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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, February 22, 2003 ::

Strangers in the night
I'm reading a recently published book about the Yom Kippur War, Walter Boyne's The Two O'Clock War, which so far is very good. He talks a lot about the US airlift of armaments to Israel that was done while the Soviets were supplying the Arab states via airlift. Here's a classic bit of Cold War connecting:
The routes of the Soviet and the US aircraft actually intersected at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Fortunately, the Soviets were operating turboprop transports while the United States was using jets, so that their operational altitudes were separated by a difference of several thousand feet. It was here that one MAC [US Military Airlift Command] aircraft was unable to raise Cyprus radio to get clearance for the region. And then at that moment an Aeroflot pilot, speaking perfect English, said, "MAC aircraft, this is Aeroflot Twelve-thirty-four; I'll relay your messag to Cyprus." He did and then came back and asked, "What's your destination?" The MAC pilot replied, "Tel Aviv," to which the Aeroflot pilot rejoined, "That figures. I'm going to Damascus."

12:00 AM
:: Friday, February 21, 2003 ::
A close brush with stupidity
Just after the intifada started at the end of Sept. 2000, Saddam moved some troops into western Iraq. Since nothing came of it, I figured it was just some typical grandstanding for the Arab masses. There was a lot more to it than that, according to this latest op-ed by Kenneth Pollack. Apparently Syria, where Bashar Assad had been in power for just a few months since his father died, was dumb enough to consider co-operating with another one of Saddam's flights of fancy. I almost wish they would have tried it, as the IDF would have administered an astoundingly severe ass-whipping to any forces that attacked:
In October 2000, [Saddam] dispatched five divisions to western Iraq. All of the evidence available to the American government indicated that, with the acquiescence of Damascus, he intended to move them through through Syria and into the Golan Heights. In response, Washington began preparing a military strike far greater than Desert Fox of 1999 (which itself prompted revolts throughout Iraq for six months), and the Israeli military planned its own crushing response. Only American and Saudi diplomatic intervention with Syria, combined with the Iraqi military's logistical problems, quashed the adventure.

12:40 AM
:: Thursday, February 20, 2003 ::
An unlikely trio
Has there ever been something that Shimon Peres, Tom Friedman, and George Will could all agree on? There is now: replacing France on the Security Council with India. Peres weighed in today:
Former foreign minister Shimon Peres on Thursday criticized France and Germany for their opposition to a U.S.-led attack on Iraq, and questioned France's status as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, also criticized recent mass demonstrations around the world against a possible U.S. attack on Iraq.

"Why didn't they demonstrate when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, or invaded Kuwait?" Peres told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "That was a war. It cost a million lives."

Peres also suggested another country replace France as a permanent member of the Security Council. "Why not for example, India, that represents much more of the 20th century, in terms of people, in terms of position, in terms of visions?" Peres said.

If France and Germany oppose positions backed by other European countries, they should provide alternative proposals, Peres said.

7:24 PM
:: Wednesday, February 19, 2003 ::
Bring it on, Saddam!
According to the satirical reporting of The Onion, my home state is engaged in a battle royale with Iraq:

Iraq, Kentucky Vie For World Shooting-Into-The-Air Supremacy

I'll bet the Palestinians could also give us a run for our money.
5:31 PM
I thought it was the other way around
Professor Jean Bethe Elshtain of Chicago has an op-ed in the LA Times about just war theory and Iraq. She talks about the Allied bombing of Germany and Japan in WWII:
Since World War II -- and during it, although the debate then was muted -- just-war thinkers agonized over the strategic bombing of German cities as well as the use of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

President Truman made the decision at the end of a long and brutal war that he would save lives by using the atomic bomb, because the alternative was an invasion of the Japanese mainland -- which he was told could cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of American combatants and Japanese civilians.

It was an understandable decision, but the burden of just-war thinking -- now as then -- is that use of nuclear weapons against civilian targets is illegitimate. I know of no just-war thinker who believes it was right to kill several hundred thousand Japanese civilians to end the war and thus possibly spare more lives. The known carnage clearly outweighed the hypothetical good.

The debate about saturation bombing of German cities is more controversial. Some just-war thinkers, especially those whose orientation is secular rather than religious, argue that the unusual evil of the Nazi regime justified such bombing. They claim that the "just means" rule can, with moral regret, be temporarily overridden if one confronts what political philosopher Michael Walzer calls a "supreme emergency." Even here, however, such scholars argue that more cities were bombed -- and for longer -- than was warranted.
But if you just look at the goals of the WWII bombing strategies and whether they were achieved or not, you can reach the opposite conclusion. The nuclear attacks on Japan were intended to bring about Japan's surrender, and they did. The conventional bombing of Japan's cities, which killed 2-3 times as many civilians as the atomic bombs did, had the same goal in mind but failed to achieve it. In Germany, Allied bombing killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in a futile attempt to end the war without an invasion (bombing of industrial and military targets helped the conquest succeed, and were obviously justified as part of the war effort anyway). In a quite literal sense, the conventional bombing of German and Japanese population centers failed, while the nuclear bombing of Japan succeeded. Doesn't that affect how people view the justification of those campaigns when they look back on them?
5:21 PM
:: Tuesday, February 18, 2003 ::
Good lord
120 people died in a fire on a subway in South Korea. Apparently it was the work of a crazed arsonist:
Rescue workers are searching a charred subway train for victims of a fire that has claimed at least 120 lives and injured about 140.

Witnesses said a passenger ignited a container filled with a flammable liquid to start the inferno...

Police suspect the fire was an arson attack and they are questioning a 46-year-old man witnesses say got onto a subway train, carrying a black bag with a plastic container inside...

Police have not given any indication as to the motive for the attack and do not as yet know what was in the carton.

But investigators believe the incident is isolated, with police sources saying the man in custody has a history of mental problems.

The man was being treated for burns when he was apprehended at a hospital, according to reports.
I guess there's no indication of any terrorist groups being involved. But it seems like a disturbingly easy method for them to use in the future.
12:14 PM
:: Monday, February 17, 2003 ::
The truth hurts
The Economist tells it like it is about the idea of a common European foreign policy:
If you feel in need of light relief at this time of world tension, try reading the European Union's Maastricht treaty on the subject of foreign policy: “Member states shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity.” Perhaps there was some transcription error, and the real text reads: “Member states shall actively undermine the Union's external and security policy in a spirit of loathing and mutual mistrust.” That certainly comes closer to capturing reality...

Amid all [the recent] disarray [over Iraq], the European Union has chosen to call an emergency summit meeting in Brussels for February 17th. The Greek government, which currently holds the EU's six-month presidency, says that only two items will be on the agenda: Iraq and making peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It is a well-judged choice. By discussing Iraq, the EU can demonstrate its division; by discussing Israel and Palestine it can demonstrate its impotence. Then everybody can go home, blissful in the knowledge that all are living up to their commitments under the Maastricht treaty.

4:16 PM
You call that an analogy?
Patrick Tyler of the NY Times on the major anti-war protests of the past weekend:
The fresh outpouring of antiwar sentiment may not be enough to dissuade Mr. Bush or his advisers from their resolute preparations for war. But the sheer number of protesters offers a potent message that any rush to war may have political consequences for nations that support Mr. Bush's march into the Tigris and Euphrates valleys.

This may have been the reason that foreign ministers for 22 Arab nations, meeting in Cairo today, called on all Arab countries to "refrain from offering any kind of assistance or facilities for any military action that leads to the threat of Iraq's security, safety and territorial integrity"...

For the moment, an exceptional phenomenon has appeared on the streets of world cities. It may not be as profound as the people's revolutions across Eastern Europe in 1989 or in Europe's class struggles of 1848, but politicians and leaders are unlikely to ignore it. The Arab states' declaration in Cairo seems proof of that.
Some large anti-war protests "may not be as profound" as the events of 1848 and 1989, when political systems that had been in place for decades, even centuries, were overturned in a matter of months? A little perspective might be in order here. And the only thing that Arab ministers' declaration proves is their willingness to use rhetoric that ignores reality, as several of those states continue to host the very forces who will carry out the invasion that the Arab leaders claim to be standing up against.
10:50 AM
:: Sunday, February 16, 2003 ::
From a NY Times article about US plans for dealing with N. Korea:
In December, Spanish warships working with American military and intelligence officials stopped a North Korean freighter that was found to be carrying 15 Scud missiles bound for Yemen.

But the Bush administration, at the urging of Yemen's government, determined that it had no legal right to seize the cargo and ordered the freighter released.

To prevent a similar situation, administration officials say that they will need Security Council authorization to seize or turn back weapons shipments from North Korea.
So we can invade Iraq without Security Council approval, but we can't seize a N. Korean weapons ship without it? Maybe I lack sufficient "moral clarity" to understand the administration's reasoning here. Or maybe it's all the State Department's fault.
10:55 PM

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