There is much good news coming out of Iraq. Since CNN and CBS isn’t going to do it, I’m going to try to blog on as much of the good news out of Iraq as possible. People have been sending me things, and I appreciate it. Keep it up. It makes life a little easier. Here is a good piece from the Christian Science Monitor showing how local councils are fairing. There are problems, but the Iraqis stay with it. Something called the Religious University of Hilla has been established near Baghdad. It is run by Shiia, and shows promise to be a real university. "From this university we will change the old ideas, said Sheikh Sayyed Farkat Qazwini, founder. Two exiles have returned to found a film and TV school in Baghdad. A Kurdish leader says "Iraqi Kurdish Jews who migrated to Israel are free to visit relatives in northern Iraq." The Iraqi economy is improving. Iranians are coming to Iraq looking for work. Oil production is up. Iraqi education is being rebuilt. And private schools will now be allowed. The World Bank is doing some good work, most of it not being publicized, or appreciated by the media. Has anyone followed up on this article from six months ago about brain-drain in reverse to Iraqi universities? I bet it is continuing. Thomas Foley said: "There are two Iraqs — one is the one from the media, and the other is the one I saw; they are quite different," said Tom Foley, deputy to Iraq Ambassador Paul Bremer, in a speech in Florida. See this Iraqi blogger for more and this Australian blogger.
Dexter Filkins’ report in The New York Times about Iyad Alawi, seems much better to me than the one in today’s Post. From what little I know, this seems to me to be a good turn of events for three reasons: First, and most important, this guy is a politician--and a resonable one--with some base. And, he knows how to get others to support him. Note that two Shiite parties, each wanted a different person, and neither would compromise; yet both were willing to go with Alawi. And Sistani approves. Second, this puts an end to the UN’s Brahimi’s attempt to pick a non-politician, a so called technocrat, to be PM. That would have been a bad move. Third, The Iraqis themselves seemed to have pushed Alawi. This means that he seems to not have been imposed by either the Coalition or the UN. The fact that UN was surprised amuses me. They underestimated the Iraqis ability to do politics. They are going to need that ability in the coming years.
As I have noted before, I continue to be impressed by how unthoughtful and/or prejudiced the US elite media is toward developments in Iraq. Even this NYT story is entitled, "Exile with ties to the CIA is named premier of Iraq." CNN and the others have been reporting it the same way. The prejudice is against exiles, and most certainly against anyone with American ties. The Iraqis seem to have no such prejudice. By the way, neither did Poles, Hungarians, Estonians, et al, after the fall of Communism. Their cabinets were stuffed with exiles. Good for them. I am betting that our media will continue to be confused and prejudiced. They can’t report this story as good news. In my naivete, I continue to be amazed. But the news is good, and we should delight in it.
Justice Clarence Thomas father-in-law, Donald Lamp, seems to be in some hot water: He wont remove Old Glory from his balcony. It has been up and out since 9/11. The managers of the retirement community are not amused. I am.
This week has seen a dramatic increase in temperature. The thermometer at one checkpoint in Tuz area reached 117 degrees earlier this week. Only a couple of the Humvees on the base have working air conditioning, and the Hummers’ engines join with the desert climate to heat the vehicles to the point where the men all but have griddle marks. The lack of A/C makes it nearly impossible for the troops to travel windows-up as they should to take full advantage of the bulletproof glass (or “transparent armor”). While the vehicles are perpetually filled with plenty of 1.5 liter bottles of water, the liquid becomes so hot that you could make instant coffee without the aid of a microwave. And the good news is that it only gets hotter from here.
Add this heat to the fact that a lot of the guys have been suffering from Saddam’s revenge recently (the chow hall was found to have been using non-potable water to make its coffee and juice), and you have a recipe for trouble. For example, on a recent mission to the village of Albu Najm, Spc. Russ began to show signs of dehydration, and was not able to keep any water down. When we returned to base, it took the medic several attempts to find a vein that would take an IV without collapsing, and when he finally succeeded, it took two large IV bags to restore hydration. The guys joke that if they don’t get the A/C in the vehicles fixed soon, then they should just run the missions hooked up to IVs.
Over last weekend, fourth platoon performed an evening mission to establish a snap traffic control point to search for people carrying illegal weapons. As is customary, the Humvees drove lights out, with the troopers wearing night visions goggles, and with me staring out into the darkness. When the vehicles reached their destination and established the checkpoint on the road, the only illumination came from the stars and the chem lights placed like bookends on the control area. The road was quiet that night—only one vehicle came through the TCP. But as luck would have it, this night the platoon would be one-for-one. When the unit asked the man to step out of his vehicle, SSG Pugh saw an AK-47 sticking out from beneath the driver’s seat. While it is legal in Iraq to have one AK-47 in your residence or business, it is not legal to carry one on your person or in your car. The troopers therefore confiscated the weapon.
When the man was questioned about where he lived and where he was going, he offered answers that suggested he was not terribly familiar with this area. He was Kurdish, and from what he said, it appeared that his home was farther north. There have been rumors that the Kurds are bringing in more fellow Kurds from outside the area to stack elections—think of it as politics Kansas style—which lead Lt. Naum to think that this man may have been one of the electoral transplants.
At long last, I have gotten what appears to be a reliable and fast internet connection here at Bernstein. As long as it continues to work, there should be many more posts to follow.
Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi reflects on what it must be like to be Al Gore.
He endorses Howard Dean, and the Dean campaign starts to unravel. He gives a speech about global warming on a frigid winter day in New York. He backs Air America, the liberal radio channel that is another disaster in the making. He is also supposed to be starting a cable news channel for the under-35 crowd, except most of those folks dont watch TV news. Good luck with that demographic, Al.
But if Al Gore manages to latch onto the Kerry campaign, Kerry will be even sadder.
While the UN’s Brahimi is thinking things through,
the Iraqi Governing Council--just before they were about to meet with Brahimi--announced that they chose one of its members, Iyad Allawi, a Shiite Muslim and former exiled opponent of Saddam Hussein, to become prime minister in the new government taking power June 30. Here is the
AP story, and the Reuters story on the issue. Note the interesting permutations and complications. Allawi is being "nominated" (I think) by the Governing Council, and that Brahimi and the UN are a bit surprised: "It’s not how we expected it to happen," chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said. That they were surprised by this is very interesting. Also note that the wire reports are delighted to point out that Mr. Allawi has worked with the CIA (to topple Saddam), and that the Bush administration is said to be "delighted" with the choice. It is implied by some that both these points should be to Mr. Allawi’s disadvantage.
Also note that he is related to Ahmed Chalabi, but they are not close, it is said. Note this from the AP dispatch:
"Allawi would appear far from the qualities Brahimi had been seeking for the government’s top spots: local, non-political ’technocrats’ respected by Iraqis. Allawi, in contrast, is a veteran political leader who lived in exile for decades.
But after weeks of speaking of empowering Iraqis, it may be difficult to reverse the public announcement by the Iraqi council.
’It is a done deal,’ Hameed al-Kafaei, the spokesman for the Governing Council, said. Allawi ’is a prime minister-designate.’"
Interesting and amusing stuff, is it not? Politics is easy to love. I also note that John Kerry has given a speech on foreign policy in which he charged that President Bush undermined Americas safety by having "rushed off to war" in Iraq without adequate help or "a plan to win the peace."
James Lileks tells you what he thinks of France-Russia-Germany-China’s attempt to change the our UN resolution on Iraq. A sample: "China wants the UN to give the new Iraqi government authority over the American troops.
Well, that didn’t take long, did it? You can argue about the idea itself, whether it has merits, gives the new government more legitimacy, et cetera – moot points all, to me. China. Do you think they’re doing this out of concern for the Iraqis? I tell you what, lads: we’re going to set a nice example by beginning our exit June 30. How about you follow our lead and take your thumb off Tibet’s carotid artery, eh? How about free elections over there? How about we send in the Blue Helmets to supervise that transition?"
The Field Poll shows that 64% of California voters say they believe Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing a better job as Governor than they expected. Just 11% think he is doing a worse job, while for 15% he has met their expectations. And 65% of the voters say they approve of the job he is doing, and only 23% disapprove. See
Daniel Weintraub’s comments on this amazing feat. If you dont think that the national Democratic Party is worried about this, you should keep your day job.
I just discovered that Thomas P.M. Barnett (author of "The Pentagons New Map") is a blogger. Read a few pages into it, I think youll find some interesting points and unusual insights. Note especially (a few pages down) his thoughts on how Russia and China are connecting: "Russia’s president Vladimir Putin floats the notion that many in the Core are waiting anxiously to hear first and foremost from China: the push to make the currency truly tradable with the rest of the world’s convertible currencies. This is a huge form of connectivity, because by linking your currency to the world outside, you let that world start determining the real power of your money beyond your borders—pushing up or driving down the value according to its fluctuating desire to buy, hold, or sell you money. At once you give up a lot of control over your economy while gaining a lot of help in keeping your currency logically priced according global market conditions.
Going convertible is a key step to joining the Core big-time. Once the rest of the Core can hold your money, companies become more comfortable in dealing with your economy, because now they have additional mechanisms by which to manage the risk of entering in and doing business within your economy."
Belmont Club reflects on this essay, "Sun Tzus Bad Advice: Urban Warfare in the Information Age", to make some very interesting and large points worth pondering: Modern "operations will cease to be only military in caharacter, instead becoming complex military-political-media problems."
(Also, follow the link to the seemingly weird David Wongs desire to have a real war simulation game.)
Charles Krauthammer is very critical of the Memorial: "The good news is that the Mall survives. The bad news is that for all its attempted monumentality, the memorial is deeply inadequate -- a busy vacuity, hollow to the core.
The memorial is a parenthesis, quite literally so -- two semicircular assemblies of pillars cupping the Rainbow Pool on the invisible axis that connects the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument." Catesby Leigh is also critical of the architecture. And Ken Masugi says this: "Yet, despite the failure of the memorial as architecture the fact that it will for a few years more attract living memorials gives it a dignity that cannot be lost over time. (Compare the architecturally hideous Vietnam memorial.) Speaking with veterans is a moving experience whose educational impact transcends the failed efforts of the architect."
The Day After Tomorrow opens in theaters today, and Al Gore can hardly wait. The reviewers can, however. You can read my thoughts on the movie here. My summary point may be enough for you: "The Day After Tomorrow is to serious climate science what Hogans Heroes was to serious depiction of prison camp life in World War II."
Other reviewers are finding the movie just as comical. The Washington Post this morning says of the films director roland Emmerich, "Hes never made a movcie you could believe and he still hasnt." And the Wall Street Journals indispensible Joe Morgenstern says "the movie comes to feel like a giant TV tuned to the Weather Channel on Groundhog Day. . . Seldom has grandeur struggled so mightily, and fruitlessly, with rampant goofiness."
The final delight of this film is that it is backed by Rupert Murdochs Fox. Which means that Murdoch, the bogeyman of the Left, will be laughing all the way to the bank on the paranoia of the greens. Im taunting environmentalists that there is no disinformation in the film that cant be dispelled on Fox News in the coming weeks, and I thank them for cross-subsidizing Brit Hume.
The economy grew at a "4.4 percent annual pace from January through March, faster than estimated last month, as businesses replenished inventories, government spending rose and home construction accelerated.
The reading on gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, compares with a previously reported 4.2 percent rate and a 4.1 percent fourth-quarter pace, the Commerce Department said in Washington. Initial jobless claims fell by 3,000 to 344,000 last week, the Labor Department said." And also note this: "Corporate profits jumped 31.6 percent in the year ended in March, the biggest increase since the first quarter of 1984, the Commerce Departments report showed. A rebound in manufacturing and more investment in new equipment will enable the economy to keep growing for the rest of the year." Thats that. Now let the ebb and flow of war in Iraq become even a poor and mangled peace and there will be an end to carping.
Robert Alt is catching his breath and is, rightly, a little miffed. From the sands of Iraq here is what he thinks is the Liberals Creed.
John Derbyshire claims that the 25th anniversary of 1979 is worth noting: this is the year (aside from Russia invading Afghanistan, Vietnam invading Cambodia, China invading Vietnam, Khomeni taking Iran, etc.) that "the miserable shuffling retreat had been stopped." He kind of feels sorry for Carter, but Steve Hayward takes issue with that. For more--indeed, everything--on Carter see Hayward’s The Real Jimmy Carter.
Muslim cleric arrested in London. "Abu Hamza al-Masri, the fiery Muslim cleric whose shuttered London mosque was linked to Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid, was arrested Thursday in Britain, accused in a U.S. indictment of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon and providing aid to al-Qaida, officials said.
Al-Masri, 47, also is charged in the 11-count indictment with hostage-taking and conspiracy in connection with a December 1998 incident that killed four tourists in Yemen."
South Africa foiles terror plot: "South Africas police chief has said his officers revealed a plot linked to al-Qaeda to disrupt Aprils elections.
National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi said a number of people from outside South Africa had been arrested on 9 April, five days before the poll.
He told parliaments security and safety committee that those detained had had evil intentions against South Africa - though he gave few details.
Mr Selebi said the police operation had led to arrests in Jordan and Syria."
Musharaff "said junior army and air force personnel were involved in an assassination attempt against him in December and that the suspects have been captured." Bali prosecutor is killed. Two cars exploded in Karachi, near the Pakistan-American cultural ceter, killing one, and injuring twenty five. Three killed by army in Beirut. Explosives found near NATO venue in Bratislava. Germans search for the "Caliph of Cologne". A top al Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia "issued a battle plan on Thursday for an urban guerrilla war in the kingdom, already reeling from a recent spate of militant attacks on Western and security targets." In the meantime, the press is sceptical of yesterdays Bush administartion warning about terror threats.
Here is Al Gores rant to MoveOnPac. I saw it. It was unbearable. I was enraged at first, then felt ashamed that he was incapable of feeling shame. He is now irrelevant, at best becoming the spokesman for about five percent of the American people. John Podhoretz says this: "A man who was very, very nearly president of the United States has been reduced to sounding like one of those people in Times Square with a megaphone screaming about Gods justice. It is almost impossible to believe that this man was once vice president of the United States.
As a stalwart supporter of the war, I would naturally be inclined to find Gores line of attack discomfiting and upsetting, even enraging. Instead, I feel an intense sadness and a great sense of relief. The sadness comes from the sight of a man losing his sanity in public. The relief comes from the fact that he is not, and never will be, the president of the United States." Well said, John.
Ramesh Ponnuru, a very able writer and thinker, has responded to my contumelious assault on a point of his. I take his response at face value and we dont need to stretch it out.
He is right that I do not maintain that the Iraqis (or any other human beings) can govern themselves democratically just because they have the right. But they do have the right, and they are now going to be given the power and the opportunity to attempt to actualize it. I dont expect self-government to be immanent, but I expect movement toward the
What should guide the new political regime in Iraq? It should be Henry Adams’s definition of politics: "the systematic organization of hatreds," according George Will. Good, as far as it goes, but Ken Masugi recommends this addition from Federalist 55: "As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another."
Ken Masugi brought this to my attention. President Bush nominates the following individuals to be on the National Council for the Humanities. Not a bad list.
Edith Fosters advises parents to have their children memorize some poetry this Summer, and she explains how to do it. This carefully thought through piece is long, but very useful and I recommend it. I agree with her that it should be done, and I have had had success with more or less the same methods with my own children (but not with my own self, since my memory left years ago!). Still, I remember when I was able to remember. She writes: "Memorization does not deserve its reputation as a killer of creativity. On the contrary, memorization is useful to the whole process of thought creation. It exercises intelligence and quiet concentration, creates a supply of examples to think with and about, and provides models of speech that can be accommodated to suit different themes. Memorization is the basis of versatility, because examples that live in the mind are truly one’s own: they can be molded and recast for any useful purpose."
Andrew Sullivans comment on Bushs Iraqi policy and his vapid critics, (note his title, "Nattering Nabobs") are in line with mine, so I quote it in full:
"There are plenty of reasons to worry about Iraq. There are also many valid criticisms of the occupation. But I have yet to read any cogent criticism that offers any better future plan than the one president Bush outlined Monday night. John Kerrys plaintive cries to internationalize the transition are so vacuous they barely merit attention. The transition is already being run by the U.N.; very few countries have the military capacity to cooperate fully with the coalition, and few want to; quicker elections would be great, but very difficult to pull off on a national level before the end of the year. So what are Bushs opponents proposing? More troops now? But wouldnt that undercut the message of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis? A sudden exit of all troops? But no one - apart from right-wing and leftwing extremists - thinks thats a wise move. Giving a future Iraqi government a veto power over troop activities? Done, according to Blair. The truth is: Bushs plan is about as good as were likely to get. And deposing a dictator after decades of brutal rule could never have led immediately to insta-democracy. Do I wish we had had more troops at the start to maintain more order? You bet. Do I wish incompetence had not allowed Abu Gjraib to happen? Of course. But none of that would have prevented the Baathists and Jihadists from wreaking havoc. Do I wish the original war had been bloodier so that the real battle with Saddams henchmen could have been joined all at once rather than over a long year of low-level conflict? Er, no. Remember what our anti-war friends predicted at the outset? That the battle for Baghdad could cost up to 10,000 Coalition casualties? Im quite happy that didnt happen. 800 deaths is bad enough. What Im saying, I guess, is that as long as the anti-war critics continue relentless negativism without any constructive alternative, they will soon lose the debate. Americans want to know how to move this war forward, not why we shouldnt have started it in the first place. Right now, the president has the best plan for making this work. What does anyone else have?"
There are some interesting and thoughtful comments on my note on Ponnuru’s reaction to the David Brooks article. In case you are not in the habit of glancing at our comments page, I bring them to your attention.
John Moser has some reflections on Walter Russell Meads understanding of the Jacksonian tradition in American foreign policy and its relevance to Bush and Iraq.
I am in Kirkuk today, completing my tour of the Sunni triangle. The trip has given me much needed internet access, which I am using this to do some much belated research, and to catch up on the world. I will have several new articles, and some blog updates covering the events of the last week soon--hopefully later today.
The AP is reporting that "[c]omprehensive testing has confirmed the presence of the chemical weapon sarin" in the artillery shell found earlier this month. A number of readers of this site suggested that the media relegated this story to p. 10 (p. 14 in WaPo) because it was not yet confirmed through more comprehensive testing to be sarin, and therefore was somehow not newsworthy. If only it were confirmed, then the media would have paid attention. A quick review of the NY Times and WaPo this morning suggests otherwise.
I was traveling for a couple of days and did not get a chance to respond to the comments on my article on marriage when they first appeared. The great blog machine has moved on but since there were a number of comments I thought I would respond. In addition, the California State Supreme Court is considering today the legality of San Francisco marrying same sex couples.
The comments fell into two categories: the usual polemical stuff, often criticizing something the article did not say, and lists of human behavior supposed to contradict my argument. The latter comments deserve a comment in return, I think.
Contraception and sexual activities other than what is strictly necessary to reproduce are examples of the sort of thing that some took as sufficient in themselves to undermine my argument. Such things supposedly show that my account is too narrow and rigid. But a bit of reflection suffices to show that, on the basis of the argument I made, neither contraception nor the activities alluded to are either right or wrong in all cases. They need to be judged on the basis of the purposes of sex and marriage articulated in the article.
John Moser’s comments on the article were, I thought, particularly revealing because they were so dismissive. He does not object on the basis that the argument is too narrow, that it categorizes as unacceptable some things that are good. John rejects the whole effort to judge human behavior by any standard other than what people actually do. On this basis, I wonder why he objects, as he so frequently does in the blog, to the shoddy practice of history or, as he did today, to sexually exploiting teenage girls.
John’s approach to these questions is of interest more generally. John takes his bearings apparently by what men are capable of doing, by their power. Our power is increasing steadily. As we enter an age when human biology itself will come under our power, John’s approach will open extraordinary possibilities. The argument about homosexual “marriage” is part of a larger argument about whether there is any limit to those possibilities.
Few celebrities besides Bill Cosby could get away with the straight talk he gave recently about certain ills plaguing 21-century black Americans. At a Constitution Hall gala commemorating the 50-year-old desegregation decision, Brown v. Board of Education, Cosby had harsh words for blacks who have squandered the opportunities opened for them due to the dismantling of Jim Crow and segregation since the 1954 Court ruling:
Cosby, contrasting the achievements of civil rights giants of the past with today’s generation, observed that a lot of "lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won’t spend $200 for ’Hooked on Phonics.’"
When the novelist Ralph Ellison heard the high court’s decision in Brown, he wrote, "So now the Court has found in our favor and recognized our human psychological complexity and citizenship and another battle of the Civil War has been won. The rest is up to us and I’m very glad . . . What a wonderful world of possibilities are unfolded for the children!" A decade later Ellison would write, "For Negroes the Supreme Court Decision of 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 induced no sudden transformation of character; it provided the stage upon which they could reveal themselves for what their experiences have made them, and for what they have made of their experiences."
The challenge of building character is an abiding one for all members of the human family. Unfortunately, Cosby’s challenge for blacks to do better for themselves by seizing the opportunities established in the wake Brown was met by a rebuttal from NAACP legal defense fund head Theodore Shaw, who asserted that many problems facing poor blacks were not self-inflicted. The NAACP’s obsolescence has never been more in evidence.
Ramesh Ponnuru wrote these few lines over at NRO this morning on David Brooks column on the Bush speech I noted below. I bring it to your attention because it is not only wrong but revealing, if not snippy. Why would Ponnuru go out of his way to beat up on Brooks use of the Declaration of Independence to justify the right of self government? It is a reflex of a conservative (that is, a paleo?) who doesnt understand the basis of popular government. That is not to say that Brooks has it exactly right, but it seems to me to be close enough for a column. Here is Ponnuru:
"[I]n David Brookss column today fairly leaps off the page: [Bush] began this war in Iraq repeating the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that our creator has endowed all human beings with the right to liberty, and the ability to function as democratic citizens. I see two problems with this formulation: God has manifestly not endowed all human beings with . . . the ability to function as democratic citizens, and the Declaration of Independence says no such thing."
Now look. The Declaration does say such a thing. It is the axiom of all political reasoning and the central idea of our political tradition (Ramesh should glance at Lincoln from time to time) and the thing on which self government, (popular government, even democracy, if you like) constitutional government depends. Men are born equal and free, hence they can only justly rule one another through consent. No man has a right to rule another man the way I rule my dog, for example. Lincoln: "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy...." And that consent shows itself through a constitutional scheme that limits the power of the people even though they have the right to rule. My point here is not to lecture Mr. Ponnuru, but to show my regret that a well thought of conservative could have such a knee-jerk reaction to a perfectly sensible statement by a relatively thoughtful columnist who happens to support both the Presidents actions in Iraq as well as the final reason for that action, the final cause of which--the proper ground of human rights--happens to be the same as that put forth by both Jefferson and Lincoln, and Bush.
Its not about Iraq, Bush, or the election, but the Christian Science Monitor had this report on the new British stem cell bank.
"Britain moved into the heart of the controversy by setting up the worlds first bank for storing and distributing the tiny fragments of proto-life. The idea is to provide a repository for these scientifically valuable stem cells that researchers the world over can withdraw and use without having to go through the scientific and legal hurdles of generating their own."
The President’s speech at the Army War College did one big thing: It probably stopped the apprehension (and even panic) about whether Iraq is melting into chaos. I happened to see Peter Galbraith (Demo sharpshooter and Clinton’s ambassador to Croatia) on the Lehrer Report just before Bush’s speech. He was not only pessimistic, but explicitly said that there will be a civil war because everything has gone wrong: our major mistake was that we treated Iraq as one country when it is actually three (etc.). It was a remarkably non-astute political performance (full of anger and vitriol) and Galbraith’s comments is a perfect reflection of the political rhetoric of Bush’s opponents: Bush has to admit that the whole thing--both the mission and its means--have proved wrong. If Bush admits that he has a plan, then he can’t admit his mistakes. Admit your mistakes, you arrogant SOB! Bring in more troops, if not more troops then UN troops, if not UN troops, then at least UN money. It goes on.
The point is that Bush’s opponents are now in an anachronistic and antedeluvian conversation with themselves: They are talking archeology, and Bush is talking space travel. They are angry as hornets that we are in Iraq, and have nothing to contribute to any private or public conversation that may have an effect on current policy. Hence the smell of pessimism, if not a wish for failure. Kerry says nothing on the most important political issue of the day, thereby seeming to agree with Bush’s policy, and supple mouth Biden just shakes his head and wants more detail: Now just what exactly does full sovereignty mean? Does the president have any control? Why isn’t the President leading? I’m not impressed.
Bush meanwhile holds to his purposes, while saying explictly that his means are flexible. He cites Fallujah and Karbala as examples of flexibility. He makes clear (as he always has) the deadline is important because it was a promise and because this will be the formal opportunity for the Iraqis to start taking full responsibility for their country. That means that we can begin thinking about leaving the country. Will post-June 30th be what is called full sovereignty? Will this mean that they may ask us to remove all our troops, and we would? Will it mean that our troops will be unable to conduct military action without the approval of the Iraqi government? It seems to me that it would have been imprudent of him to address such matters; better left to a subaltern like Powell to say that certainly we would remove the troops if asked. That is all that has to be said on the matter. Anything any more exlicit would be insulting and imprudent. Not everything should be made perfectly clear.
Is Bush making a mistake by letting Brahimi choose the whole darn government? Not necessarily; besides, Brahimi will not be doing it alone, both he and the UN carry the kind of baggage that they need help with. That there is some serious (even, God forbid, Machiavellian) politics going on here is obvious, perhaps some of it even has to do with Chalabi and the UN oil-for-food corruption, and Iran, and Syria. Perhaps it should not surprise us that the Arab League is calling for reform in their neighborhood. What is it that they understand that Biden and CNN don’t? What we call Byzantine politics is a mere kindergarten compared to the politics of the Arab world. Can things go wrong? Of course. There are a thousand and one possibilities for mischief. Will they go wrong? Only some will, and a betting man will bet the reasonable odds, which are in our favor. Why? Because I am confident of all the details? No. Because perserverence is a great virtue in times of war, and the chance factors have a way of falling into your line if you push your designs. I believe Bush is pushing. Also, it is clearly in the interest of Iraqis to make this work. I believe they know this and will try mightily to take advantage of an opportunity. Yet, I realize there is no guarantee of success. I’m trying not to trick myself into unwarranted optimism. But I will not fall into the pessimism and the archeological mode of his opponents in the elite media. Let them return to the so called horrors of Abu Ghraib at first light tomorrow (and don’t be surprised if all the headlines read "Bush to demolish notorious prison"; the elites will take this to be the most important part of the speech), get more pictures, try to implicate everyone from Sanchez to Rumsfeld, and hope for the worst. Let them, and the people will think progressively less of them, and the disjunction between the liberal elites and people will become a chasm. In the meantime Iraq is being constructed and they have nothing interesting to say about it. They are turning into background chatter, indistinguishable from one another, always there like elevator music. But such music moves no one and after a while you can’t even hear it.
One last note. I liked to way he delivered the speech: sober and thoughtful. I also liked that he called upon Islam to regain its former greatness when they
"think and work and worship as free men and women, they will reclaim the greatness of their own heritage." Pretty good. Why not? Maybe they can rediscover Aristotle one more time.
This on jobs being created from USA Today: "Employment has picked up significantly this year in a number of closely contested states that could decide the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.
The latest Labor Department figures on state jobs show that 10 of the 17 states expected to be the most tightly contested this campaign season were among the fastest-growing job markets in the country in April.
The report, out Friday, showed a marked acceleration in job gains in industrial states in and around the Midwest defying the expectations of economists who predicted last year that those states would lag the national recovery."
Arnold is raising big bucks for GOP candidates in California. "In a way, Schwarzeneggers fund-raising success affirms fears that legislative Democrats have held since he was elected last October: that his movie star popularity would put them at a tremendous disadvantage with voters in their districts. It helps explain why they have largely been on their heels since Schwarzenegger took office, handing him several legislative victories and seeking to appear cooperative with him at every opportunity.
Republican operatives say Schwarzenegger is presenting them with the best opportunity in years to gain control of the Assembly, where they would need to pick up nine seats, and close the gap in the Senate, where they are down 10 seats."
Andrew Sullivan thinks that Bushs opponents are mis-underestimating him again. Sullivan: "Bushs problem at home is not one of general disbelief in the war itself. It is a function of the fear that incompetence is ruining the war. History shows that Americans are not squeamish about war, if its succeeding. But they are ruthless in getting out of conflicts where they seem to be failing. Bushs speeches in the next month will be designed to counter exactly that impression of drift. His advisers are confident. They note that even as his poll numbers have dropped, John Kerry has failed to take a lead in the race. Its also true that the press corps is in danger of over-playing its hand in attacking an administration for partisan and political reasons, when that administration is fighting a difficult and costly war.
There is, in other words, no panic among senior officials. There is a deep sense that neither the war nor the election is lost; and that victory against the nexus of terror and tyranny in the Arab-Muslim world is still still within reach. In the presidents words: dont mis-underestimate him. The gloomsters have overplayed their hand before; and they may well be doing so again." Bush speaks tonight at 8 p.m., but dont look for it on ABC or NBC, and CBS hasnt decided whether or not to run it. The cable stations will run it. This will be the start of Bushs rhetorical offensive against those who think that Iraq has fallen apart; he will be succesful in the end, as long as the place doesnt fall into a civil war, and I have no reason to think it will.
The London Telegraph reports that blue roses will be avaliable in about a year. "The discovery was made by chance by two biochemists conducting research into drugs for cancer and Alzheimers in a medical laboratory at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.
Professor Peter Guengerich and Dr Elizabeth Gillam were trying to find out how the human liver breaks down drugs when they came across a liver enzyme that had a startling effect.
When we moved a liver enzyme into a bacterium, the bacterium turned blue, Dr Guengerich said. "We were aware that there were people in the world who had been interested in making coloured flowers, especially a blue rose, for a number of years." (Via
This seems a respectable piece of reporting on a conference just held at The University of Chicago on Tyranny, ancient and modern. Mark Lilla, Nathan Tarcov, Paul Berman, among others spoke, with Leo Strauss in the wings. Glad to see the term resurrected, studying politics is not posssible without it. I was pleased that President Bush said, "The tyrant is a prisoner," when Saddam Hussein was captured last December.
(Thanks to Powerline).
I picked up a copy of "The New York Review of Books" last week during my travels. I thought maybe I should have a look at it again. I stopped reading it years ago, got bored with its flaccid writing, and learned nothing. The issue I read seemed even worse than I remembered. Useless, left wing pap. Deadly boring. Now this praise of it from The Nation, another tedious left wing publication, praising "Review" for finding some of its old vigor again. Stirring.
Just got back from an all-too-brief vacation to New Orleans. It’s our fifth time there, and we no longer feel compelled to do the touristy stuff--it’s just walk around, eat, do some shopping, and enjoy adult beverages (in roughly that order).
Anyway, just happened to turn on Fox News while we were there, and they were running a piece on blogs and how they might affect the 2004 campaign. They ran a few quick images of some of the big blogs, then lo and behold an image of "No Left Turns" appeared. Unfortunately there’s no mention of the blog at the on-line version of the story.
Okay, I can’t resist sharing a funny story from the trip. We were in the cab on the way back to the airport. The driver was Cajun to the core--right off the bayou, it seemed. We noticed that the airport in New Orleans (by the way, it’s a good thing we weren’t flying out Friday, when the president was in Baton Rouge for the LSU commencement--apparently the airport was crazy) was now called Louis Armstrong International Airport. We knew it was called something else last time we were there, but couldn’t remember what, so we asked the driver. He must have told us about a half-dozen times before we realized he wasn’t saying "What’s that?" in Cajun deflection, but rather "Moisand."
Hmm. Guess you had to be there.