Thursday, May 20, 2004
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A really disturbing Iraq poll
The Financial Times reports on some unsettling poll results from Iraq:
The one piece of good news that skeptics and optimists about Iraq could agree upon was that Sadr did not command significant amounts of support among the Iraqi populace. This poll makes it much tougher to maintain that assertion. This isn't a question of media bias -- this is a very uncomfortable reality that must be acknowledged by policymakers and oundits of all stripes.
The one possible caveat, ironically, is that the poll was taken before the Abu Ghraib scandals [How the hell is that good news?--ed. Because that also means the poll was likely taken before a) U.S. troops demonstrated they were willing to take on Sadr's militia; and b) Grand Ayatollah Sistani vocally turned against Sadr. If Reuel Marc Gerecht is correct in saying that the prison scandals "have not elicited much condemnation from Iraq's Arab Shiites and Sunni Kurds, who represent about 80 percent of the country's population," then Sadr's popularity might actually have declined since the poll was taken.]posted by Dan on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM
Grip tightly to that straw, Dan. Everything going to be OK.posted by: Dick Durata on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Come on Dan - you're too young, too smart, and too reasonable to go Bill Safire on us.posted by: Publius on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
This poll seems basically useless. The results are too old to be taken seriously. Since then, a number of clerics have publicly taken Moqtada al-Sadr to task. Also, I want to see the wording of the poll. It initially sounds very suspicious.posted by: David Thomson on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
More bad news:Abizaid:"violence could increase in Iraq".
To Senate Armed Services Committee:"I would predict, and I think Rick (Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez) will agree with me, that the situation will become more violent even after sovereignty because it will remain unclear what's going to happen between the interim government and elections," said Abizaid, who is responsible for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.posted by: Jussi Hämäläinen on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Wait...does this mean we might not be winning in Iraq? Damn it, we are the United States of America...moral leaders and automatic victors. How is this possible? Oh yeah...gross mismanagement, denial of reality, and faulty planning. Put those together in any situation and it could get screwed up.
Seriously, if it is not Sadr the people of Iraq are supporting it would be someone else. The more important paragraph is this one:
"Saadoun Duleimi, head of the centre, said more than half of a representative sample - comprising 1,600 Shia, Sunni Arabs and Kurds polled in all Iraq's main regions - wanted coalition troops to leave Iraq. This compares with about 20 per cent in an October survey. Some 88 per cent of respondents said they now regarded coalition forces in Iraq as occupiers." BTW: I believe the last question juxtaposed occupier with liberator.
It seems like each day we are in Iraq we are doing more harm than good (and some days, like yesterday, a good deal more harm). I understand that establishing a democracy (or something like it) in Iraq is really important. But as that goal becomes more remote (at least under US supervision) don't we have to get the hell out and just stop making more enemies? Sure we will not be able to kill as many terrorists, but it seems that we will stop making more terrorists as well. And is our goal to stop terrorists and reduce terrorism, or to just satisfy some need to kill people?
This is an absolute disgrace for a great country. If incompetence was an impeachable offense I would be advocating that. Can we at least get a different Republican candidate for President (I am looking at you Senator McCain) so we can have a responsible debate on the future of foreign policy.posted by: Ric h on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
If,as the poll states, many view Sadr as "Iraq's second most influential figure after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani" then this poll points out a huge problem for the Ayatollahs.
Sadr was supposed to be a somewhat of a minor guy in the overall leadership structure. Or am I wrong on this? This may be why Sistani finally started to make a move on this issue in the last 7 days. We shall see what the Ayatollahs do with this information.posted by: Rob M on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
> This poll seems basically useless.
posted by: Marcus Lindroos on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
..the poll was likely taken before a) U.S. troops demonstrated they were willing to take on Sadr's militia; and b) Grand Ayatollah Sistani vocally turned against Sadr.
It is possible that those two facts would lead to a lessening of support for Sadr --but how would either fact help increase support for *us*? I mean, just because they like Sadr less doesn't mean they like *us* more --and more importantly, doesn't mean they're any more likely to sign up to die for us or our chosen leaders, or less likely to *not* cooperate in hunting down the folks who have actively taken up arms against us...
The Iraqis can dislike Sadr *and* us, after all. And it's not likely that support for American has gone *up* since the photos started trickling out...posted by: Jeff on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Is that THE David Thompson? I have not seen you post at De Long in a while. How reliable have your predictions been so far?posted by: theCoach on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
The challenge at this point is to demonstrate what can be accomplished by our staying in Iraq that will not occur if we leave. This should be a softball, Brian Lamb type question to knowledgeable hawks out there. But, somehow, I think they are going to have a tough time with this.posted by: Appalled (and now Disheartened) Moderate on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
I'm not sure how seriously to take the poll. If we appeared to be winning, Sadr's support might not look so strong. There may be a bandwagoning effect, i.e., Sadr seems to be winning so more people want to be on the right side.
Having said this, this situation is a mess. I think that the Administration may already have created an exit strategy, when someone (I don't remember who) said the other day that if the new Iraqi government asks us to leave we will. That sounds like plan to me.posted by: MWS on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
We shouldn't leave Iraq, not now anyway. Instead we should change our leadership that's been creating this disastrous mess in Iraq. And we should do it now, not in November. I know that's not realistic, but I'm appalled that nobody seems to be even talking about it (which is why it's not realistic!). So let's talk about it.
I think there have been impeachable offenses - starting a war on false premises sounds like a high crime or at least a misdemeanor to me. Any lawyer here who cares to voice an opinion on that?
I think it is further evidence of the media giving Bush a free pass that impeachment is not a daily topic on the editorial pages. Heck, on the front pages.
But, no, we cannot leave Iraq now and let it descend into civil war. That would be irresponsible. The funny thing is that I read from some conservative commentator the other day that he thought that we shouldn't get involved or even try to prevent an Iraqi civil war. Is this a common conservative opinion, or was this guy just a lonely lunatic? I hope the latter.
Again, the question is...do we prevent the civil war or merely delay it? Strikes me that Sistani is a fairly steadying influence, but he will turn firmly against us if we overstay. I don't see the Kurds staying in Iraq if there is anyway out of it. And the sunnis will just be resentful, regardless.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Maybe we should let Sadr take over the South. In a few months, his popularity would be down, then we could move in and take him :-)
These polls are ridiculous. Today, in Iraq, is you express too much support for U.S. enemies, you risk getting shot by Islamists and Baathists. So how can you trust an interviewer?posted by: gallup on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Appalled Moderate: "do we prevent the civil war or merely delay it?"
It is my opinion that we have to prevent it, because otherwise the outcome of the Iraq adventure would turn from a mess into a horrible failure and a huminatarian catastrophe many times worse than the situation we were trying to improve. (And no, I won't just sit back and hope for failure for partisan political purposes. If Iraq could be turned around in the next few months and this would help Bush get re-elected, then so be it. He might even deserve it, if he could pull it off!)
It sounds like you are arguing that we cannot prevent civil war, if the Iraqis are hell-bent on it. I bet some Iraqis are, but the majority aren't. We owe it to the majority to keep them safe from the war-mongerers. It's kind of ironic that our own war-mongerers are in charge of doing just that, which is exactly why we need a change of leadership.
"Strikes me that Sistani is a fairly steadying influence, but he will turn firmly against us if we overstay."
Then we shouldn't overstay, but we should put mechanisms in place that rule out a descent into chaos and civil war. A UN peacekeeping force with a stronger mandate than usual and made up almost entirely of troops from other Arab nations, for example. Take the UN out of the equation, if that makes it more likely to work, but I think the key is to get other Arabs involved. The Iraqis don't want to be occupied by Westerners, but I think they wouldn't mind other Arabs nearly as much.
"I don't see the Kurds staying in Iraq if there is anyway out of it."
But I also don't see them get out of Iraq. This would upset Syria, Iran and Turkey. You could say screw Syria and Iran (although that wouldn't exactly be very wise either), but we cannot afford to offend Turkey like that. If we could work something out with the Turks, then maybe. But this seems extremely unlikely. Again, this should have been part of pre-war planning, not post-war hand-wringing.
"And the sunnis will just be resentful, regardless."
The Sunnis that were part of the ruling elite, yes. These are the people we have to keep in check and/or make them part of the solution instead of the problem. Again, this should have been part of pre-war planning for a post-war Iraq. Which apparently the administration simply forgot to do.
I'm not "cut and run", because when you break the china in the china shop,you are supposed to fix the damage. It's immoral to do otherwise If we leave a mess, our moral authority -- which matters -- is probably kerput forever.
But the thinking has to be hard, rather than wishful on Iraq right now, and it has to be sold to an American public who does not see the worth of a democratic Iraq. The best hope is for Iraqis to see that civil war is not inevitable, unless they make it so, and that the Americans would rather just go than occupy.
Maybe those early elections Kausfiles keeps pushing...posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Dont trust polls, ever. More importantly, this shouldnt be surprising. Sadr is a symbol of resistance and Iraqi nationalism. Fine, when the polling people call thats one thing. But that doesnt mean you want him in your neighborhood or god forbid running the country. The preponderous of the reports show that the closer Iraqis are physically to Sadr and his goons the less they like him. Thats an important point.posted by: Mark BUehner on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
gallup: "Today, in Iraq, is you express too much support for U.S. enemies, you risk getting shot by Islamists and Baathists."
And this doesn't strike you as further evidence that we are close to failure?
I also find it quite arrogant to cling to the ridiculous belief that the Iraqis will see us as their liberators. They may have been enlightened enough to ignore the fact that the innocent people amongst them whom we killed during the war were really Saddam's victims, because Saddam led his country into a war he couldn't possibly win.
But after the war their misery continued. There was looting, we didn't do enough to keep people safe. People are still getting killed, probably in much higher numbers than under Saddam. Things may be gradually improving, but many indicators haven't reached pre-war levels yet. We have destroyed more than we have rebuilt.
So why WOULD they like us?
This is beyond partisanship now.
It's time those of us who strongly support this war-- and have therefore supported Bush to this point-- consider the wise suggestion from one of today's posters about alternative leadership.
The key is to find someone who has the intellectual and moral depth needed to thread the many needles that urgently need threading. Such as getting information about terror acts from detainees without more Abu G-style screwups; creating security prior to 6/30 without massive shows of force that kill more civilians and alienate the Shi'a; preserving the great and good achievements of the Kurds without enraging the Shi'a; beating back the Syrian and Iranian fifth columns; etc etc.
Is John Kerry really capable of the above? In all seriousness, how much of an improvement would he be over Bush? What evidence of real leadership, cunning and skill has he shown? I don't see any reason to think that Kerry is the leader we need right now.
To be clear, I'm not a Republican, I'm concerned only about winning this war and creating a reasonably representative, normal, stable regime in Iraq.
Here's one vote for McCain. But not as VP. He has to head a ticket.
How practically can this be made to happen in the next couple of months?posted by: thibaud on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
The issue is competence, period. The credibility and trustworthiness of Bush's team are pretty much exhausted.
So what to do if you truly care about winning this war and dread a repeat--yet again-- of a US withdrawal in the face of islamist fascists and jihadists?
If Kerry were to be a figurehead with Holbrooke pulling the strings, then I'd vote for him, but (dan, pls advise here) I seriously doubt that in time of war there can actually, practically be a Commander-in-Chief who is not the man in the Oval Office.
Draft McCain for President. Now.posted by: thibaud on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Appalled Moderate: "But the thinking has to be hard, rather than wishful on Iraq right now, and it has to be sold to an American public who does not see the worth of a democratic Iraq. The best hope is for Iraqis to see that civil war is not inevitable, unless they make it so, and that the Americans would rather just go than occupy."
Very well said. I think we completely agree.
I actually consider myself an appalled moderate, too. :-)
Its funny we're told now -- don't trust polls. 9 months back, Cheney was touting results from a poll in Iraq (which included a fair bit of spin) as proof of success of the coaltion. A mildly positive or at least neutral poll 2 months back was considered to be great news. Now the meme seems to be "Polls suck".
I do agree that polls in Iraq are probably unreliable, because of the difficulty of getting a sample. I would that rural areas, really disturbed areas etc. are underrepresnted. So this is not Gospel, but we've several polls in a row indicating bad news for the Coalition. Unreliable as they are, I think it would be foolish not to recognized that we're not popular in Iraq.
As far as Sadr goes, he has a large following among urban, poor youth. TQhat probably will still exist even if Najaf and Karbala tire of him, as they have.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
perhaps the partition suggestion of Peter Galbraith (US diplomat, long Yugoslavia experience) makes sense now.
Better for us to salvage an independent Kurdistan-- with bases there-- than lose the entire ball of wax.posted by: thibaud on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
I think McCain's undoubted courage and heroic service to the country allows him to get away with things that few other pols can. We have democrats calling for drafting him for VP, despite the fact that he's quite conserative. We have Republicans willing to put up with his maverick nature (although Hastert took some shots at him yesterday).
McCain is undoubtedly a war hero. But just being a war hero does not make you a great CinC. The same holds for Kerry as well.
I don't think one man can help to salvage Iraq either. at this point, there is not that much difference between Bush and Kerry policy on Iraq. What difference would McCain make ?
I will however, not vote for Bush because of all the mistakes he and his staff made relating to this war. I don;t think anyone else could necesarily do better, but I want to make sure that this sort of bad performance isn't rewarded. I don't know if I'll vote for Kerry at this point.
A partition would open the way to horrors of bloodletting in Central Iraq, in mixed Shia-Sunni-Kurd areas, in Mosul, in other areas. Partition is not by any means a clean solution -- ask India.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
We have three choices: Nader, Kerry and Bush. McCain is not available.
We know what we have with Bush. More of the same. No ability to learn from mistakes. Staying the course, without providing the tools to make that possible.
And we know what we have with Nader. Withdrawl, followed by ritual self-flagellation.
That leaves us Kerry. I don't like it. But that's what we got. At the very least, he can't do any more damage than Bush, and he will be able to repair our relations with our allies. And a 50-50 congress won't let him do something really stupid like more budget busting programs, or Kyoto.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
If, if, if.
Is that we we have come to?
At what point do people start facing reality?posted by: GT on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
>something really stupid like more budget busting programs
Especially since Bush already busted it.posted by: TK on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
“Sadr was supposed to be a somewhat of a minor guy in the overall leadership structure. Or am I wrong on this? This may be why Sistani finally started to make a move on this issue in the last 7 days. We shall see what the Ayatollahs do with this information.”
That is why I want to see how this poll was conducted. Legitimate polls are very useful. But is this one of them? The very fact that it is so old also limits its value. No, we have to realize that the major media wants to defeat us in Iraq. They are on the enemies’ side for all practical purposes. Thanks to Instapundit for the following link:
“Just weeks ago, I read that the supply lines were cut, ammunition and food were dwindling, the "Sunni Triangle" was exploding, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was leading a widespread Shiite revolt, and the country was nearing civil war.
As I write this, the supply lines are open, there's plenty of ammunition and food, the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo, and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism.”
The liberal media are not to be trusted. When are we going to learn?posted by: David Thomson on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
If McCain can't be drafted to replace Bush on the Republican ticket, then I would have to agree with your logic. We knew that the CIA was "flying blind int the middle east" (Gerecht), but it's become crystal clear in the past couple of months that Bremer, Powell, and all the other civilian officials are also flying blind in Iraq. Fouad Ajami was scathing the other day on the incompetence of a diplomacy that apologizes to the prisonmasters in Cairo and Amman, as if they or their sullen peoples would ever give our kind intentions any credence.
Provided Holbrooke is Sec'y of State, it's hard to see how Kerry, as pathetic as he is, would be worse than Bush at this point.
Did anybody read the article to which I posted a link yesterday? Here is the link again:
This is really explosive stuff. Not only does it show that there is high-level responsibility for the Abu Ghraib scandal, it also shows how the Pentagon kept deluding itself about how seriously the insurgency has to be taken and what progress had been made in putting it down (i.e. practically none).
Right-wing commentators (such as this one: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/joelmowbray/jm20040518.shtml) are clinging to the sentence "Rumsfeld may not be personally culpable" and seem to think that therefore this disastrous failure of leadership can simply be ignored.
What happened was bad enough, but the reaction of Team Bush to go into cover-up and then damage-control mode instead of doing something to actually undo the damage simply cannot be tolerated.
“Provided Holbrooke is Sec'y of State, it's hard to see how Kerry, as pathetic as he is, would be worse than Bush at this point.”
John Kerry would almost certainly be far worse than President Bush. His political record is one of appeasing our nation’s enemies. Thank God. for instance, President Reagan did not listen to him during the Cold War. There is far too much silly talk about how someone, like a Richard Holbrooke or a John McCain, can supposedly guide the president into making the right decisions. They conveniently forget that the Constitution only gives the President any real power. The value of the vice presidency is "an office not worth a bucket of warm spit." Likewise, the office of secretary of state if the president doesn't care to go along with their suggestions.posted by: David Thomson on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Actually, I have no doubt that poll is old, bad news. Somebody standing up to Americans is bound to get even better poll results now that Abu Ghraib is in the spotlight.posted by: steverino on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
David Thomson: "No, we have to realize that the major media wants to defeat us in Iraq. They are on the enemies’ side for all practical purposes."
And you think they want to do this because ...?
Maybe because they got conned into supporting the President's going to war in late 2002 and early 2003?
Or just because they are all liberals, and liberals are really "our" enemies? Who is "us" in that case? Is this country run just for the sake of the conservative part of its citizenry?
Liberals and moderates supported the Afghanistan war with few exceptions. THAT was (and still is!) the "war on terror". What we have now is the neo-cons playing a children's strategy board game for real in Iraq.
David Thomson: "John Kerry would almost certainly be far worse than President Bush. His political record is one of appeasing our nation’s enemies."
And you gather this from what exactly? From his votes against certain budget proposals that led to our running up huge deficits?
If the roles had been reserved - democratic President trying to pass an enormous deficit, Republican Senator speaking up against it - you would now commend the Senator for showing fiscal responsibility even when this was a hard political choice, wouldn't you?
We now know that Bush didn't take the terror threat seriously enough before 9/11. I don't know if Kerry did or didn't. Maybe he didn't. That still doesn't make him any worse than Bush. But it is beyond ridiculous to claim that Cold War era votes by Kerry have any bearing on how he will deal with the terror threat after 9/11 or that he would try to appease the terrorists.
It's a right-wing propaganda lie, nothing more.
"Likewise, the office of secretary of state if the president doesn't care to go along with their suggestions."
Did you at least realize that many people will think of Powell and Bush when they read this?
To get McCain in charge, all you'd have to do is persuade Bush that it's time to face reality and stop hallucinating about his ability to be President. Hand the Republican nomination to McCain, he'll probably be elected and you'll still have a Republican administration.
But no, you wouldn't even consider this, would you? And yet it's you and your guys who are accusing others of playing partisan politics, of wanting us to lose in Iraq - which I personally think is deeply offensive.
This government has never taken responsibility for anything. It's time to put an end to this charade.
So the poll was taken back when the media maintained that there was a general uprising across Iraq, and the occupation was doomed to fall within a month or two.
Very interesting.posted by: BW on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
BW, would you care to point us to any articles that claimed the "occupation was doomed to fall within a month or two"?
I don't think anybody seriously doubts the ability of our military to keep up the occupation pretty much indefinitely.
If that is how you define success, then yes, the Iraq war was and is a smashing success.
If, on the other hand, you define success as an independent, stable and democratic Iraq, then we have never been further away from failure since when the occupation started.
"we have never been further away from failure since when the occupation started"
Assume you mean, "further away from success".
For my part I really don't care which party controls the White House now. The stakes here are enormous. If we withdraw from Iraq, as many of the Beltway- and Manhattan-based panicmongers are beginning to advocate (see Michael O'Hanlon's latest), it can only be viewed as a colossal setback to the effort to convince the jihadists, ba'athists and wahhabis that we are indeed a paper tiger. Or a "weak horse", as you prefer.
There really is no other option but to win this thing. Leave aside whether the situation on the ground is better than the media reports. The key point is that the situation is becoming more COMPLEX, and subtlety, cunning, and political resourcefulness are lacking among this team. Isn't it obvious by now that Bush and his team do not have the skill required to get us across all the extraordinarily difficult political tightropes that need to be traversed in the coming months?
The only question now is whether Kerry's approach--which seems based on whoever is the last person to whisper in his ear-- and skillset are any better.posted by: thibaud on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Bush is a cheerleader from Andover, everyone in world knows this except the American public.
Leadership, indeed.posted by: David Anson on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
thibaud: "Assume you mean, "further away from success"."
Yes, thank you for the correction.
"For my part I really don't care which party controls the White House now. The stakes here are enormous."
I completely agree.
"There really is no other option but to win this thing."
I agree with you in principle, but I think Appalled Moderate had a point when saying that we first have to analyze whether our staying in Iraq will have any chance of making things better than our withdrawing.
We have to make this analysis, and we should all hope that the answer is that we can achieve something by staying. For if we can't, then all those bad things you predict in case we "lose" are very likely to materialize.
Again, for the hard of hearing among the right-wingers: The purpose of the analysis is not to find excuses to exit Iraq. The purpose is to figure out what the hell we are doing and which course of action is the least damaging for us in the long-term.
"The only question now is whether Kerry's approach--which seems based on whoever is the last person to whisper in his ear-- and skillset are any better."
What makes you say that - I mean the ear whispering part? Do we really know very much about Kerry other than what's on his resume? His resume is that of a seasoned politician with international and military experience - someone who should be able to be a good President. Apart from that Kerry's image seems to have been mostly (de-)constructed by the attack ads of the Bush campaign. But you also said:
"The key point is that the situation is becoming more COMPLEX, and subtlety, cunning, and political resourcefulness are lacking among this team."
This sounds to me like an excellent description of what we should expect from Kerry and his team: the ability to understand the complexity of the situation, and to be subtle, cunning and resourceful in approaching it.
I'd imagine that right now Kerry shies away from defining strong positions on the issues because he doesn't have to. Bush is making enough mistakes for Kerry to just stand by and let things shake out before taking a stance. That may be opportunistic, but so what? This is "careful campaign" mode; I'm sure we will see Kerry in quite a different mode once the campaign enters its final phase and especially once he becomes President. There is a risk, of course, that people will believe that Kerry is not decisive and inspiring enough to be President. He will have to work on that.
Is Kerry the best person for the job? Most probably not. But the best person for the job would probably not be running for office...
Hmm ... lets see. We need someone who's a great politician, charming, cunning, able to play one side against the other, not too scruplous, has some international stature, and some international friends.
I've got it -- Bill Clinton. No, not for President. As Ambassador to IRaq.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Whoa - bull's eye. ROTFL
Post of the thread to you, Juzlak! God, would that send the left into a tizzy.
I mean - I honest to god think they's just forget to run anything but the sport pages for a couple of days....posted by: Tommy G on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
"What makes you say that - I mean the ear whispering part?"
Read Kaplan's devastating pieces on Kerry in the New Republic, esp the one about the evolution of Kerry's foolish embrace of Ariel Sharon. Kerry first embraced the far LEFT plan of Beilin (?sp) and then, within a matter of a few weeks, embraced Sharon's Likudnik plan!
Perhaps Kerry is too cunning for words. A more likely conclusion is that he does not have the slightest clue as to what his Israel-Palestinian policy is. Especially when, prior to the Sharon embrace, he repeated the foolish mantra about the need to bring along European public opinion! Wonder what the Europeans think of his support for Sharon now?
"Do we really know very much about Kerry other than what's on his resume?"
I know that the man likes to compare Al Qaeda to the mafia and did so repeatedly in unscripted TV appearances after 9/11, adding, "I suppose that, like the mafia, [international terror] is just something we'll have to get used to." This is completely asinine. Certainly as stupid as any Bush-ism, since Kerry can't plead dyslexia.
It also appears that nearly every Massachusetts Democratic pol aside from Teddy K, as well as most of the journalists at the Boston Globe, consider the man a pompous joke. That he is hated by those who know him best is pretty disturbing.
I know that in twenty years + of public life Kerry has yet to show any significant legislative or other achievement. He weasels on the votes he's taken--I can't even keep straight all his lies about Gulf War I, GWII, etc.
Before your reflexes rise up and cause you to bash Bush, please be aware that I'm honestly assessing this man who, were he not running against Bush, would not be taken seriously by anyone in the party. I find especially distasteful his willingness to characterize all who served in Vietnam as "war criminals" and then present himself as a war hero. I have much more respect for Bill Clinton, whom I enthusiastically supported and voted for twice.
posted by: thibaud on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
Some people have been pointing out that Clinton could run as Vice President.
I don't think it will happen, but I wonder how it would be received. Certainly some people would throw a fit. On the other hand, I think there is also an increasing number of people who have become so utterly disillusioned with Bush that they would just love to have Clinton back. I know I'm one of them.
Me too. I actually think that Clinton is the one US political figure who could credibly bridge the grand divide and bring us back toward a bipartisan foreign policy. Again, Bush continued Clinton's war. It was Clinton's team that identified Saddam as behind the spread of chem weapons to E Africa, and it was Clinton who committed us to overthrowing Saddam. Bush made good on Clinton's promise.
So I'd like to hear Clinton reach out across the divide, remind the country of the above, and speak with eloquence about the need to put aside partisanship and win this war that was in a very real sense launched by him in 1999.
What's in it for him? Well, there's the chance to help his country, and of course such an act at this moment might help to erase the Marc Rich and perjury stains on his legacy.
"Read Kaplan's devastating pieces on Kerry in the New Republic, esp the one about the evolution of Kerry's foolish embrace of Ariel Sharon."
I assume you mean "Hebrew Lessons"? I read it. I don't find it devastating.
"Kerry first embraced the far LEFT plan of Beilin (?sp) and then, within a matter of a few weeks, embraced Sharon's Likudnik plan!"
This doesn't shock me at all, because I pretty much did the same thing myself. I don't consider the Geneva Accord a "far left plan", though. I think it's a very sensible blueprint for a compromise. The same goes for Taba.
And even though Sharon's plan is certainly phrased to sound very differently from the other two, it goes in the same general direction - Israel withdraws from some of the occupied territories, but keeps some settlements.
The other plans had more details worked out and were bilateral plans. But the Palestinians have indeed shown again and again that negotiations with them don't really lead anywhere. So why not give a Sharon plan a chance that's a pretty stunning departure from previous Sharon and Likud policies? So stunning in fact that the Likud voters rejected it!
"Wonder what the Europeans think of his support for Sharon now?"
There are people in Europe who also realize that the Sharon plan could at least be a step in the right direction. People seem to constantly forget that details can be re-negotiated later on, and that it is most important to gain some momentum and break the current stalemate.
I don't see any inconsistency here because Sharon's plan wasn't around to be endorsed until just recently.
"It also appears that nearly every Massachusetts Democratic pol aside from Teddy K, as well as most of the journalists at the Boston Globe, consider the man a pompous joke. That he is hated by those who know him best is pretty disturbing."
Could you provide some evidence for this?
Kerry defeated the popular moderate Republican and Governor of Massachusetts Weld in 1996. Massachusetts elected more Republican Governors after Weld.
Why would the voters have re-elected Kerry if he were so ineffective and hated? I also don't exactly have a very high opinion of the Boston Globe, so I wouldn't put too much into what they might think of Kerry, if indeed they dislike him there.
Again, I'd really like to see some evidence backing up your allegations against Kerry.
I'm not sure about the exact Kerry quote comparing Al-Qaeda and the mafia , but it doesn't strike me as being a bad comparison. Its not particularly profound either -- its just an idea of a small underground group linked by ethnicity/religion with violent practices and blood codes imposing its will on others through terror. Moreover, its a group that spread from a small area through the world.
The original Italian Mafia is not as deadly as Al Qaeda, but a number of other 'Mafias' such as Columbian and Russian mafias also exist that are very ruthless and bloody.
The idea that international terror will always be with us strikes me as an unpleasant truth. Heck -- Britain hasn't managed to eradicate the IRA in 90 years, and has had to strike accomodation with its political wing Sinn Fein. Terrorist ideologies are not like nation states -- they continue to remain - there are still Maoist guerillas in Nepal and India, for instance.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
"I suppose that, like the mafia, [international terror] is just something we'll have to get used to."
I didn't find this quote online - do you have a reference?
I'll assume for the moment he did indeed say something like that. To start with, and yes I know this is a strawman, it beats approaching the mafia problem by identifying Italy as the original source and bombing it back into the Stone Age.
I don't know why you think Kerry's comment was "completely asinine". I think we need a measured and cool-headed response to terrorism. If there is a meaningful way to retaliate after a terrorist attack, then we should do it. But we can't just attack another country because its leader smiled when we got hit. There has to be more to it. We have to be careful not to worsen the problem.
I think in the case of Afghanistan the bin Laden extradition ultimatum was a concrete goal and a reasonable thing to do. The attack was justified when they didn't extradite bin Laden. I'm confident Kerry would have done the same thing.
But if there is another attack, there won't necessarily be another obvious goal to go after. What then?
But, please, do explain why you think this was a stupid thing to say.
You clearly know more than I do about Israel and the two plans discussed, but I'm not convinced, especially because European public opinion was outraged by the Sharon plan. If Kerry can square these two, then he's at least as cunning as you are, which is a far sight more clever than I view him now.
As to the mafia comparison, it was made in a joint TV appearance with McCain on a news show shortly after 9/11, I forget which one.
Here's why it's silly:
Because AQ's interest is not in cornering the garbage disposal or the casino trades but in blowing up buildings and slaughtering thousands of people.
Because AQ is an apocalyptic political movement that, unlike the mafia or even other conventional terror organizations, has no specific territorial or political agenda that can be discussed and negotiated.
Because AQ relies heavily on state sponsors for crucial operational and financial support.
Because AQ is particularly fond of suicidal terror involveing weapons of mass destruction. Neither the IRA nor Baader-Meinhoff nor the Red Brigades nor, needless to say, the Gambino family ever considered suicide bombings using WMD as an intelligent or effective tactic.
As to the Massachusetts backbiters, this is anecdotal but also based on numerous media reports in the liberal press. Perhaps TNR, I forget which; you can dismiss the Globe-- you seem to know it better than I-- but I find it hard to take Kerry seriously in view of the war criminal/war hero contradiction and the silliness of his claims re Gulf Wars I and II.
To be fair, the bar is set awfully low this time around, given Bush's manifest incompetence. Perhaps I will vote for Kerry, or rather, against Bush, but I seriously doubt that Kerry will be much of an improvement. Yeah, yeah, hope springs eternal and all that but I'd like to continue to think of myself as a realist.
Obviously Al Qaeda's goals are completely different from that of the Mafia. But the analogy that international terror will always be with us strikes me as reasonable. And the comparison in terms of a secretive organization with specific ethnic/blood ties and codes that blends into a larger society is also a reasonable one.
Its not great, but it does not strike me in any way as a reason to vote or note vote for a candidate.
The Sicilian Mafia did carry out actions with political goals at times. The Colombian Mafia has always had political links. Their main goal is money and power.
'Because AQ is an apocalyptic political movement that, unlike the mafia or even other conventional terror organizations, has no specific territorial or political agenda that can be discussed and negotiated. '
They do. Bin Laden originally wanted the US out of Saudi Arabia. Now the goal seems to be to throw all infidels out of the Middle East and overthrow regimes like Saudi Arabia etc.. It is not a humane goal or a reasonable goal, but its a goal.
'Because AQ relies heavily on state sponsors for crucial operational and financial support.'
Not really true any more since the fall of the Taliban. Even Pakistan has been taking action against them.
'Because AQ is particularly fond of suicidal terror involveing weapons of mass destruction. Neither the IRA nor Baader-Meinhoff nor the Red Brigades nor, needless to say, the Gambino family ever considered suicide bombings using WMD as an intelligent or effective tactic.'
The Tamil Tigers used suicide bombing very extensively and of course Hamas does it. It was a suicide bombing from Hezbollah that helped to drive the US out of Lebanon.
The Mafia in sicily did not use suicide bombings, but they did use assasinations, killing of leaders and civilians and other such methods to consolidate their power.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
thibaud: "I'm not convinced, especially because European public opinion was outraged by the Sharon plan."
I'm not sure exactly where you got this impression from.
Here is a link to the official reaction of the EU (through Javier Solana) to Sharon's plan:
It starts out by tentatively endorsing the plan:
"I welcome the Israel Prime Minister's proposals for disengagement from Gaza. This represents an opportunity to restart the iplementation of the Road map, as endorsed by the UN Security Council."
Later it says:
"The Quartet will now examine in detail the proposals by Prime Minister Sharon. It should lead the efforts of the international community in support of the implementation of the disengagement plan."
This was on April 14th. I found a headline in the London Daily Telegraph from May 5th saying "Quartet backs Sharon withdrawal plan". I guess they examined it and decided to back it (the "Quartet" consists of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN).
The article does point out opposition to the plan:
"US and British backing for Mr Sharon's plan has been denounced by former diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic. A week after 52 former British envoys accused Tony Blair of an "abandonment of principle", a group of 60 retired US officials echoed their criticism yesterday. Ambassadors and ex-CIA officers accused President George W Bush of putting "US diplomats, civilians and military doing their jobs overseas in an untenable and even dangerous position" by agreeing with Mr Sharon's plans."
But it ends with an endorsement:
"But the Quartet, despite a carefully drafted warning that Israel must avoid "unilateral actions that seek to predetermine issues that can only be resolved through negotiation and agreement", came out in broad support of Mr Sharon."
Now you may say this represents European official opinion, not European public opinion. I haven't been able to find any opinion polls asking Europeans what they think about Sharon's plan. I think the sad truth is that Bush's endorsement of the plan may have brought quite a few Europeans up against the plan, since they will right now oppose anything that Bush says is good.
In any case, if you care about European public opinion - it is just so overwhelmingly anti-Bush that I find it rather ironic that what you perceive as European public opposition to the Sharon plan makes you doubt Kerry's position. I can guarantee you that the majority of Europeans will be so relieved if Kerry gets elected they will endorse almost anything he says - at least for a while.
thibaud: "but I find it hard to take Kerry seriously in view of the war criminal/war hero contradiction and the silliness of his claims re Gulf Wars I and II."
Regarding the present war, here is a link to the speech Kerry gave in which he justified, but also qualified his "vote for the war":
The highlighted quotes are particularly interesting:
"In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days--to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out."
"Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances."
No doubt or confusion? The Bush campaign has managed to sow doubt and confusion over Kerry's war position regarding the war. His position was complex, but clear; the Bush campaign wants to reduce it all to his "yes" vote and accuses anybody who dares to point to what he actually said of "waffling". It's amazing how effective they have been in this, but it really is all propaganda.
As for the first Iraq war, here is Kerry's statement on that from his campaign site:
"I did indeed vote the way I voted in 1991 [i.e. against the war]. I thought we ought to kick Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. I said so on the floor of the Senate. But with the memories of Vietnam, I also thought we ought to take a couple of months more to build the support in the country." (Fox News Sunday, 1/25/04)
He thought we ought to kick Saddam out of Iraq? Funny, I thought that, too, back then. I was deeply disappointed when it didn't happen. It's an interesting thought that two months more of preparation might have got us the extra time needed to make it possible, isn't it? But ok, that's pure speculation.
Finally, the "war criminal/war hero" contradiction? Hm - I assume you are referring to his statement that he and other soldiers had committed "atrocities" in Iraq. That was an unfortunate statement since it could be interpreted as "war crimes", although it was probably not meant that way. You know, some people actually think that killing other people is an atrocity, even if it might be justified at a time of war.
I'm sorry but Kerry's justifications are either naive or dishonest. Anyone with any knowledge of France or Russia could have seen that those nations were determined to defend by whatever means possible their best client in the middle east (and their only remaining source of influence in that region). So the notion of a "truly multilateral" effort to topple the #1 source of TotalFinaElf and LUKoil's revenues was always bogus.
Ditto for opposition to Gulf War I. Kerry says "build.. support" ie popular *US* support. Just how, exactly, would more US popular support have changed the calculus used in determining whether to overthrow Saddam? As I recall, that option was foreclosed by the nature of the UN resolution that authorized ONLY Saddam's ejection from Kuwait.
"I can guarantee you that the majority of Europeans will be so relieved if Kerry gets elected they will endorse almost anything he says - at least for a while"
Glad to see the qualifier. At least you recognize as fond illusion the notion that Kerry would have a less rough ride than Clinton, whom Chirac loved to insult and humiliate whenever he could, or Carter, who was scorned by nearly all of our allies (and at that time, they truly were allies).
It appears that your hatred of Bush is so deep that you simply can't wait to pop the corks, regardless whether kerry would make any difference to the long-term dissolution of the ALliance.
For my own part, having lived through at least five cycles now of waxing and waning hysterical European anti-americanism (French and Russian varieties), I don't particularly care what the European public ("European street"?) thinks.
Neither should you. It would help to remind ourselves each day that in the middle east, former colonial powers such as France and Russia are not our allies and actively wish us ill. In French eyes, our losses in that region are France's gains. The truly important nations for us now are first and foremost Iraq, then Iran and Saudi and Pakistan, then China, India, Japan, Koreas and the remaining arab states.
I don't see any reason to believe that Kerry commands or would command more respect in those nations than Bush does. To the extent he continues babbling about the need to secure Chirac's permission before we do anything of consequence, he will quickly forfeit any respect under the glare of the harsh realpolitik that dominates the thinking of the Arab and Asian regimes.posted by: thibaud on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
"So the notion of a "truly multilateral" effort to topple the #1 source of TotalFinaElf and LUKoil's revenues was always bogus."
Sorry, but you are making some pretty strong statements here that are not nearly as clearcut as you seem to think. For example, this Business Week article uses the fact that French oil companies have strong interests in Iraq to make the exact opposite case:
"France is by far the biggest player. The giant TotalFinaElf now has development rights to roughly 25% of total Iraqi reserves. In theory, France's long relationship with Iraq's nationalistic oil technocrats could put French outfits in good shape for more deals after any war. But at the moment, many French industry officials remain convinced that the Americans will exact revenge if France fails to fully support the war effort. While Russian contracts may be honored, "ours won't be," predicts a top executive of TotalFinaElf. That's why some French observers insist that when push comes to shove in the U.N., France will march in step--mainly to protect its oil stakes."
I'm not saying that this is necessarily what would have happened, if we had pushed harder on the diplomatic front. We'll never know because the administration abandoned the diplomatic effort.
In addition, in the end the French were right to doubt our unconvincing proofs of the danger Saddam posed and to object to the war for valid other reasons and not just selfish economic reasons - although those clearly did exist as well and may well have played the biggest role in their objection to the war.
I will agree that Kerry's position on the first Gulf War appears contradictory. I think he was genuinely torn between his anti-war sentiments from Vietnam and the need to get over them in the light of new and different threats. So he probably wouldn't have made a good President in 1991.
As for European sentiments, I have had debates with Europeans (mostly Germans) about America's policies. I have found myself defending the administration in quite a few cases against truly ridiculous claims. I have been called a "Bushist" in return, so I find it quite ironic that you now write about my alleged "deep hatred of Bush".
No, I do not hate Bush, and I find it silly when people think he is genuinely dumb - he may not have been the best student at Yale and Harvard, but hey, he did graduate from top schools, and he also learned to fly a fighter jet. No small accomplishments.
I just think his administration's Middle East policies are truly dangerous and have to be stopped.
I also find it bizarre that the media are letting the Bush campaign get away with presenting Kerry as a flip-flopper when Bush is guilty of at least as much flip-flopping. There is a whole list of Bush flip-flops at:
The most stunning one, IMO, which isn't even on that list, is his taking credit for signing into law certain bills in Texas that he actually vetoed as Governor (what's particularly stunning about this is that he never physically signed them, but let them become law by default after his veto was over-ridden). McCain pointed this out during the Republican primary campaign, but Bush's character assassination team killed McCain. (Remember McCain could have actually become President in 2000. It was the vicious and dishonest Bush primary campaign that prevented that.)
The same kind of dishonesty is still going on and was just documented two days ago on the front page of the New York Times:
"White House Is Trumpeting Programs It Tried to Cut
Like many of its predecessors, the Bush White House has used the machinery of government to promote the re-election of the president by awarding federal grants to strategically important states. But in a twist this election season, many administration officials are taking credit for spreading largess through programs that President Bush tried to eliminate or to cut sharply.
For example, Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million.
I'd be curious to learn a bit more about your experiences with European anti-Americanism, and I'd be happy to share some of my own impressions with you as well and also give you a better idea of my background. If you are interested, feel free to email me at my gw0144 Yahoo account.
Just noticed that the zero in my Yahoo handle looks exactly like the letter "o" in this font. So it's a zero, not an "o". You can also click on my handle here and remove the "no!spam" from the beginning.
Business Week is about as reliable a guide to European politics as Pravda is to US politics. THey're constantly running pieces that argue a) Europe is rapidly becoming more liberal, ie pro-free market, and b) dynamic US-style entrepreneurs and execs are leading the charge to remake Europe along more freewheeling, capitalist US lines. So you always see these ridiculous BW articles about how Jean-Marie Messier is shaking up France or Paul Achleitner is shaking up Germany... Never heard of them? You get my point.
"I have had debates with Europeans (mostly Germans) about America's policies. I have found myself defending the administration in quite a few cases against truly ridiculous claims. I have been called a "Bushist" in return, so I find it quite ironic that you now write about my alleged "deep hatred of Bush".
I know the feeling. Only I'm defending him not only abroad but also at home to my fellow Democrats. To me what's more important than anything else is achieving a bipartisan foreign policy in which bitter disputes stop at the water's edge. Bush's war continued Clinton's war.
"I'd be curious to learn a bit more about your experiences with European anti-Americanism"
Basically, it has been a constant barrage of the most ignorant, ludicrous sneers and scoffs about, among a million other things, how:
allthoseflagsonpeople'sporchesaredisgusting and nobodyhasunemploymentinsurance and wecan'tdrive thatdirectioncuz mygirlfriend's terrifiedofyouthswithguns and Chomskytellsitlikeitis and blackUSsoldiersinKorea were noted for exceptionalbravery and whatabouttheLAriots and "comment les etats-unis ont perdu son hegemonie" (! in 1992) and theUSmilitaryisveryweak and theUShasnohistory and therearenogreatAmericanwriters etc etc etc
On any subject other than politics, I enjoy talking with Europeans. But I'm afraid that a political conversation with them is like being stuck on a cross-country bus ride with a precocious eleven year-old who's committed to memory the rantings of Michael Moore.
In short I don't take them seriously and think that our nation is wasting an absurd amount of bandwidth-- political, diplomatic, intellectual-- upon a continent that does not threaten us in the slightest and cannot help us in the slightest in the near and far east.
I view Europe the way New Yorkers view south Florida: a decent place to retire, a nice antidote to boredom, but basically an old folks' home that isn't to be taken seriously. I may indeed retire there someday--when I no longer have any ambitions in life.posted by: thibaud on 05.20.04 at 01:10 AM [permalink]
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