Monday, November 10, 2003

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Gone speakin'

I'm giving a talk today at the University of California at Berkeley. Talk amongst yourselves.

Here's a topic -- what do you do with Saudi Arabia?

posted by Dan on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM


From a strict sense, we cannot, and should not, "do" anything with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is not ours to do anything with.

That, in my opinion, is a part of the reason we are in such a mess in Iraq and other parts of the world today. Since we became the most powerful nation, we seem to have developed the sense that the world is ours with which we can do something.

It isn't, and we can't, not to mention we shouldn't. Once we get beyond the impression that all the world should be constructed in the way we think it should, our own nation will be much more welcome any and every where.

posted by: JimP on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

I agree with the above in principle; however, I fear that Saudi Arabia is the source of too many things that affect our interests for us to pursue an isolationist policy there. I don't think the place can become a democracy in the short term: The cosmopolitan coasts might support it, but the conservative heartlands of Najd and Asir wouldn't. I think we should find covert ways to support Crown Prince Abdullah in his internal power struggle. He is a reformer, and if he could act more independently of the Wahhabi establishment and the plethora of other cognate royal lines, we might start to see real progress in that country.

posted by: Brian Ulrich on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Update to above: I've re-read what I wrote and have a question that's alittle reminescent of the meaning of "is".

What is the meaning of "with"? Is it in the sense that if two people go to a movie together, they go "with" one another? Or, is it used in the sense that I have to do something "with" my car because it's broken down and blocking the street?

If it is the former, I agree "with" Brian. We should do something to support the Crown Prince. If it is the latter, I think we should think about it, and ask the Crown Prince if he would like our support.

posted by: JimP on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

“Since we became the most powerful nation, we seem to have developed the sense that the world is ours with which we can do something.”

Stop the world, I want to get off, is not a viable option. Regretfully, such isolationist thinking has caused enormous grief. In a geopolitical way , our situation is often similar to the guy living next door to a neighbor who carelessly fires off a shotgun near his bedroom window. This abstractly should not be any of his business. However, in the real world---this has become his problem whether he likes it or not. Who ever said that life was fair? The Saudi situation must concern us because many its citizens are envious and embittered by our successes. This would occur regardless if we pursued an extremely laissez faire foreign policy. Also, have we already forgotten Adolph Hitler? Our tendency towards isolationism during the prewar era only emboldened the Third Reich.

The Saudi government is a family run operation. After all, how many nations are named after its royal family? Some of the princes are pro-Western, but a few are Wahhabi Muslims. In practice, a tacit, if not even explicit understanding developed between the princes and the Osama bin Ladins: we will bribe you with a few bucks, but you must not launch terrorist strikes within the kingdom. Needless to add, this agreement has been literally blown to smithereens! The Saudi princes now realize that they can no longer sit on the sidelines. They will now be loyal to the United States out of pure necessity. Self preservation is always a strong motivating factor.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

There have been reports that al Queda and its confederates have rethought their approach to world domination and now believe that they need to have as their base a county with a steady source of income. Saudi Arabia would be on the top of bin Laden’s list for personal reasons, but others would choose it too because of the oil wealth and the tenuous hold the royal family has on the landmass; tribal leaders still control significant parts of the country.

While the Islamicists won’t know if Iraq is in play until next year’s US election, they’ll accelerate their efforts against the House of Saud to attempt a takeover. Their plan is to gain control and use the oil as a weapon against the west, something that neither the royal family nor any other oil producer can afford to do (they all need the income to pay off the princelings, tribal leaders, citizens, etc.), and use the wealth to procure WMD, preferably nukes with something other than camel- or human-powered delivery systems.

Would the Bush (or Dean or Clark or Sharpton) administration assist the royal family? Would the royal family even bother asking, or would they simply stay in Europe and live off their investments, confident that the West would have to sort things out to slake its oil thirst? (They wouldn’t have to worry about the pesky tribal chieftains either.)

The consequences of such a takeover would be dire for oil-importing states. The royals could destroy part of the production infrastructure on their way out. Would the foreigners who operate the fields even stay after a regime change? Whatever the case, even a takeover attempt could knock Saudi Arabia out of the oil business, an event that would trigger worldwide upheavals.

Perhaps a coalition of the willing would move in to secure the oil fields if the situation appeared dicey, but would that leave the royal family in charge?

This is so important that we really should let the UN handle it...

posted by: The Kid on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Ok, I wasn't clear. Let me attempt again.

I consider the Bush administration's policies as isolationist. IMO they completely denied the need to have a consensus of nations when considering whether to invade Iraq. they thought, indeed knew, that they could do it alone and did not need anyone else. Unfortunately, they did not consider all possible outcomes and plan.

Isolationism does not work, whomever is its advocate. It is the tone, though I may be inferring a tone that is not implied, of doing something with a nation that irks me. If there cannot be some collaboration, some body of agreement beyond our own power to implement a solution, i.e. do something "with" Saudi Arabia, then I think we are wrong.

I think that words are important. With is a word that, as I attempted and failed obviously to point out, can have differing interpretations. To me, if there is something to be done "with" Saudi Arabia, then it cannot be the US alone that does it. I don't think that is isolationist.

posted by: JimP on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

“IMO they completely denied the need to have a consensus of nations when considering whether to invade Iraq. they thought, indeed knew, that they could do it alone and did not need anyone else. “

No, the reality is that the Old Europeans are selfish, parasitical, and primarily interested in gaining more vacation time. They are too self indulgent and lazy to worry about improving matters in the Mid East. The French in particular are not worthy of our respect. Heck, these morally bankrupt people even let their grandparents die in non air-conditioned hospital rooms while they enjoyed themselves on the seashore. America would have waited until hell freezes over before these clowns would have become our partners.

Also, where in heaven’s name did you get that peculiar interpretation of isolationism? It is definitely not the conventional view! Isolationism is normally interpreted as the reluctance to involve ourselves in the affairs of other nations. Folks like me, however, believe that to be naive and unworkable. The planet is too small to pretend that other peoples’ troubles may not, fairly or unfairly, eventually become our own.

“Unfortunately, they (the Bush administration) did not consider all possible outcomes and plan.”

The United States has accomplished great things in Iraq at very little cost. You can only do so much planning before it renders one impotent and fearful of risk. It’s often better to jump into the cold water and start swimming.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

What has to be done is clear, it simply cannot be done either by ham-handed dictating to foreign populaces or by liberal human-rights marches. Saudi Arabia's future lies along one of two lines, each of which has a historical precent. In one future, they stifle reform until the whole thing blows like the French Revolution or the downfall of the Czars. On the other hand, they can modernize and become a Constitutional Monarchy like Britain or the other modern royalist European models or even Japan. Britain's royals may be tabloid fodder and they may be discussed as being axed from time to time, but they are still there and they are still bloody filthy rich and have status beyond mere mortals.

However it is not enough to shout it to the hills. The U.S.A. has to put together a massive education and reform movement in which we firmly tell our Saudi Royal friends that they will enroll their entire next generation in. As the new generation returns and comes into power, they will produce the reform needed internally and without any ham-handed Western micro-managing.

And they will do it if we pose the choice to them in stark enough terms.

Otherwise Saudi Arabia is gonna get squeezed between their demographic trends and world oil economy factors, and next thing ya know we'll have viva la Liberte and Bastille day only with Osama Bin Ladin leading the parade.

posted by: Oldman on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

"No, the reality is that the Old Europeans are selfish, parasitical, and primarily interested in gaining more vacation time. They are too self indulgent and lazy"

How is it that you can vacillate so quickly from intelligent commentary to childish nattering? Do you think representing such cartoonish and inane caricatures of entire civilizations makes people more or less inclined to believe in your policy recommendations?

Now as a late swing back to topicality, I think the long term way to manage Saudi Arabia is to push aggressively for non-fossil fuels. Without oil wealth, Saudi Arabia is nothing but a desert and terrorists based there have no cash. Short-term, we should find and aggressively promote moderate Imams to give Islam a visible alternative to Wahhabism. Along with promoting cultural exchange and microeconomic interdependency and all those other circle-expanding activities that get results, but militant imperialists sneer at as being too soft.

posted by: sidereal on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

"What do you do with Saudi Arabia?" - how about making a clear commitment to greater energy independence? Besides being in our own best interests, it might encourage the Saudis to think about building a working middle class.

posted by: rilkefan on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

This situation is what seems to have driven much of our policy in the Gulf for a long time. SA is simply way too vital to the world's economy to be taken over by OBL or similar, which is the likely outcome if the ruling family collapses or is disposed.

This danger, and its place well within the range of possibility is I think one of the key reasons for the whole Iraq campaign. We (the USA - and others too, but nobody's likely to follow us in) need to uphold SA to keep the world economy working. We will be working with SA in public and private I would guess. It's simply too vital a situation to let spin out of control.

posted by: TG on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Oh, and working to decrease our, and by extension, the world's dependence on crude would be a long-overdue prudent step.

But the demand for oil will continue for decades to come, which would still guarantee mountains of money for whomever controls SA.

posted by: TG on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

“How is it that you can vacillate so quickly from intelligent commentary to childish nattering? Do you think representing such cartoonish and inane caricatures of entire civilizations makes people more or less inclined to believe in your policy recommendations?”

I plead innocent of the charges. It might behoove you to read Jean-Francois Revel’s recently released “Anti-Americanism.” The French and the Old Europeans are envious and embittered by America’s preeminence. Their embrace of the welfare state has rendered them lazy and banally selfish. They are literally obsessed with working shorter hours and enjoying extended vacations. I’m afraid that it’s fair to say that my comments accurately depict the majority of these people. Their laziness is also another reason for their hostility towards Israel. Have you already forgotten how the Clinton administration had to pull their bacon out of the fire concerning the Balkan’s tragedy? These Old Europeans are not worthy of our respect. Respect is earned and not given gratuitously. How can you respect those who don’t even respect themselves?

Why do so many shy away from the obvious truth? The liberal academic establishment wishes we were French. They despise America’s greatness and don’t hesitate to suck up to the Old Europeans. It’s just that simple.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Instapundit has come to the rescue. Earlier today he posted an article containing this following exchange of views:

“Mr (Roger) Ailes was taken with Mr Prodi's declaration that the EU would not give any money to the reconstruction of Iraq. "Did the Europeans realise," he asked, "that American taxpayers spent billions reconstructing Europe?" "They did," replied Mr Prodi expansively, "but friends could differ."

"Did the Europeans realise," continued Ailes, unabashed, "that their position in supporting the elimination of sanctions against Saddam when he was in power and refusing to aid rebuilding Iraq when he was gone, appeared 'odd'?"

Mr Prodi's English became more Italianate and his arm gestures more expansive. He appeared to be conducting Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries . It was not the case that the EU did not want to help reconstruction, he said, but there was no legitimate government in Iraq to which the EU could give any money.”

Please take the time to read the whole piece. The Old Europeans are disgusting. My pointing this out is merely a conclusion premised upon careful, analytical reasoning. I am not even slightly engaging in exaggerated rhetoric or hyperbole.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

There are several French critics who have much to say about current world events and France’s attitude. Here’s a ">"> link to Walter Russel Mead’s review of two books by Frenchmen who take on French anti-Americanism. One - Jean-Francois Revel – was introduced by David Thomson above. The other is by Philippe Roger. In a nutshell, France have become inconsequential except for its seat on the UN Security Council and its role as a founding member of the EU. Heck, they can’t even take care of their old folks.

As for understanding terrorism and its connections, in a recent interview in Le Figaro French philosopher Andre Glucksmann describes a network of evil he calls “terrorism-Islamism-nihilism.”

“Indeed, the secular terrorism of Saddam Hussein and the religious terrorism of Bin Laden employ the same methods of war against civilians and pursue the same objective of total domination… The atheistic nostalgias of the tyrant of Baghdad have something in common with those of the Bin Ladenists in their identical fascination with destruction, their identical rejection of America and the free circulation of ideas and beliefs. In short, in the hatred of individual liberty. Yesterday, Khomeini; today, Saddam and Bin Laden: three nihilist warlords whose ulterior objectives are cut from the same cloth. They all aim at the same goal, to become caliph, to rule over all the Arabs (then all the Muslims), to control Riyadh, its oil, its finances and, above all, its theological authority (Mecca).”

Unless we get engaged, we’ll all be riding bicycles made of hemp, so at least the enviro-whackos will be pleased.

posted by: The Kid on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Mr Sidereal,

Caveat: about to step to the 'ad hominem' stage of rhetoricism. 'Ad hominem' is not strictly forbidden, just forbidden to use 'ad hominem' to attack debate arguments that should stand on merits. 'Ad hominem' is fair game in undermining credibility or showing contradictions of character, just often misused in order to attack policy substance instead.

To make a wide and sweeping (and therefore partly inaccurate and imprecise) generalization, Thomson isn't all that uncommon. An intelligent person given a narrow environment or experiences that only reinforce their prejudices, can have stunningly stereotypical and biased thinking. This is a summary of a critique for the whole modern revivalist Republican party.

These are smart guys - including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. Some of them like GW are very organized and charismatic in some ways. It's just that they either don't know or don't care to know. Sometimes part of both.

In their own domains, like Rumsfeld as a CEO, they were very sucessful. However what they lacked was breadth and depth. Their parochial thinking disregards what it does not understand, and they are victims of how successful their perspectives have otherwise made them.

A smart person understands what they know, and what they don't know, and relies on others more familiar with the topic to fill them in ... and then goes and checks it out for themselves to keep their sources honest. Colin Powell's attitude toward vetting intelligence he got is the only reason why his UN presentation wasn't complete shambles. If he'd gone with the intel fed him by the True Believers, he would have been a complete laughing stock instead of merely wrong.

That's it in a nutshell, parochial naivete that can't figure out why the old rules of the game no longer apply.

posted by: Oldman on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

“To make a wide and sweeping (and therefore partly inaccurate and imprecise) generalization, Thomson isn't all that uncommon.”

Oh wow, it appears that I’m being accused of getting carried away and making a “wide and sweeping generalization." Is this charge even half way accurate? Not in the least:

“According to the Eurobarometer poll, based on interviews with 500 people in each of the 15 EU states, some 59 percent of Europeans replied "yes" when asked whether or not Israel presents a threat to peace in the world. “

Doesn’t 59% constitute a majority? If so, the prosecution rests its case. The Old Europeans are morally disgusting and deserving of our contempt. This is the only balanced conclusion an honest person can reach. We can, however, hope that the decent minority among them become more influential.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

“Talk amongst yourselves.”
OK. I can take that.
But then you come with this Saudi Arabia thing… Are you serious?!

What happened to the Connie Nielsen debate?

posted by: eusebio on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

59% in a poll is how you condemn nearly a continent?

"Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that."

posted by: TG on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Oldman –

Is not your screed an example of what you argue against?

Thomson was spot on, citing one Frechie who finds the French wanting and engaged in some number of cardinal sins that render them useful only as bad examples. I provided the name of one other and a link, but there are more.

As to sweeping generalizations, you’ve got the big broom, no? Rumsfeld, in particular, served in the House, moved to the executive branch where he became the youngest SecDef, then went of to private industry where he turned two large enterprises into winners. He’s set a high standard of achievement. What are the attributes of a successful SecDef? We need:
- a guy who knows Washington’s ways, the military, and national defense.
- a CEO who knows how to figure out who’s got the organization’s best interests at heart and who’s coasting along, taking credit for everyone else’s ideas; the successful candidate must know that steering an organization is like an aircraft carrier: it takes time, cooperation, planning, and a sense of knowing where you and the organization need to be at journey’s end.
- a guy who doesn’t have to worry about post-government employment..
- a guy who can take on the members of Congress searching for pork in their districts, whether it’s a base or a defense plant.

When he came on board, the Navy and the Air Force took to heart the re-tooling he mandated. The Army, however, fought back hard. The Army’s perfumed princes fought Rumsfeld tooth and nail because they felt they had the political clout to keep their ineffective organization going down the path they had chosen.

And what a screwy path it was. Our military needs modern artillery, but the Crusader, at 80 tons, was too big to get anywhere in a hurry. To kill it, Big Dog had to take on first the Army, then the Congress because prime contractor and subcontractor plants were cleverly arrayed around the country to build pork-barrel support. But the Crusader is now history.

Unfortunately, the Stryker is not. This “peacekeeping” vehicle is unsuited for the battlefield. If we’ve learned anything in battling al Qaeda, it’s that their guys can shoot an RPG accurately; their gunners can hit the hatches of the Bradleys with uncanny accuracy. The Stryker as delivered is vulnerable to machinegun fire. The add-on armor helps a bit when it’s manufactured to spec, but that’s problematic too. The big issue is that the Stryker was sold as something that could arrive in a hurry aboard a C-130. Well, it’s too heavy for that aircraft too. Ooops, I exaggerate; I believe a C-130 can carry a stripped-down Stryker for one hundred miles or so.

You write, “These are smart guys - including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. Some of them like GW are very organized and charismatic in some ways. It's just that they either don't know or don't care to know.” Have you forgotten that it was Rumsfeld who said that there are some things we know, other things we know we don’t know, and still other things we don’t know we don’t know?

I’ll close with this: Big Dog challenged his team to come up with an innovative, effective, and rapid response to 9/11. Who else could have done that? Special Ops, AF, Navy, and some Army moved in less than a month after the WTC and Pentagon attacks. I should mention that the first big unit in country was a Marine unit, designed and fully complemented to fight unsupported for two weeks. (How many weeks did it take to get the Army units in to relieve the Marines?) The Battle of Iraq was equally brilliant. Name for me, please, one other recent SedDef who’d have motivated, cajoled, and pushed so effectively.

Calling Rumsfeld and crew “parochial” strike me as bizarre. He’s the SecDef. He’s in charge of making sure that we have a bunch of folks with effective weapons systems that can travel to far-off lands, meet interesting people, and kill them. He and his are good at what they do, no?

If you want to talk over cocktails, call the State Department.

posted by: The Kid on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Mr. Thomson,

As I said in the beginning, all rhetorical tools to their place and time. Ad hominem is meant to address credibility issues. Ones I note that you haven't addressed, but further underlined.

As an example a credible critic has come out against Sharon's plan, calling it undermining both regional stability and Isreali interests. Who is this nebbish? Is it some dove? No. It's the chief of the *Mossad* and a stern military hawk.

I agree that Europeans have a latent anti-semetic cultural trend. However only an idiot would deny that Isreal's actions are undermining regional stability, and insofar as they do are a threat to world security. Some things are true even though George W Bush believes them. So too some things are true even though Europeans believe them or the Arabs say them.

That you take a single statement that has some basis in fact and conflate that with complete moral abdication is in fact a very sign of the parochial naivete and prejudice that you routinely employ in your logic.

posted by: Oldman on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Mr. Kid,

Elsewhere I have commented on my respect, even admiration for Mr. Rumsfeld. Indeed of all the civilians there, him I suspect the least of naivete. But it applies to him too. He came in as a successful CEO and a former SecDef, but he hadn't been one for long previously and he wasn't allowed to carry out a radical agenda. He came into the current Pentagon foolishly underestimating institutional resistance and failing in his arrogance to build important support among the Congressional military constituency who are heavily invested in the process. In addition, he allowed bueracratic infighting - at which he is an acknowledged master - to trump sense. Shinseki was a moderate reformer. Instead of enlisting his assistance, Rumsfeld undercut him and at the same time alienated a considerable group of his own military. In addition, his job is not that of yes-man. It was his job as SecDef to speak truth to the President and tell him that some aspects of the plan were insufficient. He also was the direct superior of Wolfowitz and Feith, and failed to hold them to account. We cannot speak of management without investigating someone's supervision of their direct subordinates.

So yes, even Rumsfeld was overly idealistic and failed in his responsibilities because of the conditioning of his previous successful experiences. He treated the matter as one of political and beuracratic policy, rather than one of pragmatic policy and above all a SecDef must have his eye on the ball.

It is interesting that while my own criticisms of Foggy Bottom have been severe in the past, in this case (Iraq) they have erred on the side of calling it right in just about every instance. That being so, in this case they were the realists and pragmatists and not the Pentagon. That is perhaps too severe, b/c it understates the internal resistance that Rumsfeld over-rode in his parochial naivete that you can retool the military in the middle of a deployment. Only a fool would do something like that, or a desperate man.

posted by: Oldman on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

BTW Mr. Kid,

I forgot to mention ... I do agree with one thing. The Stryker vehicle is an example of botched military procurement at its finest. It is a disaster waiting to happen. Lightly armored Mid-weight vehicles for the Russians proved "death-traps" in Afghanistan and there is no reason to expect otherwise in Iraq where the insurgence weaponary is in fact better - they KO'ed an Abrams tank recently.

However the "Brilliant" Rumsfeld has in fact signed off on a deployment schedule that includes the Stryker Brigade, a fact reported by Donelly of the AEI in the Weekly Standard. Hardly a liberal source.

Why would he do something that clearly is going to lead to a tactical disaster? He is prisoner to a bueracratic doctrine and policy that does not make sense in the present circumstance. He simply has no one else to send. Forced between revaluating his assumptions and changing this tactics to suit a changing environment, he chooses to try to muddle his way through. What greater sign of parochial naivete does one wish for? Does he need to start spouting a Bubba accent for you to associate parochial naivete with him? Or is making a clearly disasterous military choice based on past ideology insufficient? As a matter of fact, many Bubba's and rednecks I know would and do oppose such a move. Parochial naivete can come as easily in power suits and Power Point presentations as hick accents, ya know.

posted by: Oldman on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Oldman -

Rumsfeld knew some of what he was getting into, but then he encountered him whom you refer to as a moderate reformer, Shinseki. Many knew of Shinseki’s goal, that of occupying the seat of his sponsor, Senator Daniel Inouye. Moreover, Shinseki was the prime mover behind the Stryker, the one who sold it to Congress initially as an “off the shelf” vehicle, the guy who assured that it would receive a biased “independent evaluation” against the M113A2/3 by stationing a brigade in Senator Santorum’s home state’s National Guard. The GAO reviewed the test and found nothing amiss. Of course, the general counsel of the GAO was one of Shinseki’s classmates. BTW, the commander of the Red forces in that evaluation, a retired USMC general, quit after his successes against Stryker-equipped Blue forces were “unkilled” by a referee. The Stryker is too expensive, too vulnerable, and too heavy. As soon as things quiet down in Iraq, the Strykers will be unloaded from the cargo ships for use as peacekeeping vehicles so that taxpayers get some benefit from them. Perhaps we can give them to the Iraqis as a gift!

But back to another of your misdirected charges: Rumsfeld did enlist Shinseki’s support, but Shinseki demurred, telling Big Dog to follow his lead and he’d win in the Congress. The arrogance of Shinseki’s counteroffer stood in marked contrast to response of the other service chiefs. When it came time for Afghanistan, traditional AF, Navy, and USMC units played a role in the initial thrust, Where was the Army? Probably maintaining Apaches. Did you notice how well the Marine’s Cobras did? The Army had little to offer where speed of deployment, effectiveness, and reliability mattered most.

Tell me again where Rumsfeld failed in Iraq. And tell me how well State did. Did you notice that State failed to follow Congress’s instructions in funding and supporting the INC? And is the covert ops group the only one in the CIA that can do its job? I hope not, but haven’t seen any indication to the contrary. CIA even diverted the money Congress sent it in the 90s for increasing Arabic speakers. I argue that DoD did a great job even with inadequate support, and in some cases overt hostility, from its two key teammates, State and CIA.

Finally, you call Rumsfeld a fool or desperate for thinking that he could retool the military in the middle of a deployment. I must have missed that part. He did not have to retool: the staff deployed commanders and units that were combat-ready and used them. If you mean that he’s looking at a transformation of the ground forces organization, deployment, systems, etc., sure, but that’s a concurrent effort for his staff to noodle and doesn’t interfere with operations. His job is to find a way to fulfill the mission he’s been given. So far, he’s been successful in my book. You must have a different book based on some notion of perfection that’s unattainable.

Big Dog looks every bit the CEO of a large services organization that’s got to keep current bases covered while preparing for the future. He nudges here, pushes there, challenges everywhere. I find your grand generalization and specific instances to be in some other ballpark.

posted by: The Kid on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Forgot to mention that the fact that CENTCOM is rather quiet means that our guys are up to something. We are changing tactics and did drop some bombs over the weekend. So the news will seem chaotic for a week or two until CENTCOM lets us know what they’ve been up to. I gotta figure that the Army wants to clean things up before the Marines get back. Competition is healthy.

posted by: The Kid on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

"However only an idiot would deny that Isreal's actions are undermining regional stability, and insofar as they do are a threat to world security."

That is pure nonsense. You are definitely flirting with anti-Semitism. The blame for the instability in the region is the fault of the radical Muslims. They will not rest until Isreal no longer exists. The Israelis are for the most part merely defending themselves. Anyone climing otherwise is an idiot--if not even something far worse. I think we are starting to see the real Oldman. He appears to be intellectually related to Fr. Charles E. Coughlin and Charles Lindberg.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

David Thomson writes: "The Saudi princes now realize that they can no longer sit on the sidelines. They will now be loyal to the United States out of pure necessity"

Sadly, I think this is wishful thinking. There will most likely ALWAYS be Saudi princes who would side with the OBL's thinking that it will protect them. Like many in our country, they don't realize that when (if?) the OBLs take over, those princes will be the first ones shot.

posted by: Gmroper on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

"The blame for the instability in the region is the fault of the radical Muslims."
You are definitely fornicating with anti-semitism dave thomson.

posted by: Ruumsford on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Ruumsford, I'm sure your comment makes sense to you, but it makes absolutely none to me.

posted by: Bernard on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Bernard - Ruumsford is fornicating with our minds.

As for what's going on behind the scenes in the magical kingdom, this link contains this info:
While rarely mentioned in the Saudi media, CIA investigators are being given access to leading fugitives captured there since May 12, a senior Saudi security source told The Washington Times.
Much of the intelligence emerging from Saudi Arabia has come from these interrogations, according to Riyadh-based Western diplomats and the Saudi security source.
International terrorism analysts give the intelligence more credibility than past details provided exclusively by the Saudi Interior Ministry.

Looks like the Soddy’s now have religion, and with not a minaret to spare.

Er, perhaps I should re-phrase that.

posted by: The Kid on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

If it's not too forward of me, might I suggest a new topic of conversation: The Dems have declared 9/11 "so over." Case in point, last week's speech by "missed it by a whisker" Gore, calling for a repeal of the Patriot Act and an end to Republican sponsored violations on our civil rights. Exhibit B: check out today's Washington Post profile of George Soros (man, I used to respect that guy) who admits, with not a trace of humility, that he would give his entire $7 Billion fortune to guarantee a Bush defeat. Democracy is a wonderful thing, especially when Billionaire financiers set out to destroy our elected leaders (note to George: last time I checked there elections were a contest between CANDIDATES and their opposing VIEWPOINTS, not talking checkbooks and self-deluded international saviors!).

posted by: Kelli on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Here's the URL for the speech.

posted by: Kelli on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Sadly, Mr Kid, Miss Kelli is probably right. as Mr. Thompson amd I can attest.

Mr Oldman is some type of wierd amorphous characture that simply regurgitates someone else's arguments from a previous day, mimics thier style, and remains combative, despite any former opposition to a given point.

He'll bounce from "f*cking the prom queen" to "...their parochial thinking disregards what it does not understand, and they are victims of how successful their perspectives have otherwise made them."

Case in point - his recent "ad Homi" piece. oh, my, Mr. Oldman - how erudite. Except that he lifted the idea from an opponents response three days ago. Watch him lash out for a couple of days- you'll see what I mean.

Ah, well - he may be a monster, but we know he's not a hobgoblin at any rate, eh? ;)

Enjoy - I'm done for the day: It's *my* holy day today.

And to those of my brothers and sisters that share this day with me - "Because those who bleed with me today..." you know the bit -

posted by: Art Wellesley on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

So this may be a bit off the main line of conversation here, but is any criticism of Israel's actions allowed anywhere at any time, or will it always be branded anti-Semitism?

Granted many comments against the country probably do brush against that ugliness, but it seems that pretty much every _fair_ comment gets branded as such too, basically disallowing discussion of the topic.

Anyway, to take the chance, I agree with our support of Israel, but think we need to occasionally yank on the chain that is our huge financial support. A bit more "nudging" than our current leadership in the States seems to be willing to do. With this situation being such an easy rallying point for militants, I still believe our disengagement is unexcusable. And I think the two ancient and bitter leaders of both sides need to leave the picture - Sharon and most definitely, Arafat. Nothing will be accomplished with either in place. Fixing the situation there, or at least vastly improving it would help either Muslim countries "get over it", or expose their true feelings if they still harbor the hatred if an independent Palestine emerges.

Fixing this huge sticking point needs to be done, and if it doesn't greatly help move progress on other issues in the region, it will at the least give us even firmer moral ground to stand on - and maybe even Europeans will start to see that this is not all just a result of the Palestinian situation.

posted by: TG on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

TG: A agree that it's absurd to equate criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism, but saying that Israel is "the greatest threat to world peace" is similarly absurd. Nonsense needs to be called nonsense when it occurs.

Europeans, and anti-Israel Americans, seem to get very agitated about the IDF targeting Hamas leaders who are directly responsible for blowing up children on city buses, or dropping a bomb in an empty field in Syria, but strangely silent on the slaughter of thousands of Muslims in Chechnya. Apparently, some Muslim lives are far more valuable than others.

The EU's "engagement" with the PA, and specifically with Arafat, has been an utter failure--as recently reported by the BBC, he's diverted huge amounts of funds both for his personal wealth and to maintain the strings over the PA. He's an enormous obstacle to peace, as routinely demonstrated this summer as he undermined virtually every PM candidate. Has the EU been able to use its vaunted leverage to get Arafat to concede? No way. Indeed, Arafat knows that the EU is so full of wet noodles that he cares far more about what the evil Sharon-supporting Bush thinks than what Chirac and Schroeder think.

posted by: Daniel Calto on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

TG -

You write: “And I think the two ancient and bitter leaders of both sides need to leave the picture - Sharon and most definitely, Arafat.”

It’s hard to vilify Sharon – he was elected by the voters and seems to reflect the national mood. Perhaps someone else will take the helm next election. In the meantime, he is the legitimate head of the state of Israel.

As for the crook Arafat, I agree with Daniel Calto and would add only that Yassir will delegitimize or kill any potential rival.

Finally, the Palestinians are simply pawns of the Islamic honchos in the area and as a group suffers from neurosis. They’ve been treated like darling children by the UN and progressive states for so long that it may take a generation for them to sort out their group politics and personal aspirations. Don’t get me wrong, there’s talent, wit, and positive energy there, but after fifty years of being told that they’re cute, they’ve been wronged, and they’re entitled to this or that, it will take some time for them to grow up and face the reality of running a nation.

posted by: The Kid on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

TG your "occasionally yank on the chain that is our huge financial support." has to commented on.
Of the 3 billion/year Israel only gets about 200 million to spend in Israel. The rest of it is spent in the USA buying from Amrican companies and keeping lots of Americans employed.
Boeing gets a lot out of that aid. If it had not been so Airbus would have got the billions as they were so much cheaper (govt., subsidy).
Also Boeing also through this system is doing a lot of R&D with Israel.
Seems the aid package is a two way street.

posted by: Barry on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Dan, you're famous. You're name's on the editorial page of the NY Times today. Just letting you know, in case you don't.

posted by: Ron on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Mr Thomson,

How tiresome and predictable and erroneous. You must be used to dealing with liberals who shrink from supporting Isreal. Let me put myself on record as not only being pro-Isreali but pro-Zionist. By that I define it as the right of Isreal to unilaterally occupy its borders in perpetuity excepting only the visitation rights to Jeruseleum for religious pilgramages. Furthermore, I support a purely financial compensation for the so-called 'right of return' and furthermore the eventual deportation of most Palestinians from within green-line borders. Furthermore, in my opinion Isreal has the right to gaurentee its continued existence with the unilateral use of nuclear weapons in the event of a massive invasion both on the battlefield and on civilian populations.

In my studied opinion however, Isreal is still acting in a way that is a threat to world security and its own best interests. If it needs to build a wall, it should make it a defensible one - which would include withdrawing over 90% of West Bank Settlements. Furthermore Isreal needs to get the Palestinians within its borders out - but probably by developing the land of the Sinai. There should be a land swap to get the ghetto of Gaza out from within Isreali borders.

Simple logic and reason, as well as self-interest, dictactes that this happen. Isreal has a unilateral right to continued existence as a overwhelmingly Jewish state. It does not have the right to conduct genocide, ethnic cleansing, or apartheid which are the options on the table in the near future. Appropriate land swaps, border retrenchment, financial compensation settlements, and relocation of both Jewish and Palestinians provide the only sane answer to the problem. Isreal will be more prosperous, less prone to terroist attacks, and more secure as a result of these logical reforms. To continue on its present path is to create the possibility of literally Armageddon and a threat to world security. Those are the choices. And no amount of anti-semetic baiting on your behalf can change that reality Thomson.

posted by: Oldman on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Mr. Kid,

You seem to fail to understand the concept of accountability and authority. The SecDef and the President of the USA are directly responsible for all choices. To be fair, I've always disagreed with Pro-Stryker adherents even as I understood their arguments. However, even according to its conceptual design the Stryker wasn't meant to deal with a well-armed geographically saturated insurgency movement.

Now as for Rumsfeld's failures, he if he is so brilliant according to you must know of the Stryker's shortcomings. Yet he is sending it to Iraq anyway. Either it's a failure of nerve, intellect, or conscience. Which doesn't matter. Also if Turkey invades, that will clearly be a State Department failure. But that Iraqi and US forces are clashing with the Kurds - as they are even now in northern Iraq - then that will be a failure of Rumsfeld. That the insurgency is spreading to Mosul and Basra, that is a failure of the SecDef. That we are dropping 500 lb bombs on civilian areas in the Sunni Triangle is a clear sign of failure on the part of the SecDef to promulgate military doctrine. Such acts are tactically valueless and strategically counterproductive. Yet they are engaged in because the soldiers don't know what else to do, or how else to respond - so they lash out in frustration. That is a clearly a failure of vision that can be laid at the door of the SecDef.

Finally, as for State diverting INC funds - thank God. I call it an act of civil disobedience. If they put it into translators - then they did right since that's exactly what we need over there and not more INC flunkies! If I had my way, I'd exile Achmed Chalabi or have him summarily executed. No other single person has done so much harm to US interests, and he did it out of self-aggrandizing ambition. Every single one of his suggestions has turned out disasterous for the USA, and even his political masters in Washington are now rueing the day they listened to his lies. Furthermore, his cronies getting contacts are bringing disrepute on the otherwise honorable US reconstruction effort. It is not merely liberals who are seeing red on account of this. President Bush himself overruled giving more authority to Chalabi, Bremer is now thinking of disbanding the IGC which has Chalabi and his allies on it, and Susan Collins (R) is concerned with the appearance of impropriety in reconstruction contracts.

Thank God that somebody had the sense to see that Chalabi was a poison maiden for the USA. He is the indirect cause of many American military deaths, him and his lies.

posted by: Oldman on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

D.Calto: Right, I should have made clear I wasn't referring specifically to this instance, more the general atmosphere surrounding any questioning of Israel's actions by people who generally support them. It seems to have become the "with us or against us" thing again (Bush? Stalin? Lenin? Can't remember).

It may be hard to villify Sharon politically, as he was elected, but the recent effort by many on both sides to reach agreement on all the difficult issues, and its subsequent denouncement by Sharon certainly makes it look like a fair amount of people disagree with the zero concession iron fist approach. Basically, I think the majority of people on both sides are sick and tired of living in a warzone, and would concede to far beyond what their heads of state will just so they could live a normal life. The situation and negotiation has been hijacked by extremists on both sides - I think that's what these "sidetrack" talks show.

Barry - OK, I can't argue numbers, but even if our financial support is not an absolute on/off switch, it can't be denied that simply our backing of Israel on the public stage is as great or a greater "leash". I'm not proposing cutting relations, rather a bit more influence than appears to have been exerted so far. This is probably more a complaint with the Bush admin's apparent lack of effort (or interest).

Finally, I think Oldman actually got more at what I initially meant - much of the valid criticism against Israel's actions is that they don't appear to be helping her cause - and this negative feedback seems to be pushing Sharon to clamp down more, which results in more negative actions, and on. I'm a stubborn person myself, but come on, they've got to take a look when the head of the military and large numbers of people are all disagreeing with the current approach.

posted by: TG on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Your suggestion
"If it needs to build a wall, it should make it a defensible one - which would include withdrawing over 90% of West Bank Settlements."
brings up that dilemma of showing that Terrorism works. In effect it would be giving what Arafat refused to accept and subsequently resorted to violence. What Arafat demonstrated was that he does not accept the two state idea.
While Israel could do a lot to make it easier for its supporters to accept things, one must bear in mind that the Oslo years have left Sharon's right seething. The general population it seems is in no mood now to be nice. Let's face it, the antics in Durban's UN sponsored anti-racist mess and the behaviour of Europe has left the majority of the population feeling that it does not matter what it does; "damned if you, damned if you don't"
Another fact which Israeli's remember very well is that Barak pulled the troops out of Lebanon and to the Arab world displayed weakness. There are some who feel that had it not been for this Arafat would have thought twice before unleashing the present "intifada".
Another thing to bear in mind is that our way of thinking is alien to the Arabs. Humility is not a word they accept. Accepting the other's position is weakness. Good faith does nothing for them. Egypt and Syria have played the USA for a fool in the region and while not apparent in the big media is certainly comes out in their media.

posted by: Barry on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Agreed on the presence of the "terrorism works dilemma" - but does this (sadly more and more common) dilemma always preclude any other action than retaliation? If so, it would seem a very effective tool for those that wield it - in that it will always generate a predictable response and set of actions. I don't see how anything will ever be accomplished if all it takes to block a course of action is one terrorist bombing.

Similarly with the "sign of weakness" thing - does this mean that Israel, and the US, should have all of their moves (essentially) dictated to them based on Arab perception? It would at least imply another powerful factor that needed to be considered in every action. I'm not so sure it needs to be though - I think both the US and Israel have and can demonstrate overwhelming force when necessary. That's one thing I don't understand about Israel pulling out of more territories -- they, and certainly the Palestinians, know if they need to return, there's no stopping them. I can see a pull-out being used as PR tool by PA and co. but accompanied with a stern Israeli "pull any nonsense and we'll be back in a bad way" warning would be believable for anyone familiar with the situation.

posted by: TG on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

Mr. Barry and Mr. TG,

If you think about it, as long as Palestinians are free to cross the Wall for work purposes or can stay there because they are citizens then the Wall will have been pointless. It will not stop terrorism. I agree that Isreal cannot afford to look weak. Hence the second part of my proposal - Annex Gaza, expel all Palestinians who do not meet a very high standard such as married to an Isreali or vouched for by employers, and relocate them to the Sinai with development there. Sounds cruel and might be called ethnic cleansing. However a segregated society with compartamentalized society - with goods crossing the Wall but not much people, are the only way the wall is going to work in the first place. In the context of annexing Gaza and expelling vast numbers of Palestinians - with financial compensation and development projects - then it will be seen as an extremely strong move. Probably condemned by the international community too. However it is the *only* hope for a secure and prosperous Isreal and Palestinain dual-state solution.

posted by: Oldman on 11.10.03 at 12:06 PM [permalink]

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