Friday, March 21, 2003
Taking care of business
Meanwhile, the southern front is advancing nicely.
HAVE PROTESTORS HIJACKED THE WASHINGTON
HAVE PROTESTORS HIJACKED THE WASHINGTON POST?: Generally, the Post is perceived as more balanced than the New York Times, but if you click on their World page right now, you might believe that antiwar activists have seized control of the paper. (UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the page has been updated. What follows was true at the time I first posted this, however).
Why do I say that? This is the first big story headline you see:
Which is perfectly fine, certainly important and newsworthy, yada, yada, yada. I'm not objecting to the substance of the coverage. It's just that the second big story headline is:
The first story was in today's print edition, while the second is an AP report from this afternoon (there's also this story about protests in Arab countries).
Now, isn't it a bit much to give the biggest play to both of these stories? Don't the headlines suggest a fair amount of redundancy? And isn't there a glaring contradiction in the headlines? It reminds me of this Doonesbury strip from the days of yore.
The first big surrender
There is mounting evidence that the psyops campaign is working. Iraq's 51st Division, which is deployed in Southern Iraq, has surrendered to U.S. Marines:
"The commander of Iraq's 51st division and his top deputy surrendered to United States Marine forces today, according to American military officials.
It was the first time that the commander of an Iraqi division has surrendered to allied forces. The 51st is a Regular Army unit that was deployed in southern Iraq directly in the path of the allied invasion.
American forces made a determined effort to persuade the 51st division to give in, including leaflets and propaganda broadcasts. The leaflets instructed Iraqi forces that did not want to fight to park their tanks and walk at least half a mile away. American officials said that many of the soldiers of the 51st had simply left their posts and that the division melted away.
There are indications that other Regular Army forces want to surrender or stay out of the fight. The most loyal capable forces, however, are the Republican Guards, who still seem determined to fight."
Film of tens or hundreds of Iraqi troops surendering is nice, but this is the scale of surrendering that suggests the regime is cracking up (athough Donald Rumsfeld's comments are being spun in a more pessimistic way in this Reuters article.
HYPERBOLE WATCH: I've read the
HYPERBOLE WATCH: I've read the New York Times for long enough to pick out the good foreign correspondents from the bad ones. Elaine Sciolino is a good one. But this story about the EU leaders' meeting in Brussels contains the following sentence:
"Never before in the history of the European Union have its members had to grapple with two more different impulses on foreign policy."
First of all, the phrase "common European foreign and security policy" has been pretty much an oxymoron from its inception, so in the end the current division doesn't amount to much change from the status quo. Second of all, go back to 1989-90 and read what Thatcher and Mitterand were saying about German reunification, and you'll see that the current dust-up pales in comparison. [But the EU didn't exist then. It was called the European Community until 1992--ed. It could that Sciolino meant the sentence in this way, but it's vague enough to suggest otherwise]
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Media
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Media coverage of the extent of Iraqi resistance has varied widely. One minute the BBC says there is fierce fighting, the next minute Reuters is saying that rapid advances are taking place. Obviously, part of this is due to varying levels of Iraqi resistance across a broad front. This Financial Times story, however, quotes another logical explanation from an authoritative source:
"'If you're the corporal in the lead vehicle that's getting shot at, then you would call that stiff resistance. But if you're the division commander and you're moving 30, 50, 60 miles in one day, that's no resistance,' said Col Ben Hodges, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait.
'At the moment, the main thing that's slowing the forces is the ability of the fuel trucks to keep up with them.'"
Thursday, March 20, 2003
ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD...: U.S.
ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD...: U.S. armed forces are also busy in Afghanistan.
Remember, critics of attacking Iraq argued that we weren't going to be able to effectively fight Al Qaeda and Iraq simultaneously.
UPDATE: Here's a follow-up report on this mission.
SOME STOCK ADVICE: For those
Do it quickly.
UPDATE: Virginia Postrel implicitly proffers similar advice. Her key line: "Maybe I'm nuts, but trying to grow your market share by excluding everyone who doesn't share hippie-dippy Bay Area politics strikes me as a dumb strategy."
Good war blogs
Another blog -- by freelance journalist Russell Working -- provides an amusing glimpse into how the European nets are covering the war.
Finally, I've been remiss in not mentioning Sean-Paul Kelly's Agonist blog. Sean-Paul seems intent on blogging with updates every five minures. A tip of the cap to him.
ABOUT THAT SADDAM VIDEO: I
ABOUT THAT SADDAM VIDEO: I caught the video of Saddam following the first attack [How could you miss it? CNN broadcast it every three minutes--ed.] What struck me was not whether it was a body double or not. What struck me was how awful that person looked. Sunken cheeks, gray beard, and the glasses looked like a replica of Estelle Getty's from The Golden Girls.
This ties in with my point about the key to defeating our enemies in the Muslim world -- embarrass them. Make them look feeble and pathetic.
In Iraq, this shouldn't be a hard task.
I LOVE WILLIAMS: I had
I LOVE WILLIAMS: I had a great time at my alma mater. First-rate hospitality from the faculty, and sharp, incisive questions from the undergraduates, who seem much more focused than I was when I was here.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Sorry, no time for substantive blogging. Some other interesting reading matter:
1) This Jonathan Rauch essay on U.S. policy towards North Korea suggest that it has been more successful than the conventional wisdom believes. I trust Rauch, so I hope his administration source isn't just selling spin.
2) David Frum's bashing of anti-American paleoconservatives. Go. Go now.
3) John Vincour's analysis in the International Herald-Tribune suggesting the rift between the U.S. and Germany is much more transient than current events would suggest. It's relevant that Joschka Fischer says, "when I look at the 21st century world, I see no basic change in the interests of North America and Europe."
4) This Los Angeles Times piece on the role of blogs in the debate about Iraq.
5) If you still have some free time after that, buy Meghan O'Sullivan's new book, Shrewd Sanctions. The chapter on Iraq provides the best assessment of the political, economic, ethical, and humanitarian ramifications of the UN sanctions that I've ever read. [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Meghan from my stint in DC, and she cites my sanctions work in the book.]
After that, go and take a nap.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
LIGHT BLOGGING AHEAD: For the
LIGHT BLOGGING AHEAD: For the next few days posting will be light; I'm going to be visiting my alma mater, Williams College. They've invited me back to give a talk on "The Uncertain Future of Multilateralism." I'm sure there will be a vigorous discussion.
WAR AND THE OSCARS: According
WAR AND THE OSCARS: According to Matt Drudge, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce a possible postponement of the Oscars in case of war. The Oscar press room says nothing, but we'll see.
In the meanwhile, this Daily Telegraph story suggests that there will likely be at least one anti-war acceptance speech. Stephen Daldry and David Hare, nominees for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for The Hours, both state their intention to speak out. Daldry has a priceless quote:
"I do not think the case for war has been made and most of the people I know feel the same. It could be that they think differently in Cincinnati but it certainly seems to be that way in New York."
[Is this supporting evidence for Megan McArdle?--ed. I would say so]
Some good news in Egypt
Egypt's highest court acquitted Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian/American activist, of charges stemming from his human rights work in Egypt. He had been convicted by two lower courts -- this was his last chance before facing seven years in prison. The Guardian has the AP story.
What does this mean? Amnesty International USA's executive director's reaction was as follows:
Freedom House is also happy. Their executive director said:
I hope they're right -- it buttresses my argument about democratization in the Middle East [Not to mention helping millions of Arabs trapped in tyranny--ed. Oh, yeah, that too]
UPDATE: An alert reader points me to evidence that Egypt still has a long way to go in it's path towards liberalization.
JUST HOW MULTILATERAL IS SUPPORT
JUST HOW MULTILATERAL IS SUPPORT FOR THIS WAR?: Andrew Sullivan makes the point today that substantially more European states support the U.S. position than don't.
One additional thought: it's not just European countries that support the American position. Japan, South Korea, Australia, East Timor, and Singapore have all expressed vocal support for the U.S. position. The latter two countries are smaller than Belgium, but the first three are relatively significant allies.
UPDATE: Thanks to Pattrick Ruffini, who links to this Heritage report arguing that multilateral support for the impending war is greater than it was in 1991. There's some exaggeration (France and Germany are on the "coalition of the willing" list, which seems bizarre), but it does demonstrate that support is broader than commonly suggested.
Impending war roundup
In no particular order:
1) I've just read the best, fairest, and most accurate summary of why the Anglosphere is about to go to war with Iraq, why multilateral support for such action is thin, and why it is still the right thing to do. The author? Bill Clinton. The final two grafs:
2) Op-eds like Stanley Kutler's in today's Chicago Tribune always puzzle me. Here's Kutler's two first paragraphs:
It's painfully obvious that dissent is not being stifled. It's painfully obvious that serious media organs have raised qualms about the Bush administration's actions. It's painfully obvious that some Democrats support the President on principle and some oppose him out of principle (then there's John Kerry). Why would Kutler write these patently silly lines?
First rule of politics -- if you lose an argument, blame the messenger, not the message.
3) Josh Chafetz beats me to the punch on a point worth stressing:
Remember, that's the perspective of someone who's outside the field of fire. Here's the take of someone who will be in the line of fire.
Monday, March 17, 2003
QUOTE OF THE DAY: I'm
QUOTE OF THE DAY: I'm still in the middle of Fareed Zakaria's opus on "The Arrogant Empire," so I can't really comment on it just yet. However, this quote within the article -- from Denis MacShane, Britain’s minister for Europe -- is priceless:
"Scratch an anti-American in Europe, and very often all he wants is a guest professorship at Harvard or to have an article published in The New York Times.”
THE NEXT TEST FOR AMERICAN
THE NEXT TEST FOR AMERICAN DIPLOMACY: Matt Drudge has exclusive excerpts from an interview with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz in Time's European edition. The key parts:
"Time: If there is an Iraqi Scud attack on Israel, will you retaliate or refrain, as Israel did in the 1991 Gulf War?
The reality of 1991 won’t repeat itself. The chances that we’ll be attacked are low. But if we’re attacked, Israel is obliged to defend itself and its civilians. This time it must be clear to everyone that might endanger us, especially the Iraqis, that Israel reserves the right to retaliate.
Time: What if the attack is with nonconventional weapons?
We are a sovereign state, but we are also a responsible state. We won’t retaliate automatically. It will be only after an assessment. The ties we have with the Americans are so strong that we won’t carry out automatic actions."
My suspicion is that the Arab street will not be roiling that much is the United States attacks Iraq. If Israel chooses to do so, however, that would lead to massive protests.
It's clear from the interview that the Israelis won't act before consulting with the Bush administration. That consultation will prove crucial to the politics of the Middle East for some years to come. One does hope that they will be more persuasive than they have in the past with the Sharon administration.
UPDATE: One reader e-mails that this post demonstrates an "apparent callousness towards Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its civilians." That was not my intention. The obvious (but unstated) point is that if Iraq chooses to retaliate by attacking Israel, it would be much better for the United States to respond with force (or, rather redirect what force they are applying), rather than have Israel act on its own.
And so, the end is near....
The question that's been asked this weekend is, "Handled differently, could there have been a better outcome? Could the U.S. have succeeded in prosecuting a war with the U.N.'s blessing?"
The New York Times and Washington Post both have detailed post-mortems on the last six months of diplomacy [Are they slanted in any way?--ed. The Times account is pretty biased in reporting U.S. missteps but not those of other countries, but the information contained in the article seems accurate.] If you read them carefully, the following is clear:
1) The administration could have done more. Anonymous administration quotes in both stories acknowledge that they've made mistakes. What's appalling in both the Times and Post accounts is how little effort the administration put into its diplomatic efforts. Here's the Post:
The easy thing to do here is blame the Rumsfeld/Cheney side of the administration. The Times story, however, is surprisingly blunt at pointing the blame at Powell:
Let's be clear -- Powell's task was not helped by Donald Rumsfeld's audition for a late-night talk show gig. However, since Powell was the principal who pushed the multilateral route, it was his obligation to execute that track to the utmost of his ability.
2) If the administration had expended more effort, there would be more multilateral support... If you make a list of the key countries that needed persuading on Iraq, it comes down to the Security Council members plus key regional actors. Let's list those countries: Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guinea, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey.
Now, some of those countries were persuaded, but most weren't. What's shocking is that many of the unpersuaded countries are close U.S. allies. With the exception of Turkey, however, none of them received any positive inducements, in the form of tangible carrots or expressions of empathy to their objections. Instead, there were hints at possible retaliation. Here's the Times again:
At a minimum, if the administration had expended more effort and more resources on the diplomatic front, there would be more support for the U.S. position now. But....
3) The outcome -- military action without an explicit Security Council resolution -- would still be the same. There is fundamental disagreement between the U.S. and France, Germany, and the U.N. bureaucracy on Iraq. The U.S. prefers to see Iraq disarmed and Saddam Hussein removed from power, even if that means the use of force. France, Russia, Kofi Annan, and Hans Blix prefer the absence of war, even if that means Iraq refuses to fully comply and Saddam Hussein stays in power.
[Aren't you overstating French inflexibility?--ed. Exhibit #1 -- what Cheney said on Meet the Press and Face the Nation: "he rattled off an impressively detailed case against the credibility of the French when it comes to disarming Iraq. France, he explained, opposed a 1995 U.N. resolution finding Iraq in material breach; a 1996 resolution condemning the massacre of the Kurds; a 1997 attempt to block travel by Iraqi intelligence and military officials; and the 1999 creation of the UNMOVIC weapons-inspection regime. The French also declared in 1998 that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, Cheney said. 'Given that pattern of behavior," Cheney told Russert, "I think it's difficult to believe that 30 days or 60 more days are going to change anything.'" Exhibit #2 -- Chirac's unequivovcal statement from last week.]
No amount of diplomacy in the world could have reconciled those views. A better effort would have left France more isolated in the Security Council and given the looming war a greater patina of multilateralism. Make no mistake, however, this ending is not that much different from a best-case scenario.