Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Diversion with Shakespeare

... and it’s nice to know that Schramm has personality qualities that are like generosity. In honor of Schramm while he’s away, I’m posting a quote from Shakespeare. I thought of this quote while we were invading Iraq but did not have time to post it when it was relevant.

Lincoln thought Macbeth was the perfect play because it taught everything there is to know about tyranny. I was reminded of this when Saddam’s Fedayeen started harassing American supply lines on the long march to Baghdad. Secretary Rumsfeld and the rent-a-generals on TV called the Fedayeen "dead-enders" and the "bitter-enders." The Fedayeen were the most vicious elements of Iraqi society. In a free society, they would be on the street or in jail, but tyrants sooner or later rely on them to keep decent people in line. Shakespeare makes this observation when he has Macbeth hire Banquo’s murderers:

Murd. 2: I am one, my liege, Whom the vile blows and buffets of the world Have so incensed that I am reckless what I do to spite the world.

Murd. 1: And I another So weary with disasters, tugg’d with fortune, That I would set my life on any chance, To mend it, or be rid on’t.

Macbeth, III.i.108-14.

Out of Town

I will not be blogging for the rest of the week. Off to D.C. to attend a White House Forum on American History and Civics. It should be fun, and I mean to take advantage of it. I presume Alt, Morel, Craig, Moser, Tucker and Claeys (et al) will take advantage of the gap in nature, and say something amusing for they have been known to show some sparks that are like wit. See you next week.

A Reality Check on the Rumsfeld Doctrine

Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings offers what he calls a reality check on the Rumsfeld Doctrine. Neither fully persuasive, nor shocking. More needs to be said on this matter.

Cuba on UN Human Rights Commission

Cuba now joins Saudi Arabia, Congo, and other worthies on the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Like the man says, it’s like putting Al Capone in charge of bank security. No other comment necessary.

Iraqi Lawyer who saved Jessica Linch in U.S.

Mohammed Odeh Al Rehaief and his family have been granted assylum and are now in Virginia, Tom Ridge announced today. Good story. 

Profile of Abu Mazen

MEMRI is running a two part profile of the new Palestinian Authority PM, Abu Mazen. This is the first part. Long, detailed, useful. 

Pournelle on Democracy in Iraq

Jerry Pournelle, the great science fiction writer ("The Mote in God’s Eye," and others) has a few good and interesting thoughts on why patience, a solid middle class, and no fear of losing an election are needed to establish a constitutional or "democratic regime" regime in Iraq (see under April 28th). Long and thoughtful.   

Free Press in Iraq

The Christian Science Monitor runs a very interesting story about how the Iraqis are appreciating their new-found freedom by watching a lot of (various) TV stations, from FOX to al Jazeera (note, they prefer FOX). A few lines are worth quoting, although the whole is worth reading.

"His friend, Abbas Ali, says: ’We used to go to sleep at 10 p.m. Now we stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. because we can’t get enough.’ Still desperate for war news, they tune to CNN, BBC, and what appears to be a local favorite, Fox. They like it, people here say, because it has been the most supportive of the war.

For many here, the only foreign channels they can understand are in Arabic, and they are deeply resentful of the most prominent one, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera.

Abu Bakr Mohammed Amin, an elderly man in a red-checkered headdress visiting Salih’s television shop, gives them a dismissive flick of the wrist: ’They only knew how to support Saddam,’ he says."

Judge Jeffrey Sutton

The Senate just voted to confirm Jeffrey S. Sutton to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 52-41. Congratulations Judge Sutton.

More on the Ideology of Federalism

Here is a piece I wrote for NRO on whether federalism is conservative. As I note, those who oppose federalism and its proponents often do so based on outcomes, but federalism is neutral in that regard, and may be used to strike down conservative and liberal legislation alike. For example, the partial birth abortion bill recently passed by the Senate is likely unconstitutional on Commerce Clause grounds--a point which I explain at greater length in the article.

Why History Matters

James Lindgren of Northwestern Law School has a tremendous op-ed in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune. He claims that the media are treating Iraq as though they were covering the New Hampshire primary, "in which a winner is treated as a loser because he did not win by as wide a margin as pundits expected." He reminds us that the protests and lootings in Iraq shouldn’t trouble us overmuch. After all, 200 were killed in Nigeria when a journalist wrote something apparently unflattering to Mohammed; why should we expect order and harmony in the midst of a massive regime change in Iraq?

He concludes: "We need more historical perspective brought to bear on our public debate over the Iraq war and its aftermath, so that our expectations are more reasonable. There is one thing we can all be thankful for: Neither the press nor my equally insightful fellow academics were running the war--or are now running the reconstruction of Iraq."

Black GOP Hopes

George Will has a terrific column on the many Black Republicans elected to various state offices (including three in Texas, and Blackwell in Ohio) and what it means for the future.
Notice who the campaign manager was for Michael Williams (a member of the Texas Railroads Commission) when he first ran for public office in 1978.

More on the Gingrich Speech

I have received a number of responses to my remarks on the Gingrich talk, almost all of them against my position. Here is one of the longer and more comprehensive ones:

I don’t think Gingrich’s speech was the killer Gaffney does, but I do think it was important, and with some exceptions, right on the money. What you really find in that speech is a simple, but generally unacknowledged truth: diplomacy may be defined as "talk talk" that advances a country’s interest, but State’s diplomats-- especially on the Arab desk--long ago became spokesmen for the Arabs, something that is also true of the British Foreign Office. There are many reasons for this: diplomats deal with diplomats and by nature tend to come to like their counterparts; diplomats tend to be liberal (i.e., they believe in talk, talk, not war, war), and the Arab, especially the Palestinian cause is a liberal one while the Israeli cause is a conservative one; even simple self interest: there is only one Israeli ambassadorship to be had in the middle east while there are many Arab ones.

As for the politics of it, I have two observations to make: (1) this is a good time to remind everyone that State, like the U.N., has been dead wrong on this one (and many, many others as well), and Defense right. If State has its way, it will--again, just like the U.N.--
ensure only that the ills of the area are never addressed. As the kids say, State just "doesn’t get it," the "its" being that peace is a means, not an end (and the same is true of process, which diplomats (God save us from the French), also tend to confuse with being an end. Can you imagine State saying, as DOD did a couple of days ago when asked whether Iraq would be allowed to have any form of government it wants: "Hell no: no more damn clerics running the show!" (Well, kind of.) (2) Politically, Gingrich was the wrong man to deliver this speech. Bush 2 still holds Gingrich partly responsible for Bush 1’s single term presidency. My prediction is that this effort to weaken State, or even the Arab desk, will backfire. Add Powell’s popularity with the Pesident to his (the pres.) dislike of Gingrich, and what we may well end up with is a State strengthened by the speech. Good old State: like an economist (or the CIA), it never has to worry about being held accountable for its mistakes.


Reuters has an interesting piece about the Hollywood response to the war’s outcome. Note the reticence of once-was-celebrity Mike Farrell, who still opposes the war in spite of the outcome. I’ll give him points for consistency--a foolish consistency, but consistency nonetheless.

Perhaps the most entertaining thing is the way they see free speech as a one-way ratchet. When they spoke out against the war, joining groups that used pretty vulgar speech and acts to show their opposition, that was the apex of free speech and patriotism. When, however, others criticized them for their stance, well, that was an attempt to "muzzle" or "silence" speech. Uhh, Mr. Farrell, perhaps that was political speech, too. I’m not talking about the alleged threats, but it doesn’t appear that Farrell was either. He was talking about the rank and file individual who had the audacity to criticize celebrities--the same celebrities who claim now to be capitalizing on their anti-war publicity. These people were, in Farrell’s words "ugly mouthed" individuals who used "hate radio." How dare people not buy the Dixie Chicks album! The stars claim to be regrouping for their next big cause celebre. In the meantime, I have a little recommended reading for them.

The Ideology of Federalism

There are few certainties in life, except perhaps for death, taxes, and unfounded New York Times editorials against outstanding judicial nominees. Today the NYT takes aim at Jeffrey Sutton. What is Sutton’s sin according to the Times? He has argued Federalism (which in Times-speak is "a euphemism for a rigid states’-rights legal philosophy") cases, and they don’t like the outcomes. Aside from the fact that it is grossly unfair to smear a lawyer with the position or desired outcome of his client (are defense counsels who represent murderers "pro-murder"?), the Times, apparently incapable of actually addressing the substance of federalism, decides instead to use its well-honed skill skill of ad hominem. To the extent that the NYT does address federalism, the analysis is typically outcome-based. But here is where the editorial is most wrong: federalism as a set of legal rules is object neutral, and as such may offend conservatives as well as liberals in terms of outcomes. I have a couple of explosive examples in mind, but I will save them for tomorrow, when I will have more on this topic tomorrow to correspond with Sutton’s scheduled vote.

What about al Qaeda?

An article reporting that the US intelligence community believes that al Qaeda is now fractured and limited in what it can do operationally. The article reports that bin Ladin is angry that no attacks were made on the United States as a result of the war in Iraq. The article also cites intelligence sources who do not share the view that AQ has been hurt by our efforts. If the claim of diminished operational capacity is correct, it would help explain why no attacks have occurred. More terrorist attacks, although to little effect, occurred in response to the first Gulf War. These were carried out or attempted by Saddam’s intelligence service. In any case, the lack of terrorist attacks (so far) has received little notice in the press. That bin Ladin threatened but that nothing has happened should undermine his credibility.

Havel as Orwell

Matt Welch writes an interesting, and long, article in Reason arguing that Vaclav Havel is the George Orwell of our time. He says that Havel built his reputation in the 1970s "by being to eyewitness fact what George Orwell was to dystopian fiction. In other words, he used common sense to deconstruct rhetorical falsehoods, pulling apart the suffocating mesh of collectivist lies one carefully observed thread at a time." Pretty good. Although it is not uncommon among conservative-types to be a bit ambivalent about Havel, just remember that Noam Chomsky considers him "morally repugnant" and on an "intellectual level that is vastly below that of Third World peasants and Stalinist hacks."  

Exploiting by "Affirming"

In his recent Washington Post op-ed,
"Affirmative Exploitation"
, Ruben Navarrette Jr. picks up where Civil Rights Commissioner Kirsanow left off in his column about affirmative action. Just a couple of excerpts:

"To the degree that there are failures and shortcomings in K-12 public education, racial preferences at the college level help to conceal them."

"Were minority students suddenly to vanish from college and university campuses, and the campuses return to being all white--as liberals warn would happen without preferences--Americans might start asking tough questions about the quality of elementary and secondary schooling in this country, especially for minorities. They might even ask whether teachers and administrators--the vast majority of whom are white--have the same level of expectations for black and Latino students as they do for white students, or whether guidance counselors are "tracking" minority students away from college-prep and Advanced Placement courses and toward vocational studies and other less-challenging curriculums."

In short, among its many deficiencies, affirmative action at the collegiate level postpones the day when public schools have to get their act together and teach their children, all their children, well.

Farouk Hijazi Caught

Farouk Hijazi, Iraq’s ambassador to Tunisia, and once the number three man in Saddam’s intelligence service, has been caught in Iraq, coming out of Syria. James Woolsey calls this "the biggest catch so far" even though he is not in the poker deck. The US claims that Hijazi met with bin Laden in 1998. 

Hitchens on Chalabi

Christopher Hitchens weighs in on behalf of Chalabi and against the press’ coverage of him.

Much More on George Galloway

This Telegraph story just adds more extraordinary information on how deeply Galloway was in bed with Saddam. Documents reveal that Saddam instructed the Iraqi intelligence service to sever contacts with Galloway in order not to do great harm to his political career. The Christian Science Monitor also has some more evidence. Why isn’t televison news covering this? How do the Brits define treason? Josh Chafetz claims that it is not treason under British law. And guess who’s coming to the defense of Galloway? Scott Ritter. Sometimes reality is better than fiction.

Turkish Forces in Iraq

Here is the Time Magazine report on the Turkish incursion into Iraq, and how we sent them back. This is not good.

The Turkish Special Forces team put up no resistance though a mean arsenal was discovered in their cars, including a variety of AK-47s, M4s, grenades, body armor and night vision goggles. "They did not come here with a pure heart," says U.S. brigade commander Col. Bill Mayville. "Their objective is to create an environment that can be used by Turkey to send a large peacekeeping force into Kirkuk."

The Effect of the War

David Warren writes a thoughtful piece on a difficult subject. While it resembles a psychoanalysis of the Arab mind, it is rather a good (admittedly hopeful) analysis of the effect that this extraordinary war has had on their perception of themselves, of their leaders, and, most important, of the lies that have been revealed. In a way, this is the real shock and awe! What this portends for the future of the whole region, including Iran, Syria, and the Palestine-Israeli road map toward peace, is not yet perfectly clear. Yet, it must be admitted that the situation is much more hopeful than ever before. Let the new international politics of the twenty-first century begin.

The U.N. and the Oil-for-Food Program

It seems to me that if this Claudia Rosett op-ed in the New York Times is true, it is perfectly understandable why the U.N. doesn’t want to end the oil for food program and the sanctions against Iraq: The UN itself (never mind France, et al) is profiting greatly from its existence. 

Gingrich’s AEI Speech is Over the Top

Newt Gingrich gave a talk at AEI yesterday that was highly tauted. You got the impression that he was going to have something important to say. I saw part of the speech, and read it all. I am mystified why people think this was a great speech. See, for example, Jonah Goldberg’s praise of it. But even worse is Frank Gaffney’s boundless intemperance in saying that it "may be one of the most important foreign-policy addresses by a former national leader since Winston Churchill warned in March 1946 that ’an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.’" This is way over the top.

It seems to me that although the State Department can be criticized on a variety of grounds, it absolutely cannot be criticized simply the way Gingrich does. Or, if it can be so criticized, it is, in fine, a criticism of the President himself. And that is both wrong and politically dangerous. Is Gingrich (and some so called conservatives) now willing to take on the President and his very succesfull foreign policy (of which war making is only a part) by relentlessly and comprehensively criticizing the State Department? What kind of suicidal mission are these guys on? Or, it is possible that I am missing something having to do with some kind of petty inter-office wars within the beltway. But if it’s only that than Gingrich ought to be ashamed of himself for creating an inside-the-administration-war at a time when that administration is about to conduct some very, very serious diplomacy in order to further its foreign policy agenda. I think that Gingrich is either a fool, or a knave, or is being used by some for highly imperfect ends. If I am wrong, you should let me know.

James McPherson KO’d by Thomas Sowell

What’s worse than being the target of a critical op-ed by Thomas Sowell? Getting the one-two punch by Sowell in successive op-eds! Poor James McPherson--yep, the McPherson of Civil War historian fame--penned an essay for Perspectives entitled "Deconstructing Affirmative Action"
where he confesses his guilt over being a successful white historian.

Curiously, for penance he has chosen not to give up what he considers his ill-gotten gains, i.e., a job at an elite university at the expense of blacks who supposedly never had the same chance. No, he has decided instead to put his fame and reputation on the public line by authoring an editorial espousing the virtues of today’s affirmative action regime. In other words, his faux guilt has been followed up with faux penance, for how could one’s reputation be sullied by airing views perfectly in keeping with the conventional wisdom of the academic elite?

Thomas Sowell, a fellow member of the American Historical Society of which McPherson is the current president, delivered the knockout blows to McPherson’s lone pity party in "Quota ’Logic’" and
"Quota ’Logic’ Part II"
. If only McPherson would read them and weep.

Revoke Michael Moore’s Oscar?

It would appear that there is a growing movement to revoke the Oscar that Michael Moore won for his "documentary" Bowling For Columbine. According to the campaign’s supporters:

"Bowling for Columbine violated the Academy’s own rules. These limit the documentary competition to nonfiction films. Bowling isn’t nonfiction. Whenever it was necessary to his theme, Moore invented facts, fabricated events, staged scenes, or doctored the depiction of what actually happened. When Heston, for example, gave a mild and concilliatory speech, Moore simply edited the footage (and inserted footage from a different speech a year later) to make it sound arrogant."

The George Galloway Case

The Guardian runs an article that seems confirm the accusations against British MP George Galloway. And the British Government begins an investigation of his charities. The Telegraph reports that Galloway asked Saddam for even more money. Here is Andrew Sullivan: "The Labour Party starts an investigation into what it calls "extremely serious" allegations. FYI: The Treason Act 1351 is still active, making it a crime, punishable by life in prison to ’be adherent to the king’s [now queen’s] enemies in his realm or elsewhere’. If he’s guilty, send him to the Tower!"

What the French think now

According to this article in the Christian Science Monitor a growing number of people in France are beginning to wonder whether Chirac’s government was right to oppose the war against Saddam Hussein.

Death, taxes, and . . . affirmative action?

In Peter Kirsanow’s aptly titled column for National Review, "The Never-Ending Story,"the newest member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission wonders aloud if there is any end in sight for affirmative action. He reminds us that two recent circuit court cases disagree over the question of the duration of affirmative action policies: specifically, must they be of "finite duration" to pass muster under the "narrowly tailored" portion of the Supreme Court’s strict scrutiny test?

Will the high court take the opportunity this term to resolve this discrepancy at the lower court level? Although the Court has not applied a duration threshold in affirmative action cases involving education, O’Connor and Scalia raised it during the recent oral arguments on the University of Michigan’s preferential admissions policies.

Given the complexity of the lower court rulings and the hundreds of "friend of the court" briefs filed in the Michigan cases, the Court’s decision is not expected until their term ends in late June. By then we’ll know if July 4th should be an occasion to celebrate the truth that all men are created equal, or simply a great day for burning firecrackers!!!

Tiding of Bad News

Ford is discontinuing the Thunderbird, one of their only decent models (outside of the Explorer). This is another symptom of the ill-reign of William Clay Ford, the politically correct family scion presiding over the slow demise of a once-great company.

Harvey Mansfield and North Korea

Christopher C. Hull reflects on whether it is better for a prince to be feared or loved. He notes that North Korea did a 180 degree turn a few days after the fall of Baghdad, and reflects on this by talking about Mansfield’s grading system: "Feared or loved, which is better? As Prof. Harvey C. (minus) Mansfield of Harvard teaches, the challenge is that if a professor gives out A’s, then students will love him - but if he then gives a student a C, that student will hate him. If, however, the professor gives out C’s, then students will fear him, and if he gives out more C’s, students will simply continue to fear him. But any A’s he scatters about will cause those students to fear AND love him. (Note: He wasn’t kidding.)" The rest is worth reading, too.

Professors Mugged at UCLA

Three professors at UCLA explain how they were mugged by their own Academic Senate. The Senate passed an anti-war statement, and how they did it has to do with the mugging. You really shouldn’t be surprised. (via The Volokh Conspiracy).  

Most Memorable Phrase from the War

Jonah Goldberg is very happy with himself! And he should be, even though the attribution is incomplete. Here is why Jonah is happy. He says in The Corner:

"The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations says that ’Cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ is the most memorable and oft-cited phrase from this war!

Obviously, the Simpsons deserves credit, but it would have been nice if the Times recognized my efforts. Regardless, it’s not about the credit and the glory. It’s about the French-bashing. I was doing it before French-bashing was cool and I’ll be doing it long after the rest of the world has moved on to Lichtenstein-bashing or whatever."

Laci Peterson, her Choice, and a Double Murder

James R. Harrigan nails down the problem that I knew would arise as soon as I heard that Scott Peterson was accused of a double murder. Laci Peterson made a choice to keep her child, even naming him Connor. Some pro-abortionists, it turns out, don’t like choice

What Presidential Candidates Read

This piece from the Washington Monthly isn’t exactly deep metaphysics, but it will hold your interest and/or remind you of some amusing moments. Remember Michael Dukakis’ favorite book?

"His phlegmatic 1988 campaign was perfectly symbolized by his choice of vacation reading: a book entitled Swedish Land-Use Planning. Even if you knew nothing else about the Massachusetts governor, this tidbit suggested he was solution-oriented, practical to a fault, and probably not the sort of guy who’d be a lot of fun to have a beer with. Which is, of course, exactly the person the Democrats got."

A Puff-Piece on Fareed Zakaria

This is an interesting piece--one of those inside-the-elite-establishment-power-studies--on Fareed Zakaria. It is a good gentle read, never mind the chatter about him becoming, eventually, the first Muslim Secretary of State; it reveals a bit about him that’s worth noting. I especially liked these two paragraphs:

Zakaria became a conservative, he says, from observing the Indian state. “People often say, ‘How could you, living in India, end up a Reaganite?’ Well, the answer is, live in India. There are two things that people don’t understand. One is the degree to which a highly regulated economy produces masses of corruption because it empowers bureaucrats. It just has to be seen to be believed.

“The second,” he continues, “is that you are very quickly inured to the charms of pre-industrial village life. Whenever someone says the word community, I want to reach for an oxygen mask.” 

Here is William McGurn’s review in the WSJ of Zakaria’s latest book, The Future of Freedom. I haven’t read the book yet, but I will.  

Galloway-Iraq Connection?

According to the Daily Telegraph the left-wing, pro-Saddam, anti-Iraq war, MP, George Galloway, was on Saddam’s payroll. The article claims that documents found Baghdad prove this. For Galloway’s (and the so called peace movement) sake, this had better not be true. Here are some of the documents. There is also a Jordanian connection. While this is all over the web, the best short commentary is from Andrew Sullivan. Mr. Galloway has denied the charges, but, as Sullivan suggests, those denials smell bad (i.e., they’re Clintonian).

Wesley Clark

Does this mean that retired General Wesley Clark is not going to run in the Democratic primaries for president? Maybe his tepid war commentary on CNN did him in. But note that this new position is environmentalism-friendly.


Ahmed Rashid (the author of Taliban) writes a thoughtful--albeit with Tucker-like pessimisism--account of developments in Afhghanistan. His first paragraph is this:

"A recent border shootout between Pakistani and Afghan government troops in the Pashtun tribal belt has heightened already sharp tensions between the neighboring countries. In an April 22 meeting in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai may confront Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf with claims that his country’s elite Interservices Intelligence (ISI) continues to secretly support the ousted Taliban militia. After an unprecedented two-day meeting of Afghanistan’s feuding military chiefs ended April 20 with a commitment to build a strong national army, Karzai faces another test: observers say he will try to persuade Musharraf to order his ISI agents to arrest Taliban leaders who are using Pakistan as a base."

War, the Economy, and Election 2004

The Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary are barely nine months away.

Like his father in 1991, George W. Bush in 2003 enjoys high approval ratings following a successful war against Saddam Hussein. Operation Desert Storm (’91) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (’03) appeared and appear to make George Bush unbeatable in the upcoming election.

Bush 41 then lost in 1992. Is Bush 43 equally vulnerable in 2004? Will the economy sputter and cost Bush 43 the election? Will a serious 3rd party candidate emerge? Here are three articles which explore the similarities and differences between the two Bushes and the two campaigns of ’92 and ’04.

In the ’Washington Times,’ Terrence Jeffrey offers ’Will Election 2004 Be Like Election 1992?’

In the ’Weekly Standard’ Irwin Stelzer offers ’1991 All Over Again.’

At Rich Lowry offers ’Not Like the Father’.

McCarthyites of the Left

Here’s a piece I wrote for the History News Network. It’s a response to folks like Tim Robbins who see an imminent return to right-wing McCarthyism in the United States. I argue that today’s far Left has more in common with the McCarthyites than conservatives do.

The Left is Losing It

James Taranto is always interesting, but these few paragraphs on how the American left may be losing its grip on reality are worth your attention. See his first section, appropriately called "Losing It." Follow the links.  

European Textbooks, Revised

The Guardian ran a story about how textbooks have changed, all for the sake of trying to give a nice and peaceful unity to Europe, according to Dr. Yasemin Soysal, President of the European Sociological Association. "The Vikings have gone from being depicted as pillaging aggressors to skilful, peace-loving traders. In early editions of From Cavemen to Vikings (A and C Black), the Vikings are referred to as ’fierce raiders [who] began to attack our coasts’. But in its 1994 edition, they are described as ’Danes [who] besides being farmers, were much better at trading than Saxons. The Danes and Saxons settled down together and Saxon England became one rich and peaceful kingdom.’" The good doctor thinks this is overdone. The whole article is worth reading.

Revisionism can be pretty funny stuff. Here is Neil Gaiman’s parody of the Spanish Armada episode: "In 1588 the Spanish decided to go and visit England, in order to expand England’s trading horizons, and a whole Armada of trading vessels set out on a visit. The English were so excited, they lit bonfires and gathered on the South Coast to welcome their Spanish Visitors. They even sent ships out to meet them. Unfortunately, the silly old British weather was against the Spanish, and most of their ships were wrecked and lost before they could land, which left the English very disappointed indeed." (via Iain Murray)

Barbara Bush’s C-Span Audio

C-Span ran Barbara Bush’s conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars last Saturday night. Here is the audio version. It’s about an hour long, and a lot of fun.

U.S. Should get out of Saudi Arabia?

Francis Fukuyama makes a good argument that we should. Not only do we not need those bases, but it would be good politics: "But the most powerful reasons are political. U.S. forces are today welcomed in Baghdad as liberators. But there is great suspicion throughout the Arab world--unfounded--that we secretly plan to occupy the country. Announcing a withdrawal from Saudi Arabia will underline the point that our military deployments in the Gulf are not ends in themselves, but serve specific and limited political objectives."

The Latest WMD Search

Judith Miller writes both an interesting and potentially critical story on the search for chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. There is an Iraqi scientist--slipping a note to American soldiers--involved whose name cannot be yet known; he also claims to know something about the regime’s connection to al Qaeda. Miller’s report was witheld for three days (by the military) and was edited heavily by the military. And she was prevented from meeting the man (although she saw him from a distance). It is claimed that this "could be the most important discovery to date in the hunt for illegal weapons," yet the whole story is, somehow, unsatisfying. One wonders why a story--that is able to reveal so few facts--makes the paper. Everyone is keeping mum about it, including Rumsfeld. No one is confirming anything. One can’t help getting the impression that either this is very serious, or the reporter got carried away, or that some larger purpose is involved. Stay tuned.

Of Evil, Iraq War Protesters, and the Easter Message

Just a note to call attention to the thoughtful Wall St. Journal column by Daniel Henninger, "’Know Ye Not Me?’ The Face of Evil is Seen, Defeated". Henninger suggests that one reason so many folks around the world opposed the war against Sadam Hussein was their inability to recognize evil when they saw it. The "idea of evil" is scarcely comprehensible in a world that preaches moral relativism and universal tolerance. Thus, we should not have been surprised when the media and academia recoiled in shock to President Bush’s reference to an "axis of evil." To their post-modern sensibilities, it was moral chauvinism.

My one addendum would be to remind folks that we should not equate evil with this or that tyrant, however evil his actions. Men and women can be the instruments of evil, but not the thing itself. (If only it were that easy to conquer that beast.) It is, as the Bible puts it, something of a spirit, unclean in the extreme and unfortunately an abiding and seductive presence until God brings history to its culmination.

Given the Easter celebration this past weekend, we do well to consider both our human responsibility to restrain evil by all lawful, just, and honorable means, as well as the limitations of said methods to provide mankind with the ultimate remedy for which his mortal condition desperately calls.

Nothing will Come of Nothing

For reasons I do not understand, The New York Times runs this non-story (on Saturday) about a non-meeting, out of which there was non-meaning and non-action. It is a report of "more than two dozen of America’s professorial elite" as the Times is pleased to call them. Well, Stanley Fish, Homi Bhabha, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and other similar worthies were there. The Times thinks that these people are important. I don’t. I mock their pretensions. Stanley Fish is reported as saying: "I wish to deny the effectiveness of intellectual work." Perfect, what these people take for "intellectual work" and "theory" is a form of self loathing, they’re rogues and peasant slaves! Fish is right, if his work might be called intellectual! He might as well have said, "I am Misanthropos, and hate mankind." It is a pity that anyone takes them to be anything but what they are, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that someone at the New York Times sent a reporter to cover this meeting about nothing. Nothing will come of nothing. These are barren spirited fellows! But see The Remedy.

Nebula Awards

The Nebula Awards for science fiction have been annouced. Has anyone read any of them? I would like to know if any of them are any good. I certainly like the title of Neil Gaiman’s "American Gods." Thanks.

Nofziger on the Democrats

Lynn Nofziger, a Reagan advisor whom I hope you will remember, reflects on the difficulties the Democrat candidates for president find themselves in. He thinks their problems will continue.

Saddam’s Tyranny

The more Iraqis learn about Saddam’s wealth, the more Iraqis are shocked by it. And Newsweek runs this piece detailing some of the savagery inside Saddam’s Iraq. Ugly.  And here is John Burns’ recounting of the last days of Saddam. Very good read.  

"Violent Supremacy" in Iraq

Peter Maas has a lengthy article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine called "’Good Kills.’" Although you will see that--in my opinion, at least--it’s intended to chastize the Marines for killing civilians at the battle for Diyala bridge into Baghdad, it is in fact a good detailed story of some very heavy close combat. He implies that the strategy of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines ("kill every fighter who refuses to surrender") was somehow questionable, and that the "raw military might, humans killing humans" was shocking both in theory and in application. I disagree, and even if everything he writes about the battle is true, the Marines did everything right, by my account. Furthermore, I am impressed both by their fighting ability, their commander’s understanding of combat, and their restraint. Yet, you will glean the author’s purpose from the last few paragraphs of the article. 

The Unmanned Army

Matthew Brzezinski has a lengthy but good piece in today’s NYTimes Magazine about the new way the army’s fighting, the army of the information age. He emphasizes the unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). Good read.  

U.S. Military Bases in Iraq

The New York Times runs this unsurpsring story today, the first two paragraphs: "The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region, senior Bush administration officials say.

American military officials, in interviews this week, spoke of maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north."

Arab Volunteers in Iraq

This is an interesting story from the Arab press about the experience of some Arab volunteers in Iraq during the war: Their Iraqi officers betrayed them and Iraqis told them to go home, some were shot. I had seen mention of these things, but not in the Arab press.

German-Iraq Intelligence Connections

The London Telegraph is reporting on some interesting connections between Germany and Iraq and German offers to help. The report claims to be based on documents found in the Iraqi intelligence HQ.

Schroeder Begins his Regret

German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder is starting to regret the "exaggerated remarks" critical of the US.

Australians in Iraq

Australian special forces found the rest of the Iraqi air force (and some other cool weapons) somewhere west of Baghdad. This story from an Australian paper explains that the Australians were the first to be in Iraq. There is some good detail of what the roughly 100 SAS were doing and how they did it; based on an interview with the Aussie defense chief.

Regime Building in Iraq

I’m playing catch-up on some important matters. This op-ed argues that civil society has existed in Iraqis past, and that its resuscitation is possible. And this New York Times article from a few days ago on retired General Jay Gardner is worth filing away, although the article doesn’t make him sound all that impressive; I hope he is smarter than he is portrayed.

Money in Iraq

BBC reports that the captured former Iraqi finance minister could reveal key information about secret funds, amounting to billions of dollars, that Saddam hid. Ibrahim al-Azzawi was the eight of diamonds in the wanted deck; so much for the straight flush we were trying to pull! In the meantime, two US army sergeants have found an estimated $650 million in cash in Baghdad. This is in US dollars!

Barbara Bush on C-SPAN 2

Barbara Bush visited the Ashbrook Center on April 4. Whenever a speaker visits the Center, the most important part of their visit is a private meeting with the Ashbrook Scholars. While this meeting is typically private, C-SPAN asked us if they could record Mrs. Bush’s conversation with the students, and we agreed.

Mrs. Bush’s conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars will appear on C-SPAN 2 tonight (Friday, April 18) at 10:40 pm ET. I encourage you to tune in.

Reflections on the Three Week War

To put the war in Iraq in proper perspective, we need to consider what is happening in Afghanistan and with the technology of mass destruction.

No Future for the Liberal Arts?

John Moser writes that we shouldn’t be surprised when today’s college students take a narrowly utilitarian view of their education. Although students today are as restless as their counterparts were in the 1960’s, yet there is a difference. As he explains this difference and the "radical subjectivism" of their teachers (those in the vast majority who are the products of the 60’s), he paints a bleak picture of the state of the liberal arts education in today’s academy. Worth a read, and could lead to a good conversation. 

That Entrepreneurial Spirit

A company called has begun making action figures based on the war on terror. They offer Heroes, including "President G.W.," "America’s Mayor" Giuliani, and "The British Ally" Tony Blair. Also available are villains, including a talking Iraqi Dis-Information Officer, which says things like "Our initial assessment is that they will all die!" Here’s my personal favorite from the site:

Catholic No More

J. Bottum of The Weekly Standard reports here that Tom Daschle received a letter from his diocese in Sioux Falls, South Dakota informing him that he may no longer identify himself as a Catholic, and directing him to remove any references to his Catholicism from his congressional biography and campaign material. Bottum suggests that this is part of a larger move to banish "Cuomoism" from the Catholic Church, which he defines as those Catholics who express personal opposition to abortion but who are nonetheless politically pro-abortion. Worth a read. 

Post War Odds and Ends

The London Times is reporting that American forces have been told that if they have credible information that Saddam went to Syria, they can go in and get him. Poland signed a $3.5 deal to purchase 48 U.S. made F-16 jet fighters. The losers were France and Britain. Diana West considers the most difficult question about making Iraq more democratic, the separation of church and state; so far, it doesn’t look promising. The victory in the war is putting Democrats in a pickle. Senator Kerry’s campaign manager says this: "Unless the Democratic nominee can make a compelling and convincing case — a case built on story and persona instead of just rhetoric — that he can keep Americans safe in a dangerous world, we’re looking at McGovern-like results." In the meantime, Senator Bob Graham (D) says that maybe we should go ahead and lob a few cruise missiles into Syria. Polls show that his support is about 1% among Democrats. James Schlesinger explains what the effects of the war are internationally; political shock and awe. The European Union isn’t yet warming to the idea of lifting the sanctions against Iraq; more high diplomacy, pressure, and the purchasing of support, will be needed. The French are beginning to feel the American backlash against French products.

Words Bad, Physical Attack Better

Ah, those psychologists are conducting their studies again, and those of us who like to use words like weapons are in trouble! It turns out you might do more harm to your opponent by telling him what you think of him than punching him on the chin. If this is true, here is my response to the psychologists (all from Richard III): You are a malapert, a foul defacer of God’s handiwork. You bottled spider, foul bunch-backed toad! Out of my sight! Thou dost infect my eyes, you overwheening rags of France! There, I feel better.

The Fall of the House of Saud

Gregg Dunn’s note to an article by Bernard Lewis in The Atlantic (which I agree is worth reading) reminded me that there is also another good article in the same issue worth reading, but, alas, it is not on-line; so you’ll have to get the paper version (May 2003). It is by Robert Baer (former CIA field officer) and is called "The Fall of the House of Saud." He writes of the extraordinary power that the oil kingdom has in the international economy, how we have assumed its stability, yet the kingdom is dangerously at war with itself. We are, he says, incapable of wishing the problem away; we can’t ignore it. He goes through the history of the place, how it has declined and degenrated, how it may well be taken over by bad guys calling for a "purification," and so on. This is a great read. It is worth five bucks on the newstand, and purchasing it might be a kind act of piety since it is also probably the last issue edited under the late Michael Kelly.

Clinton’s Legacy and Psychic Pain

Former president Bill Clinton said this the other day: "Our paradigm now seems to be: something terrible happened to us on September 11, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with us. And if they don’t, they can go straight to hell." And there is more: "We can’t run. If you got an interdependent world, and you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your adversaries, sooner or later you have to make a deal."

I found his comments to be so remarkable, if not stupid, that I put it aside--I was actually afraid to say what I really thought of it--and then saw these paragraphs from Pejman Yousefzadeh and they are worth quoting in full. The title of his note is, "It must really suck to be Bill Clinton."

"I say that because he must be in such psychic pain. Seeing his supposedly stupid successor defeat both the Taliban, and land mortal blows against al Qaeda, and overthrow Saddam Hussein--none of which Clinton dared to try--and receive the political glory that comes with such accomplishments, mut vex and embitter Clinton to no end. And it leads to an angry and self-serving denunciation of the foreign policy being pursued so successfully by Clinton’s successor--a denunciation that is outdated and rendered laughable by the rapidly unfolding news events that we see on television, or we read about inn newspapers, in news magazines, or on the Internet.

Yes, I imagine that it is a pretty awful thing to be Bill Clinton right about now. No one can envy an old and irrelevant political has-been who is reduced to trying to tear down the accomplishments of politicians on the other side of the aisle as a way to augment his [Clinton’s] own ’accomplishments.’ If this is the tactic that a former President of the United States is reduced to, then the legacy must not look very good at all."

Bernard Lewis on Christianity and Islam

Much more needs to be said on this topic, but Bernard Lewis, who is always worth reading, has made a start in this essay from The Atlantic.

Pew Study on Internet Users

The Washington Post reports on a Pew study that finds that "Forty-two percent of Americans still don’t use the Internet and the majority of them do not believe they ever will, according to a study released yesterday." I find this hard to believe, yet it may be so.

Reflections on the Three Week War

I think we all find ourselves a little breathless after this war. I have been paying as close attention as I could manage (mostly television and the intenet) and, in trying to catch my breath, I offer a few limited observations. The war was extraordinary; intelligently planned, brilliantly executed. And, perhaps most important, it surprised everyone. It surprised our enemies, other tyrannies (including North Korea), the whole Arab world, and even our sometime allies, the French and Russians. This was a new kind of war, for a new purpose. Has the Middle East ever seen an army whose purpose was not conquest, rape and pillage? Has any region of the world? Victor Davis Hanson writes well on the anatomy of the war and includes in that good reflections on not only the lethality of the military and their high-tech capacity, but also on their group and moral cohesion. These are warriors fighting for republican ends, and that makes them not only good but very, very deadly. They are eager to fight to make men free. These are new and better soldiers, although sometimes it’s hard to tell because they are often scruffy and wear Ray-Bans and chew gum and their weapons have names like "Bad Moon Rising". But they kill pajama clad toy-soldiers with one hand while protecting their children with the other. Their lethality and the fact that they have no equal (even among our allies) brings with it enormous moral responsibility. And we are up to it. Compare that to how the Iraqi army, including the high praised Rapublican guard, just dissolved. They went home.

Of course, the victory has called forth many Arab demons. There is, as Hassan Fattah writes, both despair and defiance in the Arab world. But above all there is an opportunity for introspection and, I venture to suggest, the so called Arab street will be less inclined to be so stupidly obedient to their rulers since most of them bring corruption and slavery and lies with them. And, in the pinch, they don’t even fight for their people. How come Saddam didn’t fight? You can hear the question on every Arab street. And the stage is set for a reversal of the heretofore steadily increasing negative view of the United States in the whole region. All this doesn’t mean that simply all will be well for evermore, of course. And yet it must be admitted that the tender leaves of hope are less tender now.

Statesmanship in Baseball

Kudos to the President of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dale Petroskey. Petroskey canceled a 15th annieversay celebration of the film Bull Durham because of the anti-war views of co-stars Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Petroskey was an assistant Press Secretary in the Reagan Adminstration

Jay Leno summed up the controversy well: "Officials at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, have canceled a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the baseball movie "Bull Durham" because Susan Sarandon has these anti-war, anti-Bush views. Even worse news for Pete Rose. Turns out he bet on Iraq.

I guess the head of the Hall of Fame is an old Reagan guy, I think he was the press secretary, and Tim Robbins sent a letter. Robbins said he "did not realize baseball was a Republican sport." Do you think baseball is a Republican or Democratic sport? It’s got lots of multi-millionaires so it could be Republican; then you’ve got switch hitters who grab themselves, so it could be Democratic"

Petroskey possesses at least two of the four cardinal virtues, prudence and courage.

War Notes

These three articles are related, and each is worth reading. Glenn Reynolds reflects on the war by talking about how our ability to economically apply force is due to our intelligence. The Russians are worried about our ability to to do what we have done; this proves that their military is outmoded (think about how they attacked Grozny!). And this is a touching article from the Arab News by an imbedded reporter with the Marines; she explains what the Marines and Arabs have in common. Jonathan Foreman, an embedded reporter, says that the postal service has failed the front line soldiers in Iraq miserably by not delivering the US mail. It has lowered morale.

Iraq and the Media, again

While Max Boot wonders why the media is downcast about the developments in Iraq, and keep asking questions about looting, civilian casualties, Arab resentment, etc., I wonder why this story about how the Marines freed over 100 Iraqiprisoners from an underground torture chamber doesn’t get on TV news! (via Instapundit)

Abu Abbas Found in Baghdad

I am off to my Shakespeare class (I want to talk about Roman death tonight) but before I go, I pass along this bit of news: Abu Abbas has been captured in Baghdad. This, despite the fact that a few days ago he was reported to be on his way to Syria, and that Syrian authorities would not let him in. This is the PLF guy that hijacked the Achille Lauro in 1985 and killed the American in the wheelchair by rolling him off the side of the ship. I believe his name was Leon Klinghoffer. The Poet says, let the great axe fall.

The Tyrant’s Art

The Guardian’s art critic writes about Saddam’s taste is "art", or at least the art we have discovered in his palaces.
We may not have found proof of WMD, he writes, but "we have proof of the dictator’s execrable sensibility." It is "art for the barely literate, or the barely sentient, dredged from some red-lit back alley of the brain." It is "psychotic porn," with a "shining hideousness." This isn’t deep thinking, but it is inevitably interesting. I’m sure there will be more attempts from the "arts community" to prove that Saddam was a fascist, which he was. I just wish more of them would have seen it earlier, when it counted, when the lives of real human beings were at stake, and not Saddam’s disordered soul splattered on a wall of one of his unbelievably ornate and ugly palaces. There will be many stories to tell, of Saddam and his sons, I’m sure of it.

Strategic Warning, Strategic Intelligence

This article talks about Stephen Cambone, the first under secretary of defense for intelligence. Never mind the The New York Times’ playing with the idea that this guy is Rumsfeld’s "favored bureaucratic commando" but look rather to the facts portrayed in the article and Cambone’s analysis of what this new office is up, and what good might come of it. Cambone is a good guy, and a tough guy. I hope he continues to prosper according to his merit. Note this paragraph from the article:

"Asked whether hard-liners in the Pentagon had politicized intelligence to support arguments for war with Iraq, Dr. Cambone said: ’Any policy maker has certain views. Policy makers are where they are and doing what they do because they have a view.’"

Gun Control in Iraq?

Andrew Busch writes a truly insightful article on the different ways that the Brits (in Basra) and the U.S. (in Baghdad) are handling the question of whether or not Iraqis should remain armed; the Brits are taking their guns away, and we are encouraging Iraqis to form self-defense forces to defend neighborhoods, hospitals, etc. Here is Busch:

"Almost invariably referred to by the media as ’vigilantes,’ these groups were actually often something far nobler, perhaps even the first sign of the capacity of Iraqis for self-government in the post-Saddam era. They represented a spontaneous effort to take responsibility for their own society, and to defend a civilization worth having. They also made it possible to restore order much earlier than might have been the case if U.S. military forces had to carry the entire burden. It is exactly this sort of initiative that the liberators of Iraq should welcome and encourage."

We will be hearing more about this issue as time goes on. This is a very thoughtful first step toward that discussion; read it all.   


I just finished grading final exams, one of which asked what the life of George Washington teaches about American self-government. This led me to re-read a portion of Washington’s Farewell Address, which gave advice on American foreign policy that was prescient for our times. To wit,

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Washington looked forward to the day when the United States would be united and independent enough not to "entangle our peace and prosperity" in the machinations of foreign powers unless it was on our terms. As Washington put it, "when we may choose peace or war, as our interest guided by our justice shall Counsel."

Looks like President Bush has borrowed a few pages from our Founding Father’s playbook. Now that the Iraqi tyrant has been ousted, and attention turns to securing the freedom of American liberation, the U.N. is trying to intrude on the situation. The U.N. forfeited its credibility as a global peace-keeping entity when it refused to become the forerunner of the Coalition of the Willing. In fact, the fatal flaw of adopting a "U.N."-style approach to global peace may have been revealed by Washington when he said:

’Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign world.

May God bless our current president and commander-in-chief as he follows in the footsteps of the man we remember and revere as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Optimistic View of World Economy

This report on the meeting of central bankers and finance ministers in Washington from The Financial Times is good news. I hope it’s true.

Iraqi General Surrenders Command

The Iraqi Commander of the Anbar sector, which stretches to the Syrian border, has surrendered. This is a brief, and rather touching, recounting. 

Thoughts on Empire

No, not American empire. Yet, because of Iraq, certain issues having to do "democratization" have come up, as they should, and are going to be discussed more poignantly than ever before. This article by Theodore Dalrymple in the latest issue of The City Journal might be a good place to start. He tries to show that even with the best intentions, the British in Africa had a very bad effect on the native countries and thei government. Here is just a paragraph:

"In fact, it was the imposition of the European model of the nation-state upon Africa, for which it was peculiarly unsuited, that caused so many disasters. With no loyalty to the nation, but only to the tribe or family, those who control the state can see it only as an object and instrument of exploitation. Gaining political power is the only way ambitious people see to achieving the immeasurably higher standard of living that the colonialists dangled in front of their faces for so long. Given the natural wickedness of human beings, the lengths to which they are prepared to go to achieve power—along with their followers, who expect to share in the spoils—are limitless. The winner-take-all aspect of Africa’s political life is what makes it more than usually vicious."

An English blogger, Ian Murray has a couple of thoughtful paragraphs on this issue; he disagrees with Dalrymple. He includes in the discussion thoughts from Niall Ferguson’s book, Empire. I recommend a look. Thoughtful.  

The Pressure Mounts on Syria

This article outlines the demands by the Bush Adminstration that Syria turn over weapons of mass destruction, high Iraqi officials, or else. Or else, seems to mean regime change for Syria.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice seem to have embraced the energetic executive as outlined in Locke’s idea of the prerogative (Chapter 14, Second Treatise of Government) and Federalist #70’s idea of energy and dispatch.

As the Bard wrote in "The Tragedy of MacBeth", ’If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well, It were done quickly.’

It appears Assad will be given a choice but not much time.

Who Ransacked the Iraqi National Museum?

Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi dissident who is sending regular reports back to The New Republic, suggests that the ones who are really guilty of the looting of priceless antiquities from the Iraqi National Museum were Baath Party members. He writes:

"One friend told me that the looting of the National Museum--something that cut deeply into me--was the work of newly deposed Baathist officials, who had been selling off our patrimony as they saw their days were numbered. As the regime fell, these (ex-)Baathists went back for one last swindle, and took with them treasures that dated back 9,000 years, to the Sumerians and the Babylonians. One final crime perpetrated by Saddam’s thugs."

Poor Jacques Chirac

Jacques Chirac seems to be going through some tough times. Opinion polls are no longer going his way and if WMD are found in Iraq, it will only get worse for him. Business leaders are miffed that French firms will be cut out of deals in Iraq, and the press is becoming quite critical. France is proving to be irrelevant, it might become more isolated, and his only hope (ironically) is Prime Minister Blair. Tut mir leid!

Media Iraq Coverage

Jonathan Foreman writes a good piece explaining that the reason the media has played up the "looting" angle is either because they are ignorant or disingeneous. And Peter Collins elaborates on the Eason Jordan admission that CNN had to suppress the news from Baghdad in order to maintain access. Both are good articles and are reflecting the serious questions that are being asked (and will continue to be asked) about both media bias and media ignorance. This is another good effect of the war. Even Dick Morris is talking about a media meltdown. It is interesting that no one has asked why the former Iraqi ambassador to the UN, upon leaving his New York apartment for Syria (via France) felt the need to hug and kiss the CNN’s chief UN correspondent. A bit awkward, that.

The Major Combat Phase of the War is Over

Tikrit is now in American hands, and the major combat phase of the war is over. The last article details which ships, planes, etc., are going home immediately.

Iraq Liberated Because of 1776

William Rees-Mogg (in the London Times) tries to show the consistency between events (like the liberation of Iraq) and the American cause as put forth in 1776. Tyrants "must mend their ways or liberty and democracy will amend them." It’s not all worked out, but a good sentiment nevertheless, based essentially on the right things.

Interesting post-War Developments

North Korea has backed off its demand for bi-lateral talks with the U.S. Prime Minister Sharon admits that there are new opportunities for peace. A prominent Iranian is calling for closer US-Iranian ties. Australian Prime Minister John Howard wants to reform the United Nations, saying that France shouldn’t be a permanent member of the Security Council. The Foreign Minister of France tells the Foreign Minister of Syria to shut up when, in his anti-American tirade, he was about to compare the US to Nazi Germany. According to the Daily Telegraph documents have been found in Iraq detailing how Russia spied on Blair for Iraq. A London based Arab paper criticizes the Arab media for not telling the truth. Russia hints that the peace camp summit (France, Germany, Russia) was a failure. Good start.

The Press as a Mob

Only Victor Davis Hanson could connect the journalistic circus that is the war coverage with the craziness that happened after the battle of Arginusae in 406 B.C. (The Athenian Asembly voted to execute six of the eight generals that returned to Athens after their greatest naval victory of the war). In criticizing the media’s ignorance and foolishness, he is making a huge point: "Something like that craziness often takes hold of our own elites and media in the midst of perhaps the most brilliantly executed plan in modern American military history. Rather than inquiring how an entire country was overrun in a little over three weeks at a cost of not more than a few hundred casualties, reporters instead wail at the televised scenes of a day of looting and lawlessness." Read the whole thing. He is right, and this explains why the media are listened to less and less, as time and the war go on.   

The Marine and the Flag

I had been meaning to mention this CNN story about the Marine who briefly draped Saddam’s statute in an American flag before it was toppled. He is Cpl. Edward Chin of Brooklyn. His mother is an immigrant from Burma (Edward was born one one week after she got to the US). She said: "We, like our children have a good life, good schools. We want American freedom. Now Edward bring American freedom." She also said: "I [am] so, so proud, so very proud. He used to play like GI Joe as a little boy. He always dreamed he would be a Marine."  

Decline of Network News

This New York Times story makes a dramatic point: CBS and ABC lost about 10% of their viewers in the first two weeks of the war; NBC recorded a slight increase due to their cable news operation; and the cable networks saw an increase of 300% in viewers. The network executives are--surprise--pretending that this is not a problem. Good for us. The next item that should be noted is how boring (and biased) CNN’s war coverage has been, but that’s for another blog.

Internet Immortality for Iraqi Information Minister

Some fellows on the Internet were so amused by Iraq’s "Information" minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, they’ve decided to create a site immortalizing his curious press briefings. The site provides a directory of his creative insults and optimistic blustering, which is much funnier that any attempt at parody I’ve seen. These must be difficult times to be a humorist.

A Incomplete Note on Politics with Islamic States

This Washington Post column analyzes the mid-East on-line media’s reactions to the war. Although there is nothing shocking in all of this it does show, once again, how dysfunctional some of mid-East societies are and how critical events (like losing wars) always force them to re-examine themselves; hence the "collapse" of Arab thought, etc. But note the different kinds of opinions manifested in the Arab world refered to in this article. This re-examination is not yet deep enough, as far as I’m concerned, and at the moment it may be based on fear and self-loathing. But I am willing to bet that a better sort of re-examination will continue with greater force once Iraq is stabilized and a new and better regime is built. The juxtaposition of something so much better to the current tyrannies will continue the soul-searching, as it should, and it will not be based entirely on fear.
And if bin Ladin and his ilk are irritated by the U.S.’s presence in Arabia, the Muslim Holy Land, the most symbolic location in the world of Islam, then they will be also irritated by our occupation of Baghdad, as Bernard Lewis says, "the seat of the caliphate for half a millenium and the scene of some of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history." This irritation will lead to anger in some circles, most certainly, but it will lead to a re-examination in other circles and just may be a point of hope and progress.

It just might lead to something more productive than self-loathing in other circles. And the Arab media can ignore facts (not only our winning of the war, but in the considerate and magnanimous waging of it) for only so long; as Churchill said, you have to look at facts, because facts have a way of looking at you. You can pretend that this is a war of occupation in which we devastated the country and killed untold number of civilians, or you can start seeing the truth, that we overthrew a vile tyranny, saved the country with minimum damage to not only civilians but to the military as well, never mind saving the infrastructure. Iraq will begin to be free, and will prosper. These will be loud facts, and the facts will not allow themselves to be ignored.

Then add to this an easing of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and those Arab countries in need will be forced to consider psychotherapists who just might be able to argue that the human mind is created is free, and that people, including those that happen to be Arabs, actually have choices to make and just may decide to follow different stars. And, as Amir Taheri argues, the West has not done well in understanding the Arab worlds; let’s emphasize the diversity within the nation-states that claim to be Islamic, as well as their various interests, instead of thinking that they all think alike and talk alike and all are full participants in dysfunctional politics. I am hopeful.

Harold Bloom’s Books

Harold Bloom of Yale will give his books (and other things of value) upon his death, not to Yale but to a small Catholic college in Vermont. It is a good story, showing just how ticked off Bloom is (although no conservative, and not a Catholic) about the state of literary education in our major universities. PS--I first read this in The New York Times hard copy edition yesterday and was distraught to find that the second half of the article (should have been picked up on page 10, I think), never made it in print; some copy-editor made a huge mistake and it was never caught. This is the whole of it.  

Double, or Triple Agent

Although this is much too complicated for me to follow, it still merits a note just to show how complicated things can get so. Michael Isikoff of Newsweek has a short article in the current issue on "Parlor Maid", the code name given to this Mata Hari-like woman supposedly working for us--seducing everyone, or so it would seem--on the question of Chinese money to the Clinton (and others’) campaign. And maybe she wasn’t working for us. Heidegger is easier to figure out.

Moral Compromises of the Media

John Moser is right on Eason Jordan of CNN’s op-ed, but there is more to it as I implied the other day. Glenn Reynolds says it most clearly: "Maybe, you know, it’s not worth the moral compromises involved in reporting from a dictator’s capital, if you’re not able to tell the truth." See the whole of it here. We know that this sort of thing has happened in the past, especially with regard to reporting from the USSR, and it always amazed me that no one in the press talked about it publicly. Shame on them.

More of Saddam’s Terror

If there’s anyone left with any doubts about Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror, let him see this story from the New York Times. It’s by Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive, and it details all the atrocities CNN knew about, but kept quiet for fear of what would happen to Iraqis who worked for the network if the news got out.

I just hope that all the stories we’ve already heard do not make us too jaded to appreciate what Jordan has to say. This, truly, was an evil regime.

Force Majeure

Fred Kaplan explains what lies behind the military’s victory in Iraq. He claims three major changes have taken hold within the military since the Gulf War: "a new fighting doctrine, advanced digital technology, and a less parochial culture." The article is quite informative for the layman. 

Jay Leno Recalls Ashbrook Remarks

Last night Leno referred to a recent dinner speech (I paraphrase) of Barbara Bush, who said she couldn’t believe that the boy she spanked was now leading us to war-- Don Rumsfeld, he clarified.

Letterman’s Top Ten

Letterman’s Top Ten Things Iraq’s Information Minister Has to Say About the War. Amusing.

Al Qaeda’s Reaction to the "Crusader War"

MEMRI translates al Qaeda’s reaction to the fall of Baghdad. Interesting reading. And, surprise, they call for guerilla warfare.

Iraqis in Iran, and the Great Satan

Iraqis in Iran stormed the Iraqi embassy, tore down pictures of Saddam, but also chanted "death to America." Iran’s el supremo religious leader said that it is good that the US overthrew Saddam, but now they ought to leave Iraq. And then once again talked of the "Great Satan." This sort of stuff--I sometimes think--is beyond political analysis but maybe not beyond pschoanalysis. Which reminds me, I have been reading Bernard Lewis’ new book,The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror and it is first class. It is an extension and elaboration of his article by the same name in The New Yorker of last year (I think). It reads with great ease and is full of great information and analysis. On page 81 he notes, for example, by way of interpreting the thought of Sayyid Qutb, that what is meant by "the Great Satan" is neither an imperialist nor an exploiter, but rather a seducer, and this explains why the American way of life is a threat to Islam: "an insidious tempter who whispers in the hearts of men." (Qur’an CXIV, 4, 5). Very instructive.

The Allies Got it Right

John Keegan explains how the war looks in a post-mortem, that it was very well done, and asks how all the pundits could get it wrong. At least in some small part it is because the reporters within the Saddam tyranny couldn’t tell the truth, as this CNN news executive explains. So let me get this straight, you are a newsman, but you can’t tell the truth. I see. I guess you guys were doing the same sort of thing in the USSR, too.

Continental Drift

This is a typical broad ranging and thoughtful article by George Will on Europe, the UN, and the US. Notice his emphasis on Europe’s demographic problems, and also this nice formulation: the UN should be invited to participate in some of the rebuilding in Iraq for the same reason that France was invited to become a parmanent member of the UN Security Council in 1945, "as psychotherapy for a crisis of self-esteem brought on by bad behavior."

Forum on the War

I was on a panel at the Mansfield campus of Ohio State University last night that opened a two-day Forum on the war. I spoke in favor of the war, while a Christopher Phelps, a professor of history there, argued against the war. The conversation--friendly and congenial both with Phelps and the audience--went on for over two hours. There is no reason to recount it all. I had no idea of the kind of arguments Phelps would make and I’m glad I didn’t know before I agreed, or else I wouldn’t have. He used the kitchen sink approach: we are in it for the oil, Halliburton, it’s a conspiracy by neo-conservatives, we are building an American empire, we hate all other peoples, or at least have contempt for them, Arabs hate us and will now hate us more, the war is likely to increase terrorism, because Iraq will be governed by the US military no democracy will be possible, the US is the rogue state, we are culturally arrogant, everything America touches in the world turns into something bad, the money we spend on the war should be spent on social programs, etc. You get the point. Not only is this stuff boring, it is wrong. The heartbreaking thing about it is the tremendous contempt it shows for America and the American character. It is pathetic and beyond reason. The only good news is that you will find this kind of opinion mostly in the academy. Real people don’t think this way. Real people don’t hate their own country, even if they question their policies. It is sad, very sad. It is heartbreaking. I went home, had a beer and watched the news from Iraq for a couple of hours. I saw Iraqis cheer, they welcomed us, and thanked us. It felt good and my heart started to reassemble itself. And then I saw an interview with a Marine corporal; he was in Baghdad. An American boy from Modesto. You know, one of those good looking young men, bright eyed and inclined to smile. He had come all the way up to Baghdad, fighting when necessary. He was asked to characterize the best thing that had happened to him in the war. Without hesitating he said something like this: "It was nice to see the Iraqi people welcome us, they waved to us, they smiled at us, they even kissed us. It made my heart feel good. That’s why we are here." I need to spend more time with men like this, and less time with people who have Ph.D.’s. It would do my aching heart good. Here is the story on the Forum from the

Mansfield News-Journal.

Review of de Villepin

I second Schramm’s endorsement of the Bell review of de Villepin’s book. The image of the Frenchman that emerges is positively Nietzschean. As Bell puts it, "he worships at the altar of two holy things: French grandeur and political power, as incarnated in history’s ’great men.’" His heroes are not only Napoleon, but Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and (of course) Charles de Gaulle, the first three of whom were also among Nietzsche’s heroes.

Another important passage: "There are many people who believed that de Villepin had valuable points to make in warning against a rush to war. If only we could believe that his argument against the war grew out of real conviction. His books suggest that in international affairs he is really an immoralist--that he has no trouble with a powerful nation imposing its will by force, taking potentially dangerous risks, and possibly violating international law. He just prefers that the nation in question be France."

By the way, I just noticed that in the lower right-hand corner of one of the pages of the review is an advertisement for Joseph S. Nye’s latest book, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone. Irony, anyone?

The Napoleon Complex

Although it is not on line (you must subscribe), allow me to bring to your attention an article in the current issue of The New Republic (April 14). It is by David A. Bell, and is entitled, "The Napoleon Complex." It is an article on France’s Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin. More specifically it is an examination of his latest book, a six-hundred-pager, on Napoleon, The Hundred Days, or the Spirit of Sacrifice. Bell makes crystal clear that de Villepin--no matter how he poses as a defender of reason, prudence, and international law--is "a man lacking firm political principles, romantically besotted with raw political power, and ready to overlook misdeeds committed in its name--but only when the power in question is French."

De Villepin says that Napoleon was nothing less than "the conjunction of a man and a nation...through his destiny, everyone can feel the breath of the exceptional, preserve hope in a better future, and maintain a part of that French dream which blends into the idea we have of ourselves." Never mind that that French superman ultimately lost, because de Villepin says that it was "a defeat which gleams with the aura of victory." Nihilism is not standing at the French door, it is in the le salle de sejour or, if you like, le sejour des dieux.

"Oh people, this is freedom"

From The Scotsman, comes a fine description of the celebration in Bagdad, better than any of the television coverage I’ve seen. Some good moments, worth remembering:

Amid the euphoria that surrounded him, an elderly man in a traditional dishdasha was struggling with an unwieldy poster of Saddam. Bending down to remove a sandal from his foot, he began to pound it against the iconic Seventies-style image.... "Come see, this is freedom, this is the criminal, this is the infidel," said the man.... "This is the destiny of every traitor. He killed millions of us. Oh people, this is freedom."

"Saddam, the criminal, the murderer, the savage, wild animal is gone," shouted Fauziya Ali, 45, a delirious, shawl-clad widow.

What’s the Deal with the Shoes?

I apologize if this is a revelation only to me. When I first saw footage of a happy Iraqi man slapping a poster of Saddam with his shoe, I thought he did so only because it was handy. When I later saw crowds in Bagdad doing it, I got curious. It turns out that showing the soles of one’s feet to another is one of the most powerful Arab insults and a sign of serious contempt.

This New Kind of War

Victor Davis Hanson says that democracies, while slow to start a war, are awesome when they fight one. While this is true, it seems to me more to the point in considering the war we are still in to argue that, as Ralph Peters does (at least in part) that the war in Iraq was a brand new way of fighting a war. He stresses the "digital" nature of it (against the old "textbook"), and so on, a 21st century war. He says it was "stunning." I agree, yet it seems to me that this view is not quite comprehensive. Charles Krauthammer comes closer. This was a war of mobility, of amazing speed in which not only did we not want to hurt the civilians or the infrastructure, but really were not even very interested in killing Iraqi soldiers. We were in touch with some of them before the war started, told them to surrender or go home and we kept that effort up after the hostilities started (apparently many did, since there seems to be so few Iraqi military casualties). When President Bush repeated over and over that we are not interested in making war on the Iraqis, he meant it. We just sped past them (not quite, but you get my point) on the way to Baghdad. In fact, as a friend argued, we even tried to do this in an urban setting by taking control of palaces, and such. It seems to have worked. This was the great tactical surprise (really a strategic surprise) that everyone was talking about, but couldn’t quite figure out what it could be before the war started. While parts of other wars have been fought like this (compare Patton’s war of maneuver in WW II), no entire war has been fought this way, as far as I know. Of course, we were able to do all this in large measure because they had no communication and command structures left, we had bombed those very precisely, and also because of what the special forces did both before and during the actual war. The political object was clear, overthrow the tyrant. This explains why people were dissapointed that there wasn’t very much shock or awe! Everyone thought that that meant a lot of noise and a lot of killing, and, and somehow, as Peter Jennings said one night, there wasn’t very much of it; so where is the shock and awe? he asked. Well, it turns out that there wasn’t supposed to be a lot of noise and a lot of killing. And, in the end that’s what made it shocking and awesome. New war, this. Very impressive, very surprising. It’s good to impress and surprise your enemies, and let many Iraqis live, to become new friends. Now, that’s a regime change.

Newsweek Eating Crow

Even though a number of bloggers have pointed this out, I can’t help myself. Here is the Newsweek Conventional Wisdom column from this week’s issue(the one in which they give a thumbs up or thumbs down to a politician’s remark): Thumbs down for Cheney because, he "Tells ’Meet the Press’ just before war, ’We will be greeted as liberators.’ An arrogant blunder for the ages."

An arrogant blunder for the ages, says Newsweek? Well, you at Newsweek are arrogant SOB’s, and do tell us how you like your crow, fried or roasted?

Shelley on the Death of a Tyrant

The London Times runs a Percy Bysshe Shelley sonnet written almost 200 years ago, that, the Times says, "best sums up the fall of the vainglorious tyrant" Saddam.

Churchill as Honorary U.S. Citizen

A Canadian blogger reminds me that forty years ago yesterday (April 9th)Churchill was made an honorary citizen of the U.S. by an act of Congress.

Churchill’s response might be worth noting: "I have received many kindnesses from the United States of America, but the honour which you now accord me is without parallel. I accept it with deep gratitude and affection.

I am also most sensible of the warm-hearted action of the individual States who accorded me the great compliment of their own honorary citizenships as a prelude to this Act of Congress.

It is a remarkable comment on our affairs that the former Prime Minister of a great sovereign state should thus be received as an honorary citizen of another. I say "great sovereign state" with design and emphasis, for I reject the view that Britain and the Commonwealth should now be relegated to a tame and minor role in the world. Our past is the key to our future, which I firmly trust and believe will be no less fertile and glorious. Let no man underrate our energies, our potentialities and our abiding power for good.

I am, as you know, half American by blood, and the story of my association with that mighty and benevolent nation goes back nearly ninety years to the day of my Father’s marriage. In this century of storm and tragedy I contemplate with high satisfaction the constant factor of the interwoven and upward progress of our peoples. Our comradeship and our brotherhood in war were unexampled. We stood together, and because of that fact the free world now stands. Nor has our partnership any exclusive nature: the Atlantic community is a dream that can well be fulfilled to the detriment of none and to the enduring benefit and honour of the great democracies.

Mr. President, your action illuminates the theme of unity of the English-speaking peoples, to which I have devoted a large part of my life. I would ask you to accept yourself, and to convey to both Houses of Congress, and through them to the American people, my solemn and heartfelt thanks for this unique distinction, which will always be proudly remembered by my descendants."

The Anti-War Crowd was Right

Asserts Christopher Hitchens in an ironic piece. They didn’t want a war on Iraq, and they didn’t get one. They didn’t want to give blood for oil, and we didn’t. They wanted the war to stop, and it is stopping. They got what they wanted. Short, good. 

Speed, Reason for Success

The Daily Telegraph (London) runs this story based on a conversation with between John Keegan and Sir Michael Boyce, the Chief of the Defence Staff. Boyce explains the reasons for the operation’s success, and what the two main problems were. Good read.  

Surgical Destruction of a Regime

Charles Krauthammer weighs in on trying to explain the nature of this three-or-so week war by arguing that it was a new war: It destroyed a totalitarian regime while sparing the invaded country. Remarkable, instructive, and hadn’t happened before. 

Some Administration Voices

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld spoke on what is going on in Iraq. This is a short CNN report on it, while all of it is worth a quick read, I like this sentence: "We are seeing history unfold, events that will shape the course of a country, the fate of a people and potentially the future of the region. Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators, and the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom."

And John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, when he was asked about speculation that Syria and Iran could be America’s next targets after the war in Iraq, said:

"We are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not in their national interest."

And here is a WaPo story on Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and his "democratic vision." Because it is in the WaPo, it should be read critically; yet it is worth reading. The article appeared Monday. It might be worth reading today.

The Arab Street

The Washington Post web site runs an interesting synopsis of Arab media reactions to events in Iraq. The Post says: "As U.S. forces took control of Baghdad, the opinion makers of the Arab world, almost unanimously opposed to war, confronted their impotence with realism and rage, denial and bitterness, occasionally, chastened hope."

And remember the Iraqi Information Minister, (until yesterday) who kept denying everything even though American troops were a block away. Or, how about these remarks of the Iraqi (former, I guess) Ambassador to the UN who was asked by a FOX reporter, "Will you surrender?" The man said, "We hope the peace will prevail," and then left the premises. This was the same man who was found dining at a posh French Restaurant on the day we moved into Iraq. C’est le vie.

Nice Photo Essay

This is a cute photo essay comparing demonstrations in San Francisco and Baghdad.

The American Soldier

A liberal faculty member (whom I have known for years) confronted me yesterday morning just before my 8 A.M. class to make the following points: She was wondering why there were no Iraqis welcoming the American troops with flowers, and was hoping that the first American soldiers Iraqis would meet would be the nice guys, the tender and loving ones, rather than, you know, the typical American hard-ass-take-no-prisoner kind of soldier most of them are. She knew the nicer ones would make a good impression on the Iraqis, and so few of them were nice. She obviously understands nothing about the American character and the things for which we stand (which is my main objection to liberals; it’s not policy disagreements). I became so angry that I had to leave her, went to class, and taught it as best I could. I know something about American soldiers, what they are like, what they do, and how they do it, and the gratitude that those freed by their presence feel. These warriors in Iraq are American warriors and they perfectly reflect what is best about this unique nation. And I honor them. This open letter to America’s soldiers in today’s Wall Street Journal by Barbara J. Makuch is better than anything I could say on the subject. Please read it all. I also include this photograph of American soldiers taking a well deserved break from their work on behalf of freedom in a Saddam Hussein palace in Baghdad.

Hang Him High, Bring Him Low

This is a good photo of the Iraqis, with the aid of U.S. Marines, putting a noose around the neck of a large statue of Saddam, pulling it down, and dancing on it. I heard the BBC describing the scene on the radio this morning, and it pleased me a great deal. Not surprisingly, the commentators were very cynical, saying that the statue was too strong, that the Iraqis wouldn’t be able to bring it down, and that, even if they could, it wouldn’t mean anything. The commentators were wrong on all counts.

This is Not "Looting"

I have been watching the liberation in Baghdad and Basra, the people pouring into the streets, throwing flowers onto American tankers, ripping up pictures of Saddam, and hauling out of government buildings the possessions that have been stolen from them for 30 years. It’s just like Paris in 1944. Pity the French don’t remember. I’ve been impressed with Fox News for telling the truth about the "looting," namely that the target is not one’s neighbor but the tyrannical hierarchy. It’s completely different from the LA riots where a group of racists and thugs tore into their neighbors homes and businesses merely because they were vulnerable and Koreans. Calling both cases "looting" is a moral mistake.

Looting and Flowers are Good

If you listened to the news or watched some TV this morning you will know that the beginning of the end is here. The regime is collapsing, and we are greeted as liberators. This does not mean, of course, that all is well; that will take a while longer, but we are getting there. This Scrappleface paragraph hits the nail on the head regarding looting: "The looting in Baghdad stopped suddenly today as Iraq’s largest organized crime family disappeared from the city.

Thousands of Baghdad residents entered government buildings in an attempt to retrieve some small portion of what had been stolen from them for the past 24 years." And that reminds me of a story about my father. After the communists took power in Hungary, and nationalized his little store (about a 12 x 12 room from which he sold clothing), my father was jailed and then couldn’t get any kind of a reasonable job (he was not a communist). Eventually he ended up getting a job as guard in the only department story in Budapest (I hasten to add that you shouldn’t have Saks Fifth Avenue in mind) This was about 1954. His job was to prevent people from stealing. He did not do his job. Furthermore, he stole himself. He was caught and taken in front of some commie bosses confronted with the evidence and then asked: Did you steal? He admitted that he did. They asked him why he would. Here is what he said: "At the rate I have been stealing, I would have to steal for the next seven hundred years to take back what you stole from me." They fired him.

Iraqi Army has "no situational awarness"

This newstory (Knight-Ridder) gives some reason to think that the Iraqis have not not know from the start of the war where coalition forces were located. This explains some of their odd movements. "It’s eerie. They’re moving units around, but it’s almost like they are two days behind their sync," 1st Marine Expeditionary Force planner Col. Christopher Gunther said last week.

Amusing, on Geraldo

I’ve got to be off to my Shakespeare class, but I can’t resist this one. It is a perfectly OK story about the media coverage of the war, with an emphasis of the problems Geraldo Rivera has been having. Note the paragraph in the middle regarding the hand shaking with Geraldo by the troops, just before he was about to depart for Kuwait. Tacky, but amusing.

Suppport for the War

Even pollsters were surprised by this Field Poll (California) which found that 63% of residents in the San Francisco area support the war. As this poll in the Washington Post makes clear only 16% oppose the war. Note that in the various categories of citizens the poll is divided into, only African Americans are below a majority (49% support the war), that the war is supported even by Liberal Democrats (52%) and Democratic women (60%). I know, these are just polls, etc., and you’re right. Still, you must admit, these figures are not completely without meaning; the disparity between for war and against war is too big.

How the US Overwhelmed Saddam’s Army

This AP/MSNBC story of the American strategy re how to take Baghdad is worth reading. There is much about the war that I don’t yet understand (what happened to the Iraqi army, how many Iraqi soldiers have been killed, how many went home, etc.), yet this is somewhat helpful in explaining the so-called audacity and dexterity of the campaign.

Children Freed in Iraq

Agence France-Press reports that over 100 children, some in jail for years, were freed as the Marines rolled into Northeast Baghdad. Apparently, they were jailed because they wouldn’t join the youth branch of the Ba’ath Party. A couple of weeks ago when I went up to some peace demonstrators at Ashland University (there were twelve of them, all but one were professors) to say hello--I know them all--one of them, a professor in the school of education, said to me, "Peter, war is bad for children," and held up a sign saying the same. To which I said, "So is tyranny." Leaving the silliness of this "bad for children issue" aside for a moment, I am betting that these children are grateful for the war, and showed their gratitude to the Marines. May they live long.

Pipes Nomination Criticised by CAIR

President Bush has nominated Daniel Pipes to a director for the United States Institute of Peace and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is on the warpath. Thought you’d like to know that Pipes is a good guy.

On Mogadishu, Scholarship, and Citizenship

Terrence Moore writes a wonderfully thoughtful essay on the Marxist professor at Columbia calling for a "million Mogadishus", that is, a slaughter of Americans. Not only was Terrence a Marine officer in Mogadishu, but he was an undergraduate classmate of De Genova at The University of Chicago. This turns into a short treatise on scholarship, citizenship, and truth. Must read.   

A Little Insanity, Please

Migratory birds could lose their way because of the war in Iraq. German linguists called on the nation to use French words instead of their English equivalents in protest against he US-UK led war against Iraq. I have nothing to say about either so called story. Reality is funnier than fiction.

The Iraqi Information Minister

There is no other explanation for the Iraqi Information Minister’s inability to see the reality of things (e.g., denying that American troops are in Baghdad while a block away we had taken a Saddam palace) than this. this. (via Pejman)

Writing vs. TV on the War

I have been spending too much time (surprise!) watching the television coverage of the war, including a half hour or so of a C-Span replaying of a BBC TV broadcast from earlier that evening. I must say that it continues to be almost wholly without value. I am very unhappy about the TV coverage for reasons I have already stated. Take a look at this WaPo newstory on a battle as an example of good reporting; it is very good, very thoughtful, and explains much. You will not get that from TV. And on the bias side of things, note that British sailors have turned off the BBC on the British flag ship, Ark Royal, and are now watching Sky News. They are angry.

Hungarian Police Remove Symbols of Tyranny Poster

Hungarian police have confiscated all copies of this poster (with a swastika, red start and EU symbol) that is meant to encourage a "No" vote at the upcoming referendum on EU membership. The poster is reproduced in the article. Worth a look. I know nothing about the group that is responsible. (via Instapundit)

John Keegan, Iraq Collapsing

John Keegan has another good piece in The Telegraph about the war, how it’s been conducted, and how the media has misunderstood it. He thinks that Iraq just collapsed.

What Europeans Don’t Understand

John Zvesper, who lives on the wrong side of the pond, writes a thoughtful op-ed on what it is Europeans don’t understand about America. Read it.   

UK Commander on the British Media

Whoa! This is very good. A frustrated Air Marshall Brian Burridge, the commander of the British forces in the Gulf, said this about the British media (lucid, these Brits, aren’t they?):

"The UK media has lost the plot. You stand for nothing, you support nothing, you criticise, you drip. It’s a spectator sport to criticise anybody or anything, and what the media says fuels public expectation. That may sound harsh, but that’s the way it feels from where I sit."

The Brits and Us in Iraq

Here is something amusing and light hearted about some cultural differences between the Brits and us. Read the whole story (it’s not long), but here are a couple of paragraphs to give you the flavor of the thing:

US Corporal Mike Kennard said: "I really like how people always seem to find time to make a brew, whether it is half an hour before we take out artillery positions or half an hour after we take in incoming artillery. Everyone sits around and has a brew and it takes some of the stress away."

His boss, Captain Rick Mattoso, said: "When we called in a fire mission to blow something up, one of the guys in a Scimitar said ’let’s sit down and have a brew’ in the middle of incoming artillery."

Post-war Iraq

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the discussion concerning post-war Iraq (and the region), the involvement of other countries and the UN, has started hot and heavy. It also shouldn’t be surprising that the same sort of arguments are being laid out by the same people and that the Solomon-like reporters are seeing dissention within the administration (Powell vs. everybody else). The pettiness aside, here are a few interesting articles on the issue. William Rees-Mogg argues that French duplicity should rule it out from any participation. Amir Taheri thinks that the greatest threat to a new Iraq is the UN, as does Stephen Schwartz. And here is a transcript of Paul Wolfowitz’s intefrview on FOX on Sunday. And here is William Safire’s column in which he contemplates what the conversation between Blair and Bush will be at today’s meeting. Pretty Good.

Supremes say No to cross-burning, sort of

Justice O’Connor just handed down the following ruling in Virginia v. Black:

We conclude that while a State, consistent with the First Amendment, may ban cross burning carried out with the intent to intimidate, the provision in the Virginia statute treating any cross burning as prima facie evidence of intent to intimidate renders the statute unconstitutional in its current form. (Emphasis added)

Here’s the link to all five opinions:

Virginia v. Black

The case affirmed, vacated, and remanded parts of the lower court decision, which led to an interesting separate dissent by Thomas and concurring dissent by Scalia (joined in part by Thomas), in addition to Stevens’s concurrence and Souter’s concurring dissent (how do you like this phrase?).

In Baghdad to Stay

The war news seems to be good. We are in Baghdad, and have even taken the presidential palace across the street from the hotel where the international journalists are staying (and where there is a stationary camera aimed at the palace). In the meantime, the fellow who used to be the minister of information is still saying that we are not at the airport, not in Baghdad. He is now holding his "press conference" somewhere on the street, still living in another world, a dead one. I heard a US Army major say, "well, we just ought to walk across the street and have a visit with him." The US is there to stay. So far, all this is being done very intelligently, as far as I can tell. There is, by the way, a report--being taken more seriously than previous ones--that WMD have been found near Baghdad. And another piece of good news: It has been confirmed that Chemical Ali is dead. I can’t help feeling that we are days away from the whole regime, formally, collapsing.

In Baghdad

I got home about 11 p.m. last night from the Barbara Bush dinner, turned the TV and on and very soon discovered (from FOX first, the others followed) that we were in the city. Still not claiming to understand the tactics (or the strategy, for that matter) of it all, I am impressed. Seventeen days into it and we are in Baghdad! While I know that this isn’t quite the end, and that many bad things can happen, etc., still it is a very impressive accomplishment. And note not only with the minimal loss of American lives, but with the minimal destruction of the country. Very impressive. Robert Patton (the General’s grandson) praises General Frank’s mobility and flexibility while reminding us of General Patton’s awkward time at the siege of Metz. In the meantime Ralph Peters beats up on Rumsfeld (overdone, I think) and here is the latest AP report on our incursion into the heart of baghdad. And here is a pretty useful map Baghdad. And, I almost forgot, as if to prove that justice has a sense of humor, Peter Arnett is now reporting for the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya. Now that ought to settle any outstanding questions.

Barbara Bush on C-SPAN

The Annual Dinner with Mrs. Bush was a great hit. She gave a fine speech, was very funny, and the 850 or so folks had a wonderful time. I just heard from C-SPAN that although they were going to run her conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars tonight, it has been pre-empted by some war coverage. C-SPAN says they will run it, and will inform of us when they will do so. I will pass it on to you, as soon as I hear from them. Sorry. Here is the story the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran on her talk. And Here is the Akron Beacon-Journal story.

Here is the way she began her talk (at my expense), as reported in the Ashland Times-Gazette (not on-line): "The tone of the Bush speech was set from the start, as she joked that when she first met the tuxedo-clad Schramm, she asked him what was for dinner. ’I didn’t know it was a black-tie dinner--I thought he was a waiter,’ she said." Well, you get the drift. And I can see where the President got his fabled wit. She is a smart, lovely, and down to earth lady. Everyone had a great time.

Guerrilla in Afghanistan

An interesting article on the guerrilla warfare going on in Afghanistan from a reporter who spent a lot of time in Chechnya and wrote a good book about that conlfict.

Michael Kelly, RIP

I was greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Kelly. He was a talented writer and editor, who will be greatly missed. I can think of no greater way to remember the man than directing readers to what many view as one of his finest op-eds. This article, which summed up the feelings of many Catholic moderates who felt betrayed by the the Clinton administration, is devastatingly written in the style of the Apostles Creed. Worth four strong cups, raised in his memory.    

First American Journalist Killed

I am sorry to report that Michael Kelly, the Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large and Washington Post columnist who abandoned the safety of editorial offices to cover the war in Iraq, has been killed in a Humvee accident while traveling with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. See the

Washington Post story.

Good Joke

Mrs. Barbara Bush is here today for our annual memorial dinner and to talk to the Ashbrook Scholars which, I should add, C-SPAN is taping and will run sometime between 8pm and 11pm (Eastern time) on Saturday, so I will stop blogging for the day. So I end with this joke from today’s Jay Nordlinger’s column:

The following joke — said to be current in Iraq — has been making the rounds here:

"The eight Saddam body doubles are gathered in one of the bunkers in downtown Baghdad. Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister, comes in and says, ’I have some good news and some bad news.’ They ask for the good news first.

"Aziz says, ’The good news is that Saddam is still alive, so you all still have jobs.’

"’And the bad news?’ they ask.

"Aziz replies, ’He’s lost an arm.’"

The Good Iraqi Man

The Washington Post runs a truly remarkable story (by Peter Baker) about who really is responsible for saving Private Lynch. One good and noble Iraqi man, at great danger to himself, saw what was happening to her and went to the Marines and they went to work. Be prepared to shed tears.   

Food Found

Here is something I don’t understand. Vast amounts of food was found (amid a starving population) by Brit and US forces. It was controlled by the UN. Is the UN responsible for this outrage? Like in Coriolanus, the people should be taking to the streets.

Cable News Wars

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal the battle between CNN, MSNBC, and FOX is serious and it in the end FOX may well turn out to be the winner. An informative read. (I had the wrong link, sorry. It is now correct).

Where are the Iraqi Soldiers?

Asks John Keegan in today’s Daily Telegraph (London). Good question. Where are the casualties? They are minimal on the coalition side, but we don’t even know how many Iraqis have been killed. And we don’t know what happened to the ordinary Iraqi divisions. They disappeared. I paid a little attention to the TV news this morning and the military briefing and it seems to me that there is a very good chance that either (1) it is all but over, save for some mopping up operations, and maybe a few suicide bombers (of course, this sort of thing could last for months); (2) that the relative ease with which we have taken the airport, and the dissapearance of the Iraqi army, is just a ruse; it is possible that something serious will happen.

A Deeply Mysterious War

John Keegan thinks that this is a "deeply mysterious war." He doesn’t understand--by any strategic analysis--why Saddam’s (or whoever is charge) defensive strategy is so casual, if not careless. He would like an explanation.  

Heat Seeking Cluster Bombs

Heat seeking cluster bombs were used for the first time yesterday (I think). Here is a clear explanation of how they work. Amazing.

US to Take Lead In Iraq’s Reconstruction

Secretary of State Powell said this at the closing of the fast-paced meeting of his EU and NATO counterparts in Brussels:

"I think the coalition has to play the leading role. But that does not mean we have to shut others out. There will definitely be a United Nations role, but what the exact nature of that role will be remains to be seen."

And the French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said: "We must stabilize Iraq and the region. The United Nations is the only international organization that can give legitimacy to this."

And the Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said: "I don’t see how we could contribute to the reconstruction without the United Nations playing the key role."

Good. I think that is perfectly clear. There was also tentative agreement that NATO should consider deploying peacekeepers in Iraq.

Guessing American Casualties in Baghdad

ParaPundit has a very informative and clear essay (under the date "2003 April 3") on what we may expect our casualties to be when we go into Baghdad. Also note some thoughtful side issues, for example, why did Saddam allow the Republican Guard to be positioned so far out of Baghdad, how many paramilitary there are in the city, how difficult it is to even know the population of some of the cities we have taken, etc., (the links are useful). A very thoughtful read.  

World War IV?

Twenty Taliban were killed in southern Afghanistan. Loyal Afghan forces and US special forces were involved. Perhaps this makes former CIA Director James Woolsey’s comments more understandable: "This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War."

Kerry Wants Regime Change in the US

I don’t know why I keep being surprised by the things that go on in politics, but once again I am surprised. Here is Senator John Kerry, in search of the Democratic presidential nomination, in search of votes from the left that otherwise migh go to Howard Dean, saying this: ’’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.’’ He maintains that a until we have a new president, we will be all alone in the world, etc. Amazing.

Listen to Bernard Lewis

I already mentioned below the value of Lewis’ op-ed on the possibility of rebuilding Iraq, and now Powerline brings to my attention a NYT interview you can listen to with Lewis on his latest book What Went Wrong?.

Military Command Jargon

Do you know the difference between a battalion and a brigade, between a regiment and a divisin? If not, the thousand words or so below will help you. It is as clear as anything I have seen. (via Volokh Conspiracy).

MILITARY COMMAND JARGON: A TENTATIVE PRIMER. Which is the bigger unit: the 101st Airborne or the Seventh Marines? That’s an easy one: the 101st Airborne is much bigger; it’s a division, whereas the “Seventh Marines” refers to a regiment. I feel obliged to mention this because I just heard a television commentator refer to the “Seventh Marine Division” -- a blunder. It occurred to me that it might be useful to post a general summary of the sizes and commanders of the different infantry units in the Army and Marines. The usefulness will be twofold. In the event, however unlikely, that you aren’t at all clear on these points already, they may increase your understanding of the coverage of the war. If you are clear on these points already, you may know more about them than I do and be able to correct any mistakes that exist in what follows; I will amend it accordingly. I’m no expert. I know most of what little I do because my father was a Marine.

A "fire team" consists of a few men commanded by a corporal.

A squad consists of about twelve men (three teams) commanded by a sergeant – typically a total of thirteen soldiers.

A platoon’s size can vary, but it typically consists of three squads, or 39 soldiers, plus a platoon sergeant and a platoon leader -- a lieutenant.

A company consists of two or more platoons (usually three or four) -- typically between 150-200 soldiers -- and is run by a captain.

A battalion consists of two or more companies (e.g., three "rifle" companies plus a heavy weapons company) -- perhaps 700-800 soldiers -- and is run by a lieutenant colonel. Players of Stratego may be wondering at this point what a Major does. A major typically is an executive officer -- second in command -- in a battalion. Or he can run the battalion if lieutenant colonels are in short supply, or command a company if they are short of captains.

A regiment typically consists of three or four battalions and is run by a full colonel: around 3,000-5,000 soldiers.

A brigade typically consists of a couple of regiments, but also can be smaller than the numbers that formulation would suggest. They traditionally have been run by brigadier generals, but now in the Army brigades are commanded by full colonels. A reader informs me that the Army evidently no longer uses "regiments" as fighting units. It’s brigades instead. (You can go here for some further explanation; you may have to scroll down, as I couldn’t get the permalink to work.) The Marines, by contrast, only form brigades for particular and occasional purposes. Brigades and regiments are largely interchangeable for purposes of comprehending news coverage. The important thing is to distinguish them from divisions.

A division typically consists of three infantry regiments plus more: an artillery regiment, supply staff, intelligence staff, logistics staff, headquarters staff, motor transport people, a medical battalion, and some other headings, ending up with 15,000-25,000 or so soldiers -- 18,000 is the rule of thumb, but a paratrooper battalion could be attached, or a tank regiment, etc., with a resulting variation in numbers. It is run by a major general (a "two star" general). There also are distinct armored divisions; these differ because they consist mostly of tanks and other armor that support the infantry divisions. The Marine Expeditionary Force is a unit roughly on par with a division in its scale, though larger as it includes its own air support and other amenities.

A corps consists of two or more divisions (maybe 60,000 soldiers) and is run by a three-star general -- a lieutenant general. V Corps ("Fifth Corps") is the outfit in Iraq now. It is run by William Wallace.

A group of "corps" make up an "army" or a command -- in the case of Iraq, the central command -- which is run by a full (four-star) general. (There are no five-star generals now; Eisenhower, Bradley, and a couple of others from WWII had that distinction.) In this case the general is Tommy Franks, who oversees not only the V Corps but also the Air Force and Naval units there, etc.

Examples of usage:

The Seventh Armored Brigade (the "desert rats") is a British unit, a "brigade" because it’s too small to be considered a "division." "Brigades" are more common in British usage than American.

The "101st Airborne" (the "screaming eagles") is a division of the Army that traditionally consisted of paratroopers (plus support of various kinds), but now is a more general air assault division making extensive use of helicopters, etc. This division fought famously for Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. Many of the divisions and regiments you hear about now have storied histories, having participated in great battles of prior wars. It can be fun to go do a search for a regiment’s name; usually there are sources on the web providing some history.

Divisions go by numbers, as do regiments and battalions. So within the First Marine Division, there are infantry regiments that that have numbers of their own -- the first marine regiment, the fifth, and the seventh. An ambiguity can arise here that is related to the television miscue that precipitated this post: someone can refer to the "First Marines." This should not mean the first division; it should mean the first *regiment* (which is in the first division). The first division is better referred to as the First Marine Division. This is the division that went into Guadalcanal; it was the first bunch of Marines to fight in WWII (at least in an offensive capacity; thus I am setting aside the Marine detachment at Wake Island, which a reader reasonably reminded me not to overlook).

If someone refers to "the 31st infantry," on the other hand, this refers to a regiment, not a division. The resulting rule of thumb: when you refer to a division, use the word "division." If you refer just to a number -- the 31st infantry, or the 7th marines, or the 3d cavalry -- you are referring to a regiment. Yes, the “101st Airborne” is an exception; it’s a division. That’s why only rules of thumb are possible.

Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam Connections

FOX News reports that more evidence has been discovered that indicates a close connection between al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam in Northern Iraq. They report that between 75 to 100 members of al Qaeda have been killed or captured in Iraq. Some have escaped into Iran and the Iranian government has promised to give them up.

Europeans Scrambling Over Post-War Iraq

This is from today’s International Herald Tribune. It considers in some detail the politics (which have already started in Brussels today) of the French (and others) trying to get some contracts to help rebuild Iraq once the war is over. They are afraid that the majority of said contracts will go to American and British firms. 

US Troops Strength, World-Wide

A Washington Times editorial agrees with retired General McCaffrey’s suggestion in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that the Bush administration faces a substantial challenge in ensuring that the military retains the force structure necessary to deter aggressors in several potential theaters of battle. McCaffrey recommend’s that at least three National Guard Divisions be activated (about 50,000 men) to ensure that the United States retains the ability to simultaneously fight the war on terror while preventing regional powers like North Korea from menacing their neighbors. This will become a matter od discussion, as it should.

Barnard Lewis on Iraq

The renowned scholar Bernard Lewis explains why he remains cautiously optimistic about the future of Iraq, a more democratic future. He maintains that the current government of Iraq, because it stems from fascism (and then communism) to the Baath Party, is an importation from Europe and that it has nothing in common with an authentic Arab or Muslim past. As this was an example of a succesful (and most harmful) Western importation, so the reverse can be the case. A serious article, worth reading.  

War, Democracy and Commerce

This New York Times story is a worth a look because of two great quotes. One, after elements of the 101st Airborne Division marched into a town named Ajaf, an Iraqi man was asked what he hoped the Americans would bring with them? The Iraqi said this: "Democracy, whiskey, and sexy." Maybe it’s not not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but it will do for now. Two, after clearing and exploding some land mines, some of which were made locally and some made in Italy, an American Lt. Col Duke DeLuca said this: "Europeans are anti-war, but they are pro-commerce." Lovely, especially when said by an American named Duke DeLuca.

Victory Sign

A Reuters photo of a "Gunny" flashing the victory sign in Nassiriya, Iraq.

Germany Changes its Mind?

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that he hoped Saddam Hussein’s government would collapse quickly. Another principled German stance accomodating itself to realpolitik. Now let’s hear from the French.

More from Lileks

At the risk of turning this blog into a James Lileks fan club, I call your attention to his most recent web column. One quote struck me as particularly interesting:

"Sometimes I think the reason America is so despised in some quarters is that we fail to live up to other peoples’ worst expectations."

More on Pfc. Jessica Lynch

More detail is emerging about Lynch’s capture by the Iraqi forces. Although wounded she killed a number of Iraqis and continued to fight to the death, as her fellows soldiers were falling around her. Then at the end, in close quarter combat, she was stabbed, then captured. It’s not clear that her arms and legs were broken during the fight or after she was captured. One tough soldier.


Just a couple of interesting (and unrelated?) points to bring to your attention about the war by way of showing the difficulty of knowing what is really going on. First, this Moscow Times op-ed making the argument that when the coalition said that we were stopping to let the supply tail catch up with the troops, we were engaged in disinformation. We wanted the Iraqis to think we were slowing down (or even "bogged down"), that we had to wait for the food and water and ammo to catch up, that we didn’t have enough troops, etc. Well, the author argues that this was a lie, and that it worked: it tricked the Iraqis into thinking that they had some more time before we attacked. They were wrong.
Second, it is being reported that special forces have blown up an Iraqi pipeline to Syria. This is just after we claimed that Syria is sending hardware (and troops?) to Iraq, and we warned them to stop.

Pakistan and Afghanistan

This article from the Washington Times reports that “Outlawed Islamic extremist organizations that were routed by the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2001 are making a comeback, riding a wave of anti-American sentiment. Recruitment in Pakistan of potential terrorists appears to be on the rise. Militant leaders freed from house arrest have returned to the mosques to rally the faithful against the United States.”

In Afghanistan, rocket attacks using weapons more sophisticated than those previously used have occurred in the capital, Kabul. The international Red Cross has suspended operations because one of its workers was killed in an attack. This follows the death of two American soldiers over the weekend in an ambush.

Saudi Defends US

The war must be going well because the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud al Faisal, is defending the US against those who think that the US will take our Iran and Syria next. He said, in part:

"It is not within the character of the United States, at least not the United States that I know," he said at a news conference. "The United States is not an imperialist country. Nor is it a war-like country. The United States has values. Self-determination was coined by the United States."

Belgian Foreign Minister’s Comments

Louis Michel, the foreign Minister of Belgium has said those Americans who planned the war "lack professionalism." He also said this:

"It’s incredible to throw so much power into a war while hinting that the whole thing had been worked out in advance, when in fact it appears that things aren’t so clear." Belgium, Belgium....I have to consult a map. It’s in Europe, isn’t it?

Jimmy Carter the Novelist

After all these years, former president Carter has finally found the appropriate genre for his thoughts and fulminations, fiction. He is writing a novel set in the south during the Revolutionary war.

Navy Recruiting Poster

The U.S. Navy has a new recruiting poster out. It’s attractive, and it reads: "LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF ALL WHO THREATEN IT." I like it.

French Opinion

It is being reported that Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, has become one of the first senior French public figures to criticize Chirac for leading France into a diplomatic cul-de-sac. Also, I mentioned the other day that after the talk de Villepin gave in London, he responded to questions about which side should be victorious in the Iraq war by refusing to say which side he supported. Here is the Daily Telegraph artcile on that from March 28th.

L.A. Times Photo Altered

Little Green Footballs reports that the Los Angeles Times has fired the photographer who altered a photo from the war to make a British soldier look like he was menacing civilians. Here is the LA Times’ explanation. The photo ran on the front page of the paper on Monday.

Nearing Baghdad

AP reports that U.S. troops are within 35 miles of Baghdad, while FOX reports we are 19 miles out. Details aside, it seems to be pretty clear that the war seems to be going well, The New York Times’ wish to the contrary notwithstanding.

I remind you that I look at the following bloggers for up-to-the-minute news on the war: Sgt. Stryker, Command Post, and The Agonist.

Should Japan have an Offensive Military Capacity?

Japan’s Defense Minister said that Japan may consider adopting on offensive military capacity. Another cabinet member said that it might be a good idea to consider a preemptive strike against North Korea, although he later backed away from that view. And also see this.

"Where do they get young men like this?"

One answer is read Thomas Ricks’ fine book, Making the Coprs, which describes the first months of a group of Marine recruits. Here the marines learn the ethic of service, rather than the debased individualism most knew in civilian life.

From my own experience, most prominently three years of teaching and research at the U.S. Air Force Academy, I can attest that a different ethic prevails in the military. Obviously there are exceptions, but the expectations are that the needs of the institution prevail over the desires of the individual. This can lead to absurdities, such as a specialist in one area performing duties in another for which he is far less qualified, but the principle abides-- serving the greater good. The individuals involved may not enjoy the process, and it requires considerable management skill, but the system aims at certain mission results, not individual self-improvement.

The scandals at the Air Force Academy can be explained as a perversion of the team ethic, in which covering up for others’ indiscretion takes the place of the institution as a whole. There is much more to be said about this, of course.

Perhaps the best contrast to be made between the ethos of the military academies and that at virtually all other institutions of higher education can be seen in the debate over affirmative action at the University of Michigan. While higher education seems dedicated to the advancement of self-indulgence in its myriad forms, black students favoring affirmative action appear to break from this crowd of individualists. Unfortunately, this spiritedness is in the service of a form of a racial consciousness that defeats the liberating purposes of genuine liberal education. This is another spurious form of dedication to a cause or a community. (Incidentally, invoking military academy policy to justify affirmative action at civilian universities is a non-starter; academy admissions are largely through a political process to begin with, cadets being nominated by congressmen.)

The balance these black students and many others seek is to be found in citizenship and service to a nation founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The left and much of the right will not offer great support toward this goal. Black students who are clearly superior and who resent being cast as beneficiaries of quotas are poised to be those who will next be asked "where do they get young men and women like this?"

Men Like This

A blogger recounts the following story about an experience of the embedded CNN reporter Martin Savidge (thanks to Eric Green) and his Marines:

Martin Savidge of CNN, embedded with the 1st Marine battalion, was talking with 4 young Marines near his foxhole this morning live on CNN. He had been telling the story of how well the Marines had been looking out for and taking care of him since the war started. He went on to tell about the many hardships the Marines had endured since the war began and how they all look after one another.
He turned to the four and said he had cleared it with their commanders and they could use his video phone to call home.
The 19 year old Marine next to him asked Martin if he would allow his platoon sergeant to use his call to call his pregnant wife back home whom he had not been able to talk to in three months. A stunned Savidge who was visibly moved by the request shook his head and the young Marine ran off to get the sergeant.
Savidge recovered after a few seconds and turned back to the three young Marines still sitting with him and asked which one of them would like to call home first, the Marine closest to him responded with out a moments hesitation “ Sir, if is all the same to you we would like to call the parents of a buddy of ours, Lance Cpl Brian Buesing of Cedar Key, Florida who was killed on 3-23-03 near Nasiriya to see how they are doing”.
At that Martin Savidge totally broke down and was unable to speak. All he could get out before signing off was "Where do they get young men like this?"

Buster, a real dog of war

Sky News reports on Buster, an explosive sniffer dog, a springer spaniel used by the Brits, and how he found a large cache of arms in Iraq. Cute.

On Press Sniping about the War Plans

Mac Owens thoughtfully (and amusingly) considers the sniping going on in the press (mostly) between the civilian leadership and the military over the war plans and their possible edeficiencies. The whole thing is worth a read, but I quote the last paragraph which is partly in Marine talk:

"The snipers are essentially arguing that ’if’ decision-makers had listened to them, the coalition would be doing better than it is. But I am reminded what an old Marine once told me: ’If a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its ass when it jumped.’"


Aviation Week reports that we are using ten different kinds of drones in Iraq (but only had three different kinds in Afghanistan). And here is a report on what the UAV’s will be like in the Army of the future. Strategy Page explains how the crew of a UAV Predator works. And here is the UK version of the UAV; one was shot down near Basra a few days ago. Interesting to note that I haven’t yet heard of any of our drones having been shot down.

The French

The London Times reports on a poll in Le Monde, showing that only a third of the French felt that they were on the same side as the Americans and British, and that another third desired outright Iraqi victory over “les anglo-saxons”. And then there is this amusing photograph of an Anglo-Saxon tank.

More Fox Greatness

When antiwar protestors showed up outside Fox News’ New York studio at Rockefeller Center, a producer got even with them by taunting them with messages on the neon news "zipper" that flashes news headlines around the corner of the studio building.

"Protestor auditions here today" said one news crawl. The better one was: "Michael Moore Fan Club to Meet in Phone Booth at 53rd and 3rd Ave."

Makes you proud to be an American.

UM Oral Argument Transcripts

The Detroit Free Press has posted here an early transcript of the oral arguments in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court case challenging the affirmative action program in place at the University of Michigan law school. Thanks to How Appealing for bringing this to my attention.

On Protecting Civilian Life in War

Jeffrey Tiel puts forth a tight argument--by considering the doctrine of double effect and proprotionality--in favor of hitting the enemy hard when they hide behind civilians, schools, etc. He argues that this will end up saving civilian life, at the end. 

Mac on Kudlow and Cramer

This is to let you know that Mac Owens will be on CNBC’s Kudlow and Cramer at 8:20 PM EST this evening. I hope you’ll join the millions of others who will give up O’Reilly and American Idol to watch this very exciting old Marine in action! Well, not really in action, but you know what I mean.

European Population Decline

This is a BBC report on a large study of demographic changes in Europe. The year 200 was a watershed year, "Europe is now in a negative population momentum."

"On average, women in Europe now have a fertility rate of 1.5 births each.

If this continues until 2020, they say it could lead to at least 88m fewer people living in the EU in 2100, assuming constant levels of mortality and no significant effects of migration.

In 2000, the EU population was around 375m, so this would mean a fall of more than 23%."

Going Back for the Body

U.S. Marines moved into a town in Southern Iraq to recover the body of a Marine killed in a firefight. According to intelligence reports his body was paraded through the town and then hanged in public. An officer with the First Marine Expeditionary Force said this: "We would like to retrieve the body of the marine but it is not our sole purpose." Good.

Victor Davis Hanson on War

As I mentioned on Friday, Hanson spoke here (called "The Current War is not New")over lunch (circa an hour) and then conducted a four hour long seminar the next day for about eighty high school teachers. Now that seminar (called "The American Way of War") is also available on line. You can listen to it by clicking here. I recommend both. First class stuff.   

Grade Inflation

There is now a web site you can link to if you are interested in the problem of grade inflation at America’s colleges and universities. It is hosted by a professor at Duke who has not given anything below a "B" in two years. It merits a serious look; very useful and clear. Here is an op-ed Prof. Stuart Rojstaczer (it’s his web site) wrote on it in the WaPo, and here is another on the problem by Harvey Mansfield. His solution is to give two grades, one public (phony) and one private (actual). It’s a huge problem.

Secrecy About the War

Steven Den Beste has a few good pages on why it is important that we not know a lot about the progress of this war. He uses the example of submariners in WWII, "the silent service." There is much going on that we know hardly anything about (why are there no missiles in the west of Iraq firing into Israel, etc), much of it having to do with the work of the special forces. And when we learn too much about what they do, all kinds of bad things can happen. Note this from Australia: the bad guys have found out that Australian special forces were involved in taking out Scuds in the western desert and the suicide bombers are coming after them especially.

March’s Mug Drawing Winners

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Wendy Cook

Casie Leach

Steve Miller

Robert Don Gifford

Shawn Boyne

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter April’s drawing.

A note on FOX News

James Lileks often says interesting things. Here is a sample:

"I watch all the news channels, and I have to hand it to Fox: their main war logo is designed to make some people pitch an absolute fit. They use the name of the campaign - Operation Iraqi Freedom - without scare quotes, and as it turns and shines to the sound of horns and snares, a jet flies into the picture AND TURNS INTO AN EAGLE. I imagine they mocked up a few logos, but this one seemed to contain the most Foxitude. Still, the person who signed off on these things wasn’t satisfied. He thought for a moment, then said: the eagle needs to scream at the end.

Slapped foreheads all around. Of course! And so the eagle now screams as he leaves the frame. End result: one third of the audience doesn’t notice the screaming eagle. One third of the audience LOVES that screaming eagle. One third of the audience is quietly gratified by the knowledge that the screaming eagle just drives some people nuts. Or would, if they watched Fox.

Fox News! “We’re the network whose anchors can report American combat victories without sounding as if they soaked their underwear in cold water and filled them with sand. Now with thirty percent more predatory birdsong!”

In Bad Guy Country

Sometimes one statement sums up the character or essence of a thing better than anything else could. This is true if the statement is to the point, uses short and old words, and means to make a statement of fact about some massive issue that heretofore may not have been clear. If you have ever doubted--because of the Vietnam experience or because media bias--what the character of an American fighting man is, doubt no more. In this New York Times story, some 14,000 Marines are moving toward Baghdad, with pleasure, after winning a tough battle that lasted many hours. "A kind of electricity filled the air," the writer says. And here is the pregnant line: "We’re in bad-guy country," Col. John Pomfret said, surveying this newly captured piece of Iraqi territory. "I like it."