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Notes on Iraq

So how goes the quagmire?

In the Washington Times Andrew Apostolou says the Iraqi insurgency is made up almost entirely of Sunni Arab Baathists, and that they most likely will fight to the finish.

It will be a tough slog, but they aren’t likely to win.

[T]he insurgents are probably a minority within a minority. The U.S. military estimates their numbers at around 5,000 men. There are more Sunni Arabs fighting with the coalition in the new Iraqi police force.

Once the insurgents are defeated, and they almost certainly will be, the prospects for a decent future look pretty good.

Asked to choose the form of government Iraq needed now, 90% of those interviewed – in their own homes – said an Iraqi democracy, and overwhelmingly rejected the idea that democracy was only for Westerners and would not work in Iraq.

[W]hen asked to suggest the best thing that could happen in the next year, fewer than 1% said an Islamic government.

Dean Goofs, Clarifies

In an interview with the Concorde Monitor, Howard Dean says a bunch of stuff that later has to be “clarified” on his blog. (Via Daniel Drezner.)

Dean said there was no evidence to suggest the Bush administration’s use of force against Iraq had anything to do with Libya’s move [to shut down its weapons of mass destruction programs].

“I have no way of knowing whether we could or could not have done it” before the Iraq war, Dean said.

Let me just repeat this quote, since it obviously hasn’t gotten across.

Gaddafi himself said:

I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.

Case closed.

Back to Howard Dean.

We’ve had six or eight justifications of why [Bush] went to war in Iraq

Reminding everyone that there is a long list of reasons for going to war in Iraq is a poor strategy for an anti-war campaign.

Here are six or eight justifications, the existence of which do not boost Howard Dean’s position.

1. Saddam Hussein was in violation of the cease-fire agreements that put the 1991 Gulf War on hold by firing at British and American airplanes in the no-fly zones.

2. Saddam Hussein was in violation of more than a dozen UN Security Council resolutions, including one that threatened the use of force if he did not immediatly surrender all relevant documentation to Hans Blix regarding the production of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

3. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator guilty of genocide and other crimes against humanity.

4. Saddam Hussein publicly threatened to finish Hitler’s job by destroying the state of Israel.

5. Saddam Hussein was an obstacle to long-overdue political liberalization and democratization in the Arab Middle East.

6. Saddam Hussein’s support for Palestinian terrorists made a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict impossible.

7. Saddam Hussein was an ongoing threat to Saudi Arabia, and due to Saudi support for Al Qaeda and Islamic fascism generally, the United States was not able to continue protecting the House of Saud indefinitely, nor could the world afford to have Saddam Hussein in control of Saudi oil and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina if we abandoned the Saudis to their fate.

8. In the post-911 era of apocalyptic terrorism, mass-murdering anti-American dictators who align themselves with terrorists and who have produced and deployed the weapons of genocide are too dangerous to be allowed to remain in power.

The Monitor asked: Where should Osama bin Laden be tried if he’s caught? Dean said he didn’t think it made any difference, and if he were president he would consult with his lawyers for advice on the subject.

Howard Dean needs a whole team of high-priced lawyers to tell him that the mass-murderer of Americans ought to be put on trial in America instead of in France or Saudi Arabia or Micronesia. This reminds me of the time when the first president Bush, while running for re-election, had no idea how much a gallon of milk costs. A president has to be at least slightly in tune with how normal people think and live, and must be able to demonstrate that he doesn’t live on a rarified plane in another dimension.

But wouldn’t most Americans feel strongly that bin Laden should be tried in America – and put to death?

“I’ve resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found,” Dean said.

Osama bin Laden admitted to planning the September 11 attacks, then laughed about it on camera.

I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials.

Dean issued a clarifying statement on his blog.

I share the outrage of all Americans.

Then why the need to clarify? Bush, Gephardt, and Lieberman never have to issue statements like this.

Osama bin Laden has admitted that he is responsible for killing 3,000 Americans as well as scores of men, women and children around the world.

Then let’s not worry about prejudging jury trials. K?

Our Friends the French

At the request of the United States, France arrested seven men and then released them.

French authorities found nothing to suggest the men had terrorist links.

All seven were on a US terrorist watch list and were scheduled to fly on the same Air France flight from Paris to Los Angeles. An intercepted Al Qaeda email even singled out the flight number.

This isn’t evidence? It’s one heck of a coincidence then. We have their names. The French damn well better hope these guys don’t terrorize someone later.

The Emerging Mainstream

Young people may be more conservative than their elders in some ways, but not in every way.

A new poll has found that 79 percent of all Americans believe that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

In the 18-29 year age range, 91 percent said that gays should be allowed to serve openly. Those aged 30-49, 50-64, and 65 and over were 81, 74, and 68 percent respectively.

Full equality for gay citizens is going to happen.

The anti-gay position is simply disintegrating. Those who don’t like it best get used to it. Because when my generation runs the country, equality won’t be left-wing, it will be mainstream. (Via Kevin Drum.)

Playing Dumb

Howard Dean is pretending to be stupid.

Here he is on the capture of Saddam Hussein:

“If we are safer, how come we lost 10 more troops and raised the safety alert” to the orange level, Dean said Sunday night in Ankeny, Iowa.

I don’t really think he’s that dumb. I could be wrong, perhaps I’m overestimating him. But he’s a successful governor and a doctor. You don’t get that far in life without smarts. What I really think is that Howard Dean thinks his supporters are stupid.

No one could possibly believe the capture of Saddam Hussein would make every single Baathist thug in Iraq lay down his arms and go home. No one could possibly believe that yanking Saddam out of a hole in the ground would make Al Qaeda quit the jihad.

I doubt there’s a single anti-war activist who thinks the hawks believe the Terror War is over all of a sudden. But Howard Dean thinks so and hopes his supporters will find his latest pop-off witty and clever. I think he’s mistaken. “Safer” doesn’t mean “safe,” and everyone knows it.

If George W. Bush said “We got Saddam, the War on Terror is over,” then Howard Dean would have a point.

POST-SCRIPT: If, like me, you can’t get enough of Howard Dean, check out Jonathan Chait’s Diary of a Dean-o-phobe blog at The New Republic. Chait is a Bush-hating liberal who would rather plug away at Howard Dean on a regular basis. Dean just does that to people.

Jeff Jarvis Profiled

Norman Geras profiles Jeff Jarvis:

I called myself a pacifist early in the age of Vietnam and did not change my mind until September 11. There’s an old joke that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. A hawk is a pacifist in the foxhole.

Friedman Discovers Poland

Andrew Apostolou makes fun of Thomas Friedman for being six months behind the news. Poland is pro-American. Who knew?

Friedman is sometimes silly, but I confess to being a fan. His book From Beirut to Jerusalem is sadly out of date (he’s a little too optimistic about the Oslo peace process), but it’s nevertheless a fantastic piece of Middle East reporting that reads like a suspenseful historical novel.

And maybe Friedman is a bit slow on Poland, but I enjoyed the piece anyway.

After two years of traveling almost exclusively to Western Europe and the Middle East, Poland feels like a geopolitical spa. I visited here for just three days and got two years of anti-American bruises massaged out of me. Get this: people here actually tell you they like America — without whispering. What has gotten into these people? Have all their subscriptions to Le Monde Diplomatique expired? Haven’t they gotten the word from Berlin and Paris? No, they haven’t. In fact, Poland is the antidote to European anti-Americanism. Poland is to France what Advil is to a pain in the neck. Or as Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign affairs specialist, remarked after visiting Poland: “Poland is the most pro-American country in the world — including the United States.”

I detected no anti-Americanism when I visited France. But I can’t read French newspapers, and I hung around waiters and cab drivers, not Chirac and de Villepin. I’d still like to visit Poland, though. It’s a beautiful country, and it’s always nice to be welcomed.

Tragedy in Iran

The AP says the death toll in the Iran earthquake could be as high as 40,000. That’s two thirds the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War.

The Bam fortress, the world’s largest mud-brick structure, is gone.

A Drive Through Western Oregon

Some days I just have to get out of the city.

My Italian friend Giorgio inspired me. He visited us for Christmas (in Boise) and desperately wanted to drive in the countryside. “I need to see the American West,” he said. “This is all so exotic to me.”

Venice, Rome, and little Italian hill towns are old hat to him. 300-foot tall Evergreen spires are like trees on another world.

So we drove through the high desert and up into the mountains. “It looks like Lord of the Rings here” he said. I could see what he meant. The region around Boise looks a lot like Rohan.

Today I took a drive from my own city of Portland to the Pacific. I left the lush Willamette Valley behind, climbed into snow in the Coast Range mountains, and hit the beach as the sun came out. I tried to see my countryside through the eyes of a foreigner. I’ve lived in Western Oregon for almost 30 years, so it’s hard. But the beauty of this place still astonishes all the same.

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All photos copyright Michael J. Totten

Back from the Big B

Just got back from a festive get-together of far-flung friends in Boise, Idaho (the Big B! as our friend Ezra from Manhatten calls it.) Our pal Giorgio flew in from Milan, Italy and wanted to drive to the mountains to see cowboys and Indians. The Indians pulled a no-show, but he did get to see some big hats.

We did the Christmas thing early with the parents this year, so Shelly and I have all day at home to ourselves in peace and quiet. So it’s time for me to get off the blog. (And what are you doing surfing the blogosphere today?)

Here’s hoping your Christmas is a Merry one. Cheers.

Talk is Cheap

The editors at the Guardian think Libya’s decision to relinquish its weapons of mass destruction is a victory of talk over force.

Patient diplomacy, dialogue, negotiation, clearly enunciated principles and red lines, respect, mutual trust, and attractive incentives – these are the civil tools that helped bring, at the weekend, perhaps the most significant, tangible breakthrough in arms control since the strategic weapons pacts of the later cold war era. Libya has gone from 1986 target of Ronald Reagan’s bombs, from “rogue” sponsor of non-state, anti-western terrorism and, as it now admits, from active pursuer of nuclear and chemical arms to, if all sides honour the bargain, a prospectively valuable friend and partner.

I wouldn’t say Libya will be a valuable friend and partner any time soon. Not with Gaddafi in charge. The Guardian once again is too quick to make friends with dictators.

Even more dubious is the assertion that patient diplomacy explains Libya’s capitulation. Because capitulation is exactly what it was.

Andrew Apostolou says the French and Germans, if they happened to be involved, would only have mucked it all up.

The fact that France, Germany, and Russia were not directly involved in the contacts with Libya was also a key element in their success. We can only imagine the diplomatic fiasco that would have resulted from the French, German, or Russian foreign ministers landing in Tripoli to invite themselves into the negotiations as intermediaries. These supposed friends of the U.S. would have sent muddled signals to Khaddafi. Instead of facing a firm, but fair, Anglo-American position, the Libyan dictator would have ended up deluding himself — something that he does not find difficult — into believing that was an alternative to full compliance with his international obligations. Perhaps now is the time for that other victim of an overly active imagination, Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, to confine himself to literature.

If anyone doubts this is a victory for the hawks, they need only listen to Gaddafi himself:

I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.

And that, I think, settles that.

Carrying Water for Saddam

According to the Telegraph, the BBC has banned the use of the word “dictator” to describe Saddam Hussein. He was “endorsed” in a “referendum” where he received 100 percent of the “vote.” Therefore, the BBC says Saddam Hussein was “elected” and was not a dictator.

A BCC spokesman explains:

We wanted to remind journalists whose work is seen and heard internationally of the need to use neutral language.

Saying Saddam was elected is not neutral. It is naked Baath Party propaganda.

No one receives 100 percent of the vote in a democratic election. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was modelled after Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The people at the BBC know this and don’t care. They are liars. They lie when they say Saddam was elected, and they lie when they say they are neutral.

All media institutions are biased. Fox News is conservative and everyone knows it, despite Fox’s denial. NPR is liberal and everyone knows it, despite NPR’s denial. The BBC is staunchly anti-British, staunchly anti-American, moderately pro-terrorist, and moderately pro-Baathist. Neutral? Please. Only Indymedia is less neutral in the West.

There is nothing wrong with liberal or conservative bias. It’s to be expected in a free country with a free press. There is no excuse for pro-Baathist bias outside a one-party police state.

If editors and journalists admitted their biases and filters, their credibility would be bolstered not undermined. You can compensate for conscious bias. Bias denied only festers and drifts into extremes.

Evil

In a few short paragraphs, Patrick Lasswell writes a creepy and highly original defense of the use of the word evil.

Do Intentions Matter?

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that no one in the Bush Administration cares a fig about the Iraqi people or the democratization of Iraq, and that the war was conducted for nefarious reasons. Yet good has come from the war nevertheless.

Does it matter? It’s a tough question if it’s taken seriously, and Norman Geras has a pretty good answer.

UPDATE: Tom Perry (aka Dipnut at Isntapundit) has a thoughtful answer, too. Go read.

The Decline of France

I enjoy taking a poke at France as much as the next person, but I should say that Shelly and I went to Paris and Cassis on our honeymoon two years ago and we had a wonderful time. I liked France a great deal, and I do feel some affection for it. The French people were much nicer to us than I expected, given their reputation, and I haven’t seen a city anywhere that can rival Paris in either beauty or culture.

Roger L. Simon just got back from a trip to France where he did some research for a novel. He filed this report, and I’m sorry to say that it isn’t looking good for them.

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