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Monday, May 31, 2004


Robert Kaplan writes an intersting account of the actions in Fallujah. Read the whole thing as they say. He also offers some perspective of how public relations affects what is happening on the ground. After detailing what had tactically happened he writes:

But none of the above matters if it is not competently explained to the American public--for the home front is more critical in a counterinsurgency than in any other kind of war. Yet the meticulous planning process undertaken by the Marines at the tactical level for assaulting Fallujah was not augmented with a similarly meticulous process by the Bush administration at the strategic level for counteracting the easily foreseen media fallout from fighting in civilian areas near Muslim religious sites. The public was never made to feel just how much of a military threat the mosques in Fallujah represented, just how far Marines went to avoid damage to them and to civilians, and just how much those same Marine battalions accomplished after departing Fallujah.
I agree with this assessment. In fact my biggest complaint against the Bush administration's handling of the war is how poorly it has communicated the realities in Iraq to the public. The information is out there but it is time consuming to find and the major media are either unable or unwilling to present the full story. I don't think the administration should lie or 'spin' to get its desired message out, but I do think that there is a lot of facts that support the assertion that we are winning in Iraq.

More on the Sudan

Tacitus writes an overview of the conflict and gives a solution:

But as I said, the solution is pathetically simple: the United States and Chad can and should facilitate an invasion of Darfur. Is this madness in the face of ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Hardly. The test cases -- the Afghan campaign of fall 2001, and countless French interventions in the region over the past half-century -- have already been fought and won. This is an altogether simpler case: while the geographic area is truly huge, the terrain is easier, and the determination of combatants -- black Africans versus Arabs -- is as clear-cut as could be. The manpower -- legions of angry, organized, determined Fur -- is present. The infrastructure, in the form of US-Chadian military cooperation, is in place. (As an unrelated aside, the reactions to that cooperation here are instructive.) The allies -- every state, group, and militia ever brutalized or alienated by Khartoum (among whom we can count not just Chad, but Ethiopia, Uganda, Eritrea, and of course the SPLA) -- only lack a unifying force. What remains is, on our part, a comparatively light burden of commitment: supplies and the airlift to get them there; tactical air power we can easily spare; Special Forces teams for communications and coordination; and forcible rhetoric from Washington, DC. It would truly be a war in the service of humanity: politically, just what is needed to demonstrate core American ideals, and a stark differentiation between our willingness to venture abroad in the service of freedom, and the desire of the wider world to ignore the most egregious of horrors. Pragmatically, it is an engagement we could afford and win (especially against the medieval janjaweed throwbacks) in comparatively short order. No need for an occupation of Khartoum, nor even an aggressive push for regime change there: it would be enough to secure the de facto independence of Darfur, and its establishment as a sort of Sahelian Kurdistan.
I don't know if this solution would work or if it is as simple as he makes it sound, but it is something that is worth looking into. At the minimum our government needs to speak out strongly and condemn this. And we as citizens should pressure our government to do so. If my previous posts havn't helped convince you that something needs to be done read this.
My local translator stops, no longer willing to delve into her story. "She is only 13," he says, and walks away. Tentatively, she continues talking to me in Arabic: "They tied me to a tree and raped me all night. I became very ill and fell down. They thought I died, so they left me."

Carnival of the Liberated

Check out the Carnival of the Liberated for a roundup of Iraqi blogs.

Sunday, May 30, 2004


Read this story about a real hero.

The people of Najaf are against Sadr

This article in the Boston Globe looks into the attitudes of the common people of Najaf.

Najaf residents described the Shi'ite militants who fought American soldiers as outside rabble. As a result, regardless of the threat still posed by the Mahdi Army and some fallout from damage caused to the shrine of Imam Ali in recent clashes, Najaf's Shi'ite heartland population seems to have responded positively to the US approach. ''When the Americans first came here they played football with us, and dominoes," said Ali Nasser, 25, a gold merchant in Najaf's once-busy bazaar. ''Two months ago it was still a very peaceful town . . . Then all the supporters of Sadr came here from other cities."
Not only has Moqtada al-Sadr failed to gain popular support for his rebellion, he has lost any hope of political power in the new Iraq. This success is a tribute to the patience and professionalism of our armed forces who slowly, deliberately tightened the noose on al-Sadr's militia, ignoring chattering heads of American Media who were either screaming for blood on the streets or immediate retreat

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Yet more on Iraq and Al Qaeda

Stephen F. Hayes provides a useful compilation of Iraq-Al Qauda ties in the Weekly Standard.

China's economic growth a bubble phenomenon?

This article suggests that it might be. China's staggering economic growth over the past few decades has made it a very significant factor in world economics. The old adage that when the United States sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold is starting to apply to China as well. All in all, this growth is a good thing but the speed of change in China makes it's economy potentially unstable and could have serious consequences for us here as they continue to adapt away from a command and control economy.

All we know for certain is that we really don't know. Few economists fully trust the official statistics, which they suspect suffer from omissions and periodic political tampering. With a country as big as China undergoing so much dramatic change—moving from a "command and control" economy to a market system—the chances that anyone has a complete picture of what's going on are slim or nonexistent. In a smaller country, our ignorance wouldn't matter much. But in China, it's slightly terrifying.
Eventually as the Chinese government gets out of the business of trying to control it's economy the statistics will probably get better, letting markets react quicker to potential problems. For now we will just have to ride out whatever economic winds blow from that part of the globe.

Some good news from Sudan

Nicholas Kristof writes about some good news in the Sudan Civil war.

Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons "George Bush" because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe — although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan's north and south after two million deaths.
This is great news and I hope the peace holds out. But as Kristof goes on to point out more needs to be done.
But there's a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it's all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region. Darfur is unaffected by the new peace accords.
Read his description of the situation in this part of the Sudan. It is chilling stuff. Kristof believes that if United States applies sufficient diplomatic pressure this genocide can be stopped.
But it's not a question of sending troops, but of applying pressure — the same kind that succeeded in getting Sudan to the north-south peace agreement. If Mr. Bush would step up to the cameras and denounce this genocide, if he would send Colin Powell to the Chad-Sudan border, if he would telephone Sudan's president again to demand humanitarian access to the concentration camps, he might save hundreds of thousands of lives.
I agree with him that every attempt needs to be made to stop this tragedy. It is the right thing to do. Also, it might be a politically savvy move for Bush. Strong denunciations of this genocide would highlight that incidents such as Abu Ghraib, while inexcusable, are of a completely different scale than many human rights abuses that are happening in so many places throughout the world. It would also bring to the fore Bush’s strengths such as his belief that evil has to be confronted, not negotiated with and would present him as a strong moral leader. Unfortunately, anything the Bush administration does in this regard will probably have to be unilateral.
Yet while Mr. Bush has done far too little, he has at least issued a written statement, sent aides to speak forcefully at the U.N. and raised the matter with Sudan's leaders. That's more than the Europeans or the U.N. has done. Where are Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac? Where are African leaders, like Nelson Mandela? Why isn't John Kerry speaking out forcefully? And why are ordinary Americans silent? Islamic leaders abroad have been particularly shameful in standing with the Sudanese government oppressors rather than with the Muslim victims in Darfur. Do they care about dead Muslims only when the killers are Israelis or Americans?
This is no reason for us to stand silent however. We have let too many incidents of this horrible nature pass unremarked only to wring our hands and promise we will do better next time. The next time is now. via Instapundit

Friday, May 28, 2004

Having a terrorist for a neighbor

Check out this article by a man who lives down the street from Abu Hamza.

"Your family is not in danger." Though strictly true, this reassurance does not reassure me at all. The threat from al-Qa'eda is so all-encompassing that it justifies extraordinary measures. Surveillance and denunciation, the knock on the door in the small hours, indefinite detention without trial: all these are methods that we once associated with police states. But they have been forced upon us by the most urgent of necessities.

More Info on Iraq and Al Qaeda

This article talks about the hunt to find Musab al-Zarqawi. The really interesting part to me is on the second page of the artice:

During the 1990s, Zarqawi trained under bin Laden in Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban, he fled to northwestern Iraq and worked with poisons for use in potential attacks, officials say. During the summer of 2002, he underwent nasal surgery at a Baghdad hospital, officials say. They mistakenly originally thought, however, that Zarqawi had his leg amputated due to an injury. In late 2002, officials say, Zarqawi began establishing sleeper cells in Baghdad and acquiring weapons from Iraqi intelligence officials.
Of course we all know that just like Saddam had no WMDS, he had no ties to Al Qaeda.

The New Paradigm of War

Read this post by Wretchard at the Belmont Club. He talks about how war has changed and how integral the media and public relations are to the battlefield.

Cartoons and Citizens

Read this article about how non-violent cartoons are a BAD thing for society. Excerpt:

One author has a better idea. In his superb and unfairly overlooked 2002 book, Killing Monsters, former comic book author Gerard Jones proposes that society needs an entirely different approach to the issue of violence in children's entertainment. He suggests that children respond strongly to violent entertainment because the violence mirrors their own feelings of aggression -- and those feelings of aggression are legitimate and worthy of expression. Rather than struggling hopelessly to eliminate childhood aggression, we should teach children to harness and employ aggressive feelings in socially useful ways.
I think that this is a very good point. Aggressiveness needs to be channeled, not suppressed.

Prison Abuse

Read this article about a prison simulation at Stanford in 1971. It is chilling how eerily the actions of those taking part in the study mimicked what happened at Abu Ghraib.

Two days into the good doctor's experiment, the normal, adjusted students were playing their prison roles with frightening reality. The "prisoners," fed up with having roll calls in the middle of the night, rebelled by pushing their beds against their cell bars and refusing to come out. The "guards" called in reinforcements, pulled the prisoners from their cells, striped them naked, and proceeded to humiliate and abuse them for hours. To further reinforce their power, the guards took away bathroom privileges and forced prisoners to urinate and defecate in buckets inside their cells, and to later clean the mess out with their bare hands. It got worse — so bad that Zimbardo halted the planned two-week study after only six days.
The aphorism that power corrupts certainly seems validated by both this study and the actual events at Abu Ghraib. Any time someone is given life or death power over someone else a very dangerous situation can occur where the powerless gradually lose their humanity in the eyes of the powerful. This occurs in prisons, both military and civilian, with soldiers and policemen. The only way to combat this trend is discipline. At every step up and down the chain of command discipline must be enforced and any infractions treated seriously. This is one reason why military justice and codes of conduct are so much harsher than our civilian system. It is to keep our soldiers professionals so we can trust them with the power that we give them. By all accounts discipline of the soldiers was lax at Abu Ghraib. I hope that the Abu Ghraib story becomes a part of officer’s training as an example of why strict discipline is so needed in our Armed Forces (it would be nice if this also prompted us to do something about the deplorable conditions in our domestic prisons as well.) lax at Abu Ghraib. I hope that the Abu Ghraib story becomes a part of officer’s training as an example of why strict discipline is so needed in our Armed Forces (it would be nice if this also prompted us to do something about the deplorable conditions in our domestic prisons as well.)

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Al Qaeda and Iraq

This article in the Wall Street Journal talks about evidence of Iraq having ties with Al Qaeda. Interesting stuff. I don't think that Saddam was directly connected to 9/11. I do think though that he had contacts with Al Qaeda and provided them some support.

Amazing what you can find on Google

Right Side Redux looks into Adam Gadahn, the one American in the FBI's seven wanted terrorists. It is still incredible to me how much information is literally at our fingertips, and how easy it is to find.


Check out this article about Iraqi women learning to shoot guns. Slowly, but with gathering speed, the Iraqi people are beginning to take responsibility for their own security. I expect this to accelerate greatly after the June 30 handoff date. via Kim Du Toit

Drug Prices and Pharmaceutical Company Profits

Aric and his raging squirrels post about the rising costs of drugs. I am not going to try to argue all the spefics in this post. I will simply refer you to this Article on Tech Central Station. I will say this though. Whenever you insist that someone take their private property and give it over to others for free (or partially free because of price controls) you are in effect trying to enslave them. This is wrong, and even worse it is foolish.

Seems he forgot that he lost the election

Al Gore calls for the resignation of key Bush administration figures.

In the speech at New York University, Gore singled out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. He also included his former Clinton administration colleague, CIA Director George Tenet, even though he called Tenet "a personal friend" and "a good and decent and honorable man." But he said the U.S. intelligence community needs new leadership as well.
Al Gore obviously has the right to say what he wants, but I think he is damaging his own credibility.
Gore speech was sponsored by the MoveOn.org Political Action Committee, which has said it hopes to raise $50 million to beat Bush in November. Gore urged his audience to vote for Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
MoveOn.org is pretty far to the left, way lefter than Clinton was and even lefter than Gore was during the 2000 campaign. I remember being very impressed with Gore's concession speech after the 2000 election. It was statemanlike and it sounded very sincere.

Iman visits detention facility

Blackfive posts this story about an Iraqi Iman visiting a detention facitily run by the 1st Infantry Division.

Following their visit, Abass and his associates admitted that they had been pleasantly surprised at how well the detainees were treated. They said the detainees told them that they were well fed, cared for and treated with respect by everyone at the detention facility. Abass mentioned that he had expected far worse conditions at the detention facility given the prison abuse scandal in Abu Ghrid Prison. But was pleased with what he saw at the 2nd BCT detention facility.
Just remember that the things that make the News are the very worst things. The things that are going well are never reported.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A Rage of Squirrels

My friend Aric, has just started a political blog. You can find it here. Aric is a raving pinko commie liberal. Well, actually he is not quite that bad, but he is definitely left of center. Other than that he is a pretty nice guy and makes some good points occasionally. Of course he is wrong about everything, but fun none the less. Aric is also responsible for the FreeBSD@Home blog I have in my links. It contains the story of his trials and tribulations setting up a free BSD server. Very funny stuff although it has a dangerously high level of geek-speak.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Asia's growing energy demand

This article talks about the increasing thrist the growing economies of Asia have for energy, oil in particular.

In the two decades to 2020 Asia will more than double its electricity use and nearly double emissions of carbon dioxide, according to the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan. The number of vehicles on China's roads will increase sixfold to 120m. Asian oil consumption will rise to 35m barrels a day; the 16m b/d increase in 20 years is three times the current level of consumption in Japan.
I don’t know what the future source of energy is going to be, but safe, cheap, plentiful energy is a goal we need to be continually striving for. To a large extent, human success has been based upon greater and greater ways of harnessing and transferring energy. From the use of a stick to amplify the strength of human arms, to fire, to the domestication of animals, to steam power and the harnessing of the atom each increase dramatically improves our ability to cope with our environment and improve our quality of life. Each step forward expands the range of the possible, for good and evil, but in my view expanding the range of the possible is a good in and of itself.

President Bush's Speech

I just watched the President's speech and I think that he said what was needed to be said. He gave a definite timetable and a plan for how sovereignty is going to be transferred to the Iraqi people and a new government set up. He also spent a lot of time talking about training an Iraqi Army and Police force, acknowledging that some units had not performed well and saying we had learned from those mistakes. In the final analysis, we can only do so much; the success or failure of this endeavor will rest on the shoulders of the Iraqi people themselves. As sovereignty is transferred and the Iraqi people increasingly come to believe that they can have a government of their own I am confident that they will step up to the plate and establish a free and just society. He also mentioned that the United States will build a new maximum security prison and tear down Abu Ghraib. I think this is a good idea. Abu Ghraib will always be a symbol of torture and brutality. Finally he contrasted the vision of our enemies: death, destruction, tyranny and oppression, with our vision: freedom, human rights, and progress. Our vision is the stronger, if we only have the will to face down evil. Full Text of Speech here A few of my favorite lines:

The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology, and give momentum to reformers across the region. This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world. There's likely to be more violence before the transfer of sovereignty, and after the transfer of sovereignty. The terrorists and Saddam loyalists would rather see many Iraqis die than have any live in freedom. But terrorists will not determine the future of Iraq. Our actions, too, are guided by a vision. We believe that freedom can advance and change lives in the greater Middle East, as it has advanced and changed lives in Asia, and Latin America, and Eastern Europe, and Africa. We believe it is a tragedy of history that in the Middle East -- which gave the world great gifts of law and science and faith -- so many have been held back by lawless tyranny and fanaticism. We believe that when all Middle Eastern peoples are finally allowed to live and think and work and worship as free men and women, they will reclaim the greatness of their own heritage. And when that day comes, the bitterness and burning hatreds that feed terrorism will fade and die away. America and all the world will be safer when hope has returned to the Middle East.

Using the Oceans as Carbon Sinks

I ran across this post on human activities that could cause the ocean's to absorb more CO2 on FuturePundit awhile ago. This is a facinating concept to me. I am not competant to evaluate how much of a problem global warming is or how much of it is caused by human activity. I am pretty sure though that the best way to combat such difficulties is by increasing our technological power and expanding our knowledge, rather than limiting ourselves and shackling our progress as the Kyoto Protocols would do.

Genocide in the Sudan

Never again...again and again and again. Once again the United Nations is standing silent in the face of Genocide. I don't know what we can do about this. The United States probably lacks the resources to intervene. The 'noble' nations of Europe who are not engaged in Iraq are silent and unwilling to step up. The African nations in the region are claiming that any action against the govenment in Khartoum would violate Sudan's sovereignty and is therefore unacceptable. So the masacres will go on. Eventually, as the country continues to fall apart, its violence will be exported until it reaches the top of the list of problem states. Then we will have to try and build something up from the ashes of a nation even more battered than it currently is. Oh...and the extra good news:

Then, to compound the shame of the United Nations, on May 4, guess who was re-elected to a three-year term on the U.N. Human Rights Commission? The newly re-approved member, seated while the killings continued, is the Sudanese government in Khartoum.

California credit rating raised

Good news for Arnold Schwarzenegger. I like Ahhnold. Partly because I agree with a lot of his politics but mostly because he is really cool.

Sadr Insurgency continues to be crushed

Here is a report from the New York Times about the Coalition's military success in Karbala. While there is much left to be done in Iraq, and sadly many more will be killed before a stable society can arise there, it looks to me like things are going pretty well. Moktada al-Sadr has utterly failed to turn his bid for power into a popular uprising. The Iraqi people and even most of the other clerics have utterly rejected his vision of Iraq as an Iranian style theocracy. Update: read this post by Zeyad of Healing Iraq on a recent response by some Iraqi clerics to Sadr.

The Other Abu Ghraib Abuse story

For a bit of perspective read this. I especially like this line:

"We have freedom in Iraq. Now we say anything we want," Zinad said. "Under Saddam we whispered."
Whatever happens in Iraq in the future, I don't think anyone is going to be able to make them whisper again.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Bill Whittle has a new essay up

Read it now If I thought I could write half as well a him I would have started blogging a long time age.

An Iraqi's view of Arab Leadership

Sam of Hammorabi Blog talks about his perception of the Arab Leadership. Excerpt:

Above all we feel sick of the same faces always. Same presidents, Kings, Oil Sheikhs, and name it and get it! Why the Arab leaders (cheaters) are leaders for life?? WHY? On the time they gather now in Tunisia there is a new PM swearing in India after a new public election! Why there are no ELECTIONS in the Arab countries? We are sure one of the main reasons for the production of TERRORISTS there is because of the oppression by the ongoing for life leaders. Bullshit for such a sick situation!
A good deal of my hope for Iraq and the rest of the middle east comes from reading the Iraqi blogs. I read them and can tell that they are people just like the people here and in other western countries. They was freedom, security, and a better life. Anyone who thinks that these people are unable, or unworthy of democracy should spend some time reading their words.

Blogger's nephew killed in Iraq

Dizzy Girl's nephew, Jeremiah E. Savage LCPL USMC, has been killed in Iraq. Stop by and leave your condolences if you are so inclined. He was a real hero. As someone who has a brother-in-law and a good friend in Iraq I pray for the safety of all our personnel over there and stand in awe of their sacrifice. They are doing their part. We need to do our's and stay the course to ensure that such sacrifices are not in vain.

More on Kerry's foreign policy

James Mann discusses differences between the Republicans and the Democrats in the Washington Post. He includes this statement:

As much as any Democratic leader today, Kerry has been buffeted by the crosswinds inside his party. He knows the tangled legacy of Vietnam. He opposed the use of force overseas at a time when most of his fellow Democrats did; he supported military intervention when a majority of the Democrats in Congress did likewise. "Like most senators, he hasn't reached the point of formulating a policy that you can sustain, so that when things are going bad, you can hold to it. He hasn't done it on Iraq," says Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Defense Department official in the Carter administration.
While I recognize that over time a person’s perceptions of problems and their solutions can, and should, change, I don’t want a president who is buffeted by party crosswinds. I am willing to give Kerry the benefit of the doubt that he has changed his mind on various foreign policy over the years and not simply responded to polls if he will explain clearly what he believes now, how that differs from what he has believed in the past, and why he has changed his mind.

What does a Kerry Presidency mean for the War on Terror?

Dick Morris, who I find to be a facinating character says:

Kerry would bring with him the old, Clintonian view that terrorism is a crime, necessitating massive police action, rather than a threat requiring action against nations that sponsor or harbor terrorists.
I don't know if this is true or not, but I do think that that is exactly what his supporters believe. This election, in my mind, is a referendum on the doctrine of pre-emptive war, viewed through its first implementation, the War in Iraq. As I feel that this doctrine is both correct and necessary so I am strongly in favor of President Bush in this election cycle. Even if Senator Kerry were to decide that a situation needed to be dealt with in a pre-emptive manner I don’t think he would be able to muster the political capital to do it if he was President.

An Alliance of Democracies

Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay write in today's Washington Post about forming a new multi-national organization and that this organization be the focus of American foriegn policy.

Like NATO during the Cold War, the Alliance of Democratic States should become the focal point of American foreign policy. Unlike NATO, however, the alliance would not be formed to counter any country or be confined to a single region. Rather, its purpose would be to strengthen international cooperation to combat terrorism, curtail weapons proliferation, cure infectious diseases and curb global warming. And it would work vigorously to advance the values that its members see as fundamental to their security and well-being -- democratic government, respect for human rights, a market-based economy.
I have heard this idea batted around a few times before and it makes a lot of sense to me. An existing multi-national organization has a moral authority that an ad-hoc coalition thrown together for a single purpose or a single entity lacks. This could be of great aid to us in our struggle to reform rogue and failed states, particularly if we tied some free trade agreements to membership in the organization. In this way a League of Democracies could function as a carrot as well as a stick.
Today respect for state sovereignty should be conditional on how states behave at home, not just abroad. Sovereignty carries with it a responsibility to protect citizens against mass violence and a duty to prevent internal developments that threaten others. We need to build an international order that reflects how states organize themselves internally. The great dividing line is democracy. Democratic states pose far less of a threat to other countries and are often more capable than autocracies. That is why democratic nations should rally together to pursue their common interests.
I would even urge that we subordinate our pre-emptive doctrine to deal with gathering threats to an international body of this type. If we can’t convince a majority of league members to join us in dealing with a problem militarily we would agree not to invade unilaterally unless the threat was imminent or we had been attacked.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

They love him...they really love him

Michael Moore wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes. He looked great at the ceremony too

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Pentagon's new map

Michael Barone writes about Thomas P. M. Barnett's new way of looking at the world's strategic situation. As they say, read the whole thing. To me the single most urgent idea here, one that we need to begin working on right away is a new type of military unit, what Barnett calls the sys admins. It is obvious to me that we need nation building forces. I will admit that I used to scoff at the very idea of nation building. I used view it as an expensive, thankless task that had no bearing on the security of the United States. Sept. 11th changed that. Now I view nation building as an expensive, thankless task that is crucial to the security of the United States. Our military forces are ill prepared for this job. While we have seen many Soldiers and Marines perform miracles rebuilding infrastructure, teaching tribal councils about democracy and performing countless tasks of a similar nature; they have had to do this with little or no training in many of these skills. We have also seen them fail horribly at Abu Ghraib. We must look at the world realistically. Globalization is improving quality of life for people all over the world but some countries cannot, or will not, integrate into the community of nations. These countries are, or will become, failed states. These countries will be havens for terrorists who will use the technology of connected world to strike, with potentially increasingly devastating results, at the nations who are successful. In this reality defeating an enemy will never be enough. We have to transform our enemies into successful partners. We need a force that can specialize in building up a countries infrastructure to it has an chance economically. That can teach a city how majority ruled elections combined with guaranteed minority rights make violence unnecessary as a means to solve political disagreements. We need a military that can train a police force and run a prison, all the while maintaining security it a place of chaos. This is a tall order. It will take a lot of personnel and a lot of training. It will cost serious money both the keep this force maintained and to deploy it. And while we may be able to trim the regular military, because of our technical advances, we will need to maintain our conventional strength as well. Some nations will help us in this. Over time I hope this number will grow. We must understand however that many nations will choose to shirk this burden and remain neutral. We cannot allow this choice by others to prevent us from doing what is right and necessary. I am not advocating forcible invasion of every country that does not immediately and fully embrace democracy and join in the global economy. As long as we can we should seek diplomatic solutions. It is better and cheaper to help a nation before we have to invade rather than after. But years of throwing money at totalitarian states has taught us that this just lines the pockets of despots rather than allowing a nation to prosper. Once a nation chooses to be a refuge for radical elements with hatred against the free world or begins to develop horrific weapons to blackmail it’s neighbors or us, the time for talk is over. We must be ready to remove that enemy, and equally ready to build something better. Globalization and Democracy can be good for all people. Individuality of people and cultures alike flourishes best in such an environment. Arab democracy, African democracy, Asian democracy and Western democracy will always be linked to their own individual cultures. These cultures can find their best expression within the framework of guaranteed human rights and a global economy will be able to richly reward the variety that each produces.

Do I have great timing or what?

Steven Den Beste claims that "Blogging is now officially passé" the same week I start my blog. I am pretty sure that this statement has nothing to do with my arrival to the blogosphere rather it seems to be related to some statements by an obviously less important guy named Bill Gates.

New Abu Ghraib details emerge

from the Washington Post These incidents are horrible and shame our nation and our armed forces. Everyone who was responsible needs to be punished appropriately. We cannot change that this happened. What we can do is resolve to do the right thing now. Punish the guilty. Discover how this could happen. Make changes so it won’t happen again. Most of all we need to stay the course in Iraq and deliver the freedom and liberty we promised.

For the Children

California bans teens from indoor tanning I don't know where to start in my complaints about this. First, California already had a law that required parental permission for minors that want to tan. Second, what business is this of the government anyway? Finally, why are teens banned but not adults unless the lawmakers knew that voters would never stand for this imposition on their liberty but since minors can’t vote anyway they are fair game. I can agree with requiring parental permission for this sort of thing but an outright ban for no justifiable reason? Come on.

More on Chalabi

This fox news article has some interesting information on Chalabi's recent activities and why he was subject to a raid the other morning. Still not sure what to make of all of this but I have had my doubts for a while about Chalabi being someone we (or the Iraqi's) want to have much power in the future.

A taste of his own medicine

This site has a trailer for the new documentary "Micheal Moore Hates America" that will be coming out this summer. Apparently Mr. Moore has not returned the filmmaker's calls yet for an interview. via Instapundit

Random Gemini discusses Gas Prices

In this post Stacy talks about President Bush's correct decision to not tap the strategic reserves to combat gas prices. I agree with her completely that the strategic reserve should not be used for this. She does however, include an argument that always bugs me when she brings up the idea that only people with “that huge, fuel inefficient SUV that you don't really need” are compaining. To me this seems to imply that a) only people with SUVs are complaining about high gas prices b) if you have an SUV you have no right to complain about gas prices (regardless of any mitigating circumstances that may have inspired you to buy an SUV) and/or c) high gas prices are only a problem for people who own SUVs and don’t effect anyone else. SUVs are expensive (one reason they have become a status symbol) and by and large are owned by relatively affluent people. While I am sure most of these people would rather pay less for gas, I doubt that it is a major factor for many of them and I doubt they spend much time complaining about it. The exception to this would probably be people who, in fact, truly need an SUV or similar large vehicle. Growing up as one of six children I can confidently say that a mid-size sedan does not work for all families. I am sure that my parents would have loved to have purchased smaller, cheaper, and more fuel efficient vehicles but they didn’t really want to take three trips to transport the family anywhere. This type of SUV owner, already having to make sacrifices for a vehicle that will meet his transportation needs, is as justified as anyone else in complaining about high gas prices. High gas prices disproportionately hurt the poor more than the wealthy. While there is some difference by and large a poor person will need to drive as far as a rich one and although they may have a more fuel efficient vehicle the effect of a price increase is proportionately more impacting. Added to this is the increased cost of other goods and services from increased transportation costs. I suppose that what she is really trying to say might be that the evil SUV is the cause of all our high gas price woes. While there is some justification to this, an efficient mpg rating is only one way for a person to inefficiently use fuel. Unneeded trips, air conditioned houses, lights left on all day are also inefficient and either directly or indirectly cause an increase in gas prices. Having a variety of fresh fruits and vegatable availible all year round is a luxery that uses fuel. Singling out the SUV as the great cause of high gas prices is inaccurate and unfair. Update: Random Gemini has another post on this.

General Clark offers his criticism of Neocon Strategy

General Wesley Clark has written an interesting article criticizing the grand neocon strategy of democratizing the Middle East. It contains some good advice that I think can be added to this strategy, a number of things that I have minor differences with, and three ideas that I would like to critique directly.

Seeking to intervene and essentially impose a democracy on a country without real democratic traditions or the foundations of a pluralist society is not only risky, it is also inherently self-contradictory. All experience suggests that democracy doesn't grow like this.
What about Japan General? Obviously Japan is not the same as Iraq, the problems of Iraq are very different than the problems of Japan after WWII. However, there can be no doubt that we intervened and imposed a democracy on a country without democratic traditions. Does Japan prove that this will work in Iraq? Obviously not, but it does give hope that it might.
We should work primarily with and through our allies, and be patient as we were during the four decades of the Cold War. More than anything else, we should keep in mind the primary lesson of the fall of the Soviet Union: Democracy can come to a place only when its people rise up and demand it.
This would be nice. Patiently waiting for the Arab autocracies in the Middle East to collapse under their own weight and give way to democratic reform sounds like a very happy fluffy way to solve the world’s problems. There is one problem with this though. The Middle East is exporting terror to our cities. Nuclear, Chemical and Biological proliferation is rampant in the region (although less than it was a few years ago). With advances in technology it seems inevitable that, far sooner than the four decades we had with the cold war, terrorist will get their hands on these most dangerous weapons. The Soviet Union could be deterred. Islamic fundamentalists cannot. Also, unfortunately, it takes more than just than just people rising up and demanding it for democracy to flourish and Saddam’s brutal repression of the 1991 Shiite uprising shows. The communists lost faith in their system and therefore lacked the will to destroy their internal enemies. Arab totalitarians with their faith in either the hereafter or in raw temporal power may prove more stalwart.
We must also recommit ourselves to a real peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. We should measure success on the progress we make, not merely on final resolution. We must also recognize that here, the neoconservatives had it backwards: The "road to Jerusalem" didn't run through Baghdad at all; rather, until real progress is made towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue in a way that respects both sides, all American efforts to work within the region will be compromised.
Once again this is a nice idea. Solve that pesky Israel Palestine problem and everything else will fall into line. Only problem, for too many people in Israel and in Palestine the solution is the extermination of the other side. In particular the Palestinians have proven they are unwilling to negotiate with good faith. President Clinton worked hard to get Israel to agree on a compromise with the Palestinians. Arafat betrayed the process and chose instead to escalate the violence. The real problem with this statement is the idea that until we solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we can do nothing else. Since no one has been able to solve this problem for years this means we can do nothing at all. Several of Gen. Clarks ideas for promoting democracy are valid and I think can be used effectively in conjunction with our military campaign in Iraq. Special associations and trade benefits for countries that engage in reforms, for example, is something that strikes me as a great idea.

Sarin Gas Shell

Citizen Smash has an interesting analysis of the Sarin Shell found in Iraq I have to admit that our inability to find WMD stockpiles in Iraq is troubling to me. Not because I think that if we don’t find them the war was unjust or because I believe that Bush lied but because somehow there was a failure of our Intelligence Service and this is troubling. It is possible that the WMD stockpiles are still waiting to be discovered in Iraq and it is equally possible that most of them have been moved to a neighboring country (there is a lot of buzz about Syria in this regard.) One of the best arguments against going to war with Iraq was that we were able to deter Saddam from using any WMD but when facing destruction he would have no motive not to give these weapons to terrorist organization or that in the fall of Iraq terrorists could get these weapons in the chaos. The discovery of the Sarin shell and the recent foiled plot in Jordan show that these events may have indeed come to pass. In spite of this troubling development I think that this is argument failed to consider the probable outcome if Saddam was not disarmed. If America and its allies had not removed Saddam after his refusal to abide by resolution 1441, eventually the economic sanctions (already porous) would have collapsed. Having successfully stared down the UN Saddam would feel free to fully put into production his WMD programs. I don’t know if he would have given any to Al Qaida or not but he was willing to pay significant amounts to the families of Palestinian Suicide bombers and I think he very well might have been willing to provide WMDs to attack Israel. Regardless of whether he would have given WMDs to terrorists or not at some point we were going to have to deal with Saddam Hussein. It seems obvious to me that there was not going to be “peace in our time” with Iraq. So the choice was between attacking when we did, risking that any existing stockpiles might fall into terrorist hands or attacking at some point in the future, when the stockpiles would be larger and the weapons perhaps more sophisticated.

Some people say kids today are soft...

I don't buy it. Check out this story

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Arab blame of internal problems on outside influence

In this post I said that I would talk about some of the other issues that Aric raised in the comments to this post. Aric said:

The idea that there is blame for external forces for internal problems is correct, but also misleading. It is misleading in the sense that there HAS been a high degree of external meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, compared to what you might see in Western Europe or the United States.
And goes on to list several specific examples. I am not disputing the fact that Western powers have interfered in the Arab world for a long time. Some of that interference may have been justified in light of the cold war, others incidents are simply inexcusable. Regardless of that, I don’t think that the excuses of the Arab world are useful to them because the excuses tend to prevent them from actually solving problems. Additionally these same excuses are used for problems that have little or nothing to do with outside influences. What is important to me about this is a mindset that says all these problems aren’t my fault they are the fault of others, therefore I can do nothing to fix the problems in my society and must instead rage against those who caused my problems. As an aside, I am sure the Iraqi Football (soccer) Team is glad to be going to the Olympics and even gladder not to be under Uday's management. I do not imply that this is a problem unique to the Arab world but it does seem to be especially prevalent there. Aric goes on to say a few things that I have some real disagreement with.
Finally, the U.S. invasion of Iraq proved the point as far as "external interference" is concerned. While totalitarian, the average person in Iraq under Saddam could generally count on food on the table, schools, a job of some sort, and a stable electricity supply. None of those things is true under the U.S. occupation.
Under the oil for food program Saddam specifically used food to supplies to reward his supporters and punish his enemies. This was also done with electricity. In Baghdad the electrical supply is less stable than it was, partly due to attacks by insurgents against the infrastructure and partly because Coalition Forces are purposefully evening out the supply to regions that were getting little or none before the war. As for schools Education under Saddam was far from perfect or universal. A particular example is the Marsh Arabs
That same day, at a community meeting, the Marsh Arabs made it clear that the marsh alone can no longer sustain them. Their children, for years, had been denied an education. They demanded books, a blackboard and a teacher for a primary school built by Saddam but never opened. (article here)
The Coalition Forces have been working hard to repair old and damaged schools as well as other projects. Also good news is that many college professors who fled Iraq are now returning. On the economic front, while unemployment is a problem, things seem to be improving quickly. This account by an Iraqi blogger gives us some anecdotal evidence of how things are going economically there. Here is another account from a different Iraqi blogger who is having a hard time finding people to work for him.

First Sentence in Abu Ghraib Abuse

Jeremy Sivits has been given a year in prison and a bad conduct discharge. He will also be testify against others who are accused in the case. If there is a silver lining to this horrible situation it is that we have a chance to show the Iraqis and the rest of the world how a system based upon rule of law, rather than rule of a tyrant works. This means that the investigation needs to go as far up the chain of command as is warranted by the facts. Conversely, going up farther than is warranted should not happen. I have faith that the military will investigate this fully and act appropriately but I will be watching and add my voice to the criticism if they do not. This statement from Gen. Sanchez adds to my trust in the military (full article here)

Within hours of Sivits' court-martial, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington that abuse of prisoners in Iraq will be investigated thoroughly up the chain of command, "and that includes me."

Words from a Marine

I am not ignorant of the political issues, either. But as a professional, I have the luxury of putting politics aside and focusing on the task at hand. Protecting people from terrorists and criminals while building schools and lasting friendships is a good mission, no matter what brush it's tarred with.
Complete article here. via Instapundit

Its a boy!

I want to say congratulations to my friends Dave and Carmen. They had had a baby boy yesterday. Although he showed up early, mother and child are doing well. Update: The kid has a name now. Everyone welcome Gabriel Alexander to the world.

Robot Swarms vs. the Menace from Space

An interesting concept presented in this article Obviously we are a long way from implementing this sort of technology. The bad news is that eventually a major earth asteroid impact is going to happen. The good news is that for the first time in the history of the earth the technology to defeat this threat is possible.

Chalabi residence raided

Not sure what is behind this but it is definitely interesting. I know that a lot of Iraqis don’t trust Chalabi and a lot of them think that the United States wants to make him a dictator. This raid, and whatever comes next, may help lower those fears and help to convince the ordinary Iraqi on the street that in a democracy the law applies to everyone.

Teachers show Nick Berg beheading video

Article here Personally I did watch the video, just as I made it a point to view the Abu Ghraib photos, but I don’t think that this is something that a teacher should show to students, especially students who are minors. Teachers can discuss this sort of thing in class and bring up all the relevant issues without showing this and the students (and the parents of the students) can decide if they need to see it for themselves.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Israel attacks peaceful protest

While I am generally sympathetic toward Israel the shelling of peaceful protesters is completely out of line. Unless there is a lot more to this story Israel made a huge mistake here and needs to find a way to make it right. Update: Here a link to the IDF's version of the events. It sounds like the protest may not have been so peaceful although the casualties were still unintentional.

Arab Unemployment

In the comments to this post Aric takes exception to my characterization of Arab countries as having high unemployment. this article gives some perspective on what the Saudi's think of their employment situation. While Aric is correct that the Arab countries do not have a hugely higher unemployment rate than the world as a whole, it is percieved to be high. Much as the United States recent employment numbers have been percieved to be high even though they are low historically. With a demographic surge of young males in most of the Arab countries and fairly stagnate econimic growth unemployment is a major issue for the people of the region. Aric makes some other interesting points as well and I plan to address them in future posts.

Are online grocery stores back?

this article seems to say that they are. I certainly hope so and that they come to my area soon. I prefer to shop online for anything I can.

The next Federal Reserve Chairman

Stacy at Random Gemini Weirdness talks about the next President replacing Alan Greenspan here. While that is interesting, I don't think that Kerry or Bush will make significantly different choices when it comes to the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Unless something major happens to the economy between now and then we can expect the next chairman to be a disciple of Alan Greenspan and to continue his policies.

The War in Iraq and the War on Terror

On Sept. 11th 2001 we learned that the gathering problem if Islamic Terror was no longer something we could ignore. Several obvious steps were taken to combat this threat including the destruction of the terror training camps in Afghanistan, and multi-lateral efforts by many countries to stop the flow of terror funding. However, I believe, and I don't think many disagree with me, that these efforts did not deal with the 'root causes' of Islamic Terror. For me, the War in Iraq is an effort to deal with these root causes. In my analysis, Islamic Terror is caused by a number of factors. A general feeling of impotence, Arab societal acceptance of violence, tribalization, and a habit of blaming on external forces for internal failings are among the most significant. The best way to combat these factors is reform of Arab governments to a democratic model with guaranteed human rights. For many years the Arab world has increasingly failed. Despite (or perhaps because of) their vast resources of oil their economies are in a shambles. Unemployment is rampant and a vast demographic bulge is increasing the pressure on an already failing system. Additionally, militarily they have suffered crushing defeat after crushing defeat. Compounding this feeling of failure is a glorious history of an advanced and powerful culture. This feeling of failure creates hopelessness and anger as well as a disdain for the current world. The best way I know of to counter this desperate feeling is to change the reality of their failed and near-failed states. This can only be done by a capitalist free-market economy where property rights are assured and a fair legal system is in place. All current Arab governments are more or less totalitarian. There are few checks and balances on those in power and opposition is destroyed in a violent manner. This leads to a culture of violence being the only way to solve disputes. Additionally, much like with people who are victim of child abuse, those who are abused are likely to go on and abuse others. The solution to this problem is a government that will allow for the people to express their will while maintaining the rights of minorities and the people having confidence that this will, in fact, happen. Tribalization in Arab countries is also a result of the totalitarian nature of the Arab governments. As perhaps best illustrated by the government of Saddam Hussein the easiest way for a totalitarian government to remain in power is to exploit factions and set them against each other, punishing and rewarding different groups and making every effort to exploit feelings of fear. Once again, a system that will ensure basic rights for all will go a long way to alleviating this problem. Lastly of the factors I am considering here is the idea that outside forces are responsible for internal failures. This mindset has been actively pursued by these totalitarian governments to channel the people’s hostility and anger over the failure of their societies away from the government toward an outside source. The US and Israel are the most common targets of this propaganda. Self-determination and true success of their societies will hopefully reverse this trend over time. In addition, a free press will be much more likely to focus on fixing problems from within rather than blaming external influence. While it would be ideal for all the Arab countries to spontaneously reform and become democratic with guarantees of basic rights this is not likely to happen on its own. In Iraq especially it seems unlikely that any internal revolt would have ever succeeded and with the growing threat of Islamic Terror the United States could not wait for such reforms to happen on their own. Hopefully though, a single successful Arab democracy can be an impetuous for change in the region. Iraq was the obvious choice. Saddam Hussein had few friends in the Arab world, was in violation of international agreements, was widely viewed by the populous of the free world as a villain who would not be missed and a substantial portion of his own people would welcome a force of liberation. Even with these advantages we knew that this transformation would not be easy. Obviously the jury is still out on whether Iraq can be successfully transformed into a successful democratic nation. Even if it is possible, will we have the will to see it through? Lastly, will this new Iraq have the effect on the region that I hope for and will this in fact lessen Islamic terror? I believe that to all of these questions the answer is yes.

Welcome to my Blog

Well, I have finally done it. I've been toying with starting a blog for a while now and I've finally decided to just go ahead with it. We'll see if I like it and want to keep it up over time. I plan on this blog being mostly about current events, politics, and ethics but I may throw in anything else. My political affiliation is generally republican. I support the war in Iraq and believe it is a key part of the war on terror. That being said, I try to look at all sides of an issue and keep an open mind.