March 25, 2006

More France

An unusually blunt and bleak piece about France's latest woes at the Washington Post:
This is the second time in four months that France has been seized with violent protests. And in an important sense, these are counter-riots, since the goals of the privileged students conflict with those of the suburban rioters who took to the streets last November. The message of the suburban rioters: Things must change. The message of the students: Things must stay the same. In other words: Screw the immigrants.
I feel a bit foolish for thinking this, but I can't help but think that there's a real chance that France's civil unrest might, in the not-so-distant future, turn into an actual civil war. This could, perhaps, qualify as another absurd belief.... But the mix of ingredients in French society is unquestionably volatile:
  • An elite clinging to outmoded social structures, failed policies, a rigid language, and past glories.
  • A national proclivity towards revolutionary convulsions (how many Republics per century is optimal?)
  • A political class trained to manipulate the mob
  • A persitent underclass of unassimilated immigrants who, rightly, feel excluded from the social protections of the state
  • A strong, organized network of radicals who swim within the unassimilated sea, preach extreme religion, and receive support from foreign governments
  • A brewing generational conflict between the older (more native) French who benefit from the social policies and the younger (more immigrant) French who will be asked to bear the cost, with no hope of reaping the same pay out
  • Spoiled students who believe their "resistance" links them to the revolutionaries of '68 when their insistence on the status quo and sense of entitlement makes aristocratic reactionaries a better analogy.
Perhaps I'm just in a pessimistic mood and France is certainly not alone in any of these issues. But I believe it's likely they will either have a Thatcherite revolution or mass civil conflict. For now, the prospects for a French Thatcher do not seem good....
Posted by richard at 09:32 PM | Comments (4)

Israel Lobby

While it hasn't gotten a great deal of press, the recent "working paper" from the Kennedy School on the The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy has sparked a lot of outrage.

It's truly remarkable what these two professors wrote and considered "scholarship". It's the kind of stuff that makes conservatives think that the Academy is irredeemably screwed up.

Alan Dershowitz is not happy about it at all, as you'd expect, and claims to have traced certain out-of-context quotes back to anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi hate sites.

Frankly, my biggest problem with the paper, which I finally got around to reading some of, is how bad it is. Just really, really shoddy work. I can't believe anyone would call this scholarship and think they could get away with it:

U.S. foreign policy shapes events in every corner of the globe. Nowhere is this truer than in the Middle East, a region of recurring instability and enormous strategic importance. Most recently, the Bush Administration’s attempt to transform the region into a community of democracies has helped produce a resilient insurgency in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman. With so much at stake for so many, all countries need to understand the forces that drive U.S. Middle East policy.
Gosh, that starts off well-balanced. At this point, they've convinced me that they really are seeking the truth and not just spouting propaganda.
Instead, the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the "Israel Lobby." Other special interest groups have managed to skew U.S. foreign policy in directions they favored, but no lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.1
Really? I thought it was Halliburton and the House of Saud that drove our policies. Go figure. Gotta love that first footnote:
1Indeed, the mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about. But because Israel is a strategic and moral liability, it takes relentless political pressure to keep U.S. support intact.
What kind of logic is that? Are you telling me that this is the kind of model of public action that qualifies as political science these days? I didn't realize that current scholarship started from the premise that there is some uncontested "real" American national interest? But there must be, because the "mere existence" of the Isreal lobby proves it's at odds with pro-Israeli positions. Do you like the rhetorical slight-of-hand that introduces, at the last minute, the straw man of "unconditional support" that is supposedly given to Israel? And if we're starting (in footnote 1!) with the fact that Israel is a strategic and moral liability, then why do we need the paper at all?

They then make a one-sided case that Israel is a strategic liability – but if I toted up the costs of any one of our alliances, while ignoring the benefits, I'm pretty sure I could end up with a negative balance too. As Dan Drezner points out, they completely skipped over incidents (like the Iraqi nuclear program at Osirak or intelligence sharing) where the alliance was an asset.

Anyway, I could beat my head against the wall, trying to debunk each assertion in the paper, but it's not worth it. It's clear from the first three pages that it's an ideologically driven hatchet job and not scholarship. I really hope serious political scientists (and Harvard and Chicago) distance themselves from this kind of work product fairly quickly.

Posted by richard at 04:55 PM | Comments (7)

La petit vessie de Chirac

I thought that I would allow myself to quietly gloat about this, but at the advice of a friend, I will laugh my ass off:
PRESIDENT CHIRAC stormed out of the first session of a European Union summit dominated by a row over French nationalism because a fellow Frenchman insisted on speaking English....

When M Seillière, who is an English-educated steel baron, started a presentation to all 25 EU leaders, President Chirac interrupted to ask why he was speaking in English. M Seillière explained: "I'm going to speak in English because that is the language of business."

Without saying another word, President Chirac, who lived in the US as a student and speaks fluent English, walked out, followed by his Foreign, Finance and Europe ministers, leaving the 24 other European leaders stunned. They returned only after M Seilière had finished speaking.

And I would have to agree that this is the best part:
Embarrassed French diplomats tried to explain away the walk-out, saying that their ministers all needed a toilet break at the same time.
Vive l'impérialisme culturel Anglo-Saxon!
Posted by richard at 04:12 PM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2006

Port Deal

The latest political showdown and Bush Administration controversy seems to be the UAE ports deal. Everyone seems a bit shocked that Bush has threatened to veto any legislation blocking or delaying the deal, and that he did it so quickly and forcefully. Bipartisan condemnation of the deal is on the rise and a veto-overriding super majority may be in the making.

So the question is, why is Bush doing this? There are four possibilities that come to mind:

  1. Bush has lost whatever marbles he had and he and Cheney are colluding with their cronies and Arab oil buddies to the detriment of US security. This seems to be the standard argument of the crowd that claims that the Iraq War was all about Halliburton profits.
  2. Bush is simply reacting to Congress' attempt at oversight in a predictable (for him) way. He maintains his right to act unilaterally on matters of foreign affairs and is not about to let Congress tell him what to do. Whether you think this is an example of Bush trying to slip something by Congress and being unreasonable in response to their attempts at oversight, or of opportunistic Congressmen making a last-minute stink for political advantage over a properly vetted executive decision, seems to depend somewhat on your partisanship.
  3. Bush has made the port deal part of a larger diplomatic deal with the UAE and is fighting hard not to have it scuttled. Despite their often anti-Israeli stance and persistence as a money-laundering hub, they are one of our (useful) allies in the Middle East, and this deal may be a quid pro quo either retrospectively for help during the Iraq War, or in exchange for future help (for instance, in any coming confrontation with Iran). Bush is willing to use his veto, and expend political capital, to keep that deal going forward.
  4. Bush made the port deal part of a larger deal with the UAE, but wants Congress to get him out of it. This may seem unlikely, but Presidents often play the good guy to smooth foreign relations, while relying on Congress to do the necessary dirty work. Clinton and the Kyoto Protocol come to mind as a somewhat recent example. In this scenario, the UAE would have made much-needed support in current or future operations contingent on the port deal. The Administration, recognizing the need to keep them as an ally, but also the foolhardiness of giving them port operations, decides to publicly support the deal while maneuvering to get it killed by Congress. The more political capital he expends (and the more forcefully he expends it) the more likely the Emirates are to believe that he did the best he could. We may then be able to maneuver them to a more acceptable pay-off for support.
Now, that last item is pure speculation – perhaps born out of too many Tom Clancy novels and West Wing episodes – but it is how, in my imagination at least, foreign policy (should) work. If I had to bet, would I bet on that option? Probably not, but given that many see the Meiers-Alito rope-a-dope in a similar light, I'm not sure I would rule it out.

It is dependent on the idea that giving port operations to an Arab government-owned company is a bad idea – an idea that I'm open to, but not set on, and not qualified to judge without a lot more information. I would add, though, that I think you need a pretty good reason to disallow it.

Update: Before writing this, I wish I'd read this article, which claims that their was a "secret agreement" with the UAE company to provide records on demands to help with investigations. Not sure what to make of that, although it doesn't rule out any option above.

Posted by richard at 09:14 AM | Comments (6)

February 15, 2006

Europe Doomed?

Theodore Dalrymple has an essay up at Cato Unbound questioning whether Old Europe is doomed. It brings up the usual suspects of over-regulation, demographics, unassimilated immigration, and protectionism. There are some interesting followups from Timothy Smith, Charles Kupchan, Anne Applebaum.

I have to say, though, that if this is the response to cartoon riots for much longer, they may very well be doomed:

“We had to watch how they were ripping off car mirrors. We wanted to stop this vandalism but were ordered to withdraw,” an anonymous policeman says in today’s Flemish daily De Standaard. “An ambulance was told to switch off its siren because that might provoke the Moroccans.” Another anonymous officer told the press: “There you are watching this, while citizens can see that you are powerless.” According to an anonymous police chief the authorities decided, that “it was better to have a few cars vandalized than risk open war in the streets.” On Monday the city council, led by the Socialist mayor Patrick Janssens, decided that the city would compensate the damage to cars and property.
The thing that the authorities don't seem to understand is that, rather than defusing the situation, they are pouring gasoline on the flames. These actions will be seen as nothing more than additional examples of Western weakness and decadence. The capitulation will engender nothing but scorn and loathing from the radical Islamists and unassimilated immigrants.

It seems to me that they are falling further into the wishful-thinking trap of "if we just don't provoke them...."

Posted by richard at 09:50 AM | Comments (5)

August 01, 2004

BBC Arabic Comments

One of the things I hope to be able to do on my own at the end of my Arabic classes is read the comments on the BBC Arabic Forums. For now, I rely on Iraq the Model for their translations:

“Those groups made the police their primary target and any sane human being knows who are the enemies of the police; they’re the gangsters of course but when shall the cheering and clapping for those gangsters end and until when shall these crimes continue using the lousy excuse of resistance.

The media don’t show the slightest care about hundreds, no, thousands of innocent lives. All the media care about is to spread lies as solid facts. For example some media sources reported that jet fighters flew over Ramadi (where I live) and broke the sound barrier, which didn’t happen. Another example: they reported that the American army bombed a house, while the fact was that some mortar shells fired by the so-called resistance men hit the house and this was not the first time; tens of mortar shells fell on residential areas in my town. What can I say, I’m talking to the deaf”
Mohammed Al-Taa’i - Ramadi/Iraq.

“I closely follow the news about suicide attacks and the operations that target Americans and Iraqis because I was about to become part of this game.
The suicide attacks are performed by Arab fighters who’s first goal is heaven while the brains who plan for these operations have deep strategic goals but they will fail because Iraqis have recognized and hated this game. As for small bombs and IEDs; these are planted by a mixture of ex-criminals (hired right now) and intelligence elements from some countries and also those who were privileged before the change in Iraq”
Shahin Abdul Sattar-Baghdad.

“It’s time for you Iraqis to rise and unite your efforts against terror and terror-supporting countries. We will continue to water the tree of freedom with our blood and woe to the enemies of the people whether Arab or not. Woe to the hypocritical media. We will all build the new Iraq, the Iraq of hope and freedom and let the enemies of freedom go to hell.
Here I ask those who call such crimes resistance? What about our children and the poor workers and salesmen? Are they agents too?
Thanks to the Arabs who care about us and share our concerns and I say to the Arabs who consider us their enemies: we’re moving forward on the road of freedom and you can keep your course if you like but we will never waste the time or the chance to build the Iraq of peace and freedom”

“The filthy suicide attack killed 68 honest hardworking Iraqis among whom there were husbands, fathers. This attack and others similar to it are the last breath of these coward groups that hold Jihad as a slogan and use Islam as a cover.
The corrupt media that is bribed by the neighboring countries is morally responsible for these tragedies because they try to give legitimacy to these coward attacks by using the term “resistance”. The government is strong and its steps are supported by all the honest. Time will be on our side”
Mohammed Abdul jabbar-Baghdad.

“This is the “resistance” killing innocent people and threatening peace in Iraq. Is this Jihad? They kill innocents and they justify their doings by saying that Iraqis cooperate with the occupation while the truth is that these poor victims were people who loved and served their country by joining the IP to bring stability and peace to Iraq where coward terrorists established their stronghold. If those terrorists were the least brave they would’ve shown their faces when they appear in front of the cameras of the anti-Iraqi, poison-spreading satellite channels”
Um Noor-Iraq.

“There’s no doubt that only a desperate, full of hatred coward can commit such a crime. We should all respect the feelings of the Iraqi people. As you see, this resistance has reached the extremes of crime and brutality but it’s also approaching its miserable end right now. Wait and see”

“I’ve always listened to the conversations on your station because their time usually coincides with my return to home after work but when the conversations discuss the situation of our brothers in Iraq I usually tune the radio to another station to listen to some soft music to get some relief because I have tachycardia, tension and abdominal cramps when I listen to opinions from our misled or blindly fanatical Arab brothers. Anyway, this sad incident came to end the doubts about the sick and barbaric nature of those who commit such unforgivable crimes. This also includes anyone who tries to find excuses for their doings.

May God bless the souls of the poor Iraqis who lost their lives in that dark era under Saddam’s reign and may God bless the souls of the Iraqis who sacrificed their lives in this new time; the time of liberty and hope”
Nahidh Mohammed Salih-Dubai/UAE.

“These are the ways terrorists use against freedom lovers. The freedom that Arabs lack, and the freedom that terrorists want to destroy before it spreads. Woe to the enemies of freedom”
Mohammed Ubaid-Dubai.

“The reason behind these attacks is the American occupation and I believe that bringing Saddam Hussain back to power is the solution. He succeeded in a task (which is security) that 20 countries including the US failed in. Iraq was secure in president Saddam’s days “in the dark night we miss the moon” Iraqis will never enjoy security unless all the invading forces withdraw from Iraq and what happened till now is the proof”
Al-makashafi Al-Khidr - Amderman/Sudan.

“This is an insane, sadistic, terrorist attack but he blood of Iraqis will not go in vain.
Here I call the Iraqi government to sue the satellite channels that take part in these incidents through providing publicity to the terrorists and their supporters.
Martyrs of Iraq, heaven is yours”
Bashar Al-Baldawi-Iraqi in Oman.

“I condemn killing innocent people but martyr operations is the only way to defeat the Americans. We can’t wait for a peaceful voluntary withdrawal. Let’s remember Palestine and Lebanon and make a comparison”
Sayed Hasan-Egypt.

“The Egyptian brother is describing killing innocents as a struggle and way to defeat the Americans, not the opposite. According to his theory, I, as an Arab should kill Palestinians to scare the Israelis and force them to withdraw to the borders of June 4 1967.
Killing innocents is a struggle? What kind of logic is this!!”
Amr Ali-Egyptian in Canada.

“Is this the resistance that resists the occupation? What resistance? And what occupation?
The American soldier is trying to protect me from the terrorists and the American president saved me from Saddam’s regime. If this is an occupation then I show my deepest respect to it and if such suicide attacks are called resistance then let the resistance go to hell”
Hoshyar Zakhoi-Duhok/Iraq.

Posted by richard at 10:10 AM | Comments (1)

July 21, 2004


Human Rights Watch says that it has documentary evidence to back up the eye witness accounts of the Sudanese government arming, aiding, and abetting the Janjaweed militias terrorizing Darfur.

Will someone please have the guts to use the g-word? "Never again" is sounding hollower day-by-day.

Posted by richard at 02:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2004

Oh boy

More potentially explosive stuff about Iran. Ash-sharq al-Awsat is reporting
that a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards allegedly coordinated with Ayman al-Zawahiri (bin Laden's reputed number two man) to provide "safe passage" for 9 of the September 11th hijackers through Iran.

Add to this the continued reports that al-Qaeda members are being given sanctuary in Iran – assertions that may have been bolstered by the recent surrender of Khalid bin Odeh bin Mohammed Al-Harbi to the Saudis at their embassy in Teheran. Also the report from the New York Times on Sunday that "Iran had ordered guards at its border stations not to stamp the passports of Qaeda members from Saudi Arabia who were moving through Iran after training at terrorist camps in Afghanistan." This, of course, gives Iran deniability ("some may have entered illegally") and it helps the terrorists avoid the additional scrutiny that an Iranian stamp brings on entering the country.

The story is picking up steam. And contrary to some who say that the Iraq War has sapped our ability to tackle Iran militarily if we have to (and I don't think that is a given yet), I've argued that strategically there was a huge advantage to having Iran surrounded.

Watch this space.

Posted by richard at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2004

Translated Comments

Omar at IRAQ THE MODEL has more of his translated comments from the BBC Arabic forums. As usual, they are worth a read. While it's difficult to tell how representative the ones he chooses to translate are – he didn't post statistics this time – it is very interesting to see the split between Iraqi opinion and that of other Arab states.

Posted by richard at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

Joe Wilson Again

T McGee points out that I should give Joe Wilson some space to defend himself since I made a big deal below about his misleading statements. So here's his defense in Salon and his letter to the Washington Post, to present the other side.

It doesn't do much for me honestly. His claim that his wife had nothing to do with his selection to go to Niger has slowly morphed into a weaker one that "the decision to send me to Niger was not made, and could not be made, by Valerie" – but only after documents proving she recommended him have come to light.

He has admitted that he got "confused" when he talked to reporters and said that he knew the documents were forged because the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong". Of course, when he said that he had never seen the documents – but he may have heard about them from news reports on the IAEA's findings. But no matter, it's perfectly acceptable to just get confused when making damning accusations about national security.

Finally, his claims about the veracity of the sixteen words in the SOTU were overblown to begin with, given that he only visited one country in Africa and, in fact, brought back some evidence that the Iraqis had "sought" uranium there. We now know from the Butler report that the British actually believed that uranium was sought in both Niger and the Congo, with an agreement potentially reached with the latter country.

Anyway, the point is that Wilson was the one making the strong claims about "lies" all those months ago, and despite the warm reception he got from the media then, he still needs to be held to a high burden of proof. Anyone who names his book The Politics of Truth should come under extra scrutiny as far as I'm concerned.

Update: Here's an article in the New York Times that sums up the African uranium question fairly well.

Another update: Michael Getler, ombudsman for the Washington Post responds to Wilson's letter.

Posted by richard at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2004

Iraqi insights

Mohammed at Iraq the Model has an insightful post:

Our Muslim and Arab leaders are good at making their worst defeats look like great victories and they're great experts in this field. And I see that the free world is an expert in making their great victories look like defeats and this is the reason why Arab leaders lose again and again while the free world triumphs again with less sacrifices.

He then goes on to argue for why the war was justified. Meanwhile, Alaa at the the Mesopotamian has a sarcastic and scathing criticism of other Arab countries:
Well, of course the Arabs are our brothers in so far as we are an Arabic speaking people. And of course we don’t wish them harm. And how many sacrifices have the Iraqis made for their sake? So, we wish them well, generally speaking. However, how we wish they could be less stupid, less cruel and more understanding. Also it would be nice if they could become less selfish, less hypocritical, less addicted to lying, treachery and jealousy. That would be nice. And perhaps they could show a little more concern about the murder of our people, the destruction of our livelihood, the sabotage of our national assets and infrastructure. It would be even nicer if they could actually stop perpetrating these rather unfriendly acts.

Read the rest, it's worth it.

Posted by richard at 02:59 PM | Comments (1)

Iran and al-Qaeda

In light of the recent escalation of tension with Iran, it will interesting to see what effect, if any, this revelation from the 9/11 commission will have:

The senior official also told TIME the report will note that Iranian officials approached al-Qaeda leadership after the bombing of the USS Cole and proposed a collaborative relationship in future attacks on the U.S. But that offer was turned down by bin Laden because he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia, TIME reported.
The story does note that "there was no evidence that Iran helped al Qaeda with the Sept. 11 attacks", despite the fact that "eight and 10 of the 14 hijackers involved in gaining control of the four aircraft used on Sept. 11 passed through Iran in the period from October 2000 to February 2001."

Posted by richard at 02:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2004

Yellowcake Redux

More on uranium from Niger, including some doubt cast on Joe Wilson's account of his infamous trip. See, it turns out he didn't tell the truth. [Instapundit]

Posted by richard at 12:58 PM | Comments (3)

July 09, 2004

18 Tir

Today is the fifth anniversary of the July 9 Iranian student demonstrations. 18th of Tir : Anniversary of July 9, 1999. (Although in the Iranian calendar it actually happened yesterday).


I glad that Bush made a strong statement to commemorate this day and support the student movement. I've heard it said that he is the first head-of-state to mark the event, and if so, I'm proud that he did. (So far, Kerry seems to have not made any reference – if I'm wrong, please let me know).

Pejman Yousefzadeh has several links, including to the BBC retrospective and news from yesterday's protests in Iran.

Andrew Sullivan has more.

As does the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran.

Posted by richard at 12:00 PM | Comments (7)

July 08, 2004

More Darfur

I talked below about the crisis in Sudan, when I gave Julia an anniversary present of aid to Darfur.

Now we find that France, like they did in Rwanda, opposes action to stop the genocide. How do they characterize the situation, which the UN calls "the world's worst humanitarian crisis"?

[French junior Foreign Minister Renaud] Muselier also dismissed claims of "ethnic cleansing" or genocide in Darfur.

"I firmly believe it is a civil war and as they are little villages of 30, 40, 50, there is nothing easier than for a few armed horsemen to burn things down, to kill the men and drive out the women," he said.

Yes, and those armed horsemen can take out thousands of "little villages" when backed by the Sudanese air force.

Rather than intervening, the French wish the Sudanese would just "get over the crisis so their country is pacified" – which would obviously be good for French oil interests in the country.

Granted the US could do more, but at least we're pushing hard (unilaterally?) for action. And at least Powell is warming up the label, citing "indicators and elements that would start to move you toward a genocidal conclusion."

Update: Instapundit links to a summary of a roundtable discussion on the situation.

Posted by richard at 12:47 PM | Comments (6)

July 07, 2004

Sixteen Words?

Do you remember them? They caused quite a stir during the SOTU – leading to some of the loudest charges that "Bush lied!"

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
It now seems hard to dispute them. Despite the fact that the corroborating document that the US had in its possession turned out to be a fake (the handiwork of an Italian forger), the British intelligence agencies have continued to stick by their assessment, which was based on other, including humint, sources.

A soon-to-be-released inquiry into British intelligence failures will likely vindicate the claim, concluding "that this claim was reasonable and consistent with the intelligence."

Of course, don't look for this to get the same attention as the original controversy, and don't expect any changed minds about Bush's duplicity.

Update: watched CNN Headlines News last night, and they actually referenced this Financial Times article and the forthcoming Butler report. Unfortunately, they only mentioned the fact that the 45-minute claim "which Blair used to justify the war in Iraq" was not supported by the evidence. No mention of the uranium from Niger part.

So why is it okay for me to only talk about one part and not mention the rest, but not okay for Headline News. Two reasons. First, I never claimed to be objective – treat these pages as an extended op-ed and balance with other commentary. On the other hand, I will try to be honest. Second, and maybe more importantly for me, the new information in the report (i.e. that the uranium claim was legit) should be more newsworthy than the umpteenth reiteration that the 45-minute claim was bogus. So why ignore it?

Update: Reuters' take also ignores the uranium aspect. [Instapundit]

Posted by richard at 09:00 PM | Comments (11)

July 06, 2004

Iran chooses sides

And it's the other one.

  1. They refuse to comply with IAEA requests to open up their nuclear program and should be "more forthcoming" about their cooperation with the nuclear watchdog.
  2. They support the insurgency in Iraq, funneling millions in aid a month to Moqtada al-Sadr and other militants.
  3. They forced 8 British sailors into Iranian waters, took them prisoner, and paraded them on TV with blindfolds. [via Drudge]
  4. Two security guards from the Iranian mission to UN were caught videotaping potential targets in New York, and were expelled for "activities inconsistent with their diplomatic status". Although the Iranians claim they were just on vacation and taking photos, later reports from US officials said that they were surreptitiously recording bridges and buildings with cameras concealed under their coats.
  5. Al-Sabah newspaper in Baghdad reports that Iranian border guards have repeatedly fired on Iraqi outposts. [via Iraq the Model]
  6. Fox News is reporting that Iranian intelligence officers were captured in Baghdad with explosives. [via Instapundit]

This has the potential to escalate quickly.

Posted by richard at 10:10 PM | Comments (2)

July 02, 2004

Interesting analysis

A new document highlights the sophistication (and success) of the al Qaeda strategy in Iraq:

"We consider that the Spanish government cannot suffer more than two to three strikes before pulling out (of Iraq) under pressure from its own people," said the document obtained Wednesday by AFP from Raido France Internationale's regional office in Beirut.

"If these (Spanish) forces remain after the strikes, the victory of the socialist party would be near-guaranteed and the pullout of Spanish forces from Iraq would be on its agenda," said the document, distributed ahead of the March 11 attacks in Madrid.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, elected after the train bombings in Madrid which left 191 people dead in Spain's worst ever terrorist attack, withdrew Spanish troops from the troubled country in May.

The document has apparently been issued in late February, as it refers to the early days of the Islamic new year which fell on February 21.

Like the Zarqawi memo, it gives insight into the kinds of analysis and planning that al Qaeda is capable of.

Posted by richard at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2004

More WMD

Does this even matter any more? Or do the moving targets of "stockpiles" and "imminent threats" make it irrelevant to the critics?

A week ago, Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group charged with looking for WMD in Iraq, recently said that they had found "10 or 12 sarin and mustard gas shells" in various locations in Iraq.

Yesterday in a radio interview, Don Rumsfeld relayed the reports from the Polish minister of defense that Polish forces had also discovered 16 or 17 shells that contained mustard and sarin in the last few days.

If properly used in an urban environment, one shell with sarin gas can kill 10,000 people.

Via the Command Post.

Posted by richard at 05:26 PM | Comments (4)

June 30, 2004

You would have thought...

... that this would be getting more attention. Whether Putin is full of crap or finally telling the truth, I wish we would hear more about how Russia 'warned U.S. about Saddam'.

[via WindsOfChange]

Posted by richard at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2004

More evidence

Again, not a smoking gun, but more evidence of ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda are discussed in this New York Times article.
Update: link fixed thanks to Brad.

Posted by richard at 10:22 AM | Comments (4)

June 11, 2004

Iraqi Good News

Chrenkoff has part III of his series on good news from Iraq. It's nice to have the positive stuff collected together, since the negative stuff is so easy to find.

Posted by richard at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2004

Foreign Country

Everything about this story is weird.... no, foreign: Brigitte Bardot fined for inciting racial hatred:

In the book, she laments the "Islamization of France"� and the "underground and dangerous infiltration of Islam."�
“There are many new languages in the new Europe. Mediocrity is taking over from beauty and splendor. There are many people who are filthy, badly dressed and badly shaven.”

In her book, she also attacks homosexuals as “fairground freaks,” condemns the presence of women in government and denounces the “scandal of unemployment benefits.”

I don't know what's weirder, the fact that everyone is so appalled or that she can be fined for saying something appalling.

She's just a French sex symbol and right-wing animal rights activist.

That's not to endorse any of her positions, of course, lest the accusations start flying.....

Posted by richard at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2004

Good news

Two pieces of good news about Iraq. First the UN security council voted unanimously to approve the US resolution approving the June 30 handover. As an Iraqi official said, "the significance of the resolution is really to take away the concept of occupation." This can only be good for the Iraqis, their future, and the ongoing public relations war. Ayad Allawi welcomed the resolution, saying "it gives Iraq full sovereignty." Shockingly, al-Jazeera is skeptical.

Second, the US successfully rescued three Italians and a Polish citizen who had been kidnapped and held hostage.

Both via the Command Post.

Posted by richard at 06:38 PM | Comments (1)

June 07, 2004

Our Relationships with Arab States

I recently posted about how the Iraq war had "damaged" our relationship with Europe. But it's equally important to consider how it has improved our relationships with Arab states.

At first blush that may seem like a ludicrous thing to say – most Arab states hate us and, if anything, they hate us now more than before we began the war. The same is true for Iran and North Korea. But, fortunately in this case, the quality of international relations is not based on how much the other country "likes" you. In foreign policy, particularly with Arab states, respect is as important as love. And the Iraq war is major step towards regaining the respect of those that oppose us – respect for our power, respect for our resolve, respect for our interests.

Oderint dum metuant goes too far. But if they will not love us, let them at least respect us. Or at their peril, not.

The major events of the last 35 years have been, in perception if not reality, a series of capitulations proclaiming our weakness, fulfilling the worst expectations about our decadent culture. From Vietnam, to the ill-conceived Iran hostage rescue attempt, to the Beirut withdrawal, to leaving the Shi'a to their fate in 1991, to tolerating Saddam's intransigence, to Blackhawk Down, to having our embassies bombed in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, to lobbing cruise missiles at caves – we painted a picture to the world of a country that dropped a few bombs, curled up and went home whenever the going got tough. "Evacuate non-essential personnel" was our battle cry.

And our enemies still hated us. And they grew bolder.

Afghanistan was the first break in the pattern – and al-Qaeda and many Arab states were surprised at our success, thinking the Americans would be easier to handle than the Russians. But the reliance on the Northern Alliance and our air supremacy left room for the belief that we could only win when we kept our hands clean, where ground troops were unnecessary.

Iraq will show what we are capable of. And in a strange way, the harder it is and the longer it takes, the better the outcome from this point of view. Those that oppose us – the terrorists, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia – will believe our media (and theirs), believe that we cannot win, cannot stay the course, cannot stand the loss of blood and treasure. And when we do win, it will shatter their illusions.

And in the power politics of diplomacy, this is an improvement.

Unless we cut and run....

Posted by richard at 10:57 PM | Comments (1)

Iranian Suppression

Roya Johnson speaks out about how the mullah's maintain their power.

As Mike F. points out, the argument for toppling Iran is as strong as, if not stronger than, the one for going after Iraq.

Link via Winds of Change.

Posted by richard at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

Atlantic Ties

Brad recently wrote in a comment:

We need to make sure that the good we do outstrips the bad. That means calculating in the damage we've done to our relationships with European states, the credibility we've lost because of the "hide the ball" game the Administration has played in justifying what it's done, the opportunities we've created (and arguably encouraged, if you buy the agitprop that radical left-wing outlets like the New Yorker and NPR are selling — for disasters like Abu Ghraib.

I agree 100% and that's why I've always been open to criticism of the execution of the war. Unfortunately, I think a lot of that criticism ends up being knee-jerk, Bush-hating criticism that overlooks the complexities of the situation and dismisses the real accomplishments.

Abu Ghraib is definitely awful and I'll try to have more on the subject at some point. But I'll make the assertion now that "Our Response Is Us" is a better guide than Susan Sontag's "The Pictures Are Us".

But the question of "the damage we've done to our relationships with European states" caught my attention, and I want to focus on it now. This concern is as old as the US, and has been a growing refrain since World War II – from the Suez crisis to Reagan's cruise missile deployment to Clinton's efforts in Kosovo.

The underlying assumption behind this concern is that the tension is somehow unnatural and caused by someone's actions, in this case Bush's. If the Americans weren't belligerent cowboys, we would share common interests and all just get along.

In his excellent (but long) 2002 essay, Power and Weakness, Robert Kagan argues that the structure of power in today's world makes these tensions inevitable. He opens:

It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory — the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure. When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.

It's important to realize that these tensions did not start with Iraq. There is a fundamental difference, a divide that has been growing for 60 years, in the way the US and Europe approach foreign policy. The Suez crisis was the first major postwar transatlantic spat and it was somewhat unique as an attempted reassertion of European power. But the US would have none of it, partially because of anti-colonialism and the principle of self-determination, but partially because we were starting to become aware in 1956 that we would get called in to clean up any mess. Subsequent conflicts reflected the waning power of Europe and the shouldering of the resulting burden by the US.
Today’s transatlantic problem, in short, is not a George Bush problem. It is a power problem. American military strength has produced a propensity to use that strength. Europe’s military weakness has produced a perfectly understandable aversion to the exercise of military power. Indeed, it has produced a powerful European interest in inhabiting a world where strength doesn’t matter, where international law and international institutions predominate, where unilateral action by powerful nations is forbidden, where all nations regardless of their strength have equal rights and are equally protected by commonly agreed-upon international rules of behavior. Europeans have a deep interest in devaluing and eventually eradicating the brutal laws of an anarchic, Hobbesian world where power is the ultimate determinant of national security and success.

This is no reproach. It is what weaker powers have wanted from time immemorial. It was what Americans wanted in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the brutality of a European system of power politics run by the global giants of France, Britain, and Russia left Americans constantly vulnerable to imperial thrashing. It was what the other small powers of Europe wanted in those years, too, only to be sneered at by Bourbon kings and other powerful monarchs, who spoke instead of raison d’état. The great proponent of international law on the high seas in the eighteenth century was the United States; the great opponent was Britain’s navy, the “Mistress of the Seas.” In an anarchic world, small powers always fear they will be victims. Great powers, on the other hand, often fear rules that may constrain them more than they fear the anarchy in which their power brings security and prosperity.

But the difference in power does not just change one's desire to use it, it actually changes the likelihood that one will be required to.
The differing threat perceptions in the United States and Europe are not just matters of psychology, however. They are also grounded in a practical reality that is another product of the disparity of power. For Iraq and other “rogue” states objectively do not pose the same level of threat to Europeans as they do to the United States. There is, first of all, the American security guarantee that Europeans enjoy and have enjoyed for six decades, ever since the United States took upon itself the burden of maintaining order in far-flung regions of the world — from the Korean Peninsula to the Persian Gulf — from which European power had largely withdrawn. Europeans generally believe, whether or not they admit it to themselves, that were Iraq ever to emerge as a real and present danger, as opposed to merely a potential danger, then the United States would do something about it — as it did in 1991. If during the Cold War Europe by necessity made a major contribution to its own defense, today Europeans enjoy an unparalleled measure of “free security” because most of the likely threats are in regions outside Europe, where only the United States can project effective force. In a very practical sense — that is, when it comes to actual strategic planning — neither Iraq nor Iran nor North Korea nor any other “rogue” state in the world is primarily a European problem. Nor, certainly, is China. Both Europeans and Americans agree that these are primarily American problems.

This is why Saddam Hussein is not as great a threat to Europe as he is to the United States. He would be a greater threat to the United States even were the Americans and Europeans in complete agreement on Iraq policy, because it is the logical consequence of the transatlantic disparity of power. The task of containing Saddam Hussein belongs primarily to the United States, not to Europe, and everyone agrees on this6 — including Saddam, which is why he considers the United States, not Europe, his principal adversary. In the Persian Gulf, in the Middle East, and in most other regions of the world (including Europe), the United States plays the role of ultimate enforcer. “You are so powerful,” Europeans often say to Americans. “So why do you feel so threatened?” But it is precisely America’s great power that makes it the primary target, and often the only target. Europeans are understandably content that it should remain so.

For Europe, the security required to support the calls for restraint can only be achieved through lack of restraint, or at least the willingness to throw off restraint when necessary – this they have in common with the entire peace movement. But further, this ugly external power is necessary for Europe as we know it to exist, because Europe depends on its own weakness to achieve its unity because, in that weakness, it no longer must fear itself.
The United States, in short, solved the Kantian paradox for the Europeans. Kant had argued that the only solution to the immoral horrors of the Hobbesian world was the creation of a world government. But he also feared that the “state of universal peace” made possible by world government would be an even greater threat to human freedom than the Hobbesian international order, inasmuch as such a government, with its monopoly of power, would become “the most horrible despotism.”11 How nations could achieve perpetual peace without destroying human freedom was a problem Kant could not solve. But for Europe the problem was solved by the United States. By providing security from outside, the United States has rendered it unnecessary for Europe’s supranational government to provide it. Europeans did not need power to achieve peace and they do not need power to preserve it.

The current situation abounds in ironies. Europe’s rejection of power politics, its devaluing of military force as a tool of international relations, have depended on the presence of American military forces on European soil. Europe’s new Kantian order could flourish only under the umbrella of American power exercised according to the rules of the old Hobbesian order. American power made it possible for Europeans to believe that power was no longer important. And now, in the final irony, the fact that United States military power has solved the European problem, especially the “German problem,” allows Europeans today to believe that American military power, and the “strategic culture” that has created and sustained it, are outmoded and dangerous.

Most Europeans do not see the great paradox: that their passage into post-history has depended on the United States not making the same passage. Because Europe has neither the will nor the ability to guard its own paradise and keep it from being overrun, spiritually as well as physically, by a world that has yet to accept the rule of “moral consciousness,” it has become dependent on America’s willingness to use its military might to deter or defeat those around the world who still believe in power politics.

These are the kind of dynamics that must be examined when criticizing the damage to the relationship with our allies. This is, of course, not to say that their is no room on the margins for good diplomacy or feather deruffling, something in seemingly short supply in this administration. But any critique is missing something without a recognition of the divergence in strategic interests.

I would go further than Kagan, however, and argue, as I have before, that there are more fundamental philosophical differences driving some of the divergence. A conflict between Continental rationalist liberalism and "Scottish" liberalism – which helps to explain, to some extent, the continued "special relationship" between Britain and the United States (and perhaps the resurgence of the Anglosphere).

As such, I disagree somewhat with Kagan's assertion that "Americans, as good children of the Enlightenment, still believe in the perfectibility of man, and they retain hope for the perfectibility of the world." I believe American institutions and policies are more grounded in the fact that men are, and will remain, flawed, and thus self-interest must be harnassed towards the public good through institutions – a point too often ignored, or rather taken advantage of, by the transnationalists and their technocrats.

Posted by richard at 01:22 AM | Comments (1)

June 05, 2004

Iraq and al Qaeda

A constant refrain from opponents of the war is that "there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda". In fact, that's a quote from George Soros during his recent speech equating the abuses at Abu Ghraib to September 11. Al Gore recently said that Bush used "forged and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda". Similar beliefs have been confidently stated by ranks of pundits, as well as many of my friends.

Whether this belief is because they have not heard the evidence or because they choose not to listen to it, I don't know. It does seem to be the case that you have to dig in order to find the facts, since unlike other more negative stories, it is not being shoved down our throats daily.

But the fact remains that there is strong evidence of an connection between Iraq and al Qaeda – a connection that, rather than commencing with the Iraq War, goes back a decade at least.

So to make it easier to sort through, I've collected the evidence that I've seen about the connections:

  1. 1993 WTC bombers – Saddam Hussein gave Abdul Rahman Yasin, as suspect in the 1993 WTC bombing safe haven in Iraq. "We now know based on documents that we've captured since we took Baghdad that they put him on the payroll, gave him a monthly stipend and provided him with a house, sanctuary, in effect, in Iraq in the aftermath of ... the '93 attack on the World Trade Center," Cheney said. Yasin was indicted for the '93 bombings and is on the FBI most-wanted list. He currently is believed to be in Iraq, fighting coalition forces. By the way, Ramzi Yousef his partner and the mastermind of the 1993 bombings is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

  2. al-Shifa facility – In August 1998, Clinton hit the al-Shifa chemical factory in the Sudan with Tomahawk cruise missiles. This was a direct response to al Qaeda's bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam (despite Republican claims that it was designed to divert attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal). This factory is owned by the Sudanese Military Industrial Corporation, which was (and is) widely believed to be controlled by Osama bin Laden, and was suspected of manufacturing chemical weapons, including VX nerve gas.
    The CIA had soil samples from outside the factory that tested positive for VX precursors – specifically EMPTA the precursor used in Iraq's VX program (it turns out that there are several methods for producing VX, of which Iraq's was fairly unique). Added to this was the fact that, reportedly, Emad Husayn Abdullah al-Ani, the "father" of the Iraqi VX program had visited the plant during its construction.
    Richard Clarke, recent Bush nemesis and one of the driving forces behind the al-Shifa attack, still stands by the action in his book Against All Enemies, refusing to backpedal from the justification used at the time, that Iraq and al Qaeda were collaborating on chemical weapons. In fact, according to NewsMax, "EMPTA is a compound that had been used as a prime ingredient in Iraqi nerve gas," writes Clarke. "It has no other known use, nor had any other nation employed EMPTA to our knowledge for any purpose."

  3. Ahmed Hikmat Shakir – An Iraqi of that name was hired as a "greeter" in the Kuala Lumpur airport, reportedly with the help of the Iraqi embassy in Malaysia. The embassy contact told him when to show up for work at the airport to facilitate the entry of visitors. On January 5, 2000 he expedited the entry of Khalid al Mihdhar and drove with him in car to a meeting that lasted 3 days. It is now believed that several al Qaeda leaders were at this planning meeting, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
    After September 11, when detained in Qatar, Shakir had the contact information for several al Qaeda operatives on him, including several of the terrorists who were responsible for the 1993 WTC bombings. He was arrested in Jordan, but eventually returned to Iraq because of consistent pressure for his release from the Iraqi government.
    Recently, his name has been found on three separate lists of members of Saddam Fedayeen as a Lieutenant Colonel in that organization.

  4. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – born in Zarqa, Jordan and trained in Afghanistan under bin Laden, al-Zarqawi is behind many of the attacks against US troops (and Shi'ite pilgrims) in Iraq. He's also linked to the (foiled) Millenium bombings, the 3/11 attacks in Madrid, and is believed to have beheaded Nick Berg last month. After holing up in Iran for several months after the fall of Afghanistan, he reportedly had nasal surgery in Baghdad in summer 2002, before receive weapons and funds from Iraqi intelligence and heading north to Khumal, the base camp of Ansar al-Islam, which he led with Mullah Krekar.

  5. Mohamed Atta in Prague – Not long after September 11, the Czech government reported that Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague on April 8, 2001. That operative was reportedly Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Consul of Iraq's Czech embassy. While skeptical, the FBI could not account for Atta's whereabouts between April 4 (when he cashed an $8,000 check) and April 11. The Czech intelligence service has not retracted the claim and, in fact, after the fall of Baghdad when they were able to exploit the contents of the embassy, they found an appointment in al-Ani's datebook for an April 8 meeting with a "Hamburg student" &nash; the exact phrase that Atta used to describe himself on a Czech visa gotten a year before in May 2000. (al-Ani was expelled from Prague a few weeks later for plotting to blow up Radio Free Europe (and Radio Free Iraq) headquarters.)

So while the question of whether Saddam Hussein had knowledge of 9/11 ahead of time is still open, I believe the question of whether he had connections with al Qaeda is fairly certain (he definitely offered bin Laden asylum in 1999). And that is ignoring the larger, more obvious question, of his support for terrorists above and beyond al Qaeda. His harboring and support of Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, and his blood money to Palestinians should answer that easily.

The one shell of Sarin gas found in Iraq, presuming there is only one, if given to one of these groups, could have killed around 10,000 people if used correctly in an urban area.

Here are some other references:

Free Republic also has a collection of news stories from before 2000, linking Iraq and al Qaeda. And of course, Regnum Crucis is indispensible for collecting and analysing background information on all of the terrorists and their relationships.

Posted by richard at 03:59 PM | Comments (6)

June 03, 2004


One of the reasons that I have posted so little the last few weeks is that I'm just plain tired of arguing about the Iraq war with everyone. Everyone I know is convinced that it is the most awful thing that has ever happened, that it is an unmitigated disaster, that every step is a mistep, every use of force excessive, every restrained response a retreat, every accusation true, every defense a lie.

I did not buy it when Afghanistan was a "quagmire", I did not buy it when our drive to Baghdad was "faltering", I did not buy it when we "retreated" from the disaster in Falluja, I did not buy it when Sadr had "widespread support" in the South. I do not buy that Iraq is or will be a failure. Some things have gone better than expected, others have gone worse. There have been bad choices, stubborness, insensitivity, poor planning, partisan favoritism, and, yes, even some criminal behavior. A critique based on execution and mistakes made I would and have listened to. A shrill scream for "peace" or to withdraw or to make it multilateral, I have no time for – particularly now with a new government selected and rebuilding work to be done.

But because I'm tired of the bickering, I have tried to do something more productive. I've started to volunteer and try to raise money for Spirit of America, a charity devoted to sending educational & medical supplies and sporting equipment to Iraqi and Afghan children as a gift of the United States. I blogged about them months ago when I bought 220 frisbees for Iraqi children. Now, I'm trying to do more. Don't be surprised if you hear from me, asking for donations, or to come to events, or just to help pack stuff to send. I encourage anyone who still reads this after all the activity to go to the site and donate or volunteer. Hopefully, this positive action can be something that I'll get no grief for and that everyone can get behind.

And I think the positive stuff will, perhaps, also re-energize me for the arguments that I'm as sick of shrinking from as I am of engaging in.

Posted by richard at 07:57 PM | Comments (5)

April 29, 2004

Hat Trick

Hate to do three UN-bashing posts in a row, but I just read Kofi Annan's contribution to the Fallujah situation:

"Violent military action by an occupying power against inhabitants of an occupied country will only make matters worse," Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) said. "It's definitely time, time now for those who prefer restraint and dialogue to make their voices heard."
Yeah. Except none of them happen to be on the other side, all of whom seem to have been demoted from insurgents and guerillas to "inhabitants". So what's your next big idea, Kofi?

Posted by richard at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)

Was it okay until today?

According to the BBC, the UN bans WMD sales to terrorists. I feel so much better.

Posted by richard at 01:52 AM | Comments (0)


I just heard Representative Tom Lantos (D - California) say at the House hearings about the UN Oil-for-Food scandal:
At a time when we are moving towards placing enormous responsibilities, following the handover on June 30, upon the United Nations and the Secretary General.... to imply dishonesty on his part is so contrary to our national interest that it simply boggles the mind.
Ummm.... isn't that a bit backward given that this is a hearing about the largest financial scandal in history. A program totalling $65 billion dollars, of which only $18 billion was used to actually buy food or medicine. A program from which Saddam appears to have skimmed $10 billion. That enriched the UN and the Secretariat over a billion dollars and their friends perhaps even more. That appears to have funded terrorist networks and criminal banks. That paid for Saddam's organs of propaganda and oppression instead of humanitarian aid. That paid for intransigent opposition to US policy towards Iraq. Shouldn't the argument be:
At a time when we are investigating the honesty, compentence, and transparency of the United Nations and the Secretary General.... to imply that we should be moving toward placing enormous responsibilities, following the handover on June 30, upon them is so contrary to our national interest that it simply boggles the mind.
Update: Thanks to Instareader pressure, I doublechecked the numbers. Commentary magazine actually says that $15 billion worth of "food and health supplies" reached Iraq before the fall of Saddam, not $18 billion.
Posted by richard at 01:20 AM | Comments (21)

April 27, 2004


Commentary Magazine has a detail article on the disgrace that is the UN Oil-for-Food program.

From the start, the program was poorly designed. Saddam had blamed the fate of starving Iraqi children on the sanctions regime and specifically on the United States. Seeking to address these charges, the Clinton administration went looking for a compromise; with the Secretariat in the lead, the Security Council agreed to conditions on Oil-for-Food that were, to say the least, amenable to manipulation. Saddam, the author of the miseries of Iraq, was given the right to negotiate his own contracts to sell Iraqi oil and to choose his own foreign customers. He was also allowed to draw up the shopping lists of humanitarian supplies—the "distribution plans"—and to strike his own deals for these goods, picking his foreign suppliers. The UN also granted Saddam a say in the choice of the bank that would mainly handle the funds and issue the letters of credit to pay these suppliers; the designated institution was a French bank now known as BNP Paribas....

To all this, the UN added another twist. Unlike most of its relief programs, in which both the cost of the relief itself and UN overhead were paid for by contributions from member states, Oil-for-Food would in every respect be funded entirely out of Saddam’s oil revenues. The UN Secretariat would collect a 2.2-percent commission on every barrel of Iraqi oil sold, plus 0.8 percent to pay for UN weapons inspections in Iraq.

If the aim of this provision was to make Saddam bear the cost of his own obstinacy, the effect was to create a situation in which the UN Secretariat was paid handsomely, on commission, by Saddam—to supervise Saddam. And the bigger Oil-for-Food got, the bigger the fees collected by Annan’s office. Over the seven years of the program, oil sales ultimately totaled some $65 billion. On the spending side, the UN says $46 billion went for aid to Iraq, and $18.2 billion was paid out as compensation to victims of Saddam’s 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait. As for commissions to the Secretariat, these ran to about $1.9 billion, of which $1.4 billion was earmarked for administrative overhead for the humanitarian program (the UN says it turned over $300 million of this to help pay for relief, but no public accounting has ever been given) and another $500 million or so for weapons inspections in Iraq. Discrepancies in these numbers can be chalked up to interest paid on some of the funds, exchange-rate fluctuations, or simply the murk in which most of the Oil-for-Food transactions remain shrouded to this day....

The arrangement actually helped strengthen Saddam’s chokehold at home. With sanctions effectively forbidding all other foreign commerce, Iraq’s only legitimate trade was whatever flowed through Saddam’s ministries under the supervision of the UN program. Thus the UN gave to Saddam the entire import-export franchise for Iraq, taking upon itself the responsibility for ensuring that he would use this arrangement to help Iraq’s 26 million people. The success of the program depended wholly on the UN’s integrity, competence, and willingness to prevent Saddam from subverting the setup to his own benefit.

Read the whole thing for the sordid history and more details on how the scam worked.

Posted by richard at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2004

Syria & Australia

The Australian reports that Syria is reaching out to Australia to help repair relations with the US.

SYRIA has appealed to Australia to use its close ties with Washington to help the Arab nation shake off its reputation as a terrorist haven and repair its relations with the US.

Secret talks between the two nations have been under way for months but have become more urgent as rogue nations reconsider their role in allowing terrorists to thrive, in light of the US determination to take pre-emptive military action.

A Syrian embassy will be opened in Canberra in weeks and Australia is considering reopening its mission in Damascus.

Hopefully, they are getting the message of carrot (Libya) and stick (Iraq).

Posted by richard at 10:12 PM | Comments (2)

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

The operational planner for the 9/11 attacks reveals the full extent of the original plan: 5 planes on each coast, targeting buildings. The Herald Sun claims to have a transcript of part of his interrogation.

In addition to revealing more about the relationship between Al-Qa'ida and Hambali, the architect of the Bali bombings, he gave information about the aftermath of the attackes:

When the suicide planes struck on September 11, al-Qaeda seems to have been taken by surprise - both by the success of the attacks and by the US reaction.

"Afterwards we never got time to catch our breath, we were immediately on the run," Khalid said.

He said the war on terrorism and the US bombing of Afghanistan completely disrupted their communications network. Operatives could no longer use satellite phones and had to rely on couriers, although they still used internet chat rooms.

"It was at this time we discussed the Heathrow operation," Khalid said. "Osama declared (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair our principal enemy and London a target."

He arranged for operatives to be sent from Pakistan and Afghanistan to London, where surveillance of Heathrow airport and the surrounding areas began. However, he claimed, the operation never got beyond the planning stages. "There was a lot of confusion," he said. "I would say my performance at that time was sloppy."

I have no idea how accurate this "transcript" is, but it's good news if the Afghan conflict disrupted them enough to keep further attacks from happening.

Posted by richard at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

Oil for Food

I hope we get to see the full extent of the corruption in the Oil for Food program, but I fear a whitewash.

Perhaps we need a freedom of information act (FOIA) for the UN.

Posted by richard at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)

Just and Unjust Occupations

Michael Walzer, author of Just and Unjust Wars and Spheres of Justice (about which I blogged here), has an interesting article in Dissent magazine on Just and Unjust Occupations, with his thoughts on the occupation in Iraq.

As always, well reasoned and worth reading.

Posted by richard at 08:35 PM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2004

Failed States

Donald Sensing points out Ralph Peters' 1998 article in Parameters, the Army War College Quarterly, identifying the seven characteristics that non-competitive states have in common. In summary:
These key "failure factors" are:
  1. Restrictions on the free flow of information.
  2. The subjugation of women.
  3. Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
  4. The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
  5. Domination by a restrictive religion.
  6. A low valuation of education.
  7. Low prestige assigned to work.
An interesting read.
Posted by richard at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2004

Community of Democracies

From Reason, positive steps at the UN:

Imagine a better Washington. Imagine a conservative Republican administration working hand in glove with liberal congressional Democrats on a foreign-policy initiative designed to strengthen the United Nations while simultaneously increasing America's clout there. Imagine both parties and both branches bringing this initiative to fruition smoothly and unfussily, during an election year. Say, this year. Say, right now.

Pinch yourself. It is happening.

Since 1996, a handful of foreign-policy wonks have been kicking around the idea of a "democracy caucus" at the U.N. Two administrations, first Bill Clinton's and then George W. Bush's, took quiet but significant steps in that direction. Now, according to Bush administration officials, the concept will be test-flown at the six-week meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that began on Monday in Geneva.


Late in the second Clinton administration, with a push from the State Department, the democracies began to organize. In 2000, 106 democracies gathered for the first meeting of an informal group they called the Community of Democracies. It had no permanent staff or formal powers, but it did produce an endorsement, in principle, of a democracy caucus at the U.N., a stance that the community reaffirmed in a second meeting in 2002 and, most recently, at a U.N. meeting last fall.

The Bush State Department then began lobbying Community of Democracy nations in a series of diplomatic lunches. "And these lunches with ambassadors from all different geographical regions—but all democracies—talked about all kinds of ideas, including this one," Paula J. Dobriansky, the undersecretary of State for global affairs, said in an interview. "Overall, it was very clear that other democratic countries from various regions embrace this idea and feel it could be of great value at the U.N., that it can bring together and highlight issues relevant to democracy."

All of that was groundwork. What had yet to happen was for the caucus to meet at the U.N. to do actual business: devise common positions, advance resolutions, eventually vote as a bloc on nominations and policies. It is this operational coordination that the administration hopes will now begin in Geneva, under the leadership of Chile, which currently heads the Community of Democracies' steering group.

In my mind, the UN has always had a two-pronged legitimacy problem. On the one hand, it is routinely ignored by everyone from North Korea, Iran, and Iraq to Israel, Russia, and the US, because of its relative impotence and unwillingness to truly deter. It has no credible threat to bring to bear.

On the other hand, it is ridiculed in Western states because autocratic regimes count as much as democratic ones, leading to such absurd situations as Libya chairing the Human Rights' Commission. To make matters worse, the veto-wielding states are frozen in a historical moment that is increasingly out of line with present facts. As the article points out, these realist compromises were necessary in the aftermath of WWII, when democracies made up a small minority of the nations in the world.

While not addressing the former, this new "democracy caucus" could help significantly with the latter. And as the article also points out, it should unite the Wilsonian idealists with the neo-conservatives currently in power.

This is obviously a big step because, at its core, it's a rethinking of the Westphalian order and a re-examination of the roots of sovereignty. Two hundred and fifty years after the Declaration of Independence, the world might be ready to embrace the fact that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed".

We (legitimately) forced Europe to roll back the tides of paleo-colonialism after WWII, reciting the mantra of self-determination. But we remained caught in the Continental framework of de facto sovereignty – a framework that legitimized autocratic and kleptocratic (but now home-grown) regimes. Needless to say the threat of global communism made this view convenient to the realists guiding our foreign policy during the Cold War, and they were more than willing to accept these ground rules.

But the post-Cold War order requires us to truly think through the question of sovereignty, statehood and war for the first time in 450 years. We must realize that these constructs are just that – constructed – and do not exist a priori. We recognize, and thus create and define, them through our actions.

Al Qaeda and "rogue" states challenge our current conceptions from different directions. Loosely affiliated terrorist networks that attack our homeland do not fit neatly into the bucket of "things against which you declare war", leading to confusion about whether the "War on Terror" is a marketing slogan or a state of affairs. Our popular view of what Al Qaeda is, is probably poorly informed by our understanding of how traditional, hierarchical states work – a fact born out, I think, by the difficulty in understanding the relationship between Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, Abu Sayyaf, IMU, GSPC, Jemaah Islamiyyah, Silafi Jihad, etc. and the ongoing confusion about second-in-commands and senior leadership within the organization.

But despite the fact that we do not recognize them, and might not fully understand them, we must confront them.

"Rogue" and "failed" states challenge us from the other direction. We recognize them because they occupy territory, command armies, and make a claim of legitimacy. But our security and our humanity force us to question when it is justified to intervene – to remove an autocrat proliferating WMD or to stop a kleptocrat committing genocide. The problem is, when? And by whose authority?

The missed opportunities (Rwanda), partial successes (Serbia), and ongoing disagreements (Iraq) highlight the fact that a new order that answers these questions is yet to materialize. But the old order is being ushered out quickly.

There is obviously a huge gulf between the world today and the one envisioned in the Reason article, where democratic regimes control the taps of legitimacy. Much remains to be defined, and the view of this new order is just a rough sketch. But the Community of Democracies is an important step and offers hope that a new consensus can emerge – and one we might be proud of.

Posted by richard at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2004

Iraqi Militias

This, should it pan out, seems like very important progress: Iraqi Militias Near Accord To Disband:

Leaders of Iraq's two largest militias have provisionally agreed to dissolve their forces, according to senior U.S. and Iraqi officials. The move is a major boost to a U.S. campaign to prevent civil war by eliminating armed groups before sovereignty is handed over to an interim Iraqi government on June 30, the officials said.

Members of the two forces -- the Shiite Muslim Badr Organization and the Kurdish pesh merga -- will be offered a chance to work in Iraq's new security services or claim substantial retirement benefits as incentives to disarm and disband. Members of smaller militias will also be allowed to apply for positions with the new security services, but those that choose not to disband will be confronted and disarmed, by force if necessary, senior U.S. officials said.

Posted by richard at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2004

Good Election News

A win for moderation: Malaysia's Islamic Party Loses Ground in Elections

The major Islamic party in Malaysia lost significant ground in parliamentary and state elections here today as the governing coalition of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi coasted to victory.

The Islamic party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia, lost the state legislatures in the oil rich northern state of Terengganu and in the neighboring state of Kalantan. In a humiliating loss, the leader of the party, Ulama Hadi Awang, lost his federal parliamentary seat.

The fortunes of the Islamic party, which won control of the Terengganu state legislature four years ago, were being closely watched as a barometer of militant Islam in Southeast Asia. Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, holds parliamentary elections early next month.

Posted by richard at 02:29 PM | Comments (2)


The New York Times highlights the ripples in Syria:

A year ago, it would have been inconceivable for a citizen of Syria, run by the Baath Party of President Bashar al-Assad, to make a documentary film with the working title, "Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath."

Yet watching the overthrow of Saddam Hussein across the border in Iraq prompted Omar Amiralay to do just that. "It gave me the courage to do it," he said.

"When you see one of the two Baath parties broken, collapsing, you can only hope that it will be the turn of the Syrian Baath next," he added, having just completed the film, eventually called "A Flood in Baath Country," for a European arts channel. "The myth of having to live under despots for eternity collapsed."

When the Bush administration toppled the Baghdad government, it announced that it wanted to establish a democratic, free-market Iraq that would prove a contagious model for the region. The bloodshed there makes that a distant prospect, yet the very act of humiliating the worst Arab tyrant spawned a sort of "what if" process in Syria and across the region.


Syrians who oppose the government do so with some trepidation because it used ferocious violence in the past to silence any challenge. Yet the fall of Mr. Hussein changed something inside people.

"I think the image, the sense of terror, has evaporated," said Mr. Amiralay, the filmmaker.

Link via OxBlog.
Posted by richard at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2004

Taiwan Election

It's easy to lose track of other parts of the world with all of the focus on Iraq and أﻟﻘﺎﻋﺪﺓ all the time.

But Taiwan will be having elections on March 20. The contest is between Chen Shui-bian, the pro-indepence incumbent, and Lien Chan, the Nationalist Party challenger.

Chen won four years ago with only 39% of the vote, because the Nationalist Party was divided. It appears that he's had success in driving public sentiment towards a Taiwanese identity instead of a mainland one (see the statistics below).

Meanwhile, China is thought to be flexing it's military muscle on the eve of the election to intimidate the Taiwanese. This posturing has included joint military exercises with France off the coast of Taiwan just four days before the election (the largest ever with a foreign nation), as well as repeated missile tests since January . There is much speculation that the Chinese would attack the island if Chen wins again, largely because of his support for a referendum demanding that China remove its missiles pointed at Taiwan – a referendum seen as a precursor to an independence referendum.

Other than the fact that we've committed to protecting the democracy in Taiwan from mainland encroachment, this is relevant to the US because, by law, we are required to support the Taiwanese military through arms sales, and we have historically (though vaguely) asserted that we would help Taiwan defend itself in the face of Chinese agression. So this could get out of hand quickly.

USA Today provides a surprisingly good summary of the situation, including some interesting statistics:

Watch this space....
Update: As Brad points out in a comment below, Chen and his VP candidate were wounded in a shooting today. They were both released from the hospital after a few hours and the vote will go on on Saturday.

More: I had forgotten about this. But I wonder if the Sino-French excerises were motivated partially by the frigate bribery scandal from January:

Illegal payments linked to a French defense deal with Taiwan signed in 1991 have placed the French government at risk of being ordered to repay up to $600 million in murky commissions, according to a report published on Wednesday.

Posted by richard at 12:56 AM | Comments (5)

March 18, 2004

Iraq the Model

I really encourage everyone to go check out this Iraqi blog, Iraq the Model. It is usually very interesting and has lot's of details about the situation on the ground in Iraq.

It's particularly good right now, as Mohammed, one of the bloggers, is posting his diary entries from a year ago, right before the invasion began – one entry a day. His posts contain everything from the dinar-dollar exchange rate of the day, to the mood in the neighborhood, to his family's preparations for the war. It's really fascinating and I thankful that he kept the journal back then and is sharing it now.

Posted by richard at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

Al Qaeda & Spain

I mention below my fears that Al Qaeda would take the election results in Spain as a vindication of their strategy. There was skepticism in the comments about the motivations that led to the Madrid bombings.

Recently, online jihadist documents from a year ago have come to light that describe the strategy, and the intended domino effect. The New York Times reports:

For the last year the Israeli historian Reuven Paz has monitored jihadist writings about Spain, which focused on the Spanish government's participation in Iraq. "In order to force the Spanish government to withdraw from Iraq," one online tract read, "it is a must to exploit the coming general elections in Spain." It added that two to three attacks would ensure "the victory of the Socialist Party and the withdrawal of Spanish forces," the first domino in the collapse of the American-led coalition. also refers to reports from Norwegian terrorist research group:
Researchers with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment who have specialised in digging up original al-Qaeda releases and interviews, told the NRK television channel they had discovered a document on an Arabic website last year outlining al-Qaeda strategies on how to force the United States and its allies to leave Iraq, and pointing to Spain as the "weakest link".

"It wasn't until yesterday when we were going through old material to find links to Spain that we understood what we were holding in our hands," project leader Brynjar Lia told NRK.

"We mainly had the impression that (the documents) referred to the situation in Iraq, but on closer examination we saw that they specifically refer to Spanish domestic politics and the elections," due on Sunday, he added.

According to the TV report, page 42 of the Arabic document reads: "We have to make use of the election to the maximum. The government at the most can cope with three attacks."

The document also reportedly predicts that the other partners in the US-led coalition would follow like "pieces of domino" if Spain were to withdraw from Iraq.

Bjørn Stærk discusses the same document, and has a translation of parts of the Norwegian report.

I have no idea about the authenticity of these documents or reports, but it certainly makes my fears more concrete.

Posted by richard at 09:19 PM | Comments (5)

Iraqi Poll

ABC has the results of a Poll: Iraqis Report Better Postwar Life.

While all is not rosy, the optimism expressed in these numbers encourage me greatly:

Ratings of Specific Local Conditions
     Today    Compared to prewar      Expectations 1-yr.
  Good Bad Better Worse Same Better Worse Same
Schools 72% 26 47% 9 41 74 3 14
Household basics 56 41 47 16 35 76 3 10
Crime protection 53 44 50 21 26 75 4 11
Medical care 51 47 44 16 38 75 3 12
Clean water 50 48 41 16 40 75 4 13
Local gov't 50 38 44 16 29 69 4 12
Additional goods 49 46 44 17 35 75 3 10
Security 49 50 54 26 18 74 5 10
Electricity 35 64 43 23 32 74 5 11
Jobs 26 69 39 25 31 73 4 11
More at the BBC.

I hope their optimism is rewarded.

Posted by richard at 01:42 PM | Comments (3)

March 15, 2004

American Empire

Two interesting articles about American Empire. The first, a review of recent books by Foreign Affairs (via Winds Of Change). It covers The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic by Chalmers Johnson, Colossus: The Price of America's Empire by Niall Ferguson, Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism, and Democracy by Benjamin R. Barber, Incoherent Empire by Michael Mann, and After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order by Emmanuel Todd.

No one disagrees that U.S. power is extraordinary. It is the character and logic of U.S. domination that is at issue in the debate over empire. The United States is not just a superpower pursuing its interest; it is a producer of world order. Over the decades -- with more support than resistance from other nations -- it has fashioned a distinctively open and rule-based international order. Its dynamic bundle of oversized capacities, interests, and ideals constitutes an "American project" with unprecedented global reach. For better or worse, other states must come to terms with or work around this protean order.

Scholars often characterize international relations as the interaction of sovereign states in an anarchic world. In the classic Westphalian world order, states hold a monopoly on the use of force in their own territory while order at the international level is maintained through the diffusion of power among states. Today's unipolar world turns the Westphalian image on its head. The United States possesses a near-monopoly on the use of force internationally; on the domestic level, meanwhile, the institutions and behaviors of states are increasingly open to global -- that is, American -- scrutiny. Since September 11, the Bush administration's assertion of "contingent sovereignty" and the right of preemption have made this transformation abundantly clear. The rise of unipolarity and the simultaneous unbundling of state sovereignty is a new and volatile brew.

But is the resulting political formation an empire? And if so, will the American empire suffer the fate of great empires of the past: ravaging the world with its ambitions and excesses until overextension, miscalculation, and mounting opposition hasten its collapse?

I watched Chalmers Johnson talk about his book on C-SPAN a week or so ago, thinking (from the title) that it would be interesting. Unfortunately, he came across as more the Chomskian blame-America-first type, making it hard to get past the conspiracy theories about the military-petroleum complex to anything worth examining more closely. He spent most of the time arguing that the size of our military "footprint", or number of overseas bases, demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt our nefarious imperialist motives, for why else would you want so many bases. QED, empire. Not particularly compelling by itself. Foreign Affairs seemed equally unimpressed.

The second article is an essay by Phillip Bobbit in the Financial Times (I think that since I read this, they've put it behind their "members only" area. Porphyrogenitus hosts a mirror, though.)

Both are definitely worth a read.

Update: Porphyrogenitus has more comments on the Bobbit piece, here.

Posted by richard at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

Middle East Street

The coverage in the mainstream US press is pretty silent on this, but it's worth noting that Ba'athists and Kurds are clashing in northern Syria. More at the Free Arab Forum, via InstaPundit. Syrian forces have reportedly killed 250 people after a "football riot" turned into more than just that.

Also, a mini-rebellion has broken out in Fereydoon-Kenur, Norther Iran. The winning candidate from the recent elections (who won only after the Mullah's disqualified three ballot boxes) has resigned for fear of his life.

Whether these are encouraging events depend on whether you believe in the neo-conservative domino theory or are worried more about stability in the region. Regardless, I do wish they were given more coverage by the mainstream media. I suppose though that it is hard to get access to the facts in the kinds of regimes that we're talking about.

It is interesting to me that the unrest that has spread to other countries in the Middle East is from pro-democracy groups revolting against autocratic regimes, and not anti-American mobs as was predicted by anti-war groups prior to the war in Iraq.

I hope the people in both countries can achieve their objectives and shake up their oppressive regimes without too much bloodshed.

Update: More on the situation in Syria at Haaretz, including the report that a US team, including intelligence officers, have flown in to northern Syria from Iraq to help relieve tensions between the Syrians and local Kurdish leaders. President Bashar Assad sent his brother and Defense Minister to negotiate.

Posted by richard at 04:41 PM | Comments (8)


I don't want to get into the actual debate about Aznar/Rajoy v. Zapatero, whether Spain should be in Iraq, or how best to prosecute the war on terror.

But the election results today in Spain make me scared that Al Qaeda will try a similar action here in early November, to try to influence our election. And it is likely that Britain, Poland, Italy and/or Australia will see similar attacks, as Al Qaeda attempts to knock down the dominoes of American allies. They clearly wanted the Socialists to win in Spain, and whether true or not, they are sure to believe that their strategy was effective, and should be duplicated.

I'm afraid for the consequences....

Posted by richard at 03:30 AM | Comments (3)

February 04, 2004

Father of the Bomb

So, the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has "confessed to sharing weapons secrets with regimes around the world." The list of countries includes Iran, Libya, and North Korea — none of whom are on the good guy list.

Evidence from Libya's program (now safely ensconced in Knoxville) and admissions by Iran to the IAEA all pointed to Pakistan, and the US reportedly put a great deal of pressure on Musharraf to find the source of the information. Dr. Khan now says that he shared the information with the full knowledge of Musharraf and the ISI (Pakistani intelligence service). That's obviously bad news (even if it's not true) because Musharraf has been as good an ally in the war on terror as anyone in the region, and he finally looked to be pushing for real peace with India (perhaps spurred on by the recent attempts on his life).

Regardless, there is obviously something seriously flawed with the current non-proliferation regime. And it appears that a serious network exists for passing around technology and materials. Hopefully Libya is an example of what hardball tactics combined with credible threats can accomplish — a first tug on a thread that unravels a great deal more. But in the mean time, the fact that Libya was much farther along in their program than we expected should make us feel even less comfortable about the mad man in Pyongyang.

Anyway, watch this space.

Posted by richard at 12:51 AM | Comments (1)

Iran and Elections

If you haven't been following what's going on in Iran, you should be. Short summary: the mullahs banned thousands of candidates for parliament because they were a risk to the nation. People objected, staged sit-ins and appealed to the council of clerics. The council allowed a few people back on the list, but refused to reinstate them all (I think there are still like 6,000 banned). Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, told the council of clerics to reconsider, but they defied him. They also refused a request to postpone the elections until the issue could be settled. This weekend, about a third of Iranian members of parliament resigned in protest and there is concern that the reform parties will urge people to boycott the elections. There is concern that paramilitary groups, including the Basij, will carry out coercive polling if reformists try to interfere with the election. Students asked for permits to protest but their requests were refused.

Civil war is obviously a concern, particularly given the fragile situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the current status of Iranian nuclear programs.

See a round up at OxBlog. Also, this most recent article at Albawaba.

Posted by richard at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2004

Not Helping

George, if you won't fire him, please put him away. He's not helping:

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said Monday that concerns such as Iraq's "evil chemistry and evil biology" justified war even without the weapons.

In other news, inspector David Kay said that very little evidence of "black magic" or other "evil physics" had been found. No word yet on "evil petting zoos", but the hunt continues....

Posted by richard at 01:45 PM | Comments (4)

January 24, 2004

Middle East Peace

This new initiative from Saudi Arabia sounds like the best plan I've seen. It's bold in that it tries to normalize relations between Israel and Arab states while solving the Palestinian crisis. The highlights are that Israel would withdraw to the pre-1967 borders and sign peace treaties and exchange ambassadors with the Arab states. Israel would not be required to take any Palestinian refugees as 2 million would be admitted to the new Palestine and the rest would be let in to other Arab states. The plan supposedly has the backing of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and (maybe) Qatar and was presented to the US by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Am I cynical to think that it doesn't have a chance? It's to breathtakingly simple and logical. Are the many leaders (on both sides) who owe their positions to the conflict going to go along with this?

Pointer from OxBlog.

Posted by richard at 09:38 PM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2004

Clinton in Qatar

Ralph Peters praises Clinton in the New York Post. At a speech at a conference on Middle East - American relations in Qatar, he "began taking stands as brave as they were necessary. With virtuoso skill, he led the audience where they needed to go - while convincing them it was where they had wanted to end up all along.... He didn't pander. He made America's case and made it well."

This part particularly impressed: " Asked by an eager-to-Bush-bash delegate if he, Bill Clinton, would have behaved differently after 9/11, our former president said he would have followed an identical course, pursuing our enemies into Afghanistan and beyond. Queried about his position on Iraq, he stated that any disagreements he might have would be most appropriately expressed at home in the U.S., not before a foreign audience."

His silence on criticising Bush on Iraq to-date is, I believe, a combination of what he knew and thought during his own administration, a tradition of not second-guessing standing president's on foreign policy, and a desire to protect Hillary's chances in 2008.

But, if he has, as Peters argues, "become the perfect statesman", then I agree that Bush should use him on further "missions of persuasion" – but I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by richard at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2004

Arab Nationalism v. Islamism

Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism, has an interesting post in Wednesday's issue of Slate's series, Liberal Hawks Reconsider. He criticizes the Bush Administrations "mendacities" arguing that "the claim that Saddam and Osama were in cahoots was one of Bush's principal mendacities."

He goes on to explain the differences between Baathist "radical Arab nationalism" and al Quaeda's "radical Islamism" and why they make undertandable the recently discovered directive from Saddam that Iraqi insurgents not cooperate with foreign jihadists. Their differences make them unlikely to work together and also made possible the somewhat successful (at least in the short term) Machiavellian tactic of playing these strains off against each other during the Cold War years.

But he cautions that these tactics will be unsuccessful in the long term because, in fact, the two movements do have some dangerous similarites and share common beliefs, including:

1) A Paranoid Conspiracy Theory, according to which the Arab world (for the Baath) or the world of Islam (for the Islamists) is under a massive assault by a sinister and cosmic conspiracy of Zionists (and/or Jews, and/or Masons) and Crusaders (and/or Western imperialists).

2) An Apocalyptic Fantasy. The cosmic conspiracy will be defeated in order to reinstate the Golden Age of Islam in the seventh century, described as the Islamic Caliphate (by the Islamists) or as the Arab Empire based on Islam (by the Baath)—though both movements picture the reinstated seventh century as a high-tech extravaganza, a kind of modernity.

3) A Tyrannical Plan: The reinstated Golden Age will require an extreme police-state, described as the pious reign of Shariah or Quranic law (by the Islamists) or as the reign of brotherly Arab love (by the Baath).

4) A Cult of Death: the belief that masses of people should die, and death will strengthen the larger cause. The Iran-Iraq War was conducted on this basis, which is why it was one of the ghastliest things that has happened in modern times. And, as a consequence of that same Cult of Death, both movements, Baathism and radical Islamism alike, took to promoting random terror attacks.

These shared tenets, he claims, makes them part of a broader movement, despite their differences and mutual hatred. In fact, the beliefs are recognizable as new variants of something familiar:

They are the central tenets of European fascism (and, in some respects, of Stalinism), which have been adapted into Muslim and Arab dialects by a variety of theoreticians. And this single movement, which I call Muslim totalitarianism, has, over the last quarter century, killed millions—exactly as European totalitarianism did, in its time.

As I mentioned below, the whole conversation is worth reading no matter what you think about the war or Bush.

Posted by richard at 01:23 PM | Comments (4)

January 12, 2004

War Reconsidered

I reposted my original case for war below, adding a little bit of reflection based on what we now know. Seems I'm not alone in thinking this is a good time to reconsider the Iraq war. Slate has collected an impressive list of "liberal hawks", including Thomas Friedman, Christopher Hitchens, Fred Kaplan, George Packer, Kenneth M. Pollack, Jacob Weisberg, and Fareed Zakaria. Over the coming week, they will be discussing how their positions have changed, if at all, with the benefit of hindsight. So far, they seem to be leaning towards continued support, despite serious misgivings about Bush's diplomacy and post-war planning, although not all have weighed in yet. As usual, these guys are definitely worth a read....

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

Case for War

I've recently had to defend my support for the war in Iraq to some close friends and it has made me think back to the case for war that I wrote last March on e.thePeople. I had always thought that it would be worthwhile to revisit that post to see how well it stood the test of time, and I suppose that now is as good a time as any.

In general, I think it still holds up pretty well. In retrospect, I would have placed less emphasis on the oil point. While it does frame our interest in the region, I've concluded it's less relevant than the other points — at the time, it seemed important to counter the "No blood for oil!" crowd. Also, I actually was a bit harder on the Bush administration's foreign policy than I would be now. Events have convinced me that their was little to no chance of getting France, Germany and Russia's blessing, although more skillful diplomacy could certainly have made their obstinance more costly to them.

I would also emphasize my third point about the non-proliferation regime more. The recent moves by Lybia are hopefully an example of the effectiveness of this strategy. North Korea and Iran show the importance of getting this right and I, for one, actually do feel more secure in a world where despots fear the results of non-compliance rather than scheme about how much they can game the system.

Anyway, read the whole thing and judge for yourself:

This article is an attempt to put forward a pragmatic, rational case for the war with Iraq. I fall in to the camp of citizens who support the war despite being appalled by our recent ham-fisted moves that pass for diplomacy. I believe the war is justified without condoning an "oderint dum metuant" mentality. I tried to reach my conclusion by weighing the facts as I see them, rather than resorting to partisan or ideological reasoning.

First, it is about the oil -- and it should be. But it's not about the oil in the "greedy oil companies looking for profits" way. It's about the oil because it's in our national interest and the world economy's interest to control (or at least not allow others to control) the supply of oil. I will be the first to call out the Bush administration for their short-sighted energy policy that benefits their campaign contributers' coffers. Their lack of vision is atrocious and I would support a massive strategic effort on the scale of the Apollo project to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. But that is neither here nor there. For the foreseeable future, whether we like it or not, commit to change it or not, our economy and the economy of the entire world is dependent on the oil supplies of the Middle East. In fact, the developing world, whose oil consumption is growing far faster than the US's, has many of its hopes pinned on that energy continuing to be cheap and available. No amount of wishful thinking will change this for the next 10 years at least. Though not a happy conclusion, we must protect our access and deny hostile regimes control even if it does mean "blood for oil".

Second, it is about liberation of Iraq. Even if this is simply a nice side benefit to a policy we would choose anyway, it is still an important and morally strong argument for the war. Those that oppose war because of the certainty of civilian casualties ignore the repression of the people, ignore the fates of the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds, ignore the stories of torture and rape, and suddenly become worshippers at the altar of national sovereignty. Those that say that it's folly to think that the Iraqis can support democracy are caught up in their own form of cultural chauvinism. Although it will surely be difficult, and I pray we have the resolve to stick it out as long as it takes, I do believe it's the right thing to do.

Third, it is about viability of the current non-proliferation regime. If a country can flaunt the UN for 12 years and give just enough to avoid the "serious consequences", how much longer until dozens of countries learn to play the game. The peace of the Gulf War was conditioned on disarmament, and that condition has not been met. If we continue to countenace open defiance and nuclear blackmail from the likes of Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il, their ranks are likely to swell with immitators. The world must do the unpleasant to avoid the unthinkable.

This leads to my final argument -- the absence of any realistic alternative means of disarming Iraq besides the use of force. Despite Martin Sheen's unconvincing "inspections work, wars don't", I have yet to see a reasonable alternative put forward by the anti-war movement. Even if you believe that the recent moves by Saddam are not just another cat-and-mouse game, but reflect real compliance with the UN resolution, you still cannot possibly argue that "inspections work". At best, you can argue that inspections, backed by an imminent, credible threat of force, work. You can argue that international demands, backed by 200,000 troops on your doorstep, work. What would lead someone to the conclusion that these "gains" would continue, and not reverse, after the pressure was off? Certainly not Saddam's past behavior. The most responsible and thoughtful public figures speaking out against the administration's tactics (e.g. Sen. Biden) admit this, and balance their misgivings about going to war against this realization. As Tacitus said, "si vis pacem, para bellum" -- if you want peace, prepare for war.

Of course, everyone acknowledges that if you have to go to war, going with the blessing of the UN is better than not. And I believe that if we had handled the lead up to this situation better we could have had that support. But it appears that we don't have it now, partially due to our own arrogance, partially due to struggles within Europe as to who will dominate the Union and whether to define that Union in terms of opposition to America or not.

But not having UN support does not change the underlying calculus of the decision. If we were France, whose only role on the international stage is membership, predicated on past greatness, in multilateral institutions, we would be forced to relate to the world through those institutions and privilege the products of their processes. But we are not, we are America, and we are forced to engage each country individually and bear the vast majority of the enforcement work around the world. Sometimes we are forced to do the heavy lifting for NATO or the UN, as in Kosovo and the Gulf War. Sometimes we are pushed to "handle" it alone as people seem to insist in North Korea. Sometimes we must address interests that are ours alone. Because of this we have a vested interest in people taking us seriously above and beyond our interest in people taking the UN seriously. This is a fact of being a superpower and it always has been. And it is guaranteed to put us at odds with others in the international community from time to time.

You'll notice that my reasoning does not invoke the spectre of Al Qaeda and I deplore Bush's reliance on that tenuous link. I hope we find more evidence (like the recent deportation of Iraq's Phillipine envoy for contacts with Abu Sayyaf) after the war, but only to give the administration some credibility back. I believe the case stands without the link at all.

Although my arguments may be too pragmatic for some, they lead me to conclude that war is justified.

Posted by richard at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2004

Mead's Traditions

Walter Russell Mead, author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World, summarized the Jacksonian Tradition of foreign policy in an early 2000 article in The National Interest. It is incredibly relevant now, post-September 11 – both in understanding the popular appeal of Bush's policies here at home and in explaining the incomprehension of the rest of the world. In his book, he lays out the four traditions of American foreign policy. In the article, he focuses on the important but oft-ignored strain of Jacksonianism:

Nevertheless, the American war record should make us think. An observer who thinks of American foreign policy only in terms of the commercial realism of the Hamiltonians, the crusading moralism of Wilsonian transcendentalists, and the supple pacifism of the principled but slippery Jeffersonians would be at a loss to account for American ruthlessness at war.

Those who prefer to believe that the present global hegemony of the United States emerged through a process of immaculate conception avert their eyes from many distressing moments in the American ascension. Yet students of American power cannot ignore one of the chief elements in American success. The United States over its history has consistently summoned the will and the means to compel its enemies to yield to its demands.

The article is really worth reading in full – thanks to Eject! Eject! Eject! for the link.

Posted by richard at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2004

International "Jet set"

Mark Steyn attacks their flip-flop on intervention:

Up to the moment Saddam popped out of the spider-hole, the international jet set's line was that deplorable as Saddam's rule might be -- gassing Kurds, feeding folks feet-first into industrial shredders, etc. -- it was strictly an internal matter for the Iraqi people. The minute the old boy was in U.S. custody, the international jet set's revised position was that gassing Kurds, feeding folks into industrial shredders and so forth were crimes against the whole world and certainly not a matter for the Iraqi people. Instead, we need a (drumroll, please) United Nations-mandated international tribunal.

Posted by richard at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

Do your part

I just donated 220 frisbees for Iraqi children. Whether you were for the war or against, do your part to help the reconstruction here: Spirit of America

Posted by richard at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2003

This seems foolish

FrontPage magazine says that we're stiffing the Poles.

While billions go to Turkey and Egypt, unenthusiastic supporters of our foreign policies, the Poles can't get $47 million to modernize their equipment so that they can work more efficiently beside American units.

Update: Winds of Change says this is more because we don't actually have enough of the specific equipment that the Poles are asking for (in fact we're having trouble providing it to our own troops) than because we're trying to stiff them. Good point.

Posted by richard at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2003

Iraqi Blogs

There are several great Iraqi blogs out there, blogging about what's happening on the ground there. In case you haven't seen them, you should check out Healing Iraq, The Mesopotamian, and Iraq the Model.

Healing Iraq has a post and some photos from todays anti-terrorism demonstrations, which drew around 10,000 people in Baghdad.

The Mesopotamian has a powerful post about what he calls "the Idea" and his hopes for the purity of our intent:

Having realized, at last, that islands of happiness and prosperity cannot exist unharmed in a sea of misery and depravation, the U.S. and her allies, have decided to eradicate the roots of evil. And the roots of evil are precisely this misery and squalor. It is not a war against a race or a religion; it is a war on backwardness and stagnation; a war to bring prosperity, freedom and progress, thereby freeing people from poverty, despotism and degeneration and hence ending hatred, hostility and alienation which are the true sources of danger and terrorism against the rich and prosperous. This is simple enough reasoning and derives its strength and force from its very simplicity. I said it before; it makes sense, great sense. If this was mere talk and wishfull thinking, many have said it, and thought it. But when it comes to actually taking action, making sacrifices, wading through murky waters, facing the monsters and vermin of the marshland waste deep in treacherous waters, it becomes a grand and historic enterprise, and deserves respect and admiration; as long as the intention remains pure. This kind of Conquest and Invasion is unstoppable; and we have historical precedence to support this conclusion; and from our own Islamic history too.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by richard at 06:52 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2003

Perfidious Gaul

In a New York Times op-ed last month, Thomas Friedman said openly that France is not our friend:

It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.

If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq.

This is not a new idea, of course. It has been bandied about by conservative bloggers for months. But this is the first time I had seen such a blunt statement of it in the mainstream media. Reactions to France's recent intransigence have ranged from the absurd (renaming French fries, Freedom fries) to the poorly thought out (pouring already purchased French wine down the drain) to the highly effective (boycotting French wines and abstaining from French vacations).

But beyond these retaliatory measures and expressions of displeasure, is it time to fundamentally rethink our strategic relationship with France?

The answer, I fear, is an unequivocal yes. An examination of France's recent policy moves, beyond the limited sphere of the Iraq War (about which even reasonable people can disagree) shows just how far French values have parted ways with American ideals. In fact, a close look will show that the two have never had a special affinity, and that our historical interactions have simply revealed the ebb and flow of national interests periodically coming into alignment.

The French Tradition

Many readers will, at this point, interrupt and bring up the long history of friendship between the United States and France, starting with their support during our revolution. Indeed, we most likely owe our victory to the French aid, but the idea that it is based on any sort of inherent friendship between the nations is off base.

France is the birthplace of raison d'etat, which claims that nation-states, as finite and temporary creations of man, are not bound by the same moral restraints that govern the immortal souls of man. With this logic, Cardinal Richelieu justified Louis XIV's alliance with the German princes against the Holy Roman Emperor — the first time any major Catholic country had aligned itself with Protestants. The doctrine was expanded to condone the scorched earth policy of the cordon sanitaire around France, which helped fuel French expansionism of the period.

By the time of the American revolution, raison d'etat was firmly entrenched as the foundation of French diplomacy. French support of the Colonies, far from based on any identification with the ideals of the revolution, was simply another step in France's recurring conflict with England, another try at the French and Indian War.

This fact is born out by the oft-forgotten fact that the first war ever fought by the new United States was against the French — the so-called Quasi War of 1791-1800, a dispute about tonnage charges on French vessels that led to attacks on American merchant ships.

Any further affinity with French ideals is surely mitigated by the fact that two empires and no less than five republics have held court in France since their support of our revolutionary beginnings.

All of this is not to say that France is alone in its use of raison d'etat. States do tend to look after their own national interests after all. From Bismark, to Disraeli, to Stalin, to De Gaulle, to Kissinger, most modern states have had their practitioners of realpolitik. So given that states can be expected to act self-interestedly, it's worth looking at the diplomatic and political traditions of the state to judge the likelihood of our interests ever being aligned.

Despite the gift of the Statue of Liberty, French traditions have never been in strong agreement with American ones. Replete with as much exceptionalism as American foreign policy, French diplomacy has never been counter-balanced by the strong currents of isolationism and Wilsonian idealism that must be reckoned with in the US.

Today, the dominant foreign policy traditions in France revolve around neo-colonialism, mono-culturalism, and Continental rationalist liberalism, all of which are at odds with American ideals.

So, through this lens, let's examine recent French actions to determine how aligned our values (and not just our temporary interests) are.

The French Record

Everyone should be aware of the familiar litany of charges of French obstructionism during the build up to the Iraq war: Chirac's threat to veto any US resolution authorizing force; France's veto of NATO defensive planning for Turkey (forcing the US to take the matter up at the Defense Planning Committee, of which France is not a part, in order to get unanimous consent for the planning from the other 18 members); the extensive lobbying of the three African nations on the Security Council to vote against the US resolution; the use of Turkey's imminent bid for EU membership as leverage for getting them to deny the use of their territory for US troops; the attack on "New Europe" where Chirac told the 13 nations that signed the letter supporting the United States that they missed a good oportunity to "shut up"; etc. Since the fall of Saddam, they have continued their opposition to the US occupation and insisted on a (too) hasty transition to Iraqi control.

Together these show, as Friedman argued, more than an alternative approach to Iraq, more than a difference of opinion — they show an active desire to thwart the current US policy, and a willingness to spend real diplomatic capital to achieve that goal.

But even if you opposed the war in Iraq, and believe the French acted in a principled fashion in their opposition, the record of French perfidy goes back much farther, and it is marked by a complete absence of principles. I submit:

  • NATO & Force de Frappe — Since the Suez Crisis, the French, angered at the lack of US support for Anglo-French interests, led by Charles de Gaulle, have insisted upon having their own independent nuclear strike force. They went so far as to withdraw from NATO. Showing again their fair-weather multilateralism, they bucked world opinion in 1995 and 1996 when they performed above ground nuclear tests in the South Pacific. It is widely believed that, despite the environmental consequences, the tests were unnecessary except as a show of force.
  • Bosnia & Kosovo — Siding with its historical ally, the Serbs, France refused to support NATO action in Bosnia without a UN resolution authorizing force, despite evidence of ongoing ethnic cleansing. Chirac allegedly brokered a deal with Milosevic to hold off NATO bombing of Serb forces approaching Srebrenica in exchange for the Serbs returning captured UN peacekeepers. Free to act, the Serbs killed all 7,000 male Muslims in the town and expelled the women. After the war, France was also unhelpful in prosecuting war criminals, refusing to allow the French commander of UNPROFOR forces, Gen. Janvier, to testify in public at the Hague and allegedly striking deals with Ratko Mladic and blocking British and NATO attempts to capture Radovan Karadzic.
  • Mugabe & Zimbabwe — Despite his racist and catastrophic policy towards white farmers and his brutal suppression of dissidents and the media, Chirac continued to coddle Robert Mugabe, inviting him to a meeting of African Heads of State and meeting with him personally. All this in spite of the EU's travel ban and sanctions. This is all part of an effort to expand French influence in Anglophone Africa, fortifying France's perceived "special relationship" with the continent (see below).
  • Rwanda — In the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, France armed and trained the (Francophone) Hutu paramilitary groups, supporting them against the (Anglophone) Tutsi minority. In their Operation Turquoise, they allegedly protected and armed the fleeing Hutus, slowing the advance of Tutsi rebels, presumably out of fear of losing influence to the English-speaking Tutsis from Uganda. The genocide of 500,000 to 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus resulted. After a Tutsi revolt successfully overthrew the Hutu extremists, France allegedly helped evacuate Hutu leaders suspected of genocide. While they initially denied their involvement during the genocide, it later surfaced that France was a "co-belligerent" with the Hutus. (Full disclosure: the US is certainly not blameless here as the Clinton administration, potentially still gunshy after Somalia, teamed with the British to beat back a UN resolution to intervene early in the process — but the French efforts go beyond indifference).
  • Neocolonialism — Long after WWII, France continued to exert control over its African colonies through the Communaute and then the Ministry of Co-operation and the Franc Zone. It fostered economic dependence in its former colonies. It also was involved in military actions to prop up governments in Cameroon, Mauritania, Gabon, Congo, Chad, Niger, and the Central African Republic. There is evidence much of this post-colonial intervention was driven by the desire to maintain the balance of Francophone and Anglophone spheres, to support governments that promoted France's economic interests, and to succeed in attempts to get uranium for France's nascent nuclear program. Even after their involvement in Rwanda in 1994, and their subsequent "hands-off" policy, France has not been able to stay out of Côte d'Ivoire (despite not having a mandate from the UN or EU).

    Of course, having mostly lost the language and currency wars on its own, France has now shifted to a new and ultra-modern form of colonialism — a colonialism masquerading as internationalism. This new colonialism transforms UN mandates into massive and corrupt aid programs (like the late Iraqi Oil for Food program) administered by (and with proceeds going to) Eurocrats. With the nod of the "international community", failed states are turned into dependent states — dependent on peacekeeping troops for security, foreign aid and NGO hand-outs for subsistence, and the often illiberal whim of the UN for legitimacy. Instead of fostering local institutions to enforce the rule of law, property rights and contracts, administrators are installed who play favorites. Instead of opening barriers to trade, addictive aid grants are given and loans made. Instead of encouraging liberal, federal republics (complete with the attendent loss of control) local strong-men are supported and coddled. Instead of promoting internal security forces, the peace is "kept" just enough to make arms trafficking attractive again (See the recent news about Pierre Falcone "unfortunately" being named Angolan ambassador to UNESCO in order to give him diplomatic immunity to charges of trafficking £350 million of Russian arms in 1993-4.) Also, the TotalFinaElf scandal shows the depths of the ties between French industry and its colonial policies.

  • Israel & Palestine — France consitently takes a soft-line with Palestinian terrorist groups, and continues to deny that Hamas is a terrorist organization. This is part of the larger French mission of assuaging the Arab street to achieve the position of special liaison between the West and Islam. It also plays well with their disillusioned Algerian youth and feeds the already strong currents of anti-semitism at home. There has been much discussion of their tepid responses to the recent anti-semitic hate crimes which have taken place in France since the latest intifada. A clear example of this tactic could also be seen after Mahathir Mohammad's recent speech to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (which claimed that Jews ruled the world and implied they got others to fight and die for them) where France joined Greece in blocking an EU condemnation of the speech.

  • Farm Export Subsidies — France spear-heads the EU's recalcitrance on agricultural subsidies. While the US and Japan are no saints in this area, the EU insists that the farm support be export subsidies, some of the most trade-distorting and damaging to developing countries. In addition to supporting France's rich farmers, this helps keep the developing countries dependent on the international aid and is part of France's larger neocolonial strategy.

The French Strategy

France continues to practice raison d'etat and have co-opted the principled stances of the peace movement to push their current agenda. That agenda is three-pronged:

First, to continue to expand it's neo-colonialist efforts through the UN and international community;

Second, to create a counter-balance (led by France) to perceived American hegemony through the replacement of NATO with a European defense force and of the dollar with the Euro; and

Third, to act as a bridge between the Muslim world and the "West" by consistently opposing Israeli and American policy.

However, to anyone with a grasp of economic, demographic, and geopolitical reality, unless they manage to fully hijack the international organizations, their ambitions far exceed their abilities. Their current position on the world stage does not reflect their importance, but simply rewards their once-greatness. Their permanent seat on the UN Security Council is ludicrous by any metric that denies India, Brazil, and Germany a spot. The mini-revolt of "New Europe" made them realize that even their de facto leadership role in the EU is in jeopardy. Their military lacks the basic logistical support to fly itself anywhere, taking months to assemble the single division that fought in Gulf War I. Their economy is in shambles, hampered by short work weeks and incessant strikes. Demographically, they face twin time-bombs of old pensioners and disenfranchised Muslim immigrants (mostly from former-colony Algeria). In fact, the latter shows the unlikelihood of them playing the role of a successful bridge to the Arab world.

However, the eventual failure of their strategy, no matter how assured, should not cause much comfort, as there is plenty of room in the mean time for them to cause trouble and, as in the case with the Iraq war, thwart American policy.

So what should we do about it? This is a difficult question, and since this post is getting fairly long, I will defer my thoughts on what America's response should be to a future post, but it is clear that we are well past thinking of them as an "annoying ally".

Posted by richard at 11:54 PM | Comments (3)

October 18, 2003

Europe 1945

A couple of interesting posts pulling things out of the archives about the reconstruction of Europe in 1945. First, Foreign Affairs magazine has this report by Allen W. Dulles to the Council on Foreign Affairs in December of '45.

Second, there's these articles from Life magazine that are posted over at Jessica's Well:

The troops returning home are worried. "We’ve lost the peace," men tell you. "We can’t make it stick."
Never has American prestige in Europe been lower. People never tire of telling you of the ignorance and rowdy-ism of American troops, of out misunderstanding of European conditions....

All we have brought to Europe so far is confusion backed up by a drumhead regime of military courts. We have swept away Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease.

The taste of victory had gone sour in the mouth of every thoughtful American I met.

Now as the Foreign Affairs article pithily says, "history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." So, while it's possible to read too much into this, I think there are four things worth keeping in mind, regardless of what you think about the current occupation of Iraq:

  1. Just because it's tough going six to nine months in, doesn't mean it's doomed to fail. Allen Dulles thought the situation in Europe might be "beyond us" in 1945, but we successfully rebuilt the continent.

  2. The European reconstruction was hard. That should be sobering to those that admit that Iraq poses even greater challenges (ethnic & religious tensions, terrorism, etc.)

  3. The critical reporting might be beneficial because it keeps the administration honest about real progress. This one is hard for me personally to swallow because the current overly-negative slant of the mainstream media drives me crazy. But, it's hard to tell — it took several years for the administration to get on track with the Marshall Plan and other bold new approaches — critical news might have pushed them to keep looking until they hit on a plan that worked.

  4. And finally, sometimes muddling through is all you can do. People criticize the Bush administration for underestimating the post-war challenge and not having a plan that addressed all of the issues. Bush supporters point to the fact that many of the contigencies that the original plan addressed simply didn't materialize (refugee crisis, WMD usage, oil well fires, etc.) I think it somewhere in the middle, but the fact of the matter is that is probably too complicated and dynamic to plan out completely in advance. What's needed is flexibility, determination and the resources to see it through.

Posted by richard at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2003

Where's Israel?

Well, I originally thought that this was overblown. But on a closer look, the State Department leaving Israel (and only Israel) off of a map of Saudi Arabia could only be intentional. (Found at Winds of Change.NET)

Maybe this is being diplomatic, but it sure seems like kissing ass.

Posted by richard at 10:24 AM | Comments (2)

October 03, 2003

Reflections on American Power

Here's a thought-provoking essay on American power:

I’ve been thinking about Power. Thinking about what real power entails, and more importantly, wondering if there is a way to defeat that ancient and highly reliable adage and perhaps find a way for a nation – mine -- to wield power, enormous power, without being corrupted -- enormously.

The use of power is straightforward, and throughout history we see salvation or ruin as a direct result of the application of power. But the moral use of power: that is a Jackalope; it’s a Snark – easy to talk about, but damned hard to catch. But chase it we must, because the United States is a moral country, filled with decent and generous people, and we can see that the few times in our history when we did not fight a moral cause produced stains on our honor and history, and wrote a page or two identical to the volumes of horrors inflicted by nations and empires with no such moral inhibitions and restraint.

It's long, but worth it — read the whole thing at Eject! Eject! Eject!: POWER.

Bill Whittle comes from the conservative side of the house, but he knows the difference between exceptionalism, which I believe is an important, and justified, part of a shared American identity, and triumphalism, the dangerous and self-congratulatory perspective towards which our hubris drives us.

Posted by richard at 09:35 PM | Comments (3)

September 16, 2003

Korea update

Winds of Change has a regional briefing on North Korea up. If you haven't checked this site out, you should. They tend to be a bit gung-ho about everything for my tastes, but the briefings are usually top notch.

Two items to whet your whistle. One sobering:

North Korea has been using Russian technology in developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching any target in the continental United States, an administration official said Thursday.

The official, asking not to be identified, estimated the potential range at 9,400 miles. The distance from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to San Francisco is about 5,500 miles.

In theory at least, the new missile could strike any target on U.S. soil, a potential that becomes all the more ominous if Pyongyang is able to cap the rocket with a nuclear warhead, the official said.

And one encouraging:

China said Monday that its military has taken over patrolling its frontier with North Korea, but wouldn't disclose why it made the change.

The Foreign Ministry would not confirm reports in Hong Kong media that China moved 150,000 troops to the border to stem crime by North Korean soldiers and to pressure its isolated communist neighbor to halt its nuclear weapons program.

"It is a normal adjustment carried out after many years of preparation by the relevant parties," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement.

It wasn't clear which agency previously patrolled the border, which is off-limits to foreign reporters. But such duties are believed to have been held by the People's Armed Police, a paramilitary force also run by the Defense Ministry.

Posted by richard at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)