Man Without Qualities

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Rant III

The really bad news is that it now seems likely the insurgency has been operating free of Hussein and his money. --- Richard Cohen, Washington Post, December 16, 2003

BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein was personally directing the postwar insurgency inside Iraq that has claimed the lives of more than 200 coalition troops, playing a far more active role than previously thought, American intelligence officers have concluded since his capture. Despite the bewildered appearance of the deposed dictator when he was hauled from his hiding hole last weekend, he is believed to have been issuing regular instructions on targets and tactics through five trusted lieutenants....[S]ince the arrest and interrogation of guerrilla leaders identified in the paperwork, U.S. investigators now believe that Saddam was at the head of an elaborate network of rebel cells. ... This network enabled him to issue commands without the use of satellite phones that monitoring devices could pick up.

The Sunday Telegraph also has learned that millions of dollars to support the insurgency were recovered in raids on other suspected Saddam safe houses. ....

By capturing Saddam and several leaders of his Fedayeen fighters, the Americans believe that they have dealt a serious blow to the Ba'athist insurgency.

-- Washington Times/LONDON SUNDAY TELEGRAPH news article December 21, 2003.

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Friday, December 19, 2003

Just Keep Chanting ...

... that the war in Iraq has not made America safer. Nope. No safer at all - just like Howard Dean and the angriest of the left keep saying.

And Libya's agreeing to let in weapons inspectors has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened in Iraq. And Moammar Gadhafi having secret negotiations with the United States and Britain and then agreeing to halt his nation's drive to develop nuclear and chemical weapons and the long-range missiles to deliver them has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's capture.

And it must all be a big mistake, anyway, because Gadhafi negotiated with the United States and Britain who scoff at international law - and ignored the sacred United Nations, the French and even the Germans! Mr. Gadhafi must have been on some kind of bender and is simply not responsible for his own acts.

And, in any even, it doesn't mean anything because Libya never threatened to attack the US. It just blew up commercial airliners. So it doesn't matter what happens there or what Mr. Gadhafi agrees to. The Democrats and the left can just keep chanting that - and win the election! Right?



UPDATE: The revisionism and attempt to distract from the Bush and Blair Administrations' accomplishments with respect to Libya of course begin immediately. The Washington Post provides an early and rather desperate signal of the left's future arguments that Libya's concessions had little to do with the Iraq or Afghanistan invasions:

Libya's stunning decision yesterday to surrender its weapons of mass destruction followed two decades of international isolation and some of the world's most punishing economic sanctions. ... The turning point in Gaddafi's undoing may have been the U.S. intelligence investigation that eventually tracked a tiny piece of the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, back to two Libyan intelligence agents, U.S. and British officials say. The evidence mobilized the world and produced an international effort that may now peacefully disarm Libya.

"What forced Gaddafi to act was a combination of things -- U.N. sanctions after the Lockerbie bombing, his international isolation after the Soviet Union's collapse . . . and internal economic problems that led to domestic unrest by Islamists and forces within the military," said Ray Takeyh, a Libya expert at the National Defense University.

So twenty years of ineffective "international efforts" are what did the trick - even though American boots were heading for Iraqi ground at the time Libya acted:

Whether by coincidence or fear that Libya might be targeted, Gaddafi's envoys approached Britain on the eve of the Iraq war to discuss a deal, U.S. officials said.

And then there's this pearl:

For all the Bush administration's focus on deadly arms, however, the United States may have missed an opportunity to act earlier because of its preoccupation with Afghanistan and then Iraq, said U.S. officials familiar with earlier overtures.

"Within months after September 11th, we had the Libyans, the Syrians and the Iranians all coming to us saying, 'What can we do [to better relations]?' We didn't really engage any of them, because we decided to do Iraq. We really squandered two years of capital that will make it harder to apply this model to the hard cases like Iran and Syria," said Flynt Leverett, a former Bush administration National Security Council staff member now at the Brookings Institution.

I don't know who Flynt Leverett is, or what his agenda might be, or why he resigned or was removed from the National Security Council. But the Brookings Institution is generally a Democratic redoubt. Mr. Leverett is not only at the Brookings Institution. He was at least until recently Visiting Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the The Brookings Institution. That would be "Saban" as in Haim Saban, arguably the Democratic Party's biggest financial supporter ever. From just February 2002 to March 2003 Dr. Leverett was Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council - that is, he departed after one year. It looks as if Ms. Rice was pleased to see him leave. Not that the Post bothers to mention any of that.

Anyone - including Dr. Leverett - who seriously argues that Libya's sudden decision wasn't overwhelmingly predicated on what had happened in Afghanistan and then Iraq, or that Libya's sudden cooperation was mostly the result of "international sanctions," is a poor student of history. Moreover, the United States didn't seem distracted from, say, possible Syrian overtures as Mr. Leverett reported things when he testified before Congress in last October, when he said:

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has had little success to date in getting Syria to modify its problematic behaviors or in cultivating a more constructive relationship with the Assad regime, despite letters and phone calls to Dr. Bashar from President Bush, personal meetings with Secretary Powell, and visits by other senior officials such as Ambassador Burns.

Really? All those calls and attention from the Administration? But Dr. Leverett told the Post that we didn't really engage Syria because we decided to do Iraq.

From his statements as they are reported in the Post, the nation is a safer and better place for Dr. Leverett's departure from the Council. Contrary to Dr. Leverett, the Post and other organs of the left, it is extremely unlikely that Libya, Syria or Iran were moved to more than lip service by September 11, and few sensible voters are going to buy such an argument. All of these countries were opponents of the US in UN votes and every other effort to stem terrorism since September 11. It's absurd to think they have been more resolved against the US since then because of US steadfastness.

I would be surprised if top Administration strategists were not right now hoping and praying that the Democrats will take up the message conveyed by this absurd Washington Post article. It is hard to imagine a approach that would undermine the Democrats more than their chanting with the Post and the Leveretts of the world:

It doesn't matter. And invading Afghanistan and then Iraq didn't make it happen. Afghanistan and Iraq were just distractions.

UPDATE: Even the New York Times senses how absurd the chant sounds:

Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair are entitled to claim a large share of the credit for Libya's surprising announcement. To an extent that cannot be precisely measured, the fate of Saddam Hussein, who was ousted from power by the American military with British backing after endless prevaricating about Iraqi weapons programs, must have been an important consideration in Libya's decision.

There were other factors as well. ...

Over the past five years, by turning over two suspects for trial, acknowledging its complicity in the Lockerbie bombing and paying compensation to victims' families, Libya finally managed to persuade the United Nations Security Council to lift the international sanctions that had shadowed its economy and its international reputation for more than a decade. Those sanctions were lifted in September. This page recommended lifting American sanctions as well, but President Bush left them in place pending further steps, most notably Libya's decision to end its unconventional weapons programs. It is now clear that he was right to do so.

In other words, the "international sanctions" that the Post article credits with persuading Libya had already been lifted when Libya even approached Britain and the US.

It's superficially nice of the Times to credit Bush with maintaining American sanctions. But without the cooperation of the rest of the world, those sanctions would alone have been easily avoidable - and their economic impact could not have made much difference to Libya.

No, what made the difference here was a clear indication that the United States was willing to take direct military action that was not easily avoidable - or avoidable at all.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has its say.

A correction to the above post: The Libyans made their approach in march - which means that the international sanctions were in effect at that time, although they had been lifted by the time the most intensive negotiations were held and when the actual concessions were made.
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If There Were Ever An Argument For Charging "Freeway" Users For The Road Use ...

... this is it.

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Thursday, December 18, 2003

Especially If You Love Saint Petersburg ...

.... these are way cool.

And even if you're not in love with that particular burg, they're pretty interesting.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Politically Polymorphously Perverse

In the eyes of Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman, the Bush-led Republican Party is truly a remarkable political organism. Just days ago Herr Doktorprofessor wrote franticly that the Bush Administration - even at the very top - was so riven by uncoordinated, disobedient, self-interested faction that Paul Wolfowitz was actually the leader of a neo-conservative pack deliberately undermining James Baker:

If the contracts don't provide useful leverage, however, why torpedo a potential reconciliation between America and its allies? Perhaps because Mr. Wolfowitz's faction doesn't want such a reconciliation. .... [M]any insiders see Mr. Baker's mission as part of an effort by veterans of the first Bush administration to extricate George W. Bush from the hard-liners' clutches. If the mission collapses amid acrimony over contracts, that's a good thing from the hard-liners' point of view.

Yes, Herr Doktorprofessor convinces us that President is unable to control the "policy freebooting" even within the highest ranks of his own administration. Bush incoherence. Bush incompetence. So it always goes with Herr Doktorprofessor.

But what a difference a few days make! In his most recent column, Herr Doktorprofessor urgently reports that the real threat from the Bush led Republicans comes not from incoherent policy freebooting and refusal to cooperate, but from their monolithic, obedient group-mind:

[I]t's hard to think of a time when U.S. government dealings have been less subject to scrutiny. First of all, we have one-party rule - and it's a highly disciplined, follow-your-orders party. There are members of Congress eager and willing to take on the profiteers, but they don't have the power to issue subpoenas.

So there you have it. A few days ago, the Administration was so undisciplined that feuding factions were undermining and tearing apart each other and the President's policies, but now the entire Republican expanse has become a a highly disciplined, follow-your-orders party - a discipline that extends not just to the White House, the Pentagon and throughout the Executive Branch, but even subsumes Congress! Does, for example, Senator John McCain, know about this? The John McCain who is Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, a member and former Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, and a self-proclaimed high-profile opponent of "pork barrel" spending? Does that John McCain know that he is unable or unwilling to obtain subpoenas to investigate what Herr Doktorprofessor finds to be obvious signs of fraud against the government?

John McCain will not be the only surprised Senator. And that's nothing compared to the surprise that will hit all the divisions of the various intelligence services devoted to detecting and prosecuting federal government contractor fraud (every branch of the armed services has one, for example) - divisions that have been relatively recently expanded and think themselves to be fully and effectively employed. I was speaking to a relatively senior member of one such division just the other day, and I know that they'll really be surprised to find out that they are without the will and power to investigate fraud against the federal government. It's amazing what you can find out by reading the Times.

Herr Doktorprofessor is alarmed that what he sees as a tide of fraud against the government is not just bad - but rising:

Brown & Root, which later became the Halliburton subsidiary doing those dubious deals in Iraq, profited handsomely from its early support of a young politician named Lyndon Johnson. So is there any reason to think that things are worse now? Yes. The biggest curb on profiteering in government contracts is the threat of exposure: sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Since Herr Doktorprofessor has raised the subject of whether there is reason to think that fraud against the federal government is worse now than it was in the 1960's, it's indeed odd that he fails to mention qui tam. What is qui tam? It's a kind of law suit that can be brought under a federal law greatly strengthened and enhanced by Congress in 1986 - well after a young politician named Lyndon Johnson walked the earth - that allows a whistleblowiing individual plaintiff to recover up to 30% of amounts recovered from those who commit fraud against the federal government and grants the whistleblower extensive protection against any retaliation for bringing the suit. As described in one site:

The Civil False Claims Act, also known as Lincoln's Law, the Informer's Act, or the Qui Tam Statute, 31 U.S.C. Section 3729 et seq., allows a private person to sue a person or company who is knowingly submitting false bills to the federal government. The Act also protects qui tam plaintiffs who are demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment for acts done in furtherance of filing a claim under the Act. This provision allows reinstatement, double back pay, interest on the back pay, plus special damages including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys fees.

More than 2,400 qui tam suits have been filed since 1986, when the statute was strengthened to make it easier and more rewarding for private citizens to sue. The government has recovered over $2 billion as a result of the suits, of which almost $340 million has been paid to relators/whistleblowers.

If the qui tam suit alleging false billings is successful, the whistleblower (known as a "relator") will also be entitled to 15-30% of the government's total recovery, which includes damages for the false bills, tripled, plus civil penalties of from $5,000 to $10,000 per false claim. To recover this bounty, the relator must have complied with the complex and unusual statutory requirements, however. Merely providing information to a hotline will not entitle the relator to a recovery under the False Claims Act.

To state a cause of action under the False Claims Act, a qui tam plaintiff may allege that defendant either:

(1) knowingly present[ed] or caus[ed] to be presented, to an officer or employee of the United States government . . . a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
(2) knowingly, ma[de], use[d], or cause[d] to be made or used, a false record or statement to get a false or fraudulent claim paid by the government;
(3) conspir[ed] to defraud the government by getting a false or fraudulent claim allowed or paid.

To put this in perspective, a Halliburton employee who filed and documented a qui tam suit regarding what that company's more heated critics have said is about $60 million in overcharging for gasoline in Iraq could receive roughly SIXTY MILLION DOLLARS under federal law for blowing that particular whistle. That kind of money buys a lot of disinfectant. Since he's chosen to wring his hands over the issue, one might have thought that Herr Doktorprofessor would mention the economic incentives created by the qui tam statute in favor of employees and contractors for businesses doing work for the government to expose fraud. Herr Doktoprofessor is, after all, supposed to be an economist. But is he a serious economist - has he ever been?

The Man Without Qualities has expressed (here and here and here, for example) serious skepticism over whether Herr Doktorprofessor has ever been a really serious and good economist - instead of another gifted academic self-promoter who exploited weaknesses in the structure of his profession to hype the significance of his own rather modest accomplishments to the point of securing a John Bates Clark Medal and a Princeton appointment. His customary arrogant disrespect for much of his profession is also evident in this recent column, where Herr Doktorprofessor tosses off this nugget:

Let's be clear: worries about profiteering aren't a left-right issue. Conservatives have long warned that regulatory agencies tend to be "captured" by the industries they regulate; the same must be true of agencies that hand out contracts. Halliburton, Bechtel and other major contractors in Iraq have invested heavily in political influence, not just through campaign contributions, but by enriching people they believe might be helpful. Dick Cheney is part of a long if not exactly proud tradition.

Passing over the gratuitous, scurrilous and unsupported lible against the Vice President at the end of the passage, one might ask: Does Herr Doktorprofessor believe the theory of "regulatory capture" to be robustly valid? At first it appears not, since he writes that only conservatives have long warned that regulatory agencies tend to be "captured" by the industries they regulate - and he does not seem to count himself as a "conservative." But then he goes right ahead and argues in support of the very point he is making that the same must be true of agencies that hand out contracts. Further, much "regulatory capture" theory turns on the observation that once widespread public interest in a regulatory matter abates, the regulated parties are free to have their way with the regulators. But public interest in the circumstances of American involvement in Iraq - and especially in Iraq's reconstruction - has certainly not abated. So much "regulatory capture" theory would not apply very well here at all - although that may change once Iraq has been pacified and ceases to appear as front page news every single day. Could that be why Herr Doktorprofessor is so elliptical and tentative in citing "regulatory capture" theory? I leave it to the reader to determine for herself whether a man who passionately - or even seriously - cares about economics would abuse his field to the point of not even disclosing whether he approves of this application of a theory he is in fact using to support his argument and without disclosing that the facts under consideration differ seriously from those generally addressed by the theory in the first place.

I do not.

I have previously noted the casual, even contemptuous, manner in which Herr Doktorprofessor treats broad areas of economics - a treatment that suggests more than anything else that he does not really understand the significance of those areas:

But, even worse than that from a professional standpoint: Herr Doktorprofessor is entirely oblivious to the fact that he is writing a column about a topic which is informed by a fairly well-developed economic theory: regulatory capture. A lot of economic research has gone into analyzing what symptoms one should look for to determine whether a regulated business controls its regulators. But Herr Doktorprofessor ignores all that learning ... But it can't be ignored. ... Further, federal regulation and regulatory capture works mostly through the Congress - not the Administration. But Herr Doktorprofessor just entirely cancels Congress out of both sides of his equation.

Introducing Congress into the equation would expose that Herr Doktorprofessor is also ignoring a second branch of modern economics: public choice theory - the branch of economic that concerns economic choices made by democratic societies. As so often the case with this columnist, resort to silly conspiracy charges substitutes for the hard work of applying difficult economics. He can leave that to real geniuses like Dr. James M. Buchanan, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in economics for his contributions to public choice theory. A man has to know his limitations.

Others also express skepticism over Herr Doktorprofessor's bona fides.

Don Luskin quotes an e-mail from Reuven Brenner of McGill University, a prolific author of economics:

[I]t is still beyond me why Krugman was ever considered to be a decent economist: I never found anything in his writings. Am still waiting to hear someone identify one insight (have you found it?). I looked into it when Washington-based Institute for International Economics (on whose board Krugman was sitting at the time), asked me to review his book, The Return of Depression Economics. I called it 'Depressing Krugnorance,' and it was reprinted around the world. Parts of it are included in my Force of Finance book. Others appeared long ago in my "Making Sense out of Nonsense" in my Educating Economists book, some 12 years ago."

MORE: From Antler.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Rant II

The really bad news is that it now seems likely the insurgency has been operating free of Hussein and his money. --- Richard Cohen, Washington Post, December 16, 2003

BAGHDAD, Dec. 16 -- A document discovered during the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has enabled U.S. military authorities to assemble detailed knowledge of a key network behind as many as 14 clandestine insurgent cells, a senior U.S. military officer said Tuesday. "I think this network that sits over the cells was clearly responsible for financing of the cells, and we think we're into that network," said Army Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division. .... "As I've always stated, repeatedly, our expectation was that Saddam was probably involved in intent and in financing, and so far that is still my belief," Sanchez told reporters Tuesday at a news conference at the Baghdad airport. --- news story, Washington Post
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Bye, Bye. And Get Enough Rest To Clear Your Mind.

I confess to a certain meanspirited motive in checking in on Eschaton today, a site I don't consistently visit.

I was "curious" what the word around Bedlam would be following Saddam Hussein's capture. But I never expected that the site would be dark, with the following message hung in the gritty cyber window:

Atrios will be away from 12/16-12/19.

Somewhere in there, he took time off for a birthday breakfast, saying: With that I turn the asylum over to the inmates. But just for a few hours. At least he knows his audience - even if any differences between them and the management are, shall we say, a bit blurred.

He announced his planned absence shortly after Saddam was captured, and there is a fair amount of confused, mostly dispirited gibberish on the site following the capture: A pathetic But, it really doesn't change much post. A confused group message to Senator Kerry about linking Dean to Al-Qaeda - it's really come to that on the left. Hope is expressed that the Telegraph story isn't true. A bizarre complaint that George Bush focuses our attention on the negative aspects of Saddam's capture. Tasteless joke about CNN fails to inform us that Powell's virility is unmatched in its report about the Secretary's cancer operation. Some other odds and ends, including something about vibrators (260 comments on that one).

But nobody's heart seems to be in the lunacy now. It's like they're just going through the motions. It's sad, really. So sad.

As Atrios would say:

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For The Holidays, Send A Gift With A Wish Attached II: Germany And France Aren't Naughty, This Time

I don't generally read Michael Elliott's column in TIME because I don't generally read TIME. But I was traveling over the weekend (Wilmington, Delaware, bankruptcy court, for the curious - but neither I nor any affiliate of mine is either a creditor or the bankrupt debtor) and TIME managed to put it's cover issue with the captured Saddam Hussein in the airport shops even before the dailies, so I made an exception. Mr. Elliott's column on the interaction of Paul Wolfowitz's memo of Dec. 5 that fleshed out for the public who is eligible to win prime contracts, funded by $18.6 billion of U.S. tax money, to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and supply its new army with James Baker's debt relief efforts was a fascinating tour de force of current crippled, liberal thinking:

Even if you accept the memo's argument that "limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq" (in other words, war naysayers have to join the occupation if they hope to fully cash in) "and in future efforts" (what future efforts, by the way?), its timing was idiotic. Wolfowitz's findings were posted on a Pentagon website just as President Bush was phoning other heads of state to ask them to give a fair hearing to former Secretary of State James Baker III, whom Bush has just deputed to help renegotiate Iraq's hefty debt. Of the $21 billion (excluding interest) that Baghdad owes to non-Arab states, more than $9.3 billion is due to Germany, Russia, Canada and France. (The U.S. is owed an additional $2.2 billion.) Political leaders in debtor countries left off the list yelped at the bizarre conjunction of events, while U.S. allies like the British sighed at the plan's unhelpful diplomacy. In the best case, Baker will have to spend time on his travels smoothing ruffled feathers ?— one reason the White House, which had initially signed off on the Pentagon policy, later suggested that it was less than thrilled by the way and time it was announced.

As I have explained in my prior post on this topic, Mr. Elliott's image of James Baker traveling hat-in-hand to European creditors smoothing ruffled feathers and begging for debt relief is risible. Even without the Wolfowitz memo, Mr. Baker held most of the cards: Iraq could just repudiate the debt. Mr. Baker was benefited substantially by Paul Wolfowitz's memo because the main issue Mr. Baker has to confront in his negotiations is European skepticism that the US really had the temerity to cause and support Iraq's repudiating the portion of its debt that constitutes credit extended by those countries to Saddam's regime. The US is very careful about endorsing debt repudiation - as has been clearly displayed in the endless rounds of third-world debt workouts that have clogged the international finance system since the early 1980's (Brazil Argentina, etc.). Mr. Wolfowitz's memo made credible the point that the US was perfectly prepared to make an exception for Iraq - while the White House "protests" that they really, really wished that the timing and tone of the memo had been better (even after Mr. Bush approved the policy and then frankly backed up the contents of the memo) just provided the appropriate diplomatic fig leaf. In other words, every aspect of the Wolfowitz/Baker approach is fully consistent with it having been worked out down to the last detail - which, in turn, is fully consistent with the reputations of Messrs. Wolfowitz and, especially, Baker, for working out everything they do down to the last detail. Mr. Elliott's silly political agenda seems to leave him little room for acknowledging such merits in Messrs. Wolfowitz and Baker - but those merits are there for all to see.

For a bungled and "idiotic" handling of the matter, the Wolfowitz/Baker approach certainly seems to have produced rapid, positive results:

"Germany and the United States, like France, are ready not only for debt restructuring but also for substantial debt forgiveness toward Iraq (news - web sites)," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's spokesman Bela Anda said in a statement. ... Despite responding to Washington's call for debt relief, Schroeder expressed misgivings about the Pentagon (news - web sites)'s exclusion of German companies from Iraqi reconstruction contracts.

Would it have been possible for Mr. Baker to have achieved his results more promptly? How much time does this allow for "smoothing feathers."

The large portion of the Iraq debt that is "involuntary" debt (essentially, war reparations) from Iraq's assaults on other countries is in a different category. But it would be morally difficult (although practically straightforward) for the US to ask Kuwait, say, to waive a slug of its war reparations if France and Germany are not made to waive a good portion of the debt owed to them. The European debt was extended to Saddam Hussein's government to finance the very infrastructure that enabled him to invade Kuwait in the first place and neither of these countries has agreed to extend substantial reconstruction funds. It's preposterous that the Europeans do not contribute more if Kuwait is asked to contribute. That, in turn, gives Mr. Baker yet another argument against the Europeans: You Europeans must forgive so that Kuwait will forgive. That's another reason you Europeans should take seriously the threat of naked Iraqi debt repudiation and US support for such repudiation.

It all seems to be working nicely so far. But, then, that's true of most things to which James Baker turns his hand.



Astute reader Avinash Singh asks by e-mail: "I wonder why James Baker is doing Colin Powell's job."

I think one reason is that Baker's not on a true diplomatic mission - it's fundamentally a cramdown negotiation, and Mr. Baker's positioned to play the "bad cop."

Maybe Powell will resurface as the "good cop" after Mr. Baker does his shorter-term, harsher work. That's pretty standard debt negotiation strategy: First the nasty debt negotiations are handled by hard nosed work-out counsel who aren't afraid to be dislaiked or to deliver the harsh realities, then the corporate types come in for the longer haul.

There's another possibility. It's still early - but I wonder if Mr. Powell is setting himself up for a graceful exit? He hasn't messed his position up, at least not in a big way, and he's done some very good - even brilliant - work (his UN talk, for example).

It is my opinion that the Baker/Powell dyad should be - and may be - the institutionalization of an approach to Old Europe that clearly denies them the ability to obtain their larger ends through essentially costless manipulation of "international law" and international institutions ("free riding") unless and until they start doing the things needed to be taken as fully serious players in the international theater (real economic reform, real military committment).


Unlike most of the American media, some German media get the Baker/Wolfowitz connection right:

The Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel said Germany must decide whether it wants to play a constructive role.

"Amid the warranted irritation, the government must decide what is more important: continuing skirmishes with hard-liners in the Pentagon like Paul Wolfowitz or making progress with the reconstruction of Iraq," the paper commented today.

"If the talks with the United States about debt relief bring German firms a few contracts, so much the better. The French and Russians won't do otherwise."

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Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam, From The Spider Hole ...

... and into the bag.

The improbable conditions of Saddam Hussein's capture bring home - among other things - why it may be so difficult to locate any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Greg Scobe thinks Saddam will likely have lots of embarrassing things to report on German and French complicity with his regime.

The giant sucking-up sounds now coming from the better furnished European weasel pens is consistent with that kind of conclusion.

UPDATE: Doesn't seem as though a lot of love is being lost on Saddam in Araby.

FURTHER UPDATE: This is still preliminary. But if reports of Atta/Saddam/Nidal/Niger/Uranium/al-Qaeda connections hold up, it looks like they'll be singing "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" early, often and with extra brio this year at the White House.

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