OxBlog

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

# Posted 10:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

BOND VILLAIN OR HUSSEIN FAMILY MEMBER?: American (and British) moviewriters couldn't make this stuff up. The Bondean sociopath here is, of course, Uday Hussein, who tortures and murders Iraqi athletes whose performance in international sporting events doesn't please his caprice. Uday is head of the Iraqi national Olympics committee. What has the Olympics' governing IOC done about this? If you're guessing "zippo" - you win, errr, a copy of my thesis. Not wanting to stick out at the next international organizations party in Brussels, IOC board members have said "you have to make sure this is not all tied to the Iraq-U.S. dispute, that we are not being used for propaganda. You just never know."

The game alluded to in the header is, by the way, a variant of the "English dessert or STD?" game beloved by generations of Americans at Oxford. Examples: spotted dick? treacle?
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SULLIVAN VS. MARSHALL: It isn't often that Josh Marshall descends into the trenches of the inter-blog warfare, but it's hard not to respond to a challenge from a blogger like Andrew Sullivan whose stature rests on far more than his website.

For the moment, there is no victor in this clash of the titans. I think Marshall's post deserves a response, despite the fact that it comes close to evading Sullivan's points.

However, if you agree with Josh (Marshall) that "tit-for-tats with other bloggers...get too insidery and readers get bored with them" then ignore the clash and head straight for Marshall's latest posts on Rumsfeld's failure as a military strategist.

Reading these posts, it's hard to know whether Marshall thinks that the current situation is evidence of Rumsfeld's failure, or whether Rumsfeld's failures will be responsible if something goes terribly wrong. IMHO, Marshall is right that Rumsfeld has come close to crossing the line between boldness and hubris. And the US may well have to shift to a more traditional strategy for taking Baghdad. But unless something does go terribly wrong because of Rumsfeld's insistence on overruling the generals, I think Marshall's "hyperbolic" criticism will seem rather excessive in retrospect.

(NB: Even if Marshall is above tit-for-tats, he certainly can't resist the usual blogospheric temptation to play for sympathy by publishing the most offensive criticism his readers send in.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FIRE IN A CROWDED THEATER: Defending Peter Arnett is a lonely task, but I'm not going to give up just yet. In this post, I'm going to respond to three separate charges against Arnett that have been raised both by Josh's response to my original post as well as by multiple readers who have sent in their thoughts.

The relevant issues at hand are whether the substance of Arnett's remarks merited firing him, whether the consequences of his remarks merited firing him, and finally, whether the context in which he delivered them merited firing him.

As for substance, Josh points to the National Review's decision to fire Ann Coulter as an example of when it is appropriate to fire someone because of the substance of their remarks. But if you follow Josh's own link to NRO's official explanation for firing Coulter, you'll see that it had nothing to do with the content of her remarks.

As Jonah Goldberg clearly states, Coulter failed as a writer, not as a person. According to Golberg,
In the wake of her invade-and-Christianize-them column, Coulter wrote a long, rambling rant of a response to her critics that was barely coherent...

Running this "piece" would have been an embarrassment to Ann, and to NRO. Rich Lowry pointed this out to her in an e-mail (I was returning from my honeymoon). She wrote back an angry response, defending herself from the charge that she hates Muslims and wants to convert them at gunpoint.
Clearly, NRO did not fire Coulter becaue of her i"nvade-and-Christianize-them" column. It fired her because she refused to bring her work up to the publication's own standards. In fact, NRO didn't actually fire Coulter. Instead of responding to Lowery's e-mail, Coulter began to bash NRO in public forums, such as the WaPo. As Jonah Goldberg asks,
What publication on earth would continue a relationship with a writer who would refuse to discuss her work with her editors? What publication would continue to publish a writer who attacked it on TV? What publication would continue to publish a writer who lied about it — on TV and to a Washington Post reporter?
Insubordination, incompetence and deception. That is why Ann Coulter lost her job.

On a related point, reader PW challenges my statement
that journalists have the right to say whatever they want to say without having to worry they might be fired. This only seems correct because Arnett just barely crossed the line. Apply the same thought to a more extreme idea - if he had said that the Jews in the US were driving policy towards the middle east, say, something so obviously indefensible, and he were fired, I don't think you would be saying he must be kept on because of his right to free speech, so as a general principle, your statement fails.
I disagree. If Arnett had made such a monstrous statement, I would demand an apology but not his job. I might demand that NBC ask for his resignation, but the ultimate decision would have to stay in the hands of Arnett himself. If a journalist fulfills his or her duty to report the news as best as possible, his or her private views are not grounds for being fired.

Next we come to the question of consequences. Josh writes that Arnett's comments had
the effect of reinforcing the position of the Iraqi regime and discouraging critics of that regime. The appropriate parallel is Hanoi Jane, and if Fonda had been working for NBC at the time, she damn well should have been fired.
Jane Fonda aside, I think the Constitution is on my side here. The right to speak one's mind is the right to say things that have "the effect of reinforcing the position of the Iraqi regime" (with the obvious exception of revealing military secrets).

Nicholas de Genova's absurd remarks at a Columbia teach-in had the same effect. Every anti-war protest has the same effect. That is why we have a First Amendment.

The fact that Arnett is a journalist should not make any difference provided that he has not consciously distorted the truth in order to advance his political agenda. According to the AP report I cited yesterday, Arnett told Iraqi TV that
the United States was reappraising the battlefield and delaying the war, maybe for a week, 'and rewriting the war plan. The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan.'

Arnett said it was clear that, within the United States, opposition to the war was growing, along with a challenge to President Bush about the war's conduct.
If you ask me, those are some pretty bland comments coming from a guy who's openly anti-war.

It is also worth pointing out that journalists often have an obligation to report information that has the effect of reinforcing the position of the Iraqi regime. As Arnett remarked in his interview,
"Our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States," he said. "It helps those who oppose the war when you...develop their arguments."
It's hard to disagree with Arnett on this point. If civlians die or if Coaltion forces lose battles, the public has a right to know. The public and its representatives can then decide whether enough civilians have died or battles have been lost for the United States to reconsider its plans.

The final issue at play is whether Arnett crossed the line by granting an interview to Iraqi TV. According to JS, "I believe the context in which Arnett gave the interview is pivotal to
why he was fired. He may be expressing his sincere views, but he did so to the controlled media of a brutal state, and to their benefit." Josh seems to agree (despite later contradicting himself), having written that "[Arnett] wasn't fired for what he said, but rather to whom he said it. He gave an interview to Iraqi state-run media..."

There is a strong argument to be made for all journalists refusing to cooperate with controlled, state-run media. As guardians of the right to self-expression, journalists have an obligation to speak out against all those attempt to deny it. Still, one has to ask whether NBC itself or most news organizations have an official policy that prohibits cooperation with state-run media. If any of you happen to know, please share.

However, in light of NBC's statement that Arnett should have asked permission before giving the interview, it seems right to infer that NBC has no objection in principle to cooperating with controlled media. (Then again, a spokesman for the network also said that "It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war." However, this sort of inconsistency only supports my point.)

Finally, reader CI writes that
If [Arnett] had said the same things on "Meet the Press" or on a Sky News interview, I suspect nothing at all would have happened.
Of course not. But that speaks to a lack of integrity on NBC's part, not Arnett's.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SOLDIERS PRAY FOR BUSH: I would too if I were in the military. Anyhow, according to the WaPo, pamphlets from Atlanta's In Touch Ministries have instructed troops to pray for the President and his family.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MUBARAK WARNS OF BACKLASH: The Egyptian dictator "warned today that a protracted U.S.-led war in Iraq will lead to a dangerous rise in Islamic militancy across the Arab world."

In the same article, ministers from Jordan and Saudi Arabia also warn that the US invasion will provoke a backlash. Do you see a trend here? Those whose well-being is intimately tied to the survival of repressive dictatorships constantly warn of a coming backlash.

I wouldn't be all that suprised if Mubarak & Co. actually believe what they are saying. After all, it's hard for dictators to survive unless they are somewhat paranoid. Better to crush threats that don't exist than fail to notice one that does.

Warning of an anti-American backlash also has the pleasant side-effect of distracting both Americans and Arabs from recognizing the true cause of instability in the Middle East -- the total prevalence of brutal dictatorships.

The first step toward dispelling such illusions is the democratization of Iraq. Let the people of the Middle East see that freedom is a real option. Then they will slowly begin to recognize who is on their side and who isn't.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CELEBRITY OCCUPATION: Donald Rumsfeld has written off the State Department's candidates for running occupied as Iraq as "'too low-profile and bureaucratic' for the work envisioned". The State Department's candidates had actually gone through training on were on the point of shipping out to Kuwait before being ordered to "stand down".

And a damn good thing they were. Assuming the eight were, in fact, low-profile bureaucrats, one might guess that the State Department selected them in order to minimize the amount of media attention given to the occupation once it starts.

Why? So no one trashes State when it starts to endorse half-hearted democratization measures. Or, possibly, so that State can cede as much authority as possible to the United Nations with drawing too much attention.

If Larry Kaplan's report in TNR is on target, then it seems both Foggy Bottom and 10 Downing St. want to make peace with the rest of Security Council by offering it political control of the occupation. [Full text for subscribers only.]

Bad, bad idea. Having UN High Commissioner or the like means having someone who has to answer to the non-democratic states on the Security Council as well as taking the interest of Arab dictatorships into consideration.

While there is no question that the US and UK will look out for their own interests in the process of occupation, their interests are far more compatible with the process of democratization. So let's hope the Pentagon puts its heavy hitters in Iraq. The WaPo thinks former CIA director Jim Woolsey is on the inside track for a big job. Good choice. Woolsey is fully committed to democratization as well as being a Washington player.

[According to Patrick, Woolsey also has a stunningly beautiful right-hand (wo)man. While Josh and I are inclined to agree, we think she got the job because she's a Rhodes Scholar.)

Let's hope the rest of the Pentagon's candidates are as important as Woolsey or moreso. Let's get the world to watch, so America has to put its best foot forward.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall says the WaPo article cited above
makes painfully clear that Rumsfeld is intent on stacking the entire post-war American occupation government with members of the DC Iraq-regime-change mafia. It's not even an American occupation; it's an AEI occupation. Every made-man in the gang gets his own ministry apparently. Maybe they'll set up an Iraqi Defense Policy Board that Richard Perle can run in Baghdad. I hear he's on the market again. Ken Adelman, Ministry of Pastries?

Now we know where all those discredited cakewalk Iraq-hawks are headed. They're going to Baghdad to run the occuption.
In short, the Pentagon's motivation in all of this is partisan politics, not a serious commitment to promoting democracy. Here's what I'm going to do to get to the bottom of this: Tell Josh Marshall that his first priority after the war is over is making sure that the media stays focused on the truth about the occupatin.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:42 PM by Daniel  

HOLY WAR! Yes, I have heard the term jihad defended--that is literally means "striving"--but I don't think that's what Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf meant in his speech today. I want to point out that I am the first person to speculate about Saddam's whereabouts.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Monday, March 31, 2003

# Posted 10:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHOUT OUT TO INSTAPUNDIT: It's not like Glenn needs OxBlog to tell him he's doing a good job. But he does get a lot of flak for all sorts of things, I'd just like to say that he has done a really, really good job of finding interesting things to post in the two weeks since the war began.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DE GENOVA IN CONTEXT: In-depth insight from Daniel Drezner. For an extra dose of Double D's insightful commentary, click here and here.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOW I GET IT: Seems the US wasn't exactly the only one supporting Iraq back in the day. Just the only who's decided to admit it was wrong.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING RACHEL CORRIE: No, not on OxBlog. In The Guardian. Once you've read the Guardian column and gotten yourself good and indignant, read Bill Herbert's devastating response.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING ARNETT: NBC has fired Baghdad correspondent Peter Arnett for giving an unauthorized interview with Iraqi state television. According to the AP:
NBC was angered because Arnett gave the interview Sunday without permission and presented opinion as fact. The network initially backed him, but reversed field after watching a tape of his remarks.

The network said it got "thousands" of e-mails and phone calls protesting Arnett's remarks - a thousand e-mails to MSNBC President Erik Sorenson alone.
You know, the whole point of freedom of speech is that you have it regardless of what you say. It sounds like NBC endorsed Arnett's freedom of speech right up until it found out what he had to say. There's a word for behavior like that: hypocrisy.

Even worse, it sounds like NBC fired Arnett because it didn't have the guts to stand up to its viewers. That doesn't say a lot for the network's integrity. Now, what NBC did is probably legal. But the media cannot continue to function as a guardian of free speech if its own behavior compromises that role.

According to Glenn Reynolds, Arnett had it coming for a lot of reasons. Regardless, I'm glad he decided to give the interview. Journalists are political figures. They should have to defend their views rather than hiding behind a curtain of objectivity.

What Arnett did was pull back that curtain. No surprise he was fired.

(For more on Arnett, click here and here.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WMD ACADEMY: Alan Henderson observes that
It's one thing to have chemical weapons, but it's another to have people who know how to properly handle and deploy them. If I'm a military intel guy, one of the first questions I want answered is how many Republican Guardsmen are chem warfare specialists and where they are located. My top priority would be to locate them and aim our next volley of ordnance at them ASAP.

If I'm an UNMOVIC inspector, one of the first things I want to look for is chem warfare training facilities - which in themselves would be evidence of a WMD program.
If only Hans Blix had known...

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH AND BLAIR: In love. Will it last? (Special thanks to BL!)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MUSTARD ON WRY: Even though French's is not manufactured in France, JMH reports that there is "worse news. The mustard seed is grown in Canada."

I think I can live with that. As long as the seeds are not from Quebec.

Btw, since JMH is a captain in the Canadian army, I sense that his report may have a subtle sarcastic subtext. C'est la vie!

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:30 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAPA HAYDN! For homework, go and celebrate Haydn's birthday by listening to the Creation chorale.

Haydn's most recognizable melody is, of course, the music of the Deutschlandlied. Now made embarassing by the tyrant of Braunau-am-Inn and since then never performed in its first verse, Germany's national anthem initially had a very different set of associations, serving as a rallying cry of the republican nationalists of 1848, and inspired by the solemn beauty of God Save the King. More important from the perspective of musical history, though, is a second context: the melody we recognize as Deutschland Uber Alles is the second movement of Haydn's 1797 Emperor Quartet (in C Major, the third of six quartets published as Haydn's Opus 76). And the string quartet is the musical form which Haydn did more than anyone else to bring from its early beginnings as a melody with tripartite accompaniment to the balanced development of four equal voices using sonata form which is reflected in the Emperor and companion pieces, incidentally, Haydn's final quartets.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Papa Haydn! Hoch soll er leben!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRAQ WATCH: The AP picks up this morning on a story from pro-government Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, reporting that agents from Russian intelligence are meeting daily with Iraqi officials to negotiate the transfer of Iraqi intelligence files to Moscow's control should Saddam fall. Yevgeny Primakov, former Soviet foreign minister and spymaster, met with Saddam in a February exchange shrouded in secrecy to apparently discuss precisely this point. According to the reporting, Russia is principally interested in obtaining intelligence which Iraqi agents have collected from other countries (yes, that means us), as well as determining to what extent Iraq may have financed Russian political parties and movements.


(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Sunday, March 30, 2003

# Posted 9:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SELF-HELP: In a moment of eccentric brilliance, Mike Sanders of Keep Trying has written up the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Blogging.

As both a blogger and an actual bricks-and-mortar person, I found it to be extremely thoughtful. If you blog, read it. If you don't, it may help you understand us strange folks who do.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL and Human Rights Watch sell out. (From the USS Clueless.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO KNEW? It's not the US, but rather the UN that is trying to get rich on Iraqi oil.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BILL KRISTOL praises Dick Gephardt and Hillary Clinton. Really!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLASS WARFARE: David Broder on the tax cut that would come at the expense of food stamps, school lunches and child nutrition programs. While the government should cut taxes when it can (even if the rich are the ones that benefit), this is not the time.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOSH FINDS AN EXCUSE for the gratuitous use of the word tits. People, need I remind you that this is a family blog?
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

'OUTRAGE SPREADS IN ARAB WORLD' is the headline of a story in today's WaPo. As usual, this sort of article is a collection of absurd anti-American quotes combined with implications that the Arab media is at fault.

As for me, I think this sort of outrage is all talk. You can always find Arabs who hate America. The question is, what are they doing about it? Not much, as far as I can tell.

The problem with the media -- including top-notch papers such as the WaPo -- is that journalists have fixed expectations of what the news will be, and they won't abandon those expectations unless something truly dramatic happens. (And even then, they sometimes forget what they have learned.)

This isn't a simple matter of liberal or conservative bias, but of journalists -- especially those who cover foreign affairs -- having simplistic expectations of how non-Americans react to world events. On the bright side, at least the journalists' expectations are more realistic than the professors'...

UPDATE: The WaPo has not just one, but three separate articles on the backlash theme. The other two are here and here.

The first of the two illustrates my point perfectly. It is about a Saudi couple named Leila and Mohammed. She is a physician who wears tights sweaters and stiletto heels. He is a businessman who does import-export. They are enraged by the invasion. Leila goes to anger management classes and tells the WaPo correspondent she may just have to become a suicide bomber.

This is what the media calls a backlash. Upper-middle class Saudis who make empty threats to abandon their pampered lives. Did I mention that Leila and Mohammed are also very, very angry about what Israel does to the Palestinians?


(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAR POLLS: Gallup has the latest. Support for the war is holding steady at above 70% in spite of a marked decrease in public optimism about the war. This strongly suggests that the American public did not/does not support the war because of false expectations about the ease of victory, even if it might've had such expectations. (Gallup didn't say that, of course. It's an OxBlog editorial comment.)

As I see it, the public's memory of Vietnam is just as strong as that of the media. The public, however, has drawn different lessons from it. Whereas the media is committed to a constant search for evidence of a quagmire, the public recognizes that war is hell and that things often go wrong. But you can't back out at the first sign of danger. If the cause is just, the public will stand behind the government.

There are those who do not support the war, however. Among there American public, there are significant divides along the lines of race, party, gender and class. The black-white divide is most striking. Whereas as white support the war 78-20, blacks oppose it 69-28.

78 percent of men favor the war compared to 66 percent of women. There was a similar gap during the first gulf war. 93 percent of Republicans support the war, compared to 66 percent for independents and 54 for Democrats. Finally, only 58 percent of Americans with a household income of less than $30,000 support the war, compared to 78% for all others.

The obvious question, of course, is to what degree such categories overlap. Does lower support among Democrats and those with incomes below $30,000 simply reflect the anti-war sentiment of poor black Democrats? Or are there significant numbers of poor white Democrats, poor white Republicans, rich black Democrats and rich Black republicans who oppose the war as well? Without answering that question, one cannot know whether race, class or party is responsible for the divide.

Unfortunately, Gallup doesn't provide a break down of the numbers. It does, however, provide the results of a multivariate analysis designed to answer the same question. This analysis shows that race is the most significant factor, but that party and class matter as well. Gender is irrelevant despite the 12 point divide mentioned above.

More interestingly, it turns out that -- far and away -- the single best predictor of support for the war is whether or not one approves of Bush's leadership as President. According to Gallup,
The single greatest predictor of views on the war is one's rating of President Bush, suggesting that to a significant degree this has become "Bush's war."
Phrasing it that way sounds rather snide, sort of like saying that Vietnam was Lyndon Johnson's war. But Gallup does offer a less partisan explanation as well:
The stronger influence of presidential approval can be probably explained by the reality that most Democrats and independents who support the war also approve of Bush, while most Democrats and independents who oppose the war also disapprove of Bush's job performance.
There are a number of ways of interpreting that statement. First, that if one trusts the President on Iraq, then party affilitaion doesn't matter. Alternately, pre-existing resentment of the President has made it impossible to persuade certain Democrats and independents to support the war.

I sense there is some truth in both arguments. However, it would be interesting to know if the pro/anti-war divide reflects different views of how America should interact with the world, not simply attitudes toward the President. Are anti-war Americans the strongest supporters of multilateralism and of the United Nations? Are they willing to support the use of force only in the event of an attack on the American homeland? If so, they have good reason to disapprove of Bush, whose position on these is issues is diametrically opposed to their own.

As you may have noticed in my earlier comments on opinion polls, I have a fair amount of confidence in the reasonableness of the American people. Their (our) opinions are derived from coherent conceptual frameworks, not emotions and propaganda. While trust and resentment have a powerful influence on politics, beliefs usually matter more.

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EMOTIONAL RESPONSE: I just visited, for the first time, the CNN site devoted to Coalition casualties in the war. It is very hard to read. It is very hard to look at the pictures of the men who died, most of them younger than myself.

They shouldn't have had to die. They deserve better. It is almost impossible to keep anything in perspective when looking at their photos. I kept thinking to myself: "Why don't we just stop it now? Let's pull out and go home. Let these kids live the lives they deserve."

Chemical weapons and international law seem like nothing more than abstractions when you are looking at those photos. You forget the thousands of Iraqi soldiers who have died. The thousands of Iraqi civilians killed by their government. The men and women who died on September 11th.

Somehow, looking at those pictures, my mind was only able to focus on the most immediate cause of their death. "Killed in action near Nasiriya on March 23, 2003." "Killed in a U.S. CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crash on March 21, 2003." Killed. Period.

UPDATE: MW responds:
Your emotional response to the CNN posting is understandable - just what CNN wants - that they have not posted pictures of those killed in Israel by suicide bombers, the Iraqis murdered by Saddam, those starved by Mugabe or by the regime in North Korea.

Put pictures of your family and friends on a wall and imagine what life or death would be like for them if tyrants like Saddam gained dominance.

I suspect that is what many of those serving in Iraqi Freedom have dealt with. I hate that they have died. I hate that evil exists and to contain it we must confront it.
Sad but true. Still, I think that posting memorials to fallen soldiers is appropriate in war time and not simply manipulative.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Saturday, March 29, 2003

# Posted 9:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUT OF MY LEAGUE: RF sends in an interesting analysis of Tommy Franks' strategy. It covers a lot of points the media haven't bothered much to talk about and thus arrives at a far less critical assessment. But this is way outside my area of expertise, so read it and judge for yourself:
Tommy Franks is a traditionalist. Like all American theater commanders before him, he has aimed at seizing a series of logistics bases on which to develop his campaign. The purpose of 3rd ID's charge to Baghdad was to pin down the IRG by positioning itself only 60 miles form the capital. Behind that screen, Franks could scoop up all logistics bases he wanted safely. H3, H2, Talil, Basur and Umm Qasar. The IRG can't go north to level the 173rd from Bashur because it is now rooted to Baghdad by the 3rd ID.

It is worth mentioning that the dash to Baghdad could not have been achieved with 4th ID in company. The field manuals specify that 150 lbs/day/per man in consumables (not counting equipment) are necessary to support a soldier in SW Asia. That's 4,500 tons per day, the weight of a British destroyer, every day. When 4th ID arrives in theater, that requirement will rise by about 2,000 tons per day. Franks could not have reached Baghdad in under a week with two mech infantry divisions abreast. The logistical tail from
Kuwait would not have supported it.

Frank's command is not currently force limited, so much as logistics limited. Indeed, fully 1/3 of his command, the 3 brigades of 101st AM and the 325th brigade of 82nd AB have not seen action to any meaningful extent. The 4 ID can't be effectively used until the logistical prizes, especially the port, are developed. That's what Franks is doing. The 7 sq mile base of the 101st west of An Najaf is first fruit. More will be to come.

Hardly any of the islands seized in WW 2 were attacked to destroy their garrisons. Guadalcanal, the Gilberts, the Marhsalls, the Bonins were all attacked for their logistical value, and for their ability to interdict enemy countermoves. Franks may be bold, but he is a bold traditionalist.



(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT DIJON: Warmongering Illustrated tells the unpleasant truth about French's Mustard.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ISRAEL IN THE MEDIA: Contemplating the death of Rachel Corrie, DM writes in with a reminder of what happened last year when the NYT misidentified the Jewish victim of a Palestinian mob as a casualty of IDF brutality. Arab propagandsists had something of a field day, to say the least. (All links courtesy of DM!)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PROTESTING WITH PRAYER: These people must be reading Gandhi in their spare time.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE V-WORD is thrown around gratuitously in this article, but otherwise it is a very interesting account of a less-reported side of the war.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAKE YOU LAUGH: Say what you will about Kieran Healy's political views, he has a great sense of humor.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PONTIUS PILATE AND LIBERAL IDEALISM: Kieran Healy is deeply concerned about the well-being of the Oxford Democracy Forum. As with most of our critics, Kieran is concerned that our naivete regarding both the prospects for promoting democracy in the Middle East as well as the Bush administration's commitment to doing so will prevent OxDem from accomplshing any of its objectives.

Now, before responding to Kieran's argument, I'd like to congratulate him on his recent marriage as well as thank him for constantly linking to OxBlog.

Now let's get down to business.

Kieran fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of the Oxford Democracy Forum. According to Professor K,
OxDem should be clear about whether it is giving us a description of what the U.S. is doing, or whether it is advising the U.S. about what it ought to be doing...the principles they endorse may be betrayed by the Administration they support. They will then be left having to explain why the post-war strategy which they felt helped justify the invasion was not pursued by the Administration. That’s an uncomfortable position.
First of all, OxDem has been very clear about its purpose. According to the first sentence in our statement of principles, "The Forum's mission is to promote democracy worldwide. It will do so through public education and activism." We are not interested in describing. We are interested in persuading.

Second of all, OxDem does not support this administration or any administration. It is non-partisan. We believe the fundamental strength of our agenda is that one can embrace it regardless of whether one is a Democrat or a Republican, a Tory or a Labourite.

Moreover, this non-partisanship is not simply a facade for either a pro-Republican or a pro-war agenda. I myself have a perfect Democratic voting record, as do many of our other strongest supporters.

Nonetheless, our critics tend to assume -- or simply want to believe -- that we are reflexive supporters of a belligerent approach to international relations. As far as I can tell, this assumption is a reflection of the insecurity that OxDem provokes on the Left by virtue of the fact that it is more committed to liberal principles than its liberal critics are. Thus, such critics comfort themselves by insisting that OxDem's commitment to such principles is nothing more than a front for an unthinking conservative agenda.

I don't know if this criticism applies specifically to Kieran. In fact, one cannot prove that it applies to any given individual, since it is an inference about his or her innermost thoughts. However, liberal critics' belief that OxDem is nothing more than a GOP front simply recurs too often for me to believe that it is an innocent mistake rather than a politically motivated attack.

Now, let's go back to my comment that OxDem "is more committed to liberal principles than its liberal critics are." Many of our critics -- and Kieran specifically -- constantly voice their profound skepticism about the prospects for promoting democracy in the Middle East. They warn that the Bush administration will do nothing to prevent the emergence of semi-authoritarian regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, provided that such governments are pro-American.

Presuming that neither Kieran nor our other critics favor the installation of semi-authoritarian regimes, exactly what kind of government do they believe the United States should set up? Unfortunately, they don't say. The closest Kieran comes to showing his hand is when he asks
What if we are skeptical that the Bush Administration can or will do what it ought to do, on OxDem’s terms? Max Sawicky is currently exploring this line. He argues that the U.S. “can destroy bad regimes; it cannot bestow self-government on people.” I think there’s a lot to be said for this view.
Even if one agrees with Max, that does not constitute an answer to the question of what kind of government the United States should set up in Iraq. Even if we "cannot bestow self-government", we also cannot let Iraq descend into utter chaos.

Perhaps the more interesting question to be asked is why Kieran and other OxDem critics won't say what principles should guide the American occupation of Iraq. Here's what I think:

In the process of canvassing support for OxDem, Josh and I have come to recognize that there are many individuals who will not publicly support the establishment a democratic government in Baghdad, since doing so implies approval of the war that would precede such an event. In private, however, such individuals accept that the United States has an obligation to establish a democratic government at the end of the current war.

It seems to me that Kieran has taken this logic one step further and simply avoided making any statements about what the United States should do at the end of the war in Iraq, lest even his private support for democracy in Iraq lend some sort of a moral cover to the President's foreign policy.

However, that sort of position is logically untenable and morally indefensible. Assuming that the United States will occupy Iraq as planned, it will have to set up some sort of government in Baghdad. If one is serous about one's liberal principles, then that government must be a democratic one.

What, then, of the legitimate objection that it will not be easy to establish such a government? As Kieran observes,
Democratic institutions aren’t like lizards. They don’t hide under rocks waiting to emerge. They don’t exist in Iraq and will have to be built. Anyone who thinks they can be put together in relatively short order after an invasion doesn’t know what they are talking about. [Boldface in original.]
That much goes without saying. In fact, that is exactly why Josh and I wrote that
We must commit to rebuilding Iraq as a free state, which means committing to the provision of significant amounts of time, money and expertise...If the administration ever turns away from postwar Iraq...OxDem will be there to remind it that its job has only just begun.
As this statement makes clear, OxDem supports democracy promotion in spite of the hardships involved. We are willing to face such hardships precisely because a principled commitment to democracy commitment entails an obligation to face hardship.

Instead of recognzining this obligation, Kieran and others seem to be more interested in washing their hands of responsibility for the fate of Iraq (and Afghanistan). This is the only possible way of reconciling their passivity with their insistence that the Bush administration is insincere in its commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq.

In contrast, OxDem rejects the ethics of Pontius Pilate. We are willing to invest our time and integrity in the struggle to persuade both the Bush administration and the American public that democracy promotion is both consistent with American principles and in the United States' best interests. Kieran is right that
OxDem may fall into the gap between the rhetoric of the Administration and its actions.
But taking that risk is the least that we as individuals can do to help ensure that people in Iraq and throughout the Middle East have a chance to share the freedoms that no American would live without. We hope that once this war has come to an end, our critics will work with us to make that vision a reality.

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:40 AM by Daniel  

WAR OR TERROR? A suicide bombing against American forces in Iraq. To my surprise, Israel didn't come up once in the NY Times and CNN coverage of it.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Friday, March 28, 2003

# Posted 11:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEDIA ROUND-UP: Instapundit puts together an informal report card. (Link to OxBlog included!)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

READING LIST: Matt Yglesias has comments on two articles I've been meaning to read, one by Josh Marshall and one by Paul Berman.

Matt is also trying to figure out just who is telling the truth about what it will be like to fight in the streets of Baghdad.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE ON UNIT COHESION: LDA writes that
I grew up in a military family. My father (who is quite old now and very very 'old school') is a retired Rear Admiral USNR. He has served on a number of promotion boards and has had considerable and broad legal experience in Military Law. He has come across the 'gays in the military' issue quite often and on many levels. I have never heard him question a gay person's commitment to US interests as a reason for keeping him or her out of the service. 'Unit cohesion' or something like that has been his mantra on this issue for as long as I can remember--and still is.
Glad to hear it. As I said before, hopefully every officer worried about unit cohesion will be honest enough to recognize that this war has put such concerns to rest once and for all.

MR adds:
It's not the military that makes the policy - it's the government. If the powers that be truly wanted the discrimation to end they could do it in one fell swoop. Think Truman and integration. Bill Clinton didn't want to fight for it and 'don't ask' was the result. The military follows orders, but they don't initiate policy.
But who didn't Bill Clinton want to fight against? If the military were behind equal opportunity for homosexuals, I think it would've gone through without a fight.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOO NICE: Dan Simon responds to Jacob Levy and yours truly about whether or not it's possible to limit Iraqi military casualties.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LE MONDE C'EST MAUVAIS: Belgravia Dispatch has the latest on its anti-American absurdity. Joschka Fischer has been getting a bit giddy as well, it seems.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YIKES: Intelligence reports say the Republican Guard is preparing to use chemical weapons in its defense of Baghdad.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEING NICE TO THE NYT: Since I constantly beat up on the NYT, I thought I'd mention that they've done a good job with this story, in which administration officials point to numerous statements on their part -- made before the invasion started -- which warned that the conflict might be long and hard.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALL TALK: Here is some of the latest anti-American vitriol from the Arab world:
"America has killed thousands of Iraqi children," said Hassan, 34, in this small town an hour's drive north of Cairo, the Egyptian capital. "They want to destroy Islam as a religion."

From his hairdressing salon in Amman, Jordan, Abdullah Alami, 37, said he believes the United States started the war to steal truckloads of oil for Israel. In glittery downtown Beirut, Hani Dannawi, 28, a bank employee, said he thinks the war is a ploy by the United States to colonize the Middle East; he thinks Syria and Lebanon will be next.
I'm sure all these folks believe what they are saying and that their statements are fairly representative of local opinion. But all they do is talk. No protests. No sending humanitarian aid to Iraq. No violence.

I'm beginning to think that Arab opposition to the invasion of Iraq is like Arab support for the Palestinians: something everyone can agree on but that no one wants to do anything about. That's why there's no backlash against the war and why Arab governments never do much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And still the experts call for appeasing the Arab street...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE USUAL SUSPECTS: Afghanistan. Warlords. Problems.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TRAGEDY: An explosion in a Baghdad marketplace has left scores of dead and wounded. The apparent cause was a missile strike, though there is no word on whether it was American or Iraqi.

One thing I can't figure out: Are Iraqis still required to have a government 'minder' present when speaking to foreign journalists? I can't see why this rule would've changed, but there is no mention of it in the WaPo article on the explosion. I want to find out, though, since there is no way of telling whether the victims' anguished accusations of American cruelty are a sincere reaction, or just something staged for the benefit of Saddam's thought police.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IN CASE YOU WEREN'T SURE that Rachel Corrie was anti-Israel rather than pro-human rights, it now turns out that a senior member of Islamic Jihad has been arrested at the Jenin headquarters of ISM, the activist group to which Corrie belonged.

Link via Best of the Web.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 12:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SOUTHERN FRONT: Judging by your respones to my posts, the most important issue facing America today is anti-Semitism in the Southern United States. Here are some of more of the interesting thoughts and stories you have sent my way:

Briefly, RL points out that Jim Moran is originally from Boston, and not a native Southerner.

ET from Colorado writes that
I haven't actually lived in the South and am in no position to comment on the day to day incidence of anti-Semitism there. Still, I happen to know that synagogues, JCCs and Jewish philanthropy are highly developed in the South and I think there are a couple of ways to interpret this phenomenon in terms of how it relates to anti-Semitism.

On the one hand, this robust Jewish associational life seems to suggest that Jews feel confident enough in their safety to build significant parts of their social lives around Jewish communal institutions. I wonder if Jews in the midwest (outside of Chicago/Skokie) and northern plains states share such a willingness to organize and identify this freely on the basis of their Jewish identity.

On the other hand, it should be recognized that churches are the focal point of a lot of social activity in the South. This state of affairs more or less compels Jews to establish separate institutions and charities of their own, since they can't, or more likely today--don't, want to belong to explicitly Christian ones. That's one reason why we see very active JCCs and Jewish Federations in the South. In fact, for many years, Tulsa, OK has had the distinction of being the highest per capita giver to the UJC (United Jewish Communities--the largest Jewish philanthropy) of any city in the country. In second place? Greensboro, NC.

You can read about it for yourself here and here.

I wouldn't call this current situation anti-Semitism (though that's probably what led to it), but in some ways it surely resembles conditions in other places where Jews were historically segregated, shunned, or
otherwise never really "fit in". Interwar Poland had many Jewish schoolsthat belonged to a variety of educational streams. So too did Morocco. In Argentina, to this day, the social lives of many Jews center around Jewish social clubs called "Hebraicas".

The upshot of all of this is a robust Jewish associational life. These Jewish institutions promote Jewish identity, culture and education and might help stem the tide of intermarriage (though I know there are mixed feelings about whether this should be an explicit goal).

A troubling question, then, is whether social marginalization might actually give rise to stronger Jewish communities that provide more services and are better poised to address communal Jewish concerns,
including responding to anti-Semitism.

I think this state of affairs can be tolerated as long as it doesn't block Jews' access to political participation, economic opportunities or civic involvement. There may be a parallel here with black churches and
historically black colleges, which also trace their origins to intolerance by the white majority, but have today become effective platforms for expressing communal interests and are springboards for articipation in public affairs.

Still, the question remains: In places with a legacy of intolerance, is it "healthy" to foster continued segregation?
A good question. I wish I had the answer. Moving on, TN writes in that
I too grew up in South Carolina, in a small town called Edgefield (pop. 3000) in the western piedmont area. I live in Atlanta now.

I have to concur with your other Southern correspondents. Anti-semitism just wasn't a factor I ever noticed. Nor did I ever hear even casual anti-jewish sentiments expressed anywhere else in piedmont or low country South Carolina (where most of my extended family lived). It may be that anti-semitic feelings were more widely spread and more deeply felt than I knew, but if so no one ever bothered expressing them, and so far as I know they don't now. Further, I've got truckloads of cousins in South Georgia, and it's not anything I ever heard down there, either.

I was going to point out Sol Blatt myself -- his son is still around, a retired federal court judge. However, I think his son converted to episcopalianism (if that can be called a "conversion"). I might be
wrong about that, it may have been his grandson that converted. That would make sense, because Episcopalians were (and are) very prominent in the S.C. social & political circles, so such a conversion would have advantages.

Sol Blatt did not go out of his way to hide his jewishness -- it was no secret, nor something covered up. I've heard stories of him being caught at stump speeches and other political rallies eating pork
barbecue, and being teased about, to which which he had a stock response, with a wink -- Pork?!?? I thought this was goose!!! Back then, it seems, barbecue and politics weren't wholly separable if you
were serious about either.

There had been a number of jews that lived in my home county (Edgefield), who arrived in the later 19th century as travelling pedlers who settled down as brick&mortar merchants. One of the 19th century
storefronts in my home town has a stained glass strip that reads "Israel Mukashy". When I was a kid it was run as a dry-goods store by a Mr. Rubenstein, (or was it "stien"?) who always had a piece of sour apple super-bubble bubblegum for the kids. He and his wife were about the only jews around by then -- most of the younger jews had left for larger towns and different careers before I was born. In retrospect, he bore one classic jewish physical stereotype: an enormous hook nose. However, back then I didn't know enough about jews in general to be aware that this was a stereotypical feature, nor would have any of my friends. Besides, Mr. Tompkins in the store a few doors down, who wasn't jewish, had an even bigger nose that looked like a burst section of grapefruit. The point being that, other than knowing Mr. Rubenstein was jewish, that he & his wife had to go to Augusta for Temple, and that Mrs. Rubenstein cooked some tasty but unusual food, you wouldn't have noticed anything that distinctly set him off from anyone else in town.

I do know of an ugly episode that occurred in Marietta, Georgia, in 1913. A young jewish man named Leo Frank was accused of murdering a young girl and ended up getting lynched, apparrently the only known lynching of a jew anywhere in the United States.

However, it doesn't seem that Frank's jewishness was the only thing that did him in -- there was probably some class resentment involved, too, since the workers at the factory Frank supervised were probably poorer and less educated than he. Further, he was a jewish yankee which was all the worse -- but that's another story.
If memory serves, Frank was accused of murdering Mary Phagan. I only know that because one of the networks ran a made-for-television movie on the subject when I was in grade school. Naturally, this is one of the only films I know of that says much about Southern Jewish life. The others are all about civil rights and the murders of Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney. So perhaps what we're beginning to see is that Hollywood (and my own ignorance) are responsible for Northern Jews' perceptions of Southern anti-semitism.

But what about anti-Semitism elsewhere in the US? MR writes that
I've lived all over the U.S. (courtesy of the U.S. Army) and have found some of the worst anti-semitism in the Pacific Northwest, especially the Seattle area. It was so bad there I told my husband if he ever got orders for that place again he could go alone. Never had any problems in the South, but haven't lived in the deep south, although I feel North Carolina was south enough. It seems like a lot of anti-semitism comes out of the North East these days, does Al Sharpton ring a bell? Now I am happily living in San Antonio, Texas, one of the nicest places in the country (and I ought to know!).
I'm a fan of San Antonio as well, having visited briefly while I worked in Texas. SA is now, of course, a major landmark in the blogosphere thanks to Sean-Paul Kelley. And yes, Al Sharpton does ring a bell, but I think I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that this is a discussion of white anti-Semitism. If we start crossing color-lines, my inbox will surely overflow. Maybe once things calm down in the Middle East we can have an open thread about the Reverend Al.

On a lighter note, MR writes in with the following anecdote:
The first person on my mother's side of the family to immigrate to America was a man named Moses Sauer, a German Jew. For reasons lost to history he went straight to Shreveport, LA where he was promptly conscripted into the Confederate Army. He served and eventually got an honorable discharge (the papers still exist). Anyway, after his discharge he went back to Shreveport. His eventual family split up, with some staying in LA and others moving to NYC (my ancestors).

Fast forward to about 20 years ago, when we met some distant relatives still living in Shreveport, still Jewish and very southern. They were buffont blondes. I was 8 or 9, and one of them, as older Jewish women have done since time began, reached down, gave my cheek a good pinch, and said in a perfect southern drawl, "y'all so meshugge." I can't remember but I think I could hear the theme of the Twilight Zone in the background.
MR, y'all so meshugge!!!

Last but not least, SG, a close friend of mine from Tennessee, asks
Anti-semitism in the South? Didn't we talk about this a million times? I find it interesting that in Berkeley, I'm getting attacked daily for being Jewish because that's apparently why we're at war. Yep, that's right Berkeley, California, liberal bastion. Meanwhile, no one is hassling my parents or friends in Tennessee at all about this. And yes, there are plenty of folks against the war there. Or how about recent events at Yale? I can handle residual ignorance (like the story about the hitchhiker who was asked to see his horns), that can be corrected. What is terrrifying to me is the educated masses deciding to buy the myth of Jewish puppeteering.
Sad but true. Thankfully, Berkeley is a world unto itself. And when anti-Semitism raises its head at Yale, I think we can rest assured that it will be beaten down swifly.

For those of you who want to know even more about Southern Jewish life, both TG and BL recommend Alfred Uhry's play, The Last Night of Ballyhoo. When it comes to London, I'm there.

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

I'M OUTTA HERE: That's it for me for the week - I'm headed off to P-town to perform best-manly duties. (And no, sorry, the link isn't to a central New Jersean strip club.) See you guys Monday!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

A NEO-CON, A CENTRIST, AND A LIBERAL WALK INTO A BAR: None of them think the U.S. war in Iraq is driven by idealism. Sound like a bad joke? Except I was out with these three guys last night. All three of them are perceptive recent graduates from Yale and Harvard, currently working in fast-track government positions as aides in the executive and legislature. And the cincher is, they're all dead wrong. Whatever you think about the precise amount of risk involved in the administration's strategy - a matter that's now passed into the purview of historians - there's an unmistakable, driving sense of idealism behind the administration's democracy-promotion aims in the region, and it's just truly tragic it hasn't been able to communicate that message better.

How does it start? Frustratingly, it can't really until we take Baghdad - even though in the meantime the way we fight and the rhetoric we use will play an important supportive role. Unfortunately, it's been a trope of conquerors to pass themselves off as liberators as well ever since Alexander wept over there being no further worlds to conquer. We only convince the world if today's successors to the Seljuk and Mongol cavalries arrive in ancient Baghdad with Jefferson and the Federalist in our back pockets, and the cash and political commitment to the Iraqi people to back it up. The U.S.'s historical record is fortunately promising on our ability to deliver: but there's no avoiding it, our moral credibility as an idealistic nation depends on our giving a great deal of thought now to making New Iraq a durable democracy. So, herewith, a promissory note: I'll be using this space in the coming weeks to collate and analyze what's being said - in government, think tanks, universities, and the blogosphere - about constructing democratic institutions for the people of Iraq. Feel free to e-mail me your forwards and thoughts. And then let's show the world American conquerors really are liberators too.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

STARTLING GAZE OF THE OTHER: So my apartment complex's kindly maintenance man, Ramiro, walks in on me at 10 am after a long night of writing, to see a hair-disheveled, unshaven, shirt-unbuttoned me, with a laptop positioned roughly 12 inches in front of my nose, and a half-empty bottle of Scotch from the night before's writing positioned roughly 6 inches north-by-northwest from the axis joining my nose and the screen. He quickly summed up the situation and asked: "are you a writer?"

Gulp.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:29 AM by Daniel  

ARMCHAIR QUARTERBACKING. Who would have thought that the Bush Administration would employ at "third way" military strategy? Michael Gordon makes some of the same points as Josh Marshall.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 12:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHICAGO DEEP DISH: Daniel Drezner has a ton of good posts up, on topics ranging from discredited hawks, to weasel-baiting, to bull-headed diplomacy, to de-Ba'athification.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 12:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHARPENING THE KNIVES: If Rumsfeld's strategy doesn't work in Iraq, Josh Marshall is going to look very, very smart.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Thursday, March 27, 2003

# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPRITUAL RECONSTRUCTION: Josh Marshall on missionaries in postwar Iraq, plus a few thoughts about military strategy and reconstruction contracts.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXDEM HAS A FRIEND: I'm feeling like a bit of heel. Right after I write Nick Kristof off as unreadable, he comes up with some of the best advice around for the US government.

[So why was I reading Kristof if I've already said he's unreadable? Because once you say somethig like that, you don't want to have people jumping all over you if you turn out to be wrong. How ironic.]

Anyway, here's what Kristof said:
We doves simply have to let go of the dispute about getting into this war. It's now a historical question, and the relevant issue, for hawks and doves alike, is how we get out of this war (and how we avoid the next pre-emptive war). Americans should be able to find common ground, for all sides dream of an Iraq that is democratic and an America that is again admired around the world. Creating a postwar Iraq that is free and flourishing is also the one way to recoup the damage this war has already done to America's image and interests.
The key words there are "all sides". When Josh and I founded OxDem, we wanted it to rise above partisan distinctions and bring Americans together behind the shared ideal of democracy.

What we've found in practice is that many Democrats who tentatively support the war are unwilling to sign on to our statement of principles because they are afraid of being part of an organization that casual observers so often assume is pro-war and pro-Bush.

Now, we've said time and again that the purpose of OxDem is to stand up for democracy in Iraq and around the world regardless of which party controls the White House or the Capitol. But I do understand that when one is in a hostile environment (yes, Oxford), it's hard to sign on to a controversial position. But we are hoping that one the question of war and peace is over and done with, students' commitment to the shared ideal of democracy will make them reconsider their decision to keep their distance from OxDem.

That is why Kristof's words are so encouraging. If even he can bury the hatchet, then promoting democracy may really become a popular cause.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOO MANY SECRETS, PART II: Under the cover of war, the President has issued yet another executive order making it harder for ordinary citizens to get access to declassified government documents. For the definitive account of the Bush administration's apalling record of deception on the freedom of information front, see Josh's excellent TNR article from last year.

You know, I really would like to be able to trust the President. He just makes it so damn hard. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO REPRIEVE FOR AMNESTY: Best of the Web takes a swipe at this Amnesty International war crimes report, which suggest that the US hasn't been behaving itself any better than the Iraqis. Click here for a slight different view.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MISSING THE POINT: The WaPo headline reads: "Anti-Hussein Officials Rebuke Unilateral U.S. Battle Strategy; Dissidents Say Failure to Incorporate Iraqis Constitutes 'War of Conquest'". The opposition figures quoted within say exactly what you'd expect.

But no one makes the critical point that by sidelining Iraqi militias, the US avoids taking on political debts that will have to be paid off with postwar concessions. Avoiding such concessions is not just a matter of self-interest, but a way of ensuring that opposition groups cannot translate their fighting strength into special privileges in what should be a democratic Iraq.

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT: From the WaPo:
...the strapping 19-year-old from Birmingham has a combat tale to tell. Now, beaming a perfect white smile, Maskers guards a cargo warehouse ready to accept humanitarian supplies. His grin is not just evidence that British dental services have improved...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOO MANY SECRETS: Would it really be that hard for the White House to be a little more forthcoming about its decisions to award large reconstruction contracts to Halliburton and other well-connected firms?
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: You have no idea how long I've been waiting to use that as the tag line for one of my posts. But now I can, since the WaPo reports that US Special Forces have disrupted Baghdad's control of western Iraq, thus ensuring that it cannot be used to stage missile or unmanned air attacks on Israel, Jordan or Saudi Arabia.

PS Yes, I know the title of Remarque's novel is supposed to be ironic and that I've used it here in a literal sense. So sue me.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POLITICAL THEATER: Bush and Blair held a joint press conference today at Camp David. Since there wasn't much news, the questions and answers given weren't all that suprising. However, the behavior of the press in the absence of any news offers a striking demonstration of how the media thinks of its relationship with the Preisdent.

Here's a list of the questions asked:

1.
"First, you, Mr. Prime Minister. Briefly, Secretary Powell said yesterday that the U.N. should have a role in post-war Iraq, but that the United States should have a significant dominating control of post-Saddam Iraq. How will that kind of talk play in Europe?

And, Mr. President, can you help be understand the timing of this war? You talked yesterday that it'll be--we're far from over; today you said it's going slowly, but surely, we're working our way to our end goal.

Given that the resistance is as strong as it's been in the south and that we have what you call the most hardened, most desperate forces still around Baghdad, are we to assume that this could last months and not weeks and not days.
2.
"For both leaders, if I may? We've, all of us, noted quite a shift in emphasis over the last few days from a hope that this could be over very, very quickly to the military in both countries briefing about months.

My question is really, why do you think that shift has taken place? Did we underestimate the scale of Iraqi resistance, has it been the weather, has it been poor advice at the beginning of the campaign or is it a military question?"
3.
Mr. President, you've raised the possibility of holding Iraqis accountable for war crimes. I'm wondering if now if you could describe what war crimes you think they've committed to date?

And secondly, should the Iraqis be prepared for U.S. retaliation with nuclear weapons if they were to attack coalition forces with weapons of mass destruction?
4.
...could I ask you both, you both ranged over history, the justness of the cause that you believe that this war is. Why is it, then, that if you go back to that history, if you go back over the last century, or indeed recent conflicts of your political careers, you have not got the support of people who've been firm allies, like the French, like the Germans, like the Turkish? Why haven't you got their support?
If one were to sum up the nature of such questions, one could do it in two words: confrontational and predictable. In principle, confrontation is good. Challenges from the press force elected officials to justify controversial decisions and account for notable failures. While somewhat of a turn-off, the snide and condescending tone of most of the question asked demonstrates that even in times of war, Americans' support for the First Amendment is so strong that journalists have the right to grill the President as if he were the defendent in a murder trial.

Unfortunately, the predictable nature of today's questions render their confrontational stance worthless. These are questions that Bush and Blair have answered dozens of times before. This sort of repetition demonstrates a disturbing lack of creativity on the journalists' part.

If the press wants to extract concessions from the President, it has to challenge him on the evidence. Otherwise, press conferences become nothing more than a charade in which journalists pretend to be challenging presidential authority while the President himself gets to say vague but patriotic things such as "This isn't a matter of timetable, it's a matter of victory."

I guess this press conferences sums up how I've been feeling about the media over the past few days. When nothing happens at the front, the press spins it as a lack of progress. While challenge and confrontation are good in principle, this sort of desperate attempt to find bad news only exhausts the press' credibility and makes it harder for it to challenge the government when it really should.

Ultimately, media bias hurts both the press itself and the democratic process. It would simply be better for American democracy if both conservatives and liberals could get behind the press as an institution, thus giving it the prestige necessary to demand greater honesty on the part of elected officials.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:15 PM by Patrick Belton  

A MAN OF IDEAS AND OF ACTION: Senator Moynihan deserves more expansive commemorating. For now, simply several greatest hits:

Daniel Patrick Moynihan reaffirmed our ideas of the worth of a life in politics and the academy, and showed it was possible not to fall prey to the short-sightedness endemic in either. Instead - scholarly, gutsy, opinionated, eloquent, and an idealist - he bettered everything he touched, and in all his numerous incarnations - and here one can't help thinking of Vishnu and the other country he so loved - he touched pretty much everything. Whether the subject was international affairs, urban development, public architecture, or civil rights, he brought to it trademark intellectual creativity, a determined and stubborn willingness to follow his own best lights, and a sense of national loyalty surpassing the narrow dictates of the logic of party or ideology. I heard him speak several times on the floor of the Senate. I remember thinking that, as a politician, he showed us the Senate could be a place for dignified, erudite debate worthy of the parliamentary tradition of Tulius Cicero, Burke, and his own chamber's Daniel Webster - a place where equally public-spirited men and women could argue different sides of issues, without impugning their interlocutors' virtue or motives, with eloquent speeches and searching intellects, and with loyalty to a Republic rather than to a faction. Personally, I also thought then that as a coethnic, he gave a dignified public face to an ethnicity too often associated on these shores with the philistinisms of green beer and mediocre midwestern colleges' football teams. When Moynihan spoke, though, it was Parnell and O'Connell who came to mind, and sometimes even Joyce and Muldoon.

He used the eloquence of the Senate well: every day of Terry Anderson's captivity at the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon, he went to the Senate floor to remind his fellow senators, in a quiet sentence, just how many days it had been. He was a patriot: explaining to his aghast friends and wife why he, a Democrat, had accepted a position in the Nixon administration as assistant to the president for urban affairs, he explained when the president of the United States asks, a good citizen agrees to help. Yet he had no truck with the culture of government secrecy, which he saw as antithetical to a vibrant democracy. When he saw, at the close of his life, barriers and metal detectors proliferating around what for him had to be an open city, he dedicated his last op-ed for the Post to decrying it.

Particularly comforting, for those of us writing theses, is the anecdote the NYT lifted from a 1979 biography, where two college friends caught a dissertation-writing Pat in his room in 1952: "Impressed at first with his elaborate file cabinet full of index cards, they found that most of the cards were recipes for drinks rather than notes on the International Labor Organization." It was indeed often over a lifted glass that the prolific author Moynihan poured out his best stories. His eloquence, though, could also be spontaneous and respond perfectly to the needs of a moment. The NYT caught a quote by Moynihan from the television coverage of President Kennedy's assassination: "I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually. I guess we thought we had a little more time." He added softly, "So did he."

The Washington Post's editorial page calls Daniel Patrick Moynihan "a man of large ideas in a city of tacticians." In a time in which they are in alarmingly short supply in both politics and the academy, this decent, good man brooks no hesitation in standing up for us as that rare quantity, a role model. Godspeed ye, Senator.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

I DIDN'T DO IT!: A 30-foot wide sinkhole gulps down a portion of M Street in Georgetown. This from the same street that brought you the "exploding manhole cover" cocktail which was so popular in Georgetown bars summer before last....
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:11 AM by Daniel  

URBAN WARFARE PART TWO. Heavily influenced by his knowledge of the 1993 battle for Mogadishu, Mark Bowden opines on the Battle of Baghdad.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ONION MOCKS OXBLOG: Or something like that.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT SO FAST: It seems I got the wrong impression of Tony Blair's stance on Iraq. While he wants the UN to have a role in postwar Iraq, he is no rush for that role to begin. Same goes for Colin Powell. (Links via Command Post.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AGONIST ON AGONY: "5:07 EST Developing story right now is that the 'bomb' that went off in the [Baghdad] market earlier is left too small a crater for coalition weapon. It was only 2 feet deep. Suspected to be an Iraqi air defense weapon. The weapon, repeat, does not resemble any coalition 'penetration weapon'."

Iraqi sources claimed earlier that the bomb was Allied ordance.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

URBAN WARFARE: What the odds are and how to win.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT POLL SPINNING: Phillippe has the story. Meanwhile, Eugene takes the AP to task for playing similar games.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HUMAN SHIELD EXPOSED: Before heading off to Israel last week, I mentioned that I was on a mission as a human shield. I probably wouldn't have said that if I'd known that an actual human shield was about to die in the Gaza Strip.

Her name was Rachel Corrie. She died after being run over by an Israeli bulldozer. But was it murder, negligence, or an accident provoked by Corrie's own recklessness? The more newspapers you read, the more confused you get.

In a relatively balanced account, the WaPo quotes both Corrie's fellow human shields as well as Israeli military officials responsible for investigating her death. Each one says exactly what one would expect him or her to say. (There's a similar article in the LA Times.)

While in Israel, I didn't have a chance to read the Post, but instead relied on the Herald Tribune, which my hotel distributed to guests every morning. It's account, borrowed from the NYT, suggests that Corrie's resistance was much more passive than other articles made it out to be. According to its first sentence,
An Israeli Army bulldozer crushed to death an American woman Sunday who had knelt in the dirt to discourage the armored vehicle from destroying a Palestinian home in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses and hospital officials said. [Sorry, no permalink.]
The key word, of course, is 'knelt', which suggests that Corrie had deliberately placed herself in the bulldozer's path and then stopped moving. The word 'knelt' also has religious connotations, which bring to mind the passive resistance of Mahatma Gandhi.

The WaPo's opening sentence describes Corrie as 'crouching', but also quotes a protester who describes her as 'kneeling'. In contrast, the LA Times quotes witnesses who say that Corrie was standing.

The accounts I read in Israel, from the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, were entirely different however. According to the J-Post,
Richard Summers, 31, from England, told The Jerusalem Post that Corrie confronted the D-9 as it slowly rumbled toward the Masri home. Trying to stop the machine, she scaled a steep pile of earth that the bulldozer had plowed up with its blade.
"She was level with the cabin and she was wearing an orange florescent vest," Summers said. "There's no way the driver could have missed her."

Corrie then fell backward, tumbling down the mound and out of sight, but instead of stopping, the driver kept going forward for another 15 meters. The pile of earth enveloped her and she was crushed. All the while, Summers said, "we were yelling over the megaphone for the driver to stop."
According to Ha'aretz,
Rachel Corey [sic], 23, from Olympia, Washington, was killed when she ran in front of the bulldozer to try to prevent it from destroying a house, doctors in Gaza said...

Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago, said the protesters were in the house of Dr. Samir Masri.

"Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," he said. "She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled 'stop, stop,' and the bulldozer didn't stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her."
Three different protesters, three different accounts. Strange how only one of them -- the most damaging one -- made it into the American papers.

I really have no idea what happened to Rachel Corrie. The most plausible speculation I've read is from No Cameras, a blog run out of Corrie's hometown, Olympia, Wa. NC observes that
Having spent a fair amount of time around armoured vehicles, however, I'm not convinced [Corrie's megaphone] would have made much difference. IDF bulldozers--in this case a Caterpillar D9--are large, noisy and heavily armoured, and the driver is probably wearing hearing protection against the engine noise; you'd probably need Nigel Tufnel's custom amps to make yourself heard inside the cab from outside. Moreover, the view from the cab is severely restricted...The most plausible scenario, to my mind, is that the driver advanced slowly, expecting Ms. Corrie to chicken out in time; she lost her footing and in doing so was lost to the driver's view. Assuming she'd gotten out of the way, he continued moving forward, with fatal results.
Regardless of the uncertaintly surroudning Corrie's death, what we do know for sure is that the Western media have given it a distinct anti-Israel spin. For example, the Christian Science Monitor has described Corrie as a "peace activist" even though she has a habit of burning American flags while participating in rallies in the Gaza strip. (See Tal G. for more links.)

Of course, one can burn American flags and still be a peace activist. But when one marches with Hamas and PA supporters in the Gaza Strip while burning an American flag, that's a little different.

Far worse than descriptions of Corrie as a peace activist, however, is the misuse and mislabeling of photographs in a way that suggests her death was the product of Israeli intentions. For details, click here and here.

But why am I getting so worked up about all of this? After all, anti-Israel bias in the media (not to mention outright anti-Semitism on the left) is hardly news. But it happened while I was there. And people have asked me what I know about it, or what Israelis thought about it. When I respond to such questions, I don't want to profess ignorance. I want to say something that makes a difference.

UPDATE: Hmm. Even Atrios thinks Corrie was no victim.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THIS MUST STOP: JAD sends in a link to an article about a pro-war rally in Minnesota. Most of what's in it good news, but at one point there was disgusting display of anti-Muslim prejudice.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A WAYWARD "THE" is all that separates the headline of yesterday's London Times from identical headlines in the Telegraph and Guardian. Thanks to MV, of the long lost Visser View, for pointing this out.

Also, Josh points out that front page images of yesterday's British papers are available here. [Warning: Only scroll up and not down after accessing the front page images.]
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GAYS AND THESPIANS: Asparagirl has very interesting post up about how hard it is for gay soldiers to comply with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Rather than simply saying nothing, gay soldiers often have to engage in elaborate charades in order to persuade others that they are straight. As Brooke points out, this is the last thing a soldier should have to think about in the midst of fighting a war.

Meanwhile, MB writes that he's
not privy to what generals think about such things, but as a former Marine officer who has argued in support of "don't ask, don't tell" I can assure you that my own concern has never been anything but unit cohesion. And I don't recall ever hearing my peers express the idea that gays are somehow less patriotic or loyal Americans, on average, than straights. (But I must admit that this isn't an issue that was ever a particularly hot topic of discussion among my peers, that I can recall--even when Clinton first took office.) Perhaps they were concealing their true beliefs about the issue, but I'm not sure why they would have bothered to do so when talking with peers who agreed with their conclusions.

This is all anecdotal, of course; take it for what it's worth.
I hope MB is right. If he is, the military should be ready to let open gays serve once this war is over.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

WILSON, JACKSON, AND BISMARCK, MAKE WAY FOR BLAIR, RUMSFELD, AND "CHIRACO-PUTIN:" Interesting op-ed piece in the NYT several days ago by spousal college advisor Timothy Garton Ash, in which Mr. Garton Ash compares the grand-strategic orientations he can't resist dubbing as "Rumsfeldian," "Blairite," and (my personal favorite) "Chiraco-Putinesque." Garton Ash, noting that the world's more powerful powers have split into maritime and continental powers (the US, UK, and Australia vs. France, Germany, Russia, and China), notes his hope that Blair's more multilateral approach will be the signpost of the future, in preference either to the U.S. administration's willingness to act alone, if necessary, in promoting democracy and fighting international terrorism, or to Chirac and (at times) Putin's quijotic hopes to create a alternate pole for the purpose of balancing unchecked U.S. power.

The argument is fine as far as it goes: in the post-WWII period, international institutions have served U.S. interests more cheaply, with greater legitimacy, and probably with a much higher track record of success than the U.S. could arguably have achieved if it had had to further its interests and values supported only by ad-hoc coalitions and its own and its allies' power. However, Garton Ash's argument fails to deal with what happens in the scenario in which comparatively minor world powers, such as France, motivated by dislike of the U.S. precisely because of the latter's superiority in state strength, then use their outsized power in international institutions (relative to their actual economic or military power) either to blackmail or to veto the U.S.'s attempts to act in the international community's interests and provide global security, a public good. Garton Ash's answer seems simply to be that Blair should have tried harder to court continental support, rather than jumping so quickly into an alliance with the U.S. - an argument which sounds specious. (Given the current governments in Paris and Berlin, a coyer Blair could have prolonged the process of diplomacy - itself a continental victory - but it is unlikely that he would have been able to gather their support for a war on Iraq.)

So what does happen in that scenario? Is it just barely possible that, within the constraints of a situation like that, the U.S. might have taken precisely the smartest course open to it- that is, creating a credible threat that it would indeed in the future go outside those international institutions, and therefore completely deprive minor countries from their power over the U.S. that derives strictly from those institutions (and the U.S.'s continued participation within them) rather than from their own national power? The U.S. would then have created strong incentives for minor countries not to use their vetoes in New York or Brussels for blackmail to secure side payments or as a means to keep their disliked, stronger neighbor Gulliver from ever using its military at all, save when directed from Paris. Were they to do so, those countries would succeed only in pushing the United States out of those institutions, and theeby robbing themselves of the outsized global influence that precisely those institutions confer on them. For a country which is roundly derided for its lack of tactical skill in diplomacy, this would have been quite an intelligent and long-sighted gambit indeed.

(P.S.: Entirely incidentally, if in the first sentence you noticed that there's been a high frequency of significant-other-directed nods in my recent posts - a phenomenon also noticeable in the posts of fellow DC-resident Andrew Sullivan ("Sullivinian," for Garton Ash?) - then one might perhaps draw the conclusion that perhaps the Federal City is still conducive to amorousness, even with the Clinton administration no longer in town any more.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Home