Man Without Qualities

Saturday, April 05, 2003

The Secretary Answers The Archbishop

An astute reader provides this anecdote, which I pass on with the qualification below.

When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush. Secretary Powell answered by saying:

"Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."

It became very quiet in the room.

Urban Legends explains:

Here's a prime example of how facts become garbled when run through the rumor mill.

Although U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell did utter words similar to the above, he was not in England at the time, nor was he addressing the current Archbishop of Canterbury, nor was he responding to a question about "empire building."

The actual occasion was an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 26, 2003, wherein Powell defended the U.S. government's position that the use of military force against Saddam Hussein, unilateral or otherwise, was not only justified but necessary if the complete disarmament of Iraq could not be achieved by other means.

In a question-and-answer session afterwards (during which the phrase "empire building" was never mentioned, incidentally), the secretary of state was asked by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey if he felt the U.S and its allies had given due consideration to the use of "soft power" — promulgating moral and democratic values as a means of achieving progress towards international peace and stability, basically — versus the "hard power" of military force.

Here, in part, is how Colin Powell actually responded to Carey's question:

There is nothing in American experience or in American political life or in our culture that suggests we want to use hard power. But what we have found over the decades is that unless you do have hard power — and here I think you're referring to military power — then sometimes you are faced with situations that you can't deal with.
I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.

So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world. [Applause.]

We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.

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Friday, April 04, 2003

Ireland To Iraq II

And to really make the point, they're meeting in Ulster.

By the way: It has always been a wonder to me that Tony Blair turned so early and so strongly to addressing the Northern Ireland mess after he became Prime Minister. Northern Ireland poses many risks for a British Prime Minister with few obvious clear benefits. I have long suspected that his decision to risk so much of his political capital on Northern Ireland, with its long history of intractable religious fighting, was likely influenced by his wife, Cheri, a devout Catholic and one of the best lawyers in Britain.

Few would now dispute the amazing good Mr. Blair has worked in Northern Ireland. It now appears that British experience in Northern Ireland may be key in capturing Baghdad with minimal civilian casualties.

Sometimes it seems clear that there must be a benevolent God, and that some good deeds aren't punished.
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What's The Big Deal?

Senator John Kerry is mad. He's fighting mad - or at least mad enough to authorize somebody to go to the United Nations and urgently enquire about fighting, which is what he now says he was doing when he voted for the resolution which everyone else in the country understood authorized the President to invade Iraq with or without another UN resolution. But the very same "everyone else int he country" also understand that the Senator is full of baloney in saying that's what he voted for - so it's OK.

Who can blame him? He's lashing out at top congressional Republicans who assailed him for just for saying that "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." That's really got his Irish up! Or, at least, its got something in there up. "I refuse to have my patriotism or right to speak out questioned. I fought for and earned the right to express my views in this country."

Yeah! What's the big deal? Senator Kerry's well within his rights and the great traditions of this great country and what we expect from our Presidential candidates! Didn't each and every one of the Republicans running against Franklin Roosevelt during World War II publicly state: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Hirohito and Japan, but we need a regime change in the United States!"

And didn't each and every one of the Republicans running during World War I publicly state: "What we need now is not just a regime change in the Kaiser and Germany, but we need a regime change in the United States!"

And didn't each and every one of the Democrats running against Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War publicly state: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy, but we need a regime change in the United States!"

And, of course, Eisenhower got himself elected running against Adlai Stevenson during the Korean War by publicly arguing: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Kim Il Sung and North Korea, but we need a regime change in the United States!"

And, more recently, how about Richard Nixon and all those Republicans running against then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey during the Vietnam War who publicly stated: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Ho Chi Min and North Vietnam, but we need a regime change in the United States!"

Not to mention George McGovern and all those Democrats running against Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War who publicly stated: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Ho Chi Min and North Vietnam, but we need a regime change in the United States!"

What? You mean none of that actually happened? Nobody said things like that? You mean, when a new President is elected we don't normally call that - and never have normally called that - a regime change - but, rather, a change of administration? But I thought ...

Never mind.

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Thursday, April 03, 2003

Wind, Sand, and SARS

There's not too much to say about Paul Krugman's column today, Gun, Germs and Stall? - apparently a sequel to the fanciful best seller The Little Economist, attributed to the Princeton academic, who considers himself a member of what he terms the "tiny elite." That sometimes happens when Herr Doktorprofessor just plagiarizes - er, I mean, "assimilates" - existing material, a phenomenon whose early warning sign is often, as here, his faux-casual observation that nobody has been paying much attention to the purloined (I mean, "assimilated") material. Experts in the complex and subtle field of Krugmania Watching are coming to believe that when Herr Doktorprofessor writes all faux-casual like that he really means that because he hasn't been paying much attention, and now he's had a chance to catch up on the material, he thinks he can swipe it. But that's just theory! Speculation! For now, we will take Herr Doktorprofessor at his word!

Today we learn from Herr Doktorprofessor that over the last two weeks, nobody has been paying much attention to economic news; even the ups and downs of the Dow have reflected reports from the battlefield, not the boardroom.

Now, some silly people might think that all those "ups and downs of the Dow" do reflect economic news. Such people might thinks that news about a huge wind and storm plagued war on sands covering the world's second-largest proven petroleum reserves and right next door to the world's largest proven petroleum reserves in a region long known as a gigantic political tinderbox counts as "economic news." But, look, they seem to use the language a little differently in Krugmania - cut him some slack. "Economic news" is just what comes from the board room there. And Paul Krugman has important things to say when he tells us that "the economic news is quite worrying. Indeed, the latest readings suggest that our recovery, such as it is, may be stalling. ...[T]he committee that rules on such matters still hasn't declared the recession that began in March 2001 over. ... [T]he job situation ... has more or less steadily worsened. ... [T]he latest data suggest that the rate at which things are getting worse is accelerating. In February, payroll employment fell by 308,000 — the worst reading since November 2001. Some analysts suggested that number was a fluke, distorted by bad weather, but yesterday there were two more worrying indicators: new claims for unemployment insurance jumped, and a survey of service sector companies suggests that the economy as a whole is contracting.

Now, it certainly seems as though somebody should have been paying attention to all that quite worrying economic news. Full disclosure: I hadn't previously realized that findings by the committee that rules on recession duration, government unemployment statistics, "data suggest[ing] the rate at which things are getting worse," analysts' suggestion about the weather or surveys of service sector companies actually came from corporate board rooms. In my ignorance, I had previously thought that they came from places like the government's National Bureau of Economic Research, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, various analysts' cubbies and academic economics departments and business schools - and think tanks and commercial economics survey shops. Indeed, PricewaterhouseCoopers only four days ago issued the results of a survey showing widespread CEO anxiety, including lots of economics concerns, and reaching the conclusion: As uncertainty extends its grip on America's next-generation economy, service businesses appear to be on a steadier course than their counterparts in the product sector—with comparatively brighter prospects for industry growth, corporate revenue growth, new hiring, and major new business investments. That conclusion doesn't seem to give quite the spin to the survey that Herr Doktorprofessor does - but, then, he ambiguously suggests that the unnamed (?) survey to which he refers came out yesterday. Herr Doktorprofessor can't be relying on the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey because we all know (he tells us!) that big accounting/consulting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers can't be trusted further than they can be thrown - but more on that below.

Let's face it: It's a real scandal when a genius like Paul Krugman has to distract himself from all his important pre-Nobel Prize work and tell us that nobody has been paying much attention to the economic news. I, of course, lay this scandal where it belongs, at the feet of President George Bush - although Herr Doktorprofessor is too much of a gentleman to criticize the President. It is the President who is "responsible" for appointing Treasury Secretary Snow to be the main, designated person who is supposed to pay attention to economic news, but isn't, no doubt because he spends all his time on one of those golf courses just as Herr Doktorprofessor had warned would happen:

The administration's credibility problem is made worse by ... the uninspiring quality of their replacements. Today is the first day of hearings for John Snow, the administration's choice for Treasury secretary. One official I spoke to was rueful: "I thought Paul O'Neill wasn't suited to being Treasury secretary; he'd have been better off running a railroad. Now they've picked a man who ran a railroad." But that's not why he was chosen, according to CBS Market Watch: "He was picked because he's a lobbyist, a schmoozer, a master salesman" — and a member of no less than nine country clubs.

Mr. Snow, a clear doofus and mere railroad man, must be one of those silly "optimists" that Herr Doktorprofessor warns today are so off track:

[O]ptimists keep expecting businesses, anxious to update their technology, to resume large-scale investment and create a robust recovery. Both outcomes are still possible, but it seems increasingly likely that consumers will lose their nerve before businesses regain theirs. Optimists now place their faith in the supposed salutary effects of victory in Iraq. The theory is that businesses have been postponing investments until uncertainty over the war is resolved, and that once that happens there will be a great surge of pent-up demand. I'm skeptical: I think the main barriers to an investment revival are excess capacity, corporate debt and fear of accounting scandals. (The revelations about HealthSouth suggest that there is still plenty of undiscovered corporate malfeasance.)

So what the heck was the Wall Street Journal doing when it reported only yesterday:

The U.S. economy's problems go deeper than consumers and businesses cutting back due to uncertainty over the war in Iraq, Treasury Secretary John Snow said Thursday. "The problem is not with the concern about the Iraq war. The problem is the underlying weakness with the economy," Snow said in remarks made at the Marks Street Senior Center in Orlando, Fla. He did not elaborate on what the fundamental problems were. ... Despite Snow's belief that the economy's problems are more profound than just war concerns, it didn't lead him to conclude the economy is on the verge of falling back into a recession. "We need to be guard against it" because "there is clear weakness in the economy," Snow said. In earlier remarks Thursday, Snow argue the best solution for the economy's troubles would be the passage in full of the president's tax-cut package.

Doesn't the Wall Street Journal know that Mr. Snow hasn't been thinking about the economic news in the first place, and, even without thinking about it, that he has mindlessly placed his faith in the supposed salutary effects of victory in Iraq? And what's all this business about the general softness in the economy requiring passage of the stimulating tax cut that the President has proposed - a general softness that looks a lot like the general softness that Herr Doktorprofessor perceives, too? Wasn't it was exactly this general softness of the economy that Alan Greenspan denied in his Congressional testimony, a denial that was seized upon by Democrats as a big reason not to pass the President's tax-cut? Doesn't Herr Doktorprofessor column breath new life into the President's tax plan? Surely that can't be right - since Herr Doktorprofessor doesn't mention of word of this obvious consequence of his observations!

And what was the Journal thinking when it reported only two days ago:

Federal Reserve officials gave divergent views of the economy's prospects once the war with Iraq is over, while indicating a readiness to cut rates quickly if the economy doesn't shake off its current torpor. .... The remarks were further evidence that opinions inside the Fed vary over how much of the economy's weakness stems from war-related uncertainty rather than pre-existing factors such as the investment bust and corporate-governance scandals. But officials agree war is making it difficult to read the economy's underlying trend. ... But, in a break with tradition, it said geopolitical uncertainty made it too difficult to issue its usual assessment of whether inflation or economic weakness posed the bigger risk in the near future.

No wonder the Fed is in such a dither! They're focusing on the war and all that geopolitical uncertainty! Don't they know that those things aren't economic news? Sheesh, we're all in big trouble when the Fed can't even figure out what is and is not economic news in the first place! And now the Journal goes around reporting that the Fed is paying attention to and even concerned about economic news like the investment bust and corporate-governance scandals, even though we know from Herr Doktorprofessor that the Fed (indeed, nobody except Herr Doktorprofessor) has been doing any such thing. And Forbes, too, which recently reported: Uncertainty over war is not the only factor holding back a recovery in U.S. business, said Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William McDonough, citing the damage done to investor and lender confidence by corporate scandals.

Well, lets see. It looks like the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank have both been mis-reported to have been paying attention to the economic news, and to be concerned about excess capacity (although they call it the "the investment bust") and fear of accounting scandals. Concerns that individual investors may avoid the markets because of accounting transparency anxieties have also been express by such worthies as Warren Buffett and John Bogle. But those two gentlemen have not to my knowledge claimed that they believe that such investor anxieties have, in fact, resulted in individual investors withdrawing their money from the markets in worrying quantities, or that any company with which either of them is associated has materially reduced its willingness to invest in the market out of such anxiety. Mr. McDonough and Herr Doktorprofessor go further and do claim that accounting transparency anxiety is a current, significant drag on the markets and the economy. However, oddly, neither of them cites a groat of hard evidence for that claim - although it should not be too hard to survey investment companies, securities traders and individual investors to ascertain whether this is a current, real, substantial drag on the economy. And, if such evidence exists, why does most of the Federal Reserve Board not cite to this concern? And while it is true that investors should always be concerned about the risk of bad accounting, there is no need to cite to HealthSouth, because no matter what reforms and controls are instituted, this problem will always exist in abundance - and radical accounting reforms and controls can easily do lots of damage to the markets, the economy and the investing public.

Is Herr Doktorprofessor the first to sound the alarm that American companies have too much debt? Who could doubt the answer? Herr Doktorprofessor has long had a rather complex relationship with corporate debt. As noted in a prior post:

One of the most pernicious aspects of "double taxation" of dividends is that it encourages companies to take on too much debt because interest payments are deductible where dividend payments are not. Too much debt obviously leads to too many bankruptcies. And now this:

The U.S. agency that insures pensions for about 44 million Americans has seen its $8 billion surplus wiped out in one year by growing pension fund failures, and has fallen into deficit, The New York Times reported on Saturday. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. will disclose a deficit of $1 to $2 billion in its 2002 annual report, expected to be released at the end of next week, the newspaper said. ...

Paul Krugman argues:

Twenty years ago most workers were in "defined benefit" plans — that is, their employers promised them a fixed pension. Today most workers have "defined contribution" plans: they invest money for their retirement, and accept the risk that those investments might go bad. Retirement contributions are normally subsidized by the employer, and receive special tax treatment; but all this is to no avail if, as happened at Enron, the assets workers have bought lose most of their value.

It seems to be Professor Krugman's opinion that a threat to the nation's "defined benefits" plans can be no real crisis because most workers today don't have defined benefit plans. ... But it is also Professor Krugman's opinion that workers should have defined benefit plans, which are undermined by excess corporate debt, which is encouraged by "double taxation," which he opposes abolishing.

Herr Doktorprofessor is also concerned about SARS. And here he surely cannot just be filling up column inches with a summary of what he is - and all of us have been - reading in the media. I confess that it must be my ignorance and personal limitations that keeps me from ascertaining and isolating exactly what Herr Doktorprofessor has today contributed to our understanding of the economic consequences of SARS.

But I certainly see what he's getting at when he writes: I also wonder whether victory in Iraq will mark the end of uncertainty, or the beginning of even more uncertainty. Are we on the road to Damascus (or Tehran, or Yongbyon)? Except I can't figure out if he's saying that this particular uncertainty is now preying on the economy. But I am pretty sure that if this uncertainty turns out to be nothing of consequence, Herr Doktorprofessor will be able to say that he never actually wrote it was of consequence. And if this uncertainty turns out to be of consequence, Herr Doktorprofessor will give himself a nice pat on the back for predicting that development, too.
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Edwards v. Bush in North Carolina

John Edwards is the weird darling of much of the media (including much of the Blogosphere) and of Democratic contributors.

However, the Associated Press and Charlotte Observer report:

U.S. Sen. John Edwards needs to shore up support at home as he seeks the presidency, according to a new poll. ... The poll found that 47 percent of active Tar Heel voters disapprove of Edwards' decision to seek the presidency, while 37 percent approve. ... The poll also determined that Bush would trounce Edwards in North Carolina, 56 percent to 40 percent. That is a slightly larger margin than Bush enjoyed in his win over Al Gore in the state in 2000.

"Right now, Edwards doesn't exactly look like he's the favorite of favorite sons," said Delair Ali, president of Research 2000, which conducted the poll.

That Delair Ali has a talent for understatement.

Senator Edwards has been serving up a complex, hedged line on his "support" of the war. That line should be subjected to more direct questioning. The Senator appears to be attempting to be on both sides of an issue on which someone running for President simply cannot be allowed to waffle.
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Europe Enslaves Britain?

... or who?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes:

By the time the Iraqi crisis is over, it may already be too late for the Government to stop a political disaster in Europe. The European Union's first constitution will be a done deal, and, from what we have seen of the text so far, it will usher in a new order that overturns the governing basis of British parliamentary democracy for ever.

The EU will no longer be a treaty organisation in which member states agree to lend power to Brussels for certain purposes, on the understanding that they can take it back again. The EU itself will become the fount of power, with its own legal personality, delegating functions back to Britain.

Next time, will there be no Blair and Aznar? Or - since a majority of the EU backed the US - will there be no Chirac or Schroeder?

Link thanks to Mike Daley.

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Ireland To Iraq

The Washington Times reports:

Coalition commanders have put together battle plans for Baghdad that they say draw heavily on the unorthodox but "very impressive" tactics adopted by British forces seeking the collapse of resistance in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city. ... Basra has not yet fallen, with the British appearing to play a cat-and-mouse game with the enemy forces. The British, with extensive experience handling the Northern Ireland problem, have proved adept at dealing with the Iraqi paramilitary forces, who at times have surprised U.S. forces elsewhere by behaving as terrorists rather than soldiers, he said.

Yes, I would suppose that those who have cut their teeth with the Irish ....
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A Public Relations Boon To The US

The Times of London reports:

Al-Jazeera has suspended reports from its entire Iraq-based team in protest at the treatment of two correspondents by the Baghdad regime, the Arab-language broadcater said today. But the station said today that it would continue to broadcast live and taped events, including news conferences by Iraqi officials and air strikes, without any commentary.

Al-Jazeera has provided a major source of anti-US spin about Iraq war events around the world. Reduction in its coverage should be a world wide public relations boon to US.

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O! Canada!

A Canadian clarification by Andrew Coyne:

It's perfectly clear. The Americans lack the authority to launch this illegitimate and unnecessary war, which can only bring great suffering and instability to the region. At the same time, clearly it is their privilege and right to do so, and we wish them Godspeed. ...

It's as clear as day. Regime change is not authorized by the United Nations. We do not support regime change in Iraq: after all, if we're going to go knocking over every genocidal dictator with a taste for weapons of mass destruction who has invaded two of his neighbors and defied 17 U.N. resolutions over a dozen years since a ceasefire that was never honored in a previous war duly authorized by the Security Council, well, where do you stop?

And so much more!
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Senator Kerry Flips Out

The Boston Globe reports:

Senator John F. Kerry said yesterday that President Bush committed a ''breach of trust'' in the eyes of many United Nations members by going to war with Iraq, creating a diplomatic chasm that will not be bridged as long as Bush remains in office. ''What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States,'' Kerry said in a speech at the Peterborough Town Library.

The Senator's comparision - really, a near-equation - of Saddam Hussein with President Bush requires that Mr. Kerry be immediately and completely eliminated from any consideration for election to the Presidency or possible re-election to the Senate, from which he should promptly resign.

He is a disgrace.

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No Tickie, No Washie

Reuters reports:

Secretary of State Colin Powell faced near unanimous demands from EU and NATO states on Thursday to give the United Nations a key role in postwar Iraq but did not spell out how Washington would share power there. ... European Union and NATO leaders came out of a series of meetings with Powell, their first full session with him since the U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq last month, saying they saw a possible transatlantic consensus on the U.N.'s role emerging. ... "There will definitely be a U.N. role but what the exact nature of that role will be remains to be seen," Powell told a news conference after more than 20 meetings. The United States expects to run the oil-rich country after the war, arguing it has risked its soldiers' lives and spent billions of dollars to prepare it for representative government, but has invited its allies to help pay for emergency aid.

I believe the United States should be flexible. But a precondition to any role of European Union and NATO countries (other than Britain) in running post-Hussein Iraq should be that they pay a ratable share of the cost of the War.

And the US should not just argue that it has risked its soldiers' lives and spent billions of dollars - the US should base its argument on the fact that France, Germany, Belgium and the UN have shown bad judgment and lack of understanding. Until these admissions are made, and a willingness to reform is expressed, they can have no role other than to provide money for humanitarian relief in a carefully monitored program. Absent such admissions, their wider involvement would just cause more problems.
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Al Hunt Flips Out

Al Hunt's column today [excerpted below this post] offers an extreme version of the argument that the Administration wrongly and repeatedly thought the Iraq war would be a cake walk. He makes the bizarre assertion: From Washington, it's impossible to gauge how the war actually is going; perhaps the administration's optimism yesterday that Baghdad may fall imminently is justified.

But, as I noted yesterday, right there in Washington, the Administration's position was being clearly stated - and that position is not what Mr. Hunt says:

The Pentagon sought Wednesday to lower expectations that the Iraqi capital could be taken quickly or easily. "We are planning for a very difficult fight ahead in Baghdad," Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal told a Pentagon news conference. "We are not expecting to drive into Baghdad suddenly and seize it." ... McChrystal and department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters at least six times in a half-hour briefing that the toughest fighting may lie ahead.

What the heck is the matter with Al Hunt? He purports to be writing to warn of what he calls the “human ego investment factor in these calibrations” – but it is Mr. Hunt and other liberals who seem to have made the biggest investments in pre-judging the war and the Administration, and who refuse to accept the facts. His willful revisionism does not start with current events. He writes:

American policy-makers assumed that if we led, most other nations would follow, and particularly misjudged Turkey; that the Iraqi people would cheerfully welcome us as liberators with massive defections and resistance would be minimal after the early "shock and awe" campaign; and all this could be achieved with a leaner and much smaller fighting force. ... They can point to caveats, but the administration -- and articulate outside supporters -- suggested this would be a short and simple war.

Nothing of it is correct. Contrary to Mr. Hunt's confabulations, as long ago as a speech in Cincinnati last October 7 the President quite clearly stated the position of this Administration:

"Military conflict could be difficult. An Iraqi regime faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and unusual measures. ... There is no easy or risk-free course of action."

And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy, on February 7: "It is not knowable how long that conflict (to disarm Saddam Hussein) would last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." As so often the case, at this point it seems as though Mr. Rumsfeld was quite right.

What about Mr. Hunt's recapitulation of arguments that the military is lying when it says the war is going according to plan? Well, contrary to Mr. Hunt's apparent conception of how wars and other serious human activities are planned, this one rather obviously included planning for various contingencies. That's why, for example, it is simultaneously possible that the plan could contemplate that substantial numbers of Iraqis might surrender and that no substantial number of Iraqis might surrender. Mr. Hunt and others in the media should be ashamed to make such accusations without far more evidence than they have now.

In the entire column, not one source is actually named - and no support is provided for his assertion that the administration -- and articulate outside supporters -- suggested this would be a short and simple war. In a separate little box three quotes are proffered apparently to support the assertion: one each by Vice President Cheney and Defense Policy Board members Richard Perle and Kenneth Adelman. Notes to Al:

(1) A statement labeled by its maker as a personal "guess" is not Administration policy. Mr. Hunt's little box is not quite correct to quote Vice President Dick Cheney as having said: "Significant elements of Hussein's elite Republican guard…are likely to step aside." What he actually said on Meet the Press was that he guessed such a development was likely. But he did not say that he, the Administration or the plans of the US military were relying on any assumption that significant portions of the guard surrendering. Indeed, media reports from the beginning of the war indicate that serious negotiations suggested that even senior members of the Guard might be willing to surrender. And today's reports suggest that Mr. Cheney's personal guess was not far off: U.S. Marines and infantry moved with surprising speed toward Baghdad on Thursday, passing down roads littered with black combat boots as Saddam Hussein's loyalists shed their uniforms and switched to tribal robes hoping to avoid capture. We may see more of that kind of thing. And it really does mean something that Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim leader [Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani] has urged Iraqis not to hinder U.S. invading forces after previously asking them to resist efforts to topple President Saddam Hussein... Grand ayatollahs are the highest authorities in Shi'ite Islam and Sistani is the only one in Iraq. The fatwa applies nationwide.

(2) No Administration controls what its "articulate outside supporters" say - and it makes a columnist's argument look really, really weak to have to rely on wan attempts to ascribe such statements (in this case, by "outside supporters" who are not even named) to the Administration. The Administration is quite capable of speaking for itself - and did, through the President. While some "articulate outside supporters" gave the case for the likelihood that the Iraq incursion would be a "cake walk" - that was not presented to the public by all or even most such "articulate outside supporters" as an assumption on which the US would rely. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, for example, counts as such "articulate outside supporters." If Mr. Hunt's column makes any sense at all, it must be a dig at his more conservative colleagues. If so, he is wrong - the Journal's editorial pages have not lost sight of the nuances and uncertainties of an Iraq war.

(3) The Defense Policy Board is an advisory, non-policy-making group - a group the United States government maintains to allow it to receive a range of opinions. It is supposed to include people who advise but often don't agree with the Administration. Some of its views may be adopted by the Administration - or they may not. But it does not speak for the Administration or the United States, and its individual members certainly cannot be sensibly quoted as expressing Administration beliefs or as positions the Administration or the United States has taken with the public. And the fact that its chairman and some of its members are influential and well regarded doesn't change any of that. That Messrs. Perle and/or Adelman may sometimes have been opinionated and optimistic means exactly nothing substantial - except as evidence that some media representatives don't know who to talk to to understand Administration policy.

Nor is it correct that American policy-makers assumed that if we led, most other nations would follow. In fact, Mr. Bush and most of his Administration probably didn't want to go back to the Security Council for a "second resolution" - precisely because they feared that other countries, especially France, would cause mischief. Mr. Powell may have been a partial exception. But it is not hard to show that the effort to obtain a "second resolution" from the Security Council was mostly advocated by - and political cover for - Tony Blair. The effort may or may not have been worth while - but the Administration's position clearly shows that Mr. Hunt is again misrepresenting his case here. As for Turkey, the government of that country told the US that it could deliver the approval the legislature - and failed by a handful of votes in a situation highly influenced by internal Turkish politics (including the rise of a Turkish-style Islamic political party) and IMF policy. Most reasonable people would not hold American diplomats or other representatives to the requirement that they understand the Turkish legislature better than the Turkish government does. And it is notable that Mr. Hunt offers no indication of what should have been done.

And, of course, Mr. Hunt cannot help himself from referring to the "divisions" in the Administration, especially over whether all this could be achieved with a leaner and much smaller fighting force - which Mr. Hunt presents as contrary to the "Powell Doctrine." Of course, we can be fairly sure that Mr. Powell - now Secretary of State - did not personally intrude himself in any considerations of the "doctrine" that bears his name. Mr. Powell knows that the Secretary of State does not involve himself in matters squarely in the domain of the Secretary of Defense. What about this and others of Mr. Hunt's unsupported allegations of "bitter divisions" within the Administration? It is always open to a columnist to fill the inches with such assertions. When Mr. Hunt is ready to name names of insiders (not just his "former very prominent foreign-policy official") who are ready to talk on the record, serious people will then take his allegations seriously.

Until then, Mr. Hunt can tell it to the marines. His arguments in this column stand up about as well as did the Medina Division.


The Ego Investment Factor

[A Harvard academic wrote that] "Human ego investment" ... was a major factor [in "America's Vietnam debacle"]: "Men who have participated in a decision develop a stake in that decision." Future actions are predicated on flawed earlier decisions.

Flash forward to this war; some early calculations clearly were flawed: American policy-makers assumed that if we led, most other nations would follow, and particularly misjudged Turkey; that the Iraqi people would cheerfully welcome us as liberators with massive defections and resistance would be minimal after the early "shock and awe" campaign; and all this could be achieved with a leaner and much smaller fighting force. ...

On weekend TV shows and in subsequent appearances this week, the brass have insisted the war is going exactly as planned, that they've not been surprised.... Either Messrs. Rumsfeld and Myers are purposefully deceiving the public, or they are blinded by their investment in initial decisions.

They can point to caveats, but the administration -- and articulate outside supporters -- suggested this would be a short and simple war. ...

From Washington, it's impossible to gauge how the war actually is going; perhaps the administration's optimism yesterday that Baghdad may fall imminently is justified. ...

[Some have] reported U.S. commanders' -- past and present -- unhappiness with some of the plans of the defense chief and his civilian advisers; at first, they say, the Pentagon high command only wanted to commit 60,000 U.S. troops. This is an argument that won't be resolved until the war's outcome, but of this there is no doubt: Mr. Rumsfeld and his chief advisers confidently believed a smaller, faster, more lethal operation would render moot the Powell Doctrine of reliance on massive force, basically Republican theology since the Vietnam quagmire. ...

And even before the end of the war, there is a bitter struggle between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld over who controls the post-war rebuilding. The issues are huge ... [T]he Powell-Rumsfeld infighting, seasoned observers say, is more bitter and plays out at a higher level than other feuds. One former very prominent foreign-policy official declares that the disagreements have led "to a level of dysfunctionality." ...

Mr. Hunt's Little Box:

"Significant elements of Hussein's elite Republican guard…are likely to step aside."
-Vice President Dick Cheney

"Support for Saddam…will collapse after the first whiff of gunpowder."
-Defense Department adviser Richard Perle

"…demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk."
-Rumsfeld and Cheney confidant Ken Adelman

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Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Bubble Up Today

The media seem beyond - or below - learning when it comes to this war.

First, troop progress was swift and unopposed out of Kuwait and across largely unoccupied sand, and media coverage created an unjustified and premature euphoria.

Then some non-com took a wrong turn, a few Americans were captured and/or killed, the citizens of Basra (who were still subject to Iraqi government attack) did not rise up mindlessly in the face of their own government's guns, and the Republican Guard fought back - so the media proclaimed the whole war had got bogged down and the entire US strategy was either a failure or had to be entirely reconsidered.

Now, one of the wrong-turn group (gee, the media coverage seems to scream, a good looking woman!) has been rescued. And US troops - the same US troops who have been "bogged down" - are now within about 20 miles of Baghdad and have overcome the best Republican Guard divisions. None of this is any more surprising than anything else that has happened. Of course the troops kept advancing. Of course the US beat the Republican Guards. Of course US air attacks have inflicted huge costs and casualties in the Iraq forces with few US costs and casualties. There's little new information here - and the information has never really been bad in the first place.


It turns out that the Iraqi people love us, after all! They were just playing hard-to-get! The port is soon to open! Military damsel rescued! MARKETS ARE LISTENING AND ARE IDIOTICALLY HAPPY!!

Meanwhile, the Pentagon tries futilely to get the media to act and think like adults: "we really believe some of the toughest fighting could lay ahead," and "We are planning for a very difficult fight ahead in Baghdad. We are not expecting to drive into Baghdad suddenly and seize it" and McChrystal and department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters at least six times in a half-hour briefing that the toughest fighting may lie ahead. But the media don't listen carefully - and reports even seem to treat the increased threat from chemical weapons as a detail - apparently because US troops can just put on their "suits."

For next week: The media discover the surprising, totally unexpected development that actually taking Baghdad may take a little while and involve some more real fighting and even some cleverness - and that chemical weapons are really, really bad!! Then it will be time to argue that "unnamed sources" say that the US military was counting too much on Baghdad "falling from within" (whatever that means), that the military brass didn't really fully understand how bad a chemical attack could be (because they had never been through one!), that there aren't enough troops (although there have been few casualties and lots of rapid, decisive progress), and, of course, that the White House is "divided" and ignoring the "old hands" at the Pentagon over the issue de jour (like the White House ignored the "old hands" at the State Department when the French were having their way with the Security Council).

And blah, blah, blah, blah blah...

Technology, embedding, web logs - that all means very little where the media representatives have little judgment or common sense.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Crony Capitalism, RIP?

Dear me. Halliburton out? What will Paul think?

Wait. I can guess! Paul Krugman will probably think that Halliburton has already arranged to be the successful sub-contractor for some "front" company that will actually win the bid. That's all part of the wide-ranging conspiracy, see.

And it won't be a real bid, see. Because the fix will be in - and already is in.

Or something like that.

UPDATE: And now the President has admitted that Herr Doktorprofessor has been right all along!

Devastating Presidential admission link from Jay Caruso and, first, Crooow Blog.
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"Individualized Assessment" v."Race-neutral Approach"

Linda Greenhouse's report on today's oral argument before the US Supreme Court in the Michigan affirmative action case includes this passage:

Justice Kennedy asked [the University’s lawyer] to assume that the court would invalidate both affirmative action plans. What would happen then, Justice Kennedy asked. Would it be the court's job to tell the university what to do or the university's job to devise an admissions program that relied more on "individualized assessment?"

What was important about Justice Kennedy's choice of words was that he said "individualized assessment" and not "race-neutral approach," the formulation urged by the lawyer for the disappointed white applicants who are suing the university and by the Bush administration, which entered the case on their behalf. An individualized assessment presumably permits consideration of race as one of the elements in an applicant's personal profile, as a race-neutral approach would not.

Contrary to Ms. Greenhouse's belief, what was important about Justice Kennedy's choice of words was that he asked the University’s lawyer to assume that the court would invalidate both affirmative action plans - which is a pretty good indication that Justice Kennedy is fairly confident that the court will invalidate both affirmative action plans.

In my opinion Ms. Greenhouse is probably right that "individualized assessment" is an interesting choice of words - and that their meaning is probably not the same as "race-neutral approach." However, she is probably way overreaching to think that affirmative action would survive its most important test in 25 years and that colleges and universities would still be able to take steps to ensure the presence of more than token numbers of minority students on their campuses. A term like "individualized assessment" will mean different things to different people. But at least to my ear, "individualized assessment" suggests determining whether an individual candidate for admission has personally been the victim of racial discrimination to the point where it likely suppressed the candidate's other qualifications. That would not be a "race-neutral approach" - and such "individualized assessment" could even be called a form of "affirmative action." After all, the university is taking affirmative action to determine if the particular candidate has been a victim of serious racial discrimination. But "individualized assessment" specifically seems to refer to some process that is not class based, and does not presume that mere race likely leads to individual suffering.

One consequence of "individualized assessment" should be that the children of middle-class minority families will no longer benefit from whatever kind of program the Court allows. That, in turn, will likely undermine political support for allowable "affirmative action" and also not necessarily lead to any particular number of minority students on campus.

All of which would be good things.

UPDATE: These posts ( here and here and here and here and here) from the Power Line seem consistent with my take on where Justice Kennedy thinks the Court is headed. [Link via InstaPundit.]
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Continuation Of Agitprop By Other Means

The New York Times today continues Paul Krugman's prior rant against Clear Channel Communications in the form of an article appearing in the news section of the paper that reports that Clear Channel finds itself fending off a new set of accusations: that the company is using its considerable market power to drum up support for the war in Iraq, while muzzling musicians who oppose it.

Despite a Times admission that even some of its most outspoken business antagonists say many of the latest accusations do not stand up to scrutiny, the article belabors the "new accusations" for three internet pages. In contrast, the New York Times itself and other liberal media outlets have been widely critized for distorting their news coverage to suit the political orientation of management, and those arguments do often stand up to scrutiny - but the Times isn't running multi-page articles on them. Perhaps most striking, this bloated article about how political leanings of management may affect corporate decisions fails even to mention whether the Clear Channel critics in the "music industry" have their own political agenda with these criticisms. Indeed, the Times article strives to suggest that the only alternative explanations here are (1) Clear Channel political bias or (2) market forces and commercial competition. Would it come as a surprise to the reader (or the Times) that many people in the "music industry" or these critics are liberal and/or Democrats? The Times doesn't care to ask, even as it quotes without comment an anonymous executive at a competing company making the absurd statement that "the government has always said that radio stations should have a balanced view of what is going on, serve the public interest and not take sides." Yes, indeed, no need for the Times to comment on an assertion that implies that the "government" has "always" disregarded the First Amendment - and that radio station companies such as the traditionally and proudly far-left Pacifica Radio have never "taken sides." But the Times really, really wants to talk a lot about Clear Channel's conservative political leanings and connections.

What about the songs? Why is there no mention of the quality of these anti-war songs that Clear Channel allegedly won't play? Are these songs any good? Is there evidence that any audience would really like to hear them? Have the songs been played to any focus groups? Was there positive response to stations that have played the songs? Neither the critics nor the Times even raises the issue.

The Times article rambles on without providing any evidence that Clear Channel holds any market power whatsoever - never mind the considerable market power the Times asserts. Having "market power" would mean that Clear Channel is insulated from competition. The Times and Clear Channel's other critics need to presume that Clear Channel has "market power" in this sense because otherwise the criticisms evaporate under the withering counterargument: Well, if Clear Channel is just imposing the political bias of its management, another competitor can just enter the market and give the public what it really wants, like lots of anti-war protest songs. The Times article does admit that other radio companies also acknowledge that the market is conservative and pro-war, - probably even more conservative than the over two-thirds of the general public that now supports the war. So playing anti-war songs wouldn't seem to make for good, mass-market business. With all that already admitted by the Times, why is this article three pages long without asking questions about the motives of the Clear Channel critics - or even mentioning that the Times' own columnist, Paul Krugman, has been one of the most severe critics?

Having "market power" isn't the same thing as being an effective competitor - which is what the Times article suggests Clear Channel has achieved, since it has grown from owning a few stations in 1996 to a very large radio company. Almost all of that growth took place during the Clinton-Gore era, which is not consistent with the Times insinuations that it is Clear Channel's Republican contacts that have given it an undisclosed competitive advantage. And the Times doesn't even suggest that Clear Channel has manipulated the Congress to its advantage. That seems to leave Clear Channel as just a good competitor, serving its market.

Indeed, if Clear Channel has prospered by shifting the message of its stations to the right, in the absence of evidence of extra-market manipulation, that just suggests that Clear Channel is meeting the market - and that the prior owners of those stations may have been imposing their own too-liberal views relative to the market prior to Clear Channel's acquisition of the station. Indeed, broadcast radio is probably not itself a real "market" in any relevant sense, since radio competes with many other forms of music distribution and communication. For example, those driving cars choose between listening to the radio and playing their own compact discs - so radio and compact discs therefore compete against each other. And that's not the end of the competition that makes Clear Channel's "market power" highly unlikely. Even the Times admits - but without making the connection to the "market power" argument - that "in the current era of the Internet and other new distribution technologies, broadcast radio is no longer the only way for recording artists to make themselves heard." And if Clear Channel has no market power, all of its practices that record companies find "galling" - such as alleged links between concerts and radio play - are perfectly legal and good for the market.

And all of that doesn't even address the more bizarre statements in the article, such as "More difficult is explaining away the 'Rally for America!' events ..." that Clear Channel has promoted. Since when has it been "difficult" for any American or American media company to "explain away" acts of free speech? And since Clear Channel's desired market seems to be pro-war, sponsorship of such events is not difficult to "explain away" from a commercial standpoint, either. Media companies routinely make obviously political choices - consider the refusal of networks to carry most abortion-related items created by third parties as just one example.

It's grotesque that one even has to make the argument against the Times' thoroughly disingenuous screed masquarading as news.

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Monday, March 31, 2003

For Those Who Would Like To Contact Nicholas De Genova

Contact information for Nicholas De Genova of Columbia University - he who wishes for "a million Mogadishus" in Iraq:

mail code 2880
Phone: MS 4-0199
+1 212-854-0199
Fax: +1 212-854-0500
UNI: npd18

UPDATE: Columbia seems to have removed Professor De Genova's contact data from the University's directory. However, the above contact information was copied from that directory prior to such removal, and constitutes public information. The Anthropology Department still provides a web page summary for him. I particularly enjoy the title of his 1997 opus: The Junkyard of Futures Past.

It's as if he had a 1997 premonition as to where he would be spending most of the rest of his life - and has now realized it!

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Sunday, March 30, 2003

A Silver Lining

The New York Times reports:

Gen. Hazem al-Rawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi armed forces, said today that 4,000 volunteers from 23 Arab countries stand ready to carry out suicide attacks against American forces.

Of course, it's sad if 4,000 people are this foolish - and that Ameircan sericemen have to deal with this tactic.

But there is a silver lining. Gen. Hazem al-Rawi is doing the US a service here. With the world now aware that Iraq has established a homicide-bomber policy of this scope, it should be easier for the US to deflect future charges of unnecessary violence by US servicemen against Iraqi civilians.

In such cases, an argument along the lines of "the servicemen thought the now-defunct civilians might well have been homicide bombers" should be mightly handy in the media wars.

UPDATE: A sad example comes up right away.
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The ICC Simply Must Go III

My prior posts here and here and here were not correct - or at were least misleading - in an important respect.

Saddam Hussein falls within what is sometimes called the "traveling dictator" exception to International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction. That is, because Iraq is not a party to the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC, he cannot be prosecuted by the ICC for any crimes committed within Iraq, no matter where he travels. He can be prosecuted for war crimes committed in countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute and otherwise covered by ICC jurisdiction. However, it is by no means clear that Saddam Hussein has committed crimes subject to ICC jurisdiction in Rome Statute member states. Kuwait, for example, is a signatory to the Rome Statute - but ICC jurisdiction is not very retroactive and doesn't cover crimes committed ten years ago. Although it is by no means clear (at least to me) that Hussein has not committed ICC covered crimes in Rome Statute member states, it would not be enough to cite acts of genocide and terror committed by him within Iraq in order to prosecute him in the ICC.

On the other hand, the US, also a non-party, can be prosecuted when it acts within a signatory state.

Two further perverse points:

First, if Iraq were a signatory to the Rome Treaty, the ICC could not promise him immunity. In this sense it is non-pragmatic.

Second, and also perversely, although Iraq is not a signatory, Hussein could consent under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute to jurisdiction of the ICC, thereby exposing the US to ICC jurisdiction.

At this time, it is simply not clear to me whether a post-Hussein government of Iraq could consent to ICC jurisdiction over Hussein retroactively.

In my prior posts, I had to some extent confused the jurisdiction of the ICC with the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal For the Former Yugoslavia - which claims jurisdiction over war crimes committed within the former Yugoslavia without that country having agreed to any treaty or other act establishing the court. I apologize to my readers for that sloppiness.


Further research shows that a post-Hussein government of Iraq could consent to ICC jurisdiction retroactively - thereby exposing Hussein to ICC jurisdiction for prior crimes committed after July 1, 2002, when the ICC's jurisdiction began. Because there almost certainly will be a new government of Iraq in a short while, it appears that neither France nor Bahrain nor any other party to the Rome Statute could have granted Saddam Hussein safe haven with assurances against his future ICC prosecution for crimes committed by him in Iraq post July 1, 2002. Indeed, if Hussein had left Iraq before the current War began on terms acceptable to the US, a new government of Iraq capable of consenting to retroactive ICC jurisdiction over Hussein would have been an immediate certainty. This appears to make the ICC a substantial obstacle to encouraging the departure of dictators - even where their country has not signed the Rome Statute.

A related question: If post-Hussein Iraq consents to ICC jurisdiction retroactively, would such consent necessarily expose the US to ICC jurisdiction - or could a post-Hussein government simply consent to ICC jurisdiction over Hussein? This question appears not to have a clear answer under the Rome Statute.

FURTHER UPDATE: The United Nations must try President Bush and his allies as war criminals, a top Indonesian politician demanded Monday.

Because neither the US nor Iraq is party to the Rome Statute, the ICC could not be used for this purpose. However, if a government of Iraq or the US were to consent to retroactive jurisdiction, a criminal trial of President Bush before the ICC and brought by its unaccountable prosecutors would be permitted by the Rome Statute.

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Is Baghdad Stalingrad or Hue? II

This analysis on the Den Beste site makes a lot more sense to me than most of what the mainstream media is running. However, I would take the "Assassination" scenario that Den Beste suggests - or, rather, a variant of it - as much more than a long shot. Once Baghdad and Hussein are isolated and encircled, a really big American strike - one including missiles, men and other "assets" could, I think, be successfully launched at any location of Saddam Hussein. Such a strike would not be a repeat of the attempt on Hussein's life solely by missiles and bombs launched at the beginning of the War.

Even if the bunkers are strong enough to withstand surface attack by most conventional missiles or bombs, my guess is, once the US knows Hussein's location, that (if necessary) some tunneling machine could burrow close enough to his location (undisturbed by "urban warfare" on the surface) - and a really nice, big explosive set off pretty close to him - big enough and close enough to compromise any concrete shielding or the like. Modern oil drillers, for example, are capable of horizontal drilling for great distances. And the US military probably has better ideas than building Hussein a special purpose subway. My point here is that once a target is immobilized and encircled by a huge military force, just hiding out can't last very long. Further, it seems highly likely to me that the US military knows the exact locations of all bunkers actually built by Western construction companies - simply because the companies likely have records in Europe and people in Europe willing to share the information over the 20 years since construction.

With such a big strike he could be killed or completely cut off and sealed off - out of communication with his forces and beyond rescue. If he is completely cut off, his being able to physically last for months or even years thereafter would not seem to distinguish his survival meaningfully from his death as far as the progress of the War is concerned.

His bunkers are big and deep and well-provisioned. But once he is immobilized those bunkers are all but well-appointed coffins, good for serving his living needs for a few days or weeks before they get to serve for eternity.

Or at least that's what it seems to one non-expert.

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