like Dick Holbrooke to make sure his foreign policy stances are credible, tough and not B.S.-ridden.

Otherwise he's likely not going to make it a real tight race.














posted by Gregory| 1/21/2004 11:34:00 AM
 

Nation-Building

Carl Bildt sketches out seven key lessons from his Balkan experiences.

posted by Gregory| 1/21/2004 12:29:00 AM


1/20/2004  

"Comeback Kerry" Takes Iowa

Embarassing the entire punditry class (including this very humble blog) who were busy chronicling the Dean coronation (or occasionally looking over Dean's shoulder at Wes Clark), Kerry (38%) and Edwards (32%) put in extremely strong performances in Iowa. Kerry, of course, goes to New Hampshire with major new energy to face down Dean/Clark. Gephardt, given his poor showing in Iowa, has dropped out. We will have more on Edwards' strong showing another day.

I actually think Kerry's Iowa's victory is the worst outcome for Bush. Kerry is a strong campaigner (having fended off strong contenders to defend his Sentate seat like former MA governor Bill Weld) and has a distinguished personal history including his Vietnam service. We will be taking a very close look at Kerry's foreign policy views and his team of advisors in the coming weeks. There is much rhetoric emitting from the Kerry camp that has been overly hyperbolic and that needs to be analyzed. Such an exercise will also provide some hints re: what a Kerry foreign policy might look like.

But, seeing his victory speech tonight, I would note immediately that he is smart enough to be pre-emptively avoiding Rove's likely attempts to tag him as a Massachusetts, Dukakis-style liberal (looking risible in a tank). He said that, unlike Dubya, he "knew something about aircraft carriers" and that Bush should "bring it on" on national security matters.

This just got much more interesting. Which makes, for political junkies like us, for some fascinating months ahead.

A last note. As much as we hyped Dean too much, let's not count him out down for the count just yet. As Iowa showed--just about anything could happen in New Hampshire (and beyond) in the coming days.

So, and very much so, developing. But still, a very, very big night for the Massachusetts Senator.

NOTE: Despite most Iowa caucus voters being against the Iraq war--they handed a major defeat to the main antiwar candidate Howard Dean. I think this is because this is still, all things considered, a 9/11 election. National security looms large. Some of Kerry's nuances on the Iraq issue (unlike Dean's intemperate and sometimes idiotic utterances) and his Vietnam record helped in all this when people really stopped and took full stock of the key men in the race and what their various positions portended vis-a-vis their respective approaches to national security.

But Kerry's, er, front-runner status (isn't that the case now?) will also provide Dubya major openings. More soon.

UPDATE: Let me briefly mention another major factor in the big Kerry win.

It appears Democrats voted pretty rationally in terms of gauging the electability of the various candidates in the field. And here, Dean came up short (and his speech last night, wild spasm-like gesticulations and all, likely won't help much going forward).

MORE: Here's a cautionary note worth keeping in mind if you are a Kerry fan:

"Tradition holds that a victory in Iowa can be worth percentage points in New Hampshire. But the two states have chosen different winners in all but 3 of the 13 competitive nominating contests since 1972."

posted by Gregory| 1/20/2004 04:29:00 AM


1/19/2004  

Diplomacy 101: Sample Foreign Service Exam Question

You are the American Ambassador to, say, Egypt. You attend an exhibition opening. There is a piece of art depicting a smiling Mohammed Atta, perhaps on a plane, flying above a pool of blood with a wicked smile on his face.

You think that the artwork glorifies, in horrific fashion, the events of 9/11. To add insult to injury, this artwork is showcased during a Cairo conference aimed at analyzing conflict resolution initiatives post 9/11.

You:

a) Politely continue to make your way through the exhibit (despite your deep anger and discomfort) and keep your diplomatic wits about you;
b) Leave (in a fit of disgust) the exhibit abruptly without telling your hosts why;
c) Register a verbal protest to both the artist and museum curator/director about the work of art expressing, in forceful terms, how reprehensible you think it is;
d) Destroy the installation (as a pre-planned protest); or
e) Destroy the installation (in a fit of spontaneous rage).

I would pick choice "c". But, in a roughly analogous event (substitute a smiling Palestinian suicide bomber for Atta) the Israeli Ambassador to Stockholm picked "d" (Note: it's being mostly depicted as "e" in the press--but it appears the Ambassador had pre-planned his protest.)

Leave aside that the "artist" (himself a Swedish Jew) sounds hugely lame and that the caliber of his "installation" (like so much cutting-edge contemporary, er, "art" is underwhelming).

Leave aside the moronic title of the piece ("Snow White and the Madness of Truth", highly offensive, as "Snow White" is the artist's appellation for the female suicide bomber) and the artist's risible description of himself as an "eye-bleeding ultimate composer of intifadic and eruptive lung-outs."

Leave aside the Stockholm museum director's hyperbole that the Israeli Ambassador "pulled out the plugs and threw one of the spotlights into the fountain, which caused the entire installation to short-circuit and made it totally life-threatening..." (What is, "totally life-threatening", of course, are Islamic Jihad suicide bombers entering cafes and restaurants and blowing themselves up).

And even, as I don't think it's ultimately irrelevant, leave aside that this exhibit was taking place contemporaneously with a conference initiated by the Swedish government on the lessons of the Holocaust.

Now, you could make an argument that free speech runs both ways. The Swedish Jewish artist enjoys freedom of artistic expression, and the Israeli Ambassador has the right to symbolic protest.

Indeed, given postmodern trends towards 'interactivity" with artwork and such--the Ambassador's actions might not prove as atypical as we think.

Offended or underwhelmed by the latest offerings at the next Whitney biennial? Well, pull the plug on the thing.

But such semi-serious musings aside, here are the deeper issues at play.

To better understand them, check out the text accompanying the artwork.

There is a piece up in Haaretz that describes the text as "beautiful." I find it, rather, discomfortingly relativistic.

But the opinion writer in Haaretz still has a point when he writes:

"This is a beautiful text. It has one serious flaw: it violates an Israeli taboo whereby it is prohibited to look hard at the faces of the suicide terrorists. Breaking this taboo made the Israeli ambassador blow a fuse. However, the ambassador gave us the code for what is happening here, not there, and it is no different from the days when "Queen of the Bathtub," Hanoch Levin's play that satirized Golda Meir's government, was withdrawn from the stage of the Cameri Theater. Now the theaters are cautious. There is nothing really political in them. Similarly, there was the "punishment of Jose Saramago," whose tens of thousands of readers boycotted his important book "Blindness." And there are many other examples." [emphasis added].

What lies behind the faces of these suicide bombers? A female lawyer? A young mother of two?

David Adesnik, a few days back, wrote:

"But as Golda Meir said many, many years ago, there will be no peace until the Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel."

That's too easy. The female suicide bomber probably did love her children more than she hated Israel. The real question is, what nevertheless caused her to commit murder and kill herself in the process?

We need to better plumb the motivations behind the scourge of suicide bombing. The "artist" in Stockholm was attempting that--but in an inflammatory, sophomoric and insensitive fashion.

More serious people need to give it thought, however, and not merely by describing "Palestinian Family Values" as barbaric or the "Arabs," writ large, as a demented lot so consumed by anti-semitism that they will trample over the interests of their families--so vitriolic their hatred towards the "Zionist entity."

The reality is much more complex. A collective psychosis hasn't singled out Arabs or Palestinians as singularly devoid of human fellow-feeling and decency. Conditions surrounding their plight must be taken into account too.

Here's more on the story.

Another key point:

"Despite the blunt statements of support from the prime minister and foreign minister, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem on Sunday were not happy with what they called "the festival of support" for Mazel and his action. The sources said they worried Israeli diplomatic efforts to defend the government's policies toward the Palestinians and territories were adopting a strategy of "losing control," with diplomats dropping diplomatic niceties to adopt unusual and unconventional methods of protest that could harm the reputations of Israeli diplomats."

That's why, all told, choice "c" above was the way to go--despite support voiced by Arik Sharon, Ehud Barak, and the Israeli FM for the Ambassador's actions.

UPDATE:

Reader Daniel Aronstein writes in:

1) never has there been a post-modern piece whose title - and subject - better captured the vapidity, mendacity, immorality, banality, elitism, silliness, and ugliness of post-modernism: "snow white and the madness of truth"

2) - outrage at genocide (or those aiding, abetting, condoning, or glorifying it) is not MERELY honorable, admirable, and moral - it is IMPERATIVE.

3 - if you leave aside everything, nothing is left; there's nothing outrageous leftover for those of us with the courage of our convictions to attack
.

He also admonishes me thus: "do not apologize for genocide or those that would. It is shameful, wrong, and self-defeating."

I'll let B.D. readers decide if this is what I've done in my post above.

Finally, Daniel sends in this additional information worth reading:

SWEDISH 'ART' OUTRAGE

"On January 16, Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, attended a Stockholm art show linked to an international conference on preventing genocide. Mazel was shocked to encounter there a large exhibit glorifying the Palestinian terrorist who murdered 21 Israelis at Haifa's Maxim restaurant in October. Dubbed "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," the exhibit showed a tiny sailboat floating on a pool of red water. Attached to the boat was a smiling photo of the female bomber, Hanadi Jaradat. In protest, Mazel pulled the plug on three spotlights illuminating the exhibit, and knocked one light fixture into the red pool.

The exhibit and 'artists'

Media coverage largely downplayed the exhibit's clear glorification of genocide ¯ a grave irony, given the theme of the conference. Media reports instead suggested that the exhibit's meaning is open to broad interpretation, or that it merely laments all Mideast bloodshed.

Absent from nearly all reports was the poetic text accompanying the exhibit, submitted by the artists, which juxtaposes the 'beauty' of the red pool of blood upon the moral 'Snow-whiteness' of the terrorist:

For the June 12 deaths of her brother, and her cousin... seemingly innocent with universal non-violent character... Weeping bitterly, she added: 'If our nation cannot realize its dream and the goals of the victims, and live in freedom and dignity, then let the whole world be erased'... Run away, then, you poor child... and the red looked beautiful upon the white.

Here are three examples of the media's selective omission:

1) BBC wrote: "Its Israeli-born creator rejected the charge [of condoning violence], saying the work had a message of openness and conciliation... 'I'm absolutely opposed to suicide bombers', he added."

2) The New York Times News Service reports that one of the artists explained: "I wanted to show how incomprehensible it is that a mother of two ¯ who is a lawyer no less ¯ can do such a thing," she said, apparently confusing the Haifa bombing with an attack last week by another Palestinian woman.

3) The (UK) Observer spun the story 180-degrees, presenting Mazel ¯ not the Palestinian! ¯ as the killer: Peaceful Swedes were nearly killed when "an ambassador erupted in violent protest... [Mazel] ripped out electrical wires, grabbed a spotlight and hurled it into a fountain, causing it to short circuit and become a potential death trap."

Dutch television has actual film of Mazel, calmly walking around the exhibit, unplugging the spotlights, and pushing one of the (unplugged) lights into the water.

BROADER CONTEXT

While one could debate if Mazel's act was appropriate, it is essential to recognize that this story runs far deeper than one art exhibit. Associated Press provides important background context to the story:

There has long been debate over where criticism of Israel ends and anti-Semitism begins. The current round touched a deeper chord, because many Israelis feel outsiders often accept the Palestinians' use of suicide bombings against civilians.

As Ambassador Mazel explained:

This exhibit was the culmination of dozens of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish events in Sweden. When you don't protest it gets worse and worse. It had to be stopped somehow, even by deviating from the behavior of the buttoned-down diplomat.

The Israeli government supports Mazel's protest, and the Jerusalem Post had this to say:

As for "diplomacy," Mazel was communicating his point in the only way possible. A formal protest would merely have been "duly registered," filtered and lost in the back channels of European diplomacy. So he chose to scream. But screaming was the only option Europe now gives Israel.

Did your local paper's coverage of Mazel's act of protest fail to note the artists' accompanying text, which casts a mass murderer as a 'Snow-white' victim? If so, write a letter to the editor, questioning the omission of the artist's literal 'whitewash' of Palestinian terror
."

MORE:

Nelson Ascher writes in:

"I'd just like to remark that, first, that specific piece in the exhibition wasn't actually destroyed or irrecoverably vandalized, because that is not a unique, irreproducible object that has what Walter Benjamin called an "aura". On the contrary, it could be and was repaired in minutes and, based at it is, on an idea, however bad, rather than on unique materials, it can, with some water, red ink, a little boat and a photograph, be reproduced, reenacted, repeated anywhere, for instance, in my own bath tube. Second, the Haaretz articulist arrogantly questions the ambassador's credentials to judge whether that is or isn't art and then, arrogantly too, passes his own aesthetic judgment on the beauty of the text. More to the point, he generalizes as he wishes the meaning of an individual act, interpreting it as paradigmatic of his country's way of dealing with art or disagreement or the Palestinians, whatever. Well, his interpretation of the act seems to me much more subjective and biased than the ambassador's interpreation of the said art object.

But all this is, at best, unimportant. What seems important to me is that there is a symbolic war going on that's in every way as ferocious as the real one. Symbols are attacked and destroyed. Saddam's statue was destroyed in Baghdad? Well, the protesters in London erected and destroyed a statue of George Bush. But limits are artificially imposed on this symbollic battle. Burning the star-and-stripes is OK and lawfull, even in the US. The burning of "la tricolore", on the other hand, can get you in jail in France, and mocking "La Marseillese" too. The star of David can be juxtaposed with the swastika, but try, either on the streets of London, Paris, Stockholm, either on those of Rammallah, Cairo etc., to do the same with the crescent. It would be nice to see what the reaction would be in Europe to an art object glorifying Baruch Goldstein.
Even more important is the following: the systematic corruption of all concepts that once seemed to be crystal-clear. Human rights? Yes, of course, but not those of people murdered by suicide-bombers. Antiracism? Take a look at what went on in Durban where this noble idea went hand in hand with the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". The Holocaust? Of course, but only those (in lower-case and in the plural) perpetraded by Jews, sorry, Zionists, against Palestinians. The Haaretz articulist even mentioned that poor excuse of an old-fashioned boring stalinist, José Saramago (whose works I can read in his own language). He compared Jenin to Auschwitz, an offensive lie that managed to offend someone who couldn't be suspected of being a right-wing or mainstream Zionist: Haaretz reporter Amira Haas. Well, how did the Israelis react? Many of them by not buying his books, and I think that's their right. Did Saramago have to go into hiding protected by the British secret services? Hardly.
In short, the war has been taken over to the symbolic sphere and, there, it is also being fought in a dirty way. Those who react to a journalist's anti-Arab diatribe by firing him have only nice words to say when it comes to the anti-Jewish diatribe of a poet working for the same organization. Not very even-handed, is it?

If even in the real world of real people double-standards are allowed to proliferate, in the symbolic sphere it is much easier to get away with them.
Finally, just a question. I won't even discuss the futility of programming an artistic event as a forum to discuss genocide. Individual authors or artists might be moved to try to deal with this phenomenon, but thinking that, through a medium that is hardly objective and that is almost always, by its very nature, ambivalent at best, genocide can be productively discussed doesn't sound like a great idea to me. But let's admit that genocide might be debated in a place surrounded by creative work associated in some way to it (since art is never about this or that, right?). Then, admitting all this, what is a work dealing in its own way with the Middle East doing there exactly? To allow that work in that very exhibition means that the organizers agreed with the biased and one-sided thesis that there's a genocide going on in the region. Now, we know genocides ocurred in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda and during the Holocaust. But the very fact of giving the contemporary Middle Eastern situtation, the Arab-Israeli conflict, a place in that forum is not a way to formulate pertinent questions, but to pass a sentence, an anti-Israeli sentence, an a priori condemnation of Israel, without anything remotely resembling due intellectual or even artistic process. While we may defend the artist's freedom of expression, however unreasonable that expression is, that doesn't mean that the decision of those responsible for the museum might be defended in the same way, because it is their work to be judgemental, to chose and to be able to explain and justify their choices. And I'm still waiting for them to tell us why have other works been refused and this one accepted, what are their criteria, what's the connection between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the exhibition's explicit theme, genocide, and so on. This they haven't done, protecting themselves behind empty talk about artistic freedom, a freedom they, who must chose between many works, are paid for by the public to grant as much as to deny
." [emphasis added]












posted by Gregory| 1/19/2004 11:36:00 AM
"Best 9/11 Commentary"--Andrew Sullivan
"Must-read list"--Washington Times
"Keeping a check on the media's excesses"--Sunday Times (UK)
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
Columnists
Blogs
Think-Tanks
Security
Books
B.D. In the Press
archives