Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Saturday in Baghdad

I spent some time this afternoon with a Marine from the Sunni triangle who took an AK-47 round to his side. He was very lucky--the bullet entered and exited his side without hitting any vital organs. He is 19 years old, and ready to get out there and rejoin his unit. He said that he felt bad that they were out there doing missions, while he was "just here relaxing." Those who worry about the nation’s youth should spend a little time around these soldiers. In what I’m sure has begun to sound like empty promises, you will learn more about this soldier in a forthcoming article.

After chatting with the soldier, I took advantage of the opportunity of being at the Army Hospital to have a blood test. You see, I don’t know my blood type. When I embedded with the 1AD unit the other day, blood type was one of the questions they asked. And when you consider that a reporter traveling with that unit in November lost his hand to a grenade, I suppose it is a reasonable question as well. The officer handling my paperwork looked at me as if I was crazy when I told him I didn’t know. I explained that I am a dumb civilian. Because I presume this reasonable question will be asked at later embeds, I decided to remedy my ignorance. At any rate, I should have that information by tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, I will be attending a ceremony marking the turning over of the Ministry of Health from Coalition authority to Iraqi control. This is the first ministry to revert to Iraqi control. I’ll give you an update after the event.

First do no harm, then shoot

This Los Angeles Times story on the Faolluja firefights begins what is likely to be on ongoing effort to de-authorize the use of force in Iraq. The Marines should have come in there as social workers, it would seem; but, no, "if they continue to behave like this..." I predict the establishment press will take the side of the the insurgents with more regularity, especially when one of their folks get hurt. Pay attention.

Clarke, re-evaluated?

Washington Post is starting to have second thoughts about the public testimony of Dick Clark. This piece written by Dana Milbank and Dan Eggen says this: "The commission’s determination that the two policies were roughly the same calls into question claims made by Bush officials that they were developing a superior terrorism policy. The findings also put into perspective the criticism of President Bush’s approach to terrorism by Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief: For all his harsh complaints about Bush administration’s lack of urgency in regard to terrorism, he had no serious quarrel with the actual policy Bush was pursuing before the 2001 attacks.

Clarke did not respond to efforts to reach him for comment yesterday." This is in contrast to the
piece Eggen and Walter Pincus wrote on Thursday, or the Milbank piece of Thursday, where she claimed Clarke stole the show.

Let me bring to your attention Rick Lowry’s piece (again), in which he claims that Clarke has collapsed. And last, and best, is Bill Kristol’s devastating attack on Clarke (and the media), noting this exchange between Commission member Slade Gordon and Clarke:

GORTON: Now, since my yellow light is on, at this point my final question will be this: Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25th of 2001, based on Delenda, based on Blue Sky, including aid to the Northern Alliance, which had been an agenda item at this point for two and a half years without any action, assuming that there had been more Predator reconnaissance missions, assuming that that had all been adopted say on January 26th, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?


Semper Fi

In the massive troop rotation which is currently occurring, a number of Marine units are coming in to relieve Army units. The following press release struck me as reflective of the gung ho Marine spirit:

Marine Expeditionary Force Marines are currently conducting offensive operations in Al Fallujah in order to foster a secure and stable environment for the people of Al Anbar. Those who seek to impede the freedom, prosperity and progress of the Al Anbar residents are being physically challenged. Among those, some have chosen to fight. Having elected their fate, they are being engaged and destroyed. Since these operations are ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment at this time. Once operations have been completed, and reports have been verified, additional information will be released.

Samuel Berger on foreign policy

Samuel Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, writes a long essay for Foreign Affairs entitled "Foreign Policy for a Democratic President." That he beats up on Bush goes without saying. Example: "The administration’s high-handed style and its gratuitous unilateralism have embittered even those most likely to embrace American values and invited opposition even from those with most to gain from American successes. All around the world, fewer and fewer people accept that any connection exists between their aspirations and the principles Washington preaches.

As a result, although the United States has never enjoyed greater power than it does today, it has rarely possessed so little influence. We can compel, but far too often we cannot persuade. Our most important global initiatives, from advancing reform in the Middle East to defeating terrorism, will likely fail, unless there is a change in approach -- or a change in leadership."

Guelzo’s Emancipation Proclamation

Here is my review of Allen Guelzo’s Lincoln’s Emancipation: The End of Slavery in America just out from the Claremont Review of Books.

C-SPAN at 25

John Fund writes in praise of C-SPAN, explaining how it works, and how it came to be, and why it’s popular. He calls it the original "no-spin zone," the best sort of reality TV. Back in 1997, Harvey Mansfield wrote an appreciation of C-SPAN for The American Enterprise that we have saved on our Ashbrook site because it nails it. Mansfield argues that C-SPAN is lovable because it "allows politics to appear as it is, with all its partisan slants." "It doesn’t dismiss people’s opinions merely because they are partisan, and it doesn’t dismiss the aspiration to rise above partisanship merely because the effort often fails or is insincere." Brian Lamb and his people ask questions and then let the person answer them, and they can take as long as they want. The effect, almost always, is to educate.

Mansfield: "The ruling vice of American journalists is not that too many are Democrats but that they show such disrespect for democracy. Their error is mostly unconscious but nonetheless grave: They despise the surface of things and look too much, too quickly, for the inside story. The surface of things in democratic politics is the partisan dispute of the moment, but journalists allow themselves to get bored with that. They don’t listen partly because they have heard it before and mostly because they are convinced beforehand that it doesn’t mean anything. The only important events, they believe, are the ones that go on behind the scenes, and the only important words are those spoken in private: what we don’t see determines what we do see, and the job of the journalist is to unearth secrets, not to report what is obvious.

C-SPAN, by contrast, is not afraid of the obvious. It adopts the citizen’s point of view instead of the wise guy’s." Read the whole thing, and keep watching C-SPAN.

"Laci and Conner’s Law" Passes

From FoxNews:

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act on Thursday, following House passage last month of a bill that would make it a crime to harm a fetus during a violent federal crime.

I haven’t read the law, but judging from its friends and foes it would seem this law is a sensible one.

Epitath for Clinton’s anti-terrorism policy

Charles Krauthammer makes perfectly clear that in giving the Clinton administration a pass on terrorism, Clarke proves to be a liar. And, as I have asserted, in trying to argue that Bush should be held responsible for 9/11, they are trying to shift discussion away from the fact that Clinton did not have a plan (and did very little) against al Qaeda. Because what Krauthammer says is true--and all the media glitz and Democratic hype aside--the Clarke (and Demo) pre-emptive strike against Bush’s anti-terror policies preceding 9/11 will not work.   


Just got back after spending a full day with the boys of the 2d Battalion, 3d Field Artillery Regiment in the Adhamiya region of Baghdad. These are good folks who operate in a dangerous region of the city. I will be writing a full article about my time there soon.

The GOP and the South

Gerard Alexander (of the University of Virginia) writes a terrific essay (via reviewing some books) demolishing the myth that the Republican Party assembled a national majority by winning over Southern white voters; Southern white voters are racist; therefore, the GOP is racist. He argues that this is--believed by the media and the left in academia--nonsense.    

The French

Nick Schultz uses Timmerman’s new book, The French Betrayal of America, to note various French shananigans. They may no longer be armed to the teeth (as Churchill said), but they are still pacifists to the core, and yet, practice hard-ball diplomacy.

Last quarter growth at 4.1%

The U.S. economy grew at 4.1% annual rate during the last quarter of 2003.

Military realignments

Bradley Graham writes a WaPo story on how the Pentagon is planning to withdraw as many as half of our 71,000 forces from Germany and redeploy them in Romania, Bulgaria, and elsewhere. This would be a part of a massive realignment of American military forces from large concentrations to skeletal outposts closer to potential trouble spots. Phil Carter has a few good paragraphs analyzing what it may mean and how it may work. In short, it is a function of cost, efficiency, and (not least of all) politics, and what Carter calls, creating a more "expeditionary model of basing that that supports deployments, not large forward-deployed units." A premium would be placed on deployability, since we will be fighting different kinds of wars than we would have against the Soviets.

Kerry’s Talks with the North Vietnamese

John Kerry has acknowledged meeting privately with a North Vietnamese official in Paris in 1971. However, he denies that he traveled to Paris with any intent of engaging in private negotiations with a foreign government, which of course would have been illegal.

Still want to play up that Vietnam record on the campaign trail, Senator?

Kerry notes

This L.A. Times story notes that John Kerry has much work to do before he gets Democrats to support him rather than merely being anti-Bush. This is a bad sign for Kerry--his support is neither deep nor enthusiastic within his own party--and the poor primary turnout was already an indication of this problem. The New York Post reports that there is increasing talk that former Democrat Senator Bob Kerrey (Vietnam vet, Medal of Honor winner), who has made a good showing on the 9/ll Commission, should be considered for the VP slot. There would be more excitement about Kerrey than Kerry, so it cannot happen; John wouldn’t allow it.
Walter Cronkite asks Kerry not to allow Bush to define him. Thanks Walter for revealing your keen mind on all this, that’s helpful. I am also looking forward to Kerry’s reaction to Clarke’s book, which he said he was reading.

Ashbrook on C-Span 2

The Colloquium with Allen Guelzo on his book on the Emancipation Proclamation was taped by C-Span and they are running it this weekend. Here is the C-Span 2 schedule: Saturday, 11 p.m., and Sunday, 8 p.m. (Eastern time). It was a fine event, he talks for about forty five minutes, and then conversation with the students for another forty five minutes. Worth watching. Someone tell Harry Jaffa to watch it, please.

Dick Clarke’s self-immolation

Rich Lowry is hard on Clarke. He thinks that the fellow collapsed and that no one can take him seriously. I agree. Here is the transcript of Clarke’s interview in August 2002 wherein he said the opposite of what he has been saying the last few days. Dana Milbank, writing for the Washington Post, tries to put a pro-Clarke spin on the story, just to prove (again) that the establishment press is not objective. The Post reprints the full transcript of the hearings. Note (among other things) Jamie Gorelick’s self-serving and often silly comments (she was, as I recall Reno’s deputy). This is an article wriiten by Clarke for Time in which, at the end of the piece, he asks the ever-so-deep question: "Whatever we do to the original members of al-Qaeda, a new generation of terrorists similar to them is growing. So, in addition to placing more cameras on our subway platforms, maybe we should be asking why the terrorists hate us. If we do not focus on the reasons for terrorism as well as the terrorists, the body searches we accept at airports may be only the beginning of life in the new fortress America." This is beyond silly, at this point. This is not a policy question, these guys have made clear why they had us, it is because of who we are. We stand for something they despise, and they are ready and willing to kill us because of who we are: we think freedom is good, we think self-government is good; we are not cave-dwellers. They think our purposes and our democratic means are degenerate, base, and against their sharia. But they also now know that we are willing to fight to keep our freedom, and indeed, we also have a hymn to battle, and it has something to do with making men free. The rest is a sideshow.

Syria’s Kurds

Another Neil MacFarquhar piece on Syria in the New York Times shows the effect that the freeing of Iraq next door has on their discontent. "Kurdish Syrians, 2 million of Syria’s 17 million people, say that watching rights for Kurds being enshrined in a new if temporary constitution next door in Iraq finally pushed them to take to the streets to demand greater recognition. In their wake is a toll of blackened government buildings, schools, grain silos and vehicles across a remote swath of the north." As a Kurd said, "We want democracy like the others [i.e., his brethren in Iraq]." Some twenty people have been killed in clashes between Kurds and Syrian troops, who fired on peaceful demonstrators.

Christopher Hitchens notes all this and says: "It is early to pronounce, but this event seems certain to be remembered as the beginning of the end of the long-petrified Syrian status quo. The Kurdish population of Syria is not as large, in proportion, as its cousinly equivalent in Iraq. But there are many features of the Syrian Baath regime that make it more vulnerable than Saddam Hussein’s. Saddam based his terrifying rule on a minority of a minority—the Tikriti clan of the Sunni. Assad, like his father, is a member of the Alawite confessional minority, which in the wider Arab world is a very small group indeed. Syria has large populations of Sunni, Druze, and Armenians, and the Alawite elite has stayed in power by playing off minorities against minorities. It is in a weak position to rally the rest of society against any identifiable "enemy within," lest by doing so it call attention to its own tenuous position." Worth watching.

"Under God" case heard

Here is the Reuters report on the "under God" issue that the Court just heard. And here is the AP story.

Under God and the Supremes

Phillip Munoz faced the missionary atheist Michael Newdow in a debate last week. As Munoz tells it, Newdow thinks the Supreme Court will go with him (and against " under God" in the Pledge) 8-0. Munoz thinks he’s wrong. The Court is hearing the case today.

Alt and de Villepin

As you know from below, Robert Alt was a few floors removed from the rocket attack on his hotel last night. This piece, entitled, "A Safer World:
Dominique de Villepin should be sleeping in my hotel," are his reflections for the day on the issue of whether or not the world has been made safer because of our actions in Iraq. That he disagrees--despite the contiunuing attacks--with Messr. de Villepin shouldn’t surprise you.

Kerry’s numbers fall

Dick Morris contends that Kerry’s been dropping in the polls, rather than Bush rising. He thinks this is a good sign for Bush because it shows that Kerry is very vulnerable. He asserts that Kerry is not ready to run for president because he is off balance, and has always been because as a Massachussetts liberal he never had to pay attention to what really interests ordinary Americans. He thinks it is significant that the Bush pressure on Kerry’s stance on the money for the war and on the foreign leaders’ support issue is what caused Kerry to fumble and caused his numbers to drop. He thinks the Demos ought to be worried about this.

It’s not the economy

Yesterday’s Nedw York Times reports that in the so-called seventeen swing states, over 80,000 jobs have been created (whereas about 60,000 have beenb lost in non-swing states), and incomes in the swing states are growing faster in the swing states than in the others. This is just another reason why I think that--in the end--the election will not be determined by the economy, but rather on Bush’s performance against terror. That is another reason to pay attention to the Dick Clarke row, how it will be perceived, what effect it may have, and how the White House responds to it. That this attack on Bush’s leadership in the war on terror (including Iraq) is so wonderfully organized and so well crafted--it is what I have called the Democrats’ pre-emptive strike--is an indication that Kerry and the Demos understand this, despite their occasional throw-away lines on what they call a struggling economy, and the "inability" of the economy to create jobs.

Four Floors

That’s what separated me from a missile which hit my hotel at around 4 am. The missile hit the sixth floor of the Ishtar Sheraton. Luckily, that floor is a deck, so the explosion appears to have done little more than displace some concrete, break some glass, and rattle some nerves. The only injury I have seen was from an Iraqi outside the hotel who came in with a cut on his arm, likely from the shattered glass.

Needless to say, the impact was deafening, particularly coming as it did at a time when I was dead sleep. Once the disorientation of sleep leaves you (which, given the volume of the blast was a period measured in nanoseconds), the question is what to do. Part of you says to stay in your bed out of the uncertainty of whether additional missiles will follow. But my bed is about 10 feet from a large sliding glass door and balcony facing the same side that the missile hit, so this seemed a bad idea. After waiting a moment to assure that there would not be a substantial risk in leaving the room, I threw on my clothes. In the bathroom, you could smell smoke--a smell like a mechanical or electrical fire. I made my way to the lobby, in which the floor and sofas were speckled by pieces of thick glass. I then walked outside to see if the damage was visible, but was quickly cautioned to return indoors: there were snipers on the roof, and there was no need to confuse them with an extra target. The hotel manager then secured a back elevator which could be taken to the sixth floor. There you could see the point of impact. The damage, however, appeared to be minimal, because missile hit concrete. There was much broken glass, but all told we were very lucky.

This morning, the terrorists came after the civilians in my hotel in a cowardly attack. But tonight, I ride with a unit from Operation Iron Promise to go after them.

Glen Thurow review

Glen Thurow reviews Frost & Sikkenga’s History of American Political Thought in the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books. The rest of the issue isn’t bad, either. Click here and scroll down. Do yourself a favor and subscribe! It is better than anything out there, including the New York Review of Books or The New York Times Book Review.

On the Road

Pardon the lack of posts this week, but I have been doing a lot of work at locations where it is not possible to post. Tomorrow is no exception. I am back out to BIAP to attempt to meet up with the 1486th, and then I am embedding in the evening with the 1st Armored Division for a patrol in Baghdad. The patrol is part of Operation Iron Promise, a special anti-terrorism task force designed to detain or eliminate terrorists and their weapons. The task force is an aggressive step against terrorism in Baghdad, and has had great success capturing both Iraqi and international terrorists with very detailed intelligence. I still owe you quite a few stories from the MEDEVAC and the hospital, which will be coming soon.

Another Great Moment from the Press Room

On Monday, one of the Iraqi reporters at the daily press briefing offered by General Kimmitt stated that he had noticed that United States soldiers randomly shoot Iraqi civilians including women and children, and asked whether this was policy. General Kimmitt patiently pointed out that the Coalition has very strict guidelines on use of force and rules of engagement, and that any deviation from this is investigated and if substantiated, prosecuted. He estimated that there had been less than 12 incidents in Iraq of violations of the use of force policy, and thought that the number may even be less.

There are two reasons why the Iraqi’s question is somewhat understandable. The first is that those who witness a shooting are often family, friends, or acquaintances, and are unlikely to say that their confidant did something wrong to provoke the response. It is far more common for an interested onlooker to suggest that someone was shot for no reason. The second is something that a strategy planner pointed out to me, and which I have now seen on numerous occasions. Iraqis as a rule are not prone to believe that an Iraqi has attacked another Iraqi. For example, they are very quick to assert that a bombing or shooting was the result of international terrorism, or the U.S., but they are unlikely to believe that even an Iraqi they would cast as an extremist is responsible, and this is constant even when substantial evidence points in that direction. The tendency rises to the level of cognitive dissonance. I have spoken with Iraqis who express their fear that a million Shia extremists are ready will at a moment’s notice die for the cause, and then moments later express that violence in Iraq is the result of international terror, because it is contrary to the nature of the Iraqi people to attack themselves. These reasons are not meant to downplay the real problem which occurs when abuse of force policy occurs, but the military does appear to take the issue very seriously, and the numbers suggest that such violations are extremely rare.

While the Iraqi journalist’s question is somewhat understandable, the following is not. A reporter for a major American network walked up to the Iraqi journalist after the briefing, and complimented him on his fine question. The network reporter knew better, or I should say, should know better. Even if you believe that there have been mistakes, or are morally outraged that there have been any collateral injuries, it takes a special kind of jaded bias to believe that "is it U.S. policy to randomly shoot women and children" is a good question.

Welcome to Summer

It was a hot day in Baghdad, so I made the mistake of checking the weather report. The coolest day this week is scheduled to be Thursday, with a breezy 89. The temperature for every other day this week begins with a 9.

The Taste of Freedom

Today took me to Baghdad International Airport, better known locally by the acronym BIAP. I was supposed to be meeting up with the 1486th Transporation Company, which includes soldiers from the Mansfield/Ashland area. There was a delay in their arrival, so I did not get to meet with them today. But I did get a little taste of home. A double Whopper with cheese, onion rings, Hershey pie and a coke. Yes, I visited the Baghdad Burger King, which I first mentioned here back in October. After having a dream last week about Chicago deep dish pizza, it was everything I hoped it would be. I’m telling you, if the Coalition wants to really excite the locals about the benefits of freedom, they will open more franchises downtown.

The Public Affairs officers at BIAP were very helpful, and seemed pleased to have someone who writes for National Review in the room. The airport itself is enormous. The Coalition is currently in the process of turning it over to the Iraqis, so that it can become a full service commercial airport once again. For example, the MEDEVAC units I rode with a few days ago had just moved from the airport to a external location.

David Brooks on the Pledge, Citizenship, and American Religion

In "One Nation, Enriched by Biblical Wisdom," David Brooks shows once again why his New York Times columns are "must-reads" for our day and age. The topic: the constitutionality of the pledge of allegiance (oral arguments will be heard tomorrow by the Supreme Court). Brook’s opinion: a certain amount of religion in public schools is a boon for America. Why? The modern civil rights movement would not have been successful without its biblical foundation. In Brooks words: "If you believe that the separation of church and state means that people should not bring their religious values into politics, then, if Chappell is right, you have to say goodbye to the civil rights movement. It would not have succeeded as a secular force."

Commenting on a recent book by David L. Chappell, entitled A Stone of Hope, Brooks concludes that the optimistic view of human nature held by northern white liberals would have been insufficient to turn the tide in favor of federal legislation that put teeth into the constitutional bite of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. What proved essential (according the Chappell’s research) was the pessimistic view of human nature held by southern black Christians. Their hope was in God, not man, to effect the change of human hearts that was necessary for the change in laws. As Martin Luther King put it, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." It would not do so without the hand of Providence guiding men and women to this end.

Brooks argues:

Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.

He concludes: "The lesson I draw from all this is that prayer should not be permitted in public schools, but maybe theology should be mandatory. Students should be introduced to the prophets, to the Old and New Testaments, to the Koran, to a few of the commentators who argue about these texts.

"From this perspective, what gets recited in the pledge is the least important issue before us. Understanding what the phrase "one nation under God" might mean — that’s the important thing. That’s not proselytizing; it’s citizenship."    

Dick Clarke, false

Rich Lowry thinks that Richard (maybe I should just start calling him Dick from now on, as his legions of friends do, especially in the establishment press) Clarke’s book is weak and unconvincing. John Podhoretz uses sarcasm to great effect to question almost everything about him and his book. And, just for the record, let it be known that (maybe) the last honorable Democrat, Joe Lieberman, says there is no truth to the accusations.

I have heard Dick Clarke’s name thrown around for a few years. He wanted to be CIA director for a while and made some moves in that direction, he was deeply interested in what he called cyberterrorism and claimed it will be the next Pearl Harbor. He was demoted by this administration. He is a friend and colleague of Kerry’s main foreign policy advisor, and so on. So what is this all about? Well, I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure all this out. This is another Democratic political pre-emptive strike: Bush has been soft on terrorism because he was only focused on Iraq even before 9/11. Try to separate Iraq from the terror war as much as possible, that will leave an opening for Kerry to take a seeming hard-line view on terror, while being able to criticize the President on Iraq. This is necessary for Kerry to overcome the sense that he is a foreign policy weanie, (but he does have the support of the Spanish socialists and the French). Clarke has a long way to go before he becomes persuasive with the American people; he has to do more than persuade Ketie Curic and CNN. From what I have seen he is not impressive enough to pull it off, nor are his erstwhile colleagues. There is also nothing more fun than watching a man complain because he hasn’t been taken seriously. And now he can publicly argue that he is, and always has been, a serious person and, furthermore, y’all should have seen that earlier, you know, before even I realized how serious I was. But I am a serious person now, I am, really. And if I didn’t prove that to you in my attempt to climb the breaucratic ladders, I am trying to prove it now. I am, I really am. I think the guy is as false as water, and is a feather for each wind that blows.

Richard Clarke

David Tucker clarifies the Richard Clarke accusations against the Bush administration. Although this will not slow the media frenzy, it will add some value to the discussion. Also see Condi Rice’s interview on CNN this morning, and then this PBS interview with Richard Clarke from March, 2002, wherein his positions on some of these matters appears to differ from that of yesterday.

The spirit of Munich, blowing across Europe

Andrew Sullivan, writing for the Sunday Times of London, explains in depressing detail why the 3/11 attacks in Spain were succesful: the Spaniards (and the Europeans) are "caving in to blackmail." He argues that the situation couldn’t be worse. The Jihadists now know that "the 9/11 gambit can work in Europe." Oddly, even though it is Europe that is most at risk, it is Europe that is most set on pretending it isn’t at risk and, even worse, some in Europe are arguing that this is the fault of the U.S. Read the whole thing; very thoughtful. Will the New Europe be able to influence the Old and set things right? Christopher Caldwell is pessimistic on even that. He thinks that the ties that have developed between Spain and Poland are an ill omen.

The Assassination of Yassin

Why did Israel kill Sheikh Yassin, the founder of HAMAS? Obviously, they know this ups the stakes even more in the conflict with the most radical elements among the Palestinians.

So why? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the action follows immediately on the heels of Benjamin Netanyahu’s agreement to give provisional support for the phased withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in conjunction with continued building of Israel’s security barrier. This means that the plan will very likely make it through Sharon’s cabinet and become a reality.

If so, Israel knows that it must withdraw settlers on terms of strength, or its pullout will be trumpeted by its enemies as a sign of weakness, as happened with the military withdrawal from southern Lebanon. So look for even more audacious strikes in the weeks ahead against HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aksa Brigades, especially the kind of strikes that can help certain elements within the PA to take more authority once Israel has withdrawn and given up day-to-day control over Gaza and most of the West Bank.

Notwithstanding the revenge attacks to come, Israel really is changing the security equation, and it looks like the Palestinians are in trouble.

Let us praise Blair

Prime Minister Tony Blair has done a very impressive thing. He

"has ordered Labour ministers and officials not to become embroiled in the US presidential race in an apparent attempt to avoid offending George W Bush.

The Prime Minister’s veto on visits to the US means that only one minister, Douglas Alexander, will attend the formal crowning of John Kerry, the Democrats’ candidate, in Boston in late July.

Tony Blair is said to back George Bush’s re-election bid
Mr Blair’s intervention, which will prevent his Labour colleagues from offering their traditional support to the Democrats, has astonished ministers who remember the close links Labour had with Bill Clinton during previous presidential campaigns."

Glucksmann on Spain’s collapse

Andre Glucksmann has no doubt that the terrorist attack in Spain worked, and manipulated the Spanish election: "Except this time the assassins can proclaim they have won. It took them three days to sway popular opinion. The Popular Party of Jose María Aznar, the expected winner, got trounced. ’Punished!’ they said. But by whom? What’s the point of political campaigns, meetings, reports, programs and debates if within a few hours, the bombing of packed train cars can reverse the result? This final landslide, which no polls had predicted, is entirely due to the Atocha station catastrophe and the terror it spread. How could the terrorists not assume that they are the decision-makers, and that terrorism is now stronger than democracy? If the Socialists brought to govern Spain keep their pledge (made before the massacre) to withdraw from Iraq, they will confirm the killers’ innermost conviction: Crime pays--and the greater the horror, the more efficiently."

A great idea

The edge of England’s Sword has a wonderful idea for either a button or a bumber sticker, could be useful for "Democrats for Bush" or Republicans in Massachusetts:

I voted for John Kerry, before I voted against him.

Kerry and the world

THis Washington Post article turns out to be quite revealing about John Kerry’s view of both the United States and the world, and why he may love, above all else, meeting with foreign elites in Davos. If it is meant to be a defense of Kerry, I don’t think it works, take this paragraph: "Kerry’s father, a longtime State Department diplomat, taught him ’the benefit of learning how to look at other countries and their problems and their hopes and challenges through their eyes, to a certain degree, at least in trying to understand them,’ Kerry said. ’We don’t always do that that well. We often tend to see other people in the context of our history, our own hopes, our own aspirations.’"

Kerry and Bush at Yale

John Tierney of the New York Times reports on Kerry and Bush at Yale (Kerry is two years older). Kerry fit right in with the "Northeastern elite," while Bush was the unpretentious Texan. No one thought then that Bush would become president, while everyone who knew Kerry (and almost everyone did) thought he would. Even then, Kerry was an impressive political leader. Bush joined an ordinary fraternity (i.e., not a blue-blood) and played intramural sports; he came to dislike Yale chaplain William Sloan Coffin, showing he had good judgment even when young.

Greetings from the MEDEVAC Unit

I spent the day with the Medical Brigade in Baghdad, and with a MEDEVAC blackhawk crew today. I have much to report, indeed too much to report given how late it is, so I leave this post here as a teaser for tomorrow.