Friday, July 11, 2003

Pat Robertson acting like a foreign policy jackass -- again.

Michael Totten and David Adesnik have already commented on this, but it's worth going into more detail.

Televangelist Pat Robertson's most notable contribution to the foreign policy debate since 9/11 was to say that Muslims were worse than Nazis, so we shouldn't expect much of use to come from his lips.

However, he's hit a new low -- defending Liberia's Charles Taylor. Here's a sample of what he's said on the subject (click here for more):

July 7: We have given money to a Muslim country, Guinea, and the rebels who are coming against Taylor are Muslims, and the fighting in Africa that's taking place right now is an example of the Muslims trying to overrun the Christian countries, and they're being funded out of Saudi Arabia. A huge amount of money is now going into what's now called the Democratic Republic of Congo to overturn and undermine. Same thing is happening in Ivory Coast.

It's country after country, but the State Department doesn't wake up, they don't understand what the game is, and consequently they make bad decisions. So we're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country.

July 9: Ladies and gentlemen, I would remind the senators that we sent our troops to Kosovo to back up a Muslim group over there, to help them against the Christian Serbs. In this case, we're looking at Muslim rebels trying to overthrow a Christian nation.

Charles Taylor may be a Baptist, but he's also an indicted war criminal whose primary hobbies over the past decade were exporting war to the rest of West Africa and cooperating with Al Qaeda (link via Radley Balko). As Ryan Lizza observes in The New Republic:

Name the following despot: In 1991, he invaded a neighboring country, where his men committed wholesale looting and massive atrocities. In 1998, he personally met with a senior Al Qaeda operative now listed as one of the FBI's 25 "Most Wanted" terrorists. He is the single greatest threat to the stability of one of the most important oil-producing regions in the world. Saddam Hussein? No, Charles Taylor of Liberia.

What makes Robertson's advocacy for Taylor even more galling is his financial dealings with Taylor. According to Christianity Today:

In 1998, Robertson formed a $15 million company, Freedom Gold Limited, to look for gold in Liberia. In 1999, the company signed an agreement with the government of Liberia to begin gold-mining operations....

In a letter to the editor [in the Washington Post], Robertson denied that the Liberian government owned part of the company....

[Freedom Gold's manager James] Mathews acknowledged that the Liberian government will receive 10 percent of Freedom Gold's stock when the company goes public.

Mother Jones has the story as well.

The one potential upside to all of this is that Robertson has become so toxic that the evangelical community has started to distance themselves from him [UPDATE: some social conservatives have already distanced themselves from Robertson]. According to today's Post:

Other Baptist and evangelical Christian leaders said they do not share either Robertson's support for Taylor or his criticism of President Bush's call for the Liberian leader to go into exile. "I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one," said Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm.

Allen Hertzke, a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma and the author of a forthcoming book on evangelicals and human rights, said many religious conservatives "will be horrified" by Robertson's stance. "His comments really feed into the media critique of Christian conservatives, that they are not sophisticated, they don't care about others, all they care about are Christians around the world -- when in fact that is a caricature of the faith-based human rights movement," Hertzke said.

In his broadcasts, Robertson has portrayed the Liberian civil war as primarily a fight between Christians and Muslims. Serge Duss, director of public policy for the international Christian relief group World Vision, called that a gross oversimplification.

World Vision and other Christian organizations lobbied successfully this year for legislation banning the importation into the United States of diamonds from war-torn African countries. Taylor has been indicted by a United Nations-established tribunal for allegedly backing militias -- funded largely by the sale of diamonds -- that raped and maimed civilians during the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Is the country finally at the point when Pat Robertson can just be ignored?

posted by Dan at 05:15 PM | Trackbacks (1)

John B. Judis, Meet Leon Trotsky

In Salon today, John Judis argues that Howard Dean would get mauled if he became the Democratic nominee:

To put it in regional terms: Dean, a culturally libertarian New Englander who opposed the war, could virtually forget about winning any Southern or border states. Southerners are willing to support a Southern Democrat like Clinton with whom they can identify, but they will not vote for a Dukakis or Dean. Dean would not simply get trounced in the South: His candidacy would allow Bush to take the entire South for granted and move all his resources into states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that the Democrats have to win. In the end, Dean would be lucky to hold on to Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, D.C., Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Wouldn't the other candidates do just as poorly? If Bush's popularity remains high, they might also be trounced. If, however, the economy continues to falter, and if Americans become skeptical about the benefits of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a Democrat could defeat Bush -- though only if the election pivots on Bush's successes and failures and not on the qualifications of his Democratic opponent. The Democrats would be much better off in that case with a blander, more faceless, less exciting Kerry, Gephardt or even Lieberman (perhaps with Edwards, Florida Sen. Bob Graham, or retired Gen. Wesley Clark as running mate) than they would be with a fiery, controversial Dean.

Is Judis correct? Possibly, but that's not what interests me. What's puzzling about the essay is that Judis argued last year, in The Emerging Democratic Majority with Ruy Teixeira, that over the next decade the same demographic groups that are pushing Dean forward will make the Democrats the majority party (click here for their web site)

How does Judis reconciles this argument with what he says about Dean in Salon? Frankly, it's not clear to me that he does. Here's the key graf on this:

As the proportion of professionals in the workforce grows -- driven by the transition from an industrial to a postindustrial capitalism -- a candidate like Dean may eventually command a majority of the national electorate. Positions that now seem maverick -- like Dean's support for civil unions -- will eventually become mainstream, as women's rights and support for environmental protection have become. If Dean himself can gather a modicum of support from blue-collar and minority Democrats, he might even be able to win the Democratic nomination for president and face George W. Bush in the general election. The Democratic field this year is pretty mediocre. But if that does happen, it could lead to a long and unhappy fall for Democrats. Some of the factors that make Dean attractive to Democrats will not endear him to independent and Republican voters.

The implicit argument seems to be that the emerging Democratic majority is still emerging, and until that happens, someone of Dean's ilk will fare poorly in a national election. Wait until 2008, or 2012, and things will be different.

Maybe that's a correct assessment (although David Brooks makes a different demographic prediction). However, I kept flashing back to what one of Trotsky's biographers once said: "Proof of Trotsky's farsightedness is that none of his predictions have come true yet."

posted by Dan at 11:54 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, July 10, 2003

How Africa can help itself, cont'd

Yankee Blog, responding to my Botswana post of yesterday, points out the following:

[M]ore than any kind of developement, their [Botswana's] wealth is due largely to the presence of some large diamond mines. While the country has not fallen into such unrest that even diamond mining is not productive, it is still difficult to see Botswana as a model for the rest of Africa. Botswana has one of the highest HIV rates, a life expectancy at birth of around 35 years, and unemployment somewhere between 20 and 40%. I doubt this is a great model for showing what happens when Africa is able to help itself.

Two responses.

First, Botswana's ample natural endowments make it an excellent model for much of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The problem with these countries is not a lack of resource endowments, but the ability to exploit them in a way that leads to sustainable economic growth.

Second, the point about AIDS (which Virginia Postrel also made in an e-mail) is dead-on, as this CNN report suggests. The model African nation on this front is Uganda. The national AIDS commission has their own web site; according to this page, the percentage of the population infected with HIV has declined from 18% in the early 1990s to 6.5% in the end of 2001.

However, economic freedom plays an interesting role here as well. Click here for a very revealing CNN interview with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. One highlight:

Q: Why should people in Uganda pay for the R&D costs?

A: But ...why should they not? You see if they don't, you are really being naive, idealistic. These people are business people. They are in business because they make profits. First, they recover what they put into the development, and then they make a profit. How can you reasonably argue with them to produce these drugs at a loss to themselves? This is not common sense.

Then there's this quote from a speech Museveni gave last month to the U.S. pharamceutical lobby:

[The] real solution to the defeat of the pandemic lies in economic development and trade. In Africa, we have a terrain in which HIV, malaria, TB and other infections thrive to a degree nowadays unthinkable in Europe and the U.S. The common thread is poverty. For poverty creates an environment, physical as well as social, highly favorable to disease.

So, even as we mobilize our people to change their behavior to protect themselves against HIV, we have to promote broad-based economic growth that will lead to improvement in living conditions and levels of education. The surest path to that kind of growth is trade and investment


posted by Dan at 09:55 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Iran round-up

Alas, I was too busy with other things to post on Iran. Fortunately, the rest of the blogosphere is on the job.

For more info on the cancellation of Iranian student protests in Tehran today -- but not elsewhere -- go to Jeff Jarvis, Winds of Change, Oxblog, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, James Lileks, Kevin Drum, and all of Pejman Yousefzadeh's posts for today.

posted by Dan at 04:50 PM | Trackbacks (0)

I'm only posting this for educational purposes

Kevin Drum posts about the net-savviness of the Democratic contenders for president. He first links to this story, which observes:

How popular on the Internet is [Howard] Dean these days? More popular than Madonna, Dr. Phil, or Alyssa Milano.

To which Kevin responds:

Hmmm, is that the best they could do? I mean, at least I've heard of Madonna and Dr. Phil, but who's Alyssa Milano? (emphasis added)

In the interest of general edification, I fear I have no choice but to link to various informative sites about Alyssa Milano here, here, here, here, and here.

My hands were tied here, people.

UPDATE: One reader e-mails, "Wow, great stuff on Alyssa Milano, but who's Howard Dean?" Heh.

posted by Dan at 04:40 PM | Trackbacks (0)

How Africa can help itself

Given the spate of recent coverage about Africa's political, economic, and humanitarian woes, it's worth pointing out Botswana as a clear success story. Canada's Fraser Institute just released its 2003 annual report on economic freedom of the world. In their press release, they point out the following:

The least economically free nations tend to be clustered in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. "But, even here exceptions show the power of economic freedom," says McMahon.

"Botswana has long had significantly higher levels of economic freedom than other sub-Saharan African nations and this is demonstrated by how much better off the people of Botswana have become compared to the citizens of other African nations," he explains.

In 1970, Botswana's per capital GDP was US$590, less than the sub-Saharan average of US$609. After three decades of relatively high economic freedom, Botswana's per capita GDP rose to US$3,950 while in the rest of Africa, where economic freedom levels were dismal, per capita GDP shrunk to US$564.

In the 2003 report, Botswana has the 26th highest level of economic freedom, tied with eight other nations including Japan and Norway.

Foreign aid and preferential trade agreements can help African countries, but only if they also help themselves.

posted by Dan at 03:21 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Good news in Afghanistan

I've been pessimistic about the state of affairs in Afghanistan, so I'm happy to highlight more positive news. Glenn Reynolds links to this USA Today story indicating optimism among Afghans regarding the current state of affairs in the country.

And this VOA story strongly suggests that Afghans do not want to see a return to Taliban rule. Ransacking an embassy is over the top, but it does indicate the salience of this issue to ordinary residents of Kabul.

posted by Dan at 12:50 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Peacekeeping Institute to stay open

In April I blogged about the Army's dubious cost-cutting decision to shut down the Peacekeeping Institute at the U.S. Army War College.

Looks like the Bush administration has changed its mind:

With guerrilla-style attacks escalating against U.S. occupying forces in Iraq, the Pentagon said yesterday it has put off plans to close the military's only institution devoted to the study of peacekeeping.

The Pentagon had decided to shut the Peacekeeping Institute at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., on Oct. 1 as part of a money-saving initiative.

The move was viewed as a sign of the Bush administration's lack of interest in peacekeeping duties and drew widespread criticism because of the war in Iraq and the intensifying resistance to the U.S. occupation.

"We've put on hold the earlier decision to close the Peacekeeping Institute, and we're in the process of reviewing its charter based on the operational environment right now," Pentagon spokeswoman Alison Bettencourt said.

"Obviously, there's Iraq. We also have forces in Afghanistan and the Balkans," she added. "Stability and support operations are increasingly important."

Congrats to the administration for moving down the learning curve on this one.

posted by Dan at 12:32 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Democrats and foreign policy

Looking for links on my Dean essay in TNR Online? Here goes.

My previous blog post about Dean and Kerry is here . Dean's June 25th foreign policy speech (which Will Saletan savaged in this Slate article) is available on his official web site; his June 23rd speech officially kicking off his presidential campaign. comes from the official blog. The quote about free trade hollowing out America's manufacturing sector comes from this site. Here is Dean's Meet the Press transcript.

My appraisal of the other Democratic foreign policy platforms can be found here. The relevant Foreign Policy issue is here, as is a link for further reading on the positions of Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, and Lieberman. And, for good measure, here's a link to the Democrats for National Security web site, about which I blogged here and here.

The point that Dean makes about how the U.S. should act if it's a declining world hegemon has been made in the academy by Joseph Nye in The Paradox of American Power and John Ikenberry in After Victory.

Finally, my explanation for why Dean is wrong about the race to the bottom in the global economy is available here.

One final Dean link; this J.P. Gownder essay from Sunday's Washington Post suggests that Dean's Internet strategy isn't as revolutionary as people believe:

[H]ad helped Dean reach new constituencies, such as African Americans, other ethnic communities, working class people, non-liberals? Not based on what I saw. Without the Internet, it was likely that Dean would find support among affluent, white, liberal professionals. With the Internet, he attracted affluent, white, liberal professionals who spent a lot of time online. was just a continuation of politics by other means.

On Wednesday night, I attended another of Dean's meetings, this one at Boston Beer Works near Fenway Park. The crowd of 55 people was about the same, although a bit younger: No blacks, mostly men, another laid off dot-com employee, another laptop-generated video.

posted by Dan at 12:14 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Taking Howard Dean seriously

My latest TNR essay is up -- it's a sober appraisal of Howard Dean's foreign policy views. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 11:47 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Volokh and Baker

Eugene Volokh responds to the Dusty Baker question here, here, here, and here. The gist of Volokh's point is that, a) Baker may well be correct in his generalization, in which case he shouldn't need to apologize, and b) Even if he is wrong, there was no malicious intent in Baker's words: "they don't sound mean-spirited or insulting, and Baker gave no indication that he was going to act illegally based on those stereotypes." Read all of his posts for more on this.

Like Eugene, I have no clue whether Baker's generalization is factually correct, but my suspicion is that it is not (it certainly depends on the definition of "white."), which was my problem with the comment.

Another concern of mine -- and I'm walking right into Volokh's area of expertise on this -- is the slippery slope question. Eugene distinguishes between generalizations of physical conditions ("blacks perform better in baseball in hot weather") and those of moral character ("blacks are less coachable athletes"). The latter are examples of bad manners; the former are not.

Part of me wants to agree with him on this, because to disagree means applying a moral censure over a wider swath of conversations about race. Conversations about race in this country are circumscribed enough as it is, so I'm very uneasy with suggesting further constraints.

Volokh admits, however, that the physical/character dichotomy is "a subtle difference and one of degree," and "speculations about morals and ethics involve many more vague lines, subtle differences of degree , and unprovable propositions about human nature than even speculations about law do." Under Volokh's criteria, for example, is it permissible for a coach to make comments distinguishing between the races on a combination of physical and character issues, i.e., "Blacks do worse in pressure situations because their bodies generate excessive amounts of adrenaline under stress relative to whites?" I want the dividing line to be as clear as Eugene, but I'm pessimistic that it really is this distinct.

I don't think Baker should be penalized or punished for what he said. I agree with Eugene that this is a case of bad manners rather than anything more serious. But I still think he should apologize.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh responds to my response. Robert Tagorda also weighs in.

posted by Dan at 11:45 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Can Dusty Baker take the heat?

Dusty Baker -- the current manager of the Chicago Cubs -- was quoted making the following observation this past Saturday:

Personally, I like to play in the heat," he said. "It's easier for me. It's easier for most Latin guys and easier for most minority people.

"You don't find too many brothers in New Hampshire and Maine and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, right? We were brought over here for the heat, right? Isn't that history? Weren't we brought over because we could take the heat?

"Your skin color is more conducive to the heat than it is to the light-skinned people, right? You don't see brothers running around burnt and stuff ... running around with white stuff on their ears and nose and stuff."

Now there's a minor furor over the issue, as this USA Today story recounts. Some key grafs:

Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, dismissing suggestions he made a racist assertion when speaking with reporters about day baseball, stands by his comments that black and Hispanic players are better suited to playing in the sun and heat than white players....

Harry Edwards, a sports sociologist who served on the faculty at the University of California-Berkeley for 30 years, called the comments "unfortunate and not totally informed" but said they weren't malicious....

"If a white manager made those statements, there's no question he would find himself in a group that includes Al Campanis and Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder," Edwards said.

Baker, one of four African-Americans among seven minority managers in the major leagues, agrees. "But as a black manager, I can say things about blacks that a white manager can't say, and whites can say things about whites that blacks can't say."

Now, the problem I have with this is that Baker is not saying things only about blacks. He's making a comparative statement about different races -- blacks and Latinos are better at tolerating the heat than whites. There is no difference between the content of what Baker said and the content of what CBS Sports analyst Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder said fifteen years ago when he argued that blacks were better athletes because of the way they were bred as slaves. Snyder recanted; Baker is standing firm.

Should Baker apologize for making such uninformed and stereotypical remarks? Yes, he should.

UPDATE: Two e-mails worthy of note. The first from reader J.G.:

There's a great difference
between saying "eugenical breeding during slavery made blacks more athletic" and saying "people of African origin, because of the greater amount of melanin in their skin, can better cope with heat and the sun. In fact, Africans evolved with dark skin as a defense against the climate of their long-ago ancestors."

The second from reader J.B.:

Dusty Baker should first apologize for selecting for the All-Star Game a pitcher with an ERA exceeding 6. If he really thinks that saves constitute a meaningful statistic, given prevailing pitcher usage patterns and the rules governing saves, then someone should buy him a copy of Michael Lewis's Moneyball, along with all those old copies of Bill James's ground-breaking abstracts.

posted by Dan at 05:38 PM | Trackbacks (0)

The 2003 Human Development Report

The Human Development Report 2003 will be released this week by the UN Development Program. The Financial Times provides a summary. The key grafs:

At the current pace of change sub-Saharan Africa will not attain international poverty reduction goals until the year 2147, more than a century later than hoped, the United Nations Development Programme's annual Human Development Report warned on Tuesday....

While substantial progress in China and India during the 1990s meant worldwide poverty reduction targets could be achieved, "a very significant hardcore of countries ended further behind (after the 90s)," says Mark Malloch Brown, the UNDP's head. Fifty-four countries (many from Africa and the former Soviet bloc) grew poorer, and 21 saw a decline in their human development indicators, such as life expectancy and education.

The report calls for renewed attention to this group of often small and landlocked nations, which are "perilously off track", and says rich countries must make a much more serious commitment to achieving the eight 'Millennium Development Goals', agreed in September 2000. They include halving extreme poverty by 2015, and creating of a "non-discriminatory trading and financial system".

At present, says UNDP, the EU's cash subsidy to each dairy cow exceeds its total per capita aid to the region, while US subsidies to cotton growers more than triple US government aid to sub-Saharan Africa. "Unless rich countries keep their pledges to deliver financing for development, the goals will not be met," it says.

Powerful stuff, somewhat vitiated by the UNDP's atrocious track record in statistical methodology. [How does that matter?--ed. I'm glad you asked.]

As recently as last year, the Human Development Report used currency market exchange rates, rather than purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, to measure income disparities across nations. There is a consensus among economists that PPP exchange rates are far more accurate at converting income across countries (long story short, PPP rates cover nontradeable services better). Market exchange rates drastically understate the size of developing country economies.

By using market exchange rates, the Human Development Report concluded that global income inequality was vastly increasing. In committing this methodological sin, the UNDP provided prestigious but factually incorrect ammunition for anti-globalization activists. One could go even further to argue that in muddying up the clear positive correlation between globalization and reductions in global income inequality, the UNDP set back the development debate by half a decade.

This screw-up eventually led to the creation of a UN commission to study such gross statistical whoppers, but as of last year, no change in their calculation of income inequality.

According to their web site, Jeffrey Sachs is guest editor of this year's HDR. The general consensus is that Sachs is not an idiot, and this note suggests that the 2003 report should be an improvement over its predecessors.

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Showdown in the occupied territories

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to resign unless given more latitude in his negotiations with Israel, according to the AP:

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas threatened to quit as premier and resigned from a key body of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement Tuesday, reflecting turmoil within the Palestinian leadership over negotiations with Israel....

Abbas has been facing strong pressure within his Fatah movement to adopt a tough line on the prisoner releases. In a letter to Arafat, he said he would step down as premier unless he gets clear instructions from Fatah over how to handle contacts with Israel....

Palestinian leaders proposed Monday that Abbas and security chief Mohammed Dahlan meet with Israeli Knesset members to help press Palestinian demands for a prisoner release. The meeting has yet to be scheduled.

Israel holds an estimated 7,000 Palestinian prisoners -- an issue that threatens to become a major crisis between the sides -- and this week Sharon's Cabinet decided to free perhaps 5 percent of them. Israel thought the planned prisoner release would strengthen Abbas' position. But top Palestinian officials say its limited scope could weaken Abbas by making him look ineffectual.

This will be an interesting test for the Palestinian leadership. Abbas' primary lever of power is that the Americans and Israelis will actually negotiate with him. The question is whether losing that link is costly enough to force the rest of Fatah to back down.

posted by Dan at 03:12 PM | Trackbacks (0)

New blog of note

NEW BLOG OF NOTE: A month ago I posted some recommendations for left-of-center bloggers as possible prospects for the left-of-center New York Times op-ed page.

Looks like some of them have decided not to wait, and are forming their own group blog instead, Crooked Timber. I heartily recommend it -- although Chris Bertram's description of the group effort is a bit over the top:

Crooked Timber is a cabal of philosophers, politicians manque, would-be journalists, sociologues, financial gurus, dilletantes and flaneurs who have assembled to bring you the benefit of their practical and theoretical wisdom on matters historical, literary, political, philosophical, economic, sociological, cultural, sporting, artistic, cinematic, musical, operatic, comedic, tragic, poetic, televisual &c &c, all from perspectives somewhere between Guy Debord, Henry George and Dr Stephen Maturin.

posted by Dan at 10:30 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, July 7, 2003

Virginia Postrel wants to steal the blogosphere's bread and butter

In this post on the disturbing tendency of commentators to escalate the rhetorical arms race as a way of capturing attention, Postrel concludes:

There is only one (partial) solution to this "impoverish[ment] of our political discourse." Just say no to reviews of and columns on stupid books. Discuss something more interesting. Easy advice to give. Hard to follow.

No kidding. What percentage of blogposts are denunciations of some blowhard on the political extremes?

Postrel's motivation for the post comes from this Andrew Sullivan comment on Ann Coulter:

In the ever-competitive marketplace of political ideas - in a world of blogs and talk radio and cable news - it's increasingly hard to stand out. Coulter's answer to that dilemma is two-fold: look amazing and ratchet up the rhetoric against the left until it has the subtlety and nuance of a car alarm. The left, in turn, has learned the lesson, which is why the fraud and dissembler, Michael Moore, has done so well.

It's worth pointing out that John Stuart Mill anticipated this problem in On Liberty, but believed it to be the lesser evil:

I do not pretend that the most unlimited use of the freedom of enunciating all possible opinions would put an end to the evils of religious or philosophical sectarianism. Every truth which men of narrow capacity are in earnest about, is sure to be asserted, inculcated, and in many ways even acted on, as if no other truth existed in the world, or at all events none that could limit or qualify the first. I acknowledge that the tendency of all opinions to become sectarian is not cured by the freest discussion, but is often heightened and exacerbated thereby; the truth which ought to have been, but was not, seen, being rejected all the more violently because proclaimed by persons regarded as opponents. But it is not on the impassioned partisan, it is on the calmer and more disinterested bystander, that this collision of opinions works its salutary effect. Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth, but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil; there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood.


posted by Dan at 10:45 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Explaining Bush's dare

\David Warren ventures an explanation for Bush's dare to Iraqi guerillas. The key grafs:

They [Bush critics] notice that the U.S. forces in Iraq have become a new magnet for regional terrorist activity. They assume this demonstrates the foolishness of President Bush's decision to invade.

It more likely demonstrates the opposite. While engaged in the very difficult business of building a democracy in Iraq -- the first democracy, should it succeed, in the entire history of the Arabs -- President Bush has also, quite consciously to my information, created a new playground for the enemy, away from Israel, and even farther away from the United States itself. By the very act of proving this lower ground, he drains terrorist resources from other swamps.

This is the meaning of Mr. Bush's "bring 'em on" taunt from the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday, when he was quizzed about the "growing threat to U.S. forces" on the ground in Iraq. It should have been obvious that no U.S. President actually relishes having his soldiers take casualties. What the media, and U.S. Democrats affect not to grasp, is that the soldiers are now replacing targets that otherwise would be provided by defenceless civilians, both in Iraq and at large.

It's an interesting rationale, slightly tarnished by the fact that Warren is factually incorrect in stating that Iraq would be the first Arab democracy. The scholarly consensus is that Lebanon was a functioning democracy prior to the outbreak of civil war.

posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)

The manpower crunch

That's the conclusion of Frederick Kagan, a military historian writing in the pages of the Weekly Standard (link via OxBlog). The key section:

We have already seen how chaos and civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s provided the breeding ground for terrorists and a haven for the bases where they trained. If U.S. forces are reduced or withdrawn too soon, similar conditions in Iraq will nurture the al Qaeda operatives of the future. The U.S.-led attack could end up bringing about the very threat that prompted it in the first place--the proliferation of Iraqi weapons to terrorist organizations--if we do not finish what we have begun by establishing a stable and peaceful regime in Iraq.

This will not be accomplished, however, without the prolonged deployment of significant numbers of American ground forces. Smart weapons cannot keep peace. They cannot get schools and hospitals running, or keep electricity and water flowing, or keep hostile neighbors from attacking one another, or provide a police presence to deter looters and criminals, or hunt down and capture individual terrorists, interrogate them, and learn from them the nature of the organizations to which they belong, or find traces of a WMD program hidden carefully in a country the size of California. Only soldiers and marines can accomplish these tasks, and, given the size and complexity of the country, only in fairly large numbers. Given the unrest and political chaos that currently engulf Iraq, it is hard to imagine that the United States will be able to withdraw any significant portion of its 146,000 troops from that country in less than a year without compromising our vital objectives....

It is time to stop pretending that the United States can prosecute a war on terror, conduct peacekeeping operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia, and maintain the security of the homeland without a substantial increase in the size of the armed forces. General Shinseki, the recently retired Army chief of staff, warns us to "beware the 12-division strategy for a 10-division army"--and even he understates the problem. In truth, the armed forces need an increase in size of at least 25 percent.

This problem is not going away anytime soon. The war on terrorism requires statebuilding, which requires large numbers of personnel on the ground. Demands for intervention will not be going away anytime soon, as the case of Liberia demonstrates.

My five-cent analysis is that the problem here is that Rumsfeld has paid far more attention to altering the warfighting doctrine than to the resources and training needed for postwar statebuilding. As I noted ten weeks agohere, the administration seems to have boxed itself into a corner on this issue.


UPDATE: I'm pretty sure the U.S. doesn't need to allocate so much manpower for this assignment.

posted by Dan at 10:15 AM | Trackbacks (0)